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Climate change protest expected to block Bloor Street Viaduct

News Staff and The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Oct 7th, 2019

A two-week global protest to bring attention to climate change started this weekend in Europe will be making its way to Toronto.

An environmental group called “Extinction Rebellion” is planning on shutting down a major bridge during morning rush hour Monday.

Protesters will be lying down in traffic lines on the Bloor Street Viaduct to show that major disruptions are inevitable if society fails to act on climate change.

It’s expected to begin just after 8 a.m. and there’s no word on how long the protest could last.

A release from the group says they also will be filing a notice of demonstration with Toronto police.

Around 1,000 people blocked the Grosser Stern, a traffic circle in the middle of the German capital’s Tiergarten park dominated by the landmark Victory Column, in a protest that started in the early hours Monday.

Members of Extinction Rebellion have also set up a camp outside Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office, reflecting dissatisfaction with a climate policy package drawn up last month by her government, ahead of what it called an “international rebellion” starting Monday. It says protests are planned in 60 cities worldwide.

In Amsterdam, hundreds of demonstrators blocked a major road outside the Rijksmuseum, one of the city’s most popular tourