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Temporary midtown Toronto homeless shelters to be vacated this week, city says

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Aug 31st, 2020

The City of Toronto says two midtown apartment buildings that have been leased to the city for the past few months as emergency housing for the homeless will be completely vacated this week.

Since May, the twin apartment buildings on Broadway Avenue have housed up to 150 formerly homeless residents as part of the city’s plan to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the shelter system.

As a part of the leasing agreement with the developer, those residents have had to move out as the buildings are prepared for demolition.

Protests over alleged safety concerns near the buildings and a nearby hotel that’s also been converted into a shelter have caused tensions in the area over the last month.

Critics claim there has been an uptick in crime in the area, though police have not confirmed that.

In response to the complaints, the city has put forward a number of new measures, including round-the-clock security and mental health and addiction supports.

SIU invokes mandate after 2 men arrested at rally in Little Jamaica on Saturday

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Aug 31st, 2020

The province’s police watchdog has invoked its mandate following the arrests of two men during a rally in Toronto’s Little Jamaica neighbourhood on Saturday.

On Saturday evening, police said people had gathered in the Eglinton Avenue West and Oakland Avenue area for a planned, peaceful protest to voice their concerns about the ongoing construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT and its impact on local businesses in the neighbourhood.

Shortly before 8 p.m., police said a man – unrelated to the rally – jumped on to a vehicle. A taser was reportedly used on the man. A second man also became involved in the scuffle and may have been tasered as well.

Police said an unspecified number of people in the crowd “became hostile” and “swarmed” officers, requiring additional units to be called to the area to assist with controlling the crowd. Several officers were injured with four needing to be treated in hospital. They were all later released.

Two men were arrested and are facing charges of mischief and assault on police.

In a statement released late Sunday evening, the Special Investigations Units (SIU) confirmed they are looking at the case and said a 33-year-old man had been arrested and taken to the hospital Saturday evening.

“The unit is awaiting confirmation on the nature of the man’s injuries,” the SIU said.

Rally organizers dispute police version of events

One of the groups that helped organize the rally said on Sunday that they dispute the police’s version of events and that the altercation is an example of why the police should be defunded in Toronto.

“RREW would like to take this moment to further push for the reallocation of funds that largely go to police salaries, to community services, like shelters and harm reduction centres that emphasize safety for all,” said Reclaim, Rebuild, Eglinton West (RREW) in a statement on their Instagram page. “Protecting Little Jamaica means defunding the police and reinvesting in Eglinton West.”

The SIU is called in where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault involving police and members of the public.

 

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Illinois teen charged in Kenosha shooting that killed 2, hurt 1

STEPHEN GROVES AND SCOTT BAUER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Friday, Aug 28th, 2020

Prosecutors on Thursday charged a 17-year-old from Illinois in the fatal shooting of two protesters and the wounding of a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during a night of unrest following the weekend police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Kyle Rittenhouse faces charges of first-degree intentional homicide, one count of first-degree reckless homicide, one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment. He would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, the most serious crime in Wisconsin.

The attack late Tuesday — largely caught on cellphone video and posted online — and the shooting by police Sunday of Blake, a 29-year-old Black father of six who was left paralyzed from the waist down, made Kenosha the latest focal point in the fight against racial injustice that has gripped the country since the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

Kenosha police faced questions about their interactions with the gunman on Tuesday night. According to witness accounts and video footage, police apparently let the gunman walk past them and leave the scene with a rifle over his shoulder and his hands in the air, as members of the crowd yelled for him to be arrested because he had shot people.

As for how the gunman managed to slip away, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth has described a chaotic, high-stress scene, with lots of radio traffic and people screaming, chanting and running — conditions he said can cause “tunnel vision” among law officers.

Video taken before the shooting shows police tossing bottled water from an armored vehicle and thanking civilians armed with long guns walking the streets. One of them appears to be the gunman.

The national and state chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday called for the resignation of Beth and Kenosha Police Chief Dan Miskinis over their handling of Blake’s death and the subsequent protests.

Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Illinois, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from Kenosha, was taken into custody Wednesday in Illinois. He was assigned a public defender in Illinois for a hearing Friday on his transfer to Wisconsin. Under Wisconsin law, anyone 17 or older is treated as an adult in the criminal justice system.

Rittenhouse’s attorney, Lin Wood, said the teenager was acting in self-defense. Cellphone footage shows the shooter being chased into a used car lot by someone before shots are heard and the person lies dead. The shooter then runs down the street where he is chased by several people shouting that he just shot someone. He stumbles after being approached by several more people and fires, killing another man and injuring a third.

“From my standpoint, it’s important that the message be clear to other Americans who are attacked that there will be legal resources available in the event false charges are brought against them,” he said. “Americans should never be deterred from exercising their right of self-defense.”

Kenosha’s streets were calm Thursday following a night of peaceful protests and no widespread unrest for the first time since Blake’s shooting. There were no groups patrolling Kenosha’s streets with long guns Wednesday night and protesters stayed away from a courthouse that had been the site of standoffs with law enforcement.

During unrest the previous two nights, dozens of fires were set and businesses were ransacked and destroyed.

“Last night was very peaceful,” Beth said during a Thursday news conference during which he and other city leaders refused to answer questions. “Tuesday night, not quite so peaceful, but it wasn’t too bad.”

A sheriff’s department spokesman did not immediately return a message seeking clarity on Beth’s comment.

Protesters marched past the intersection where two people were killed Tuesday night, stopping to pray and lay flowers.

The two men killed were Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, of Kenosha, and Anthony Huber, 26, of Silver Lake, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of the city.

A third man was injured. Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, was volunteering as a medic when he was shot, said Bethany Crevensten who was also among the group of about two dozen activists.

“He was a hero and he is a hero,” she said.

Grosskreutz, of West Allis, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Kenosha, is recovering after surgery and is not yet giving interviews, Crevensten said.

Blake was shot in the back seven times Sunday as he leaned into his SUV, in which three of his children were seated.

State authorities have identified the officer who shot Blake as Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha Police Department.

Authorities said Sheskey was among officers who responded to a domestic dispute, though they have not said whether Blake was part of the dispute. Sheskey shot Blake while holding onto his shirt after officers unsuccessfully used a Taser on him, the Wisconsin Justice Department said. State agents later recovered a knife from the floor on the driver’s side of the vehicle, the department said. State authorities did not say Blake threatened anyone with a knife.

Ben Crump, the lawyer for Blake’s family, said Tuesday that it would “take a miracle” for Blake to walk again. He called for the arrest of Sheskey and for the others involved to lose their jobs. State officials have announced no charges.

In solidarity, Milwaukee Bucks players refused to play their playoff game Wednesday, temporarily halting the NBA season. They were to resume on Friday. Three Major League Baseball games were delayed because players refused to take the field and several NFL teams canceled their Thursday practices.

Also Thursday, Wisconsin Lutheran College located about 40 miles from Kenosha said it canceled a planned Saturday commencement speech by Vice President Mike Pence, citing the unrest.

Four groups representing Wisconsin sheriffs and police departments on Thursday urged Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to stop making “premature, judgmental, (and) inflammatory” comments about Blake’s shooting that they say “only add to the anger and divisiveness of an already dangerous situation.”

Evers has said he stands with everyone demanding justice, equity and accountability and against the excessive use of force against Black people.

The governor has authorized the deployment of 500 members of the National Guard to Kenosha, doubling the number of troops in the city of 100,000. Guard troops from Arizona, Michigan and Alabama were coming to Wisconsin to assist, Evers said Thursday. He did not say how many.

In Washington, the Justice Department said it was sending in more than 200 federal agents from the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The White House said up to 2,000 National Guard troops would be made available. The Justice Department also announced that the U.S. attorney’s office and FBI would conduct a civil rights investigation into the shooting of Blake, in cooperation with Wisconsin state law enforcement agencies.

___

Scott Bauer reported from Madison. Associated Press reporters Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin; Don Babwin and Sophia Tareen in Chicago; and Tammy Webber in Fenton, Michigan, contributed, as did news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York.

TTC begins recalling operators laid off during the pandemic

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Aug 28th, 2020

The TTC is beginning to recall some of its laid-off workers, as it prepares for a bump in ridership when students return to school.

In April, 450 TTC operators were laid off in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The transit agency said 150 of those operators will return to work in September and the remainder will be called back when the TTC reaches at least 50 per cent of pre-pandemic ridership levels.

“These have been difficult times for everyone at the TTC as we’ve been forced to respond to the pandemic by making some tough decisions to reduce expenses and revise service delivery,” TTC CEO Rick Leary said in a release.

“The good news is that things are turning around and we’re able to start bringing back operators and reinstating some of the service as well as adding service to the busiest routes across the network.”

As of this week, the TTC said it is seeing daily ridership in the 35 to 40 per cent range.

Before the pandemic, the TTC saw 1.7 million rides on a typical weekday, and ridership would increase by up to 10 per cent between August and September.

