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Father of man accused in anti-Muslim attack in London, Ont., calls it ‘senseless act’

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jun 11th, 2021

The deadly attack against a Muslim family in southwestern Ontario was “a senseless act,” the father of the man accused in what police believe was a deliberate hate crime said Thursday.

The family was out for an evening stroll when a man driving a pickup truck mounted the sidewalk and ran them over, killing four people and sending a child to hospital with serious injuries.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

“It was with utmost shock and horror that I came to hear of the unspeakable crime committed last weekend,” Veltman’s father, Mark Veltman, said in an email to The Canadian Press.

“There are no words adequate to properly express my deep sorrow for the victims of this senseless act.”

Relatives have identified the dead as 46-year-old Salman Afzaal, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal.

The couple’s nine-year-old son, Fayez, was seriously wounded but is expected to recover.

Police allege the attack was a planned and premeditated act that targeted Muslims.

Court documents filed when Veltman’s parents filed for divorce in 2016 suggest he took his parents’ separation hard.

The oldest of six children who were homeschooled – along with his twin sister – Veltman blamed his mother, Alysia Bisset, for the divorce, the documents show.

“Nathan is combative and argumentative with me to the extent that he will follow me around the house and I have to lock myself in my bedroom,” Bisset wrote in court documents.

Bisset said Nathaniel stopped following the family’s rules around that time.

“Nathan has gone to the extreme of stating that he would like to move out of our home into his own apartment and has discussed his plans with (Mark Veltman),” she wrote.

Nathaniel Veltman was 15 at the time.

Mark Veltman said he wasn’t to blame for his eldest son’s anger, court documents say.

“Nathaniel’s anger with (Bisset) is primarily due to (Bisset’s) attempt to prevent Nathaniel from having any contact with me,” Mark Veltman wrote.

“Nathaniel is 16 years old and very much wants to maintain contact with me.”

He also wrote his son became more hostile with him, which he blamed Bisset for.

Nathaniel Veltman was 16 when he moved out to live with friends, his father wrote.

Nathaniel Veltman took the rare step of “withdrawing from parental control” when he was 17 years old, court documents show.

Earlier Thursday Veltman made a brief virtual appearance in court to face four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

Veltman, wearing an orange T-shirt , orange pants and a blue face mask, spoke calmly and clearly from the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre.

“Mr. Veltman have you retained counsel?” asked Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen.

“I’ve only spoken to them,” Veltman said, adding that he was in discussions with a local law firm.

Court heard that the Crown continues to work on disclosure, which will be provided to Veltman once he has retained a lawyer.

Veltman is set to return to court on June 14.

Meanwhile, calls continue to grow for a national summit on anti-Muslim hate.

The National Council for Canadian Muslims has a petition signed by more than 35,000 people calling for all levels of government to tackle Islamophobia.

“This loss of a family, the loss of a child in our community because of Islamophobia _ this is a sorrow that will run deep for a long time,” the council wrote in the petition. “Let that sorrow be the ground where we stand for justice and stand for change.”

The group’s petition echoes a call by the London Muslim Mosque, to which the family belonged.

The funeral for the family will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario that is open to the public. The family will hold a private visitation in the morning at the O’Neil Funeral Home.

Ford government denies rejecting Liberal motion condemning Islamophobia

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Jun 11th, 2021

The Ford government is denying claims it voted against a motion condemning Islamophobia during an emergency session of the legislature on Thursday night.

Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter tweeted that she asked for unanimous consent of the legislature to condemn all forms of Islamophobia and to reaffirm support for the Anti-Racism Directorate and that the government “said NO.”

The motion comes in the wake of a deadly attack against a Muslim family in London, Ont., which left four people dead and sent a child to hospital with serious injuries.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the attack which police say was a planned and premeditated act that targeted Muslims.

Government house leader Paul Calandra called Hunter’s accusation “totally untrue.”

“It is very disappointing that the Liberal Party is playing politics with something as serious as Islamophobia,” Calandra said in a statement.

“What happened today was a Liberal MPP, with no notice, tried to surprise the government with a motion that we still have not seen. It is our policy to turn down all requests for unanimous consent that we have not seen in advance.”

Calandra pointed out that in 2017, under the previous Liberal government, the legislature unanimously adopted a motion condemning Islamophobia in the wake of the Quebec mosque shooting that left six dead and injured 19 others.

“If the Liberals are serious about this, they are well aware that surprise motions in the Legislature are not the way to do this,” he said. “They should reach out and work with the government, the NDP, and the Green Party especially on an issue of importance such as this, as we have done in the past.”

Cody Welton, the deputy chief of staff within Doug Ford’s office, responded to a tweet from journalist Fatima Syed by questioning why Hunter was playing “disingenuous political games with something so serious?”

“She didn’t make the gov aware of the motion which is custom,” he responded in a tweet, reiterating what Calandra had previously stated.

“We had no content or copy, we would have worked with them and the community. Instead she moved it without sharing knowing the gov would say no so she could make a baseless accusation implying the gov is Islamophobic.”

Ontario legislators were called back to Queen’s Park from summer break for a marathon sitting on Thursday as the Ford government prepares to invoke the notwithstanding clause to restore parts of a law that restricts third-party election advertising.

A judge struck down sections of the law earlier this week but the Progressive Conservative government said it would restore them through new legislation that includes the clause, which allows legislatures to override portions of the charter for five years.

Legislators will hold an overnight debate in the early hours of Saturday and continue proceedings on Sunday afternoon, with a vote on the bill expected on Monday evening, said Government House Leader Paul Calandra.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report


Police seek ‘armed and dangerous’ suspect in brazen shooting in Milton

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Jun 11th, 2021

Halton police are searching for a suspect following a brazen shooting Thursday night in Milton.

Police say shortly before 7 p.m., a man armed with a long gun walked into the Pizza Nova on Derry Road near Bronte Street South and demanded cash from an employee. He then fired several shots inside the restaurant before exiting, where he discharged several more rounds before fleeing the area in a black vehicle.

“No one was physically injured as a result,” police tweeted.

The suspect is described as Black, approximately five-foot-nine with a thin build. He was last seen driving a black Mazda 3 with license plate CPXT541. Police say the passenger-side mirror has a broken cover.

Police say the suspect should be considered armed and dangerous.

“There is no known, ongoing, related public safety threat at this time. We are appealing for anyone with dash cam or CCTV surveillance footage from this area at/after 6:40pm to contact police at the earliest opportunity.”

Investigators say there will be a heavy police presence in the area for remainder of the evening.

Ontario enters Step 1 of reopening plan with limited retail shopping, patio dining

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Jun 11th, 2021

Ontario has entered the first step of its reopening plan, which will see a return to limited retail shopping and patio dining.

Step 1 of the Ford government’s reopening plan was tentatively slated for June 14 but with new daily coronavirus cases remaining below 1,000 and vaccinations ramping up, provincial officials agreed to kickstart the Roadmap to Reopen a few days early.

Just in time for the weekend, patio dining with a maximum of four patrons per table will now be allowed while indoor dining remains off-limits.

Essential retail stores, such as pharmacies and grocery stores, can now operate at 25 per cent capacity while discount and big box stores are no longer restricted to selling certain goods.

Limited non-essential retail shopping can resume at 15 per cent capacity. The reopening of non-essential retail is for street entrance only and stores located inside of malls without a street entrance will have to wait until Step 2 before they can open.

Outdoor organized public events and social gatherings of up to 10 people are permitted and this number may be exceeded if those you are gathering with are members of the same household.

Religious services, as well as weddings and funerals, can resume at 15 per cent capacity provided two metres of physical distancing can be observed.

Most outdoor recreation amenities, including splash pads and outdoor pools (by appointment only), are open while outdoor fitness classes of up to 10 participants are permitted, providing physical distancing of three metres can be maintained. Training for sports teams is permitted but may not include games or scrimmages and team sports are still not permitted.

Unfortunately, you will have to wait at least until next month to get that haircut or manicure. Personal care services such as barber shops, nail salons, tanning studios, and other cosmetic services are not permitted to operate in Step 1.

The province will remain in Step 1 for at least 21 days to assess impacts on key public health and health system indicators before deciding whether or not to move on to Step 2. Among those indicators, 70 per cent of adults will need to be vaccinated with one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine while 20 per cent of Ontarians will need to be fully vaccinated.

As of Thursday night, almost 63 per cent of Ontarians had received one dose of the vaccine while almost 11 per cent of people aged 12+ in the province are considered fully vaccinated.

Ontario businesses have been locked down since mid-April as the province navigated a third wave of the pandemic.

New modelling data released Thursday shows COVID-19 case counts are expected to decline over the next 10 days, however, the forecast depends heavily on more people being vaccinated and the impact of the Delta strain of the coronavirus.

The projections show if virus spread is low and we are vaccinating people at the rate of 142,000 per day, we will see under 500 cases a day until mid-August, with cases continuing to drop.

However, if virus spread is high with the same vaccination rate, cases could spike back up to 2,500 per day. With 180,000 vaccines per day, that number would be at around 1,500.

Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, says vaccinations need to accelerate, particularly in so-called hot spots, to avoid a fourth wave. But he says the latest projections are far from a “doomsday scenario” of uncontrolled infections.

Ontario says it plans to accelerate second shots of COVID-19 vaccines for people in Delta variant hot spots. Starting Monday, residents in seven designated areas who had first inoculations on or before May 9 can now book an appointment for an earlier second shot.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this reportv

City notes rise in aggressive behaviour at vaccine clinics ‘totally unacceptable’

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Jun 10th, 2021

City officials say they are concerned about a rise in aggressive behaviour towards staff at the City-run vaccination clinics.