 

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Trump accepts Republican party nomination in front of packed, largely maskless crowd

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Aug 28th, 2020

Facing a national moment fraught with racial turmoil and a deadly pandemic, President Donald Trump accepted his party’s renomination on a massive White House South Lawn stage Thursday night, boasting of helping African Americans and defying his own administration’s pandemic guidelines to address a tightly packed, largely maskless crowd.

As troubles churned outside the gates, Trump painted an optimistic vision of America’s future, including an eventual triumph over the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 175,000 people, left millions unemployed and rewritten the rules of society. But that brighter horizon can only be secured, Trump asserted, if he defeats Democrat Joe Biden.

Trailing Biden in opinion polls, he blistered the former vice president’s record and even questioned his love of America.

“We have spent the last four years reversing the damage Joe Biden inflicted over the last 47 years,” Trump said.

Presenting himself as the last barrier protecting an American way of life under siege from radical forces, Trump declared that “Joe Biden and his party repeatedly assailed America as a land of racial, economic, and social injustice.”″

“So tonight, I ask you a very simple question: How can the Democrat Party ask to lead our country when it spends so much time tearing down our country?” Trump said. “In the left’s backward view, they do not see America as the most free, just, and exceptional nation on earth. Instead, they see a wicked nation that must be punished for its sins.”

As his speech brought the scaled-back Republican National Convention to a close, Trump’s incendiary rhetoric risked inflaming a divided nation reeling from a series of calamities, including the pandemic, a major hurricane that slammed into the Gulf Coast and nights of racial unrest and violence after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot by a white Wisconsin police officer.

He was introduced by his daughter Ivanka, an influential White House adviser, who portrayed the famously bombastic Trump as someone who shaken up Washington with little record for norms or niceties.

“Dad, people attack you for being unconventional, but I love you for being real. And I respect you for being effective,” she said.

The president spoke from a setting that was both familiar and controversial. Despite tradition and regulation to not use the White House for purely political events,a huge stage was set up outside the executive mansion, dwarfing the trappings for some of the most important moments of past presidencies. The speaker’s stand was flanked by dozens of American flags and two big video screens.

Trying to run as an insurgent as well as incumbent, Trump rarely includes calls for unity, even in a time of national uncertainty. He has repeatedly, if not always effectively, tried to portray Biden — who is considered a moderate Democrat — as a tool of the radical left, fringe forces he has claimed don’t love their country.

The Republicans claim that the violence that has erupted in Kenosha and some other American cities is to be blamed on Democratic governors and mayors. Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday said that Americans wouldn’t be safe in “Joe Biden’s America.”

That drew a stern rebuke from his predecessor in the post.

“The problem we have right now is that we are in Donald Trump’s America,” said Biden on MSNBC. “He views this as a political benefit to him, he is rooting for more violence not less. He is pouring gasoline on the fire.”

Both parties are watching with uncertainty the developments in Wisconsin and cities across the nation with Republicans leaning hard on support for law and order — with no words offered for Black victims of police violence — while falsely claiming that Biden has not condemned the lawlessness. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney and New York City’s former mayor, declared that Democrats’ “silence was so deafening that it reveals an acceptance of this violence because they will accept anything they hope will defeat President Donald Trump.”

Though some of the speakers, unlike on previous nights, offered notes of sympathy to the families of Black men killed by police, Giuliani also took aim at the Black Lives Matter movement, suggesting that it, along with ANTIFA, was part of the extremist voices pushing Biden to “execute their pro-criminal, anti-police policies” and had “hijacked the protests into vicious, brutal riots.”

 

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3 teens arrested in Scarborough drive-by shooting

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Aug 28th, 2020

Two people — 17 years old and 20 years old — were seriously injured in a drive-by shooting in Scarborough on Thursday night.

Police responded to reports of someone being shot near a bar or restaurant in the Danforth Road and Savarin Street area shortly before 10 p.m.

Officers arrived on scene and initially found one victim with serious injuries. A second victim was located shortly after and both were taken to hospital in serious condition via emergency run. They are expected to survive.

A white vehicle was seen fleeing the area. Officers spotted the suspect vehicle getting onto Highway 401 and stopped the vehicle.

Guns were recovered from the vehicle and three teens — all 16 years old — were taken into custody.

 

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International students concerned about fee increases, future in Canada during coronavirus pandemic

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Aug 27th, 2020

With the fall semester just days away, international students enrolled in Canadian universities are raising concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on their studies, their wallets, and their futures.

A group of international students currently enrolled at the University of Toronto have created the International Student Advocacy Network (ISAN) to present their concerns and demands to university officials.

They say the toll COVID-19 is taking on them, like their fees, is disproportionately higher than domestic students.