Mayor John Tory says he’s received reports of people attempting to bully their way into receiving a second dose or refusing to follow the rules when inside the clinics, calling it “completely and totally unacceptable.”

“We’re hearing reports of racist and sexist comments targeting employees and of harassing behaviour,” said Tory.

“I know its a very, very small minority who would even think of doing that but …it has to come to an end and it won’t be tolerated.”

While Chief Matthew Pegg couldn’t provide numbers on how many of these incidents they have had to deal with, he said the majority are from people who’ve been told they aren’t allowed to snap pictures inside the clinics. He says that is done in order to protect personal health information.

Meanwhile, a warning from Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, not to get too comfortable as we inch closer to the first stage of the province’s reopening plan this weekend.

“COVID-19 is a nimble virus and doesn’t seem ready to go away quickly or easily,” she said.

“We are nearing the finish line – we don’t want to turn it into an obstacle course.”

De Villa noted there are currently 122 confirmed cases of the Delta variant in the city, and while that may not sound like a lot, “we have seen what happens when a variant suddenly explodes.”

She pointed out that while 72 per cent of adults in Toronto have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, it is only 33 per cent effective against the latest variant.

“The Delta variant is a force to be reckoned with; more transmissible, more infectious,” she said.

“If you’ve had a first dose don’t overestimate its protective power. There are two dose vaccines for a reason; I ask that you please make it your mission to show up for both.”

Ford recalls legislature to invoke notwithstanding clause over election finance ruling

RICHARD SOUTHERN AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jun 10th, 2021

The Ford government has recalled the Ontario legislature for Thursday in order to reverse a court decision on election advertising limits.
The notwithstanding clause, which has never been used in Ontario, allows federal or provincial governments to override sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The provincial government plans to invoke it in order to overturn a court decision this week that ruled certain parts of the Elections Finances Act are unconstitutional for limiting third party advertising.

Enacted under the Wynne Liberal government, the Elections Finances Act stated that third party advertisers, individuals or groups, could spend $600,000 in the six months before an election, the Ford government expanded it to $600,000 in the 12 months preceding an election.

However, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan declared the recent changes by the province were unconstitutional.

The attorney general had argued that the changes, which came into force in May, were necessary to protect democratic elections from outside influence.

Justice Morgan wrote in his Tuesday decision that extending the regulated spending period to 12 months was not necessary.

Morgan’s judgment declared the sections of the Election Finances Act involved in the court challenge to be no longer in force and the ruling would take effect immediately given the sensitive timing of the case. The next provincial election is scheduled for June 2, 2022 — less than a year away.

In a statement, Ford government House Leader Paul Callandra said the legislature was being recalled to introduce “legislation to protect the individual rights of Ontario voters and protect our elections from American-style super PACs and their big money political influence.”

“In the coming days, the government will be using every tool in the toolbox to protect our democracy. Ontario’s elections belong to the people and the people elected our government to protect and defend our democratic institutions. We will do just that,” read the statement.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) called the decision by the Ford government to use the notwithstanding clause, “unconstitutional and undemocratic.”

In a statement, the CCLA wrote, “The notwithstanding clause was designed to be a democratic safety valve, not a brazen power grab to tilt election rules in a government’s favour.”

Toronto extends COVID-19 bylaws until end of September

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Jun 10th, 2021

As the province prepares to gradually lift COVID-19 restrictions, Toronto City Council has approved an extension of coronavirus bylaws until at least the end of September.

The five temporary measures, which were set to expire today, include maintaining physical distancing in City parks and public squares, mandatory face coverings in businesses, apartments and condominiums, and requiring food and drink establishments to maintain customer logs along with other measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The recommendations to extend the measures were made in a letter to City Council on behalf of Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, back on June 1.

“COVID-19 numbers are decreasing, but it remains a significant concern and we need to continue our efforts to reduce and limit virus spread,” said de Villa.

The measures come ahead of the provincial plan to proceed with Step 1 in the reopening process as of 12:01 a.m. Friday morning.

“We have come a long way in our fight against COVID-19 and we want to make sure our case numbers continue to go in the right direction so that we can proceed with a safe and cautious reopening,” said Mayor John Tory. “As we start to gradually reopen thanks to increasing vaccination numbers, we need to remain vigilant to protect our community.”

Woman stabbed near Yonge-Dundas Square

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Jun 10th, 2021

A woman has been taken to hospital after being stabbed near Yonge-Dundas Square.

Police were called to Dundas and Victoria Streets just after 8 p.m. Wednesday.

The victim was found suffering from a stab wound and was taken to hospital with serious, non-life-threatening injuries.

A suspect reportedly fled the scene prior to police arriving.

More to come

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