“They have increased fees by an average of 5.4 per cent for the coming year and that decision was made after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the global pandemic,” Anna BML Carneiro, coordinator at ISAN, says.

The group says the fee increase is not justified considering a majority of classes are being taught online and is demanding that the university roll back the hike.

“Losing the opportunity to network, to meet different people on campus, to use different resources … everything that makes the campus experience and the university experience so rich for us and makes it worth it coming here is no longer available,” Carneiro says.

ISAN has approached several University officials’ offices and are waiting to hear back as the deadline to register and pay fees approaches.

“We didn’t get a single response. The responses from the students have been very positive – we’ve got the support of various student groups and other campus bodies. The student union has been collaborating with us. But unfortunately we haven’t had a response from administration,” Carneiro explains.

The University of Toronto tells CityNews that incidental fees that cover on-campus experiences have been reduced.

“[They have] been adjusted accordingly to reflect that so much of university life will now be off-campus,” Joseph Wong, Vice-President, International at University of Toronto, says.

However, he says the international tuition fee increase is in line with their normal, annual fee increase. He adds that moving to online learning is not necessarily less expensive.

“We have had to invest significant amounts in terms of new education technology, academic divisions have been bringing in educational technology specialists, faculty instructors have been reworking their courses, in fact adding new elements to their courses that would likely not have occurred had the pandemic not occurred,” Wong says.

Wong also says classrooms are being fitted for a “dual delivery” system, with some students in class while others join online. They have had to be revamped with new equipment including hardware like mics and screens to accommodate both in-class and online learning.

“We want to create, as much as possible, an in-person like experience for all of the students and that requires huge investments. So you look at the renovated room — just the cost of hardware itself to make this happen and to continue to have a really high quality educational experience for our students requires resources,” he explains.

However, while all students, domestic and international, will benefit from the improvements, the only one’s facing a fee hike are international students, who already pay up to seven times the domestic tuition.

“Our domestic students, their fees or the expenses incurred to buy the same educational experience for them is subsidized by the government,” Wong says.

“Given the realities of where the levels of those subsidies are, they’re such that we’ve had to continue to increase our international student tuition — as we would normally. This is not an extraordinary increase, this is just part of our regular stepped increase.”

Along with a disruption in current studies, international students may also find their futures in limbo as some may not be able to fulfill the eligibility criteria for the Post Graduation Work Permit program (PGWP) thanks to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The length of a PGWP is dependent on the length of the program in which a student is enrolled.

In it’s latest update to eligibility criteria, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says students enrolled in an eight or 12 month program, which starts between May and September 2020, can now complete their entire program online from outside Canada and still be eligible for a PGWP.

Those in longer programs can study online from abroad until April 30, 2021 and will have no time deducted from the length of a future post-graduation work permit — but they must still complete 50 per cent of their program while physically present in Canada.

For those currently outside the country, returning to Canada to fulfill that criteria might be tricky, as they have to prove their travel is “non-discretionary” or essential. With many universities offering courses online, proving it is essential for them to be physically present in Canada could be complicated.

Ziah Sumar, an immigration lawyer with Long Mangalji LLP, says some international students may be allowed to return based on other criteria — for example, if an international student moved to Canada and was already living here and went back home for a vacation.

“IRCC has said that the “non-discretionary” [criteria] includes people who are already living in Canada. Technically by IRCC’s definition they should be able to travel back to Canada,” she says.

“With that being said, the IRCC says they “may” be able to and in the end the final decision is up to the border services officer.”

The IRCC confirms on its website that “a border services officer will make the final decision on whether your reason for travelling to Canada is non-discretionary or non-optional.”

Both University of Toronto and Ryerson University say international students will be provided with documentation to prove their travel is essential should they wish to return.

CityNews reached out to the IRCC to confirm whether those documents would be sufficient proof to re-enter the country and they would only say that the criteria for entry for international students remain the same.

 

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TCDSB confirms staggered start to upcoming school year

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Aug 27th, 2020

The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) has confirmed it will be staggering the start of school year over a one-week period, beginning on Sept. 14.

The board laid out its plans during a virtual town hall meeting Wednesday night.

For elementary students, one-quarter of each class will return to school each day, with full attendance achieved on Sept. 17.

Grade 9 students will attend school for the first two days, while grade 10, 11 and 12 students will start on Sept. 16.

The TCDSB says siblings who attend the same school will be scheduled on the same days.

Schools are currently in the process of establishing class placements.

The board says parents and guardians will receive confirmation of their child’s re-entry schedule from their school as soon as those details have been finalized.

 

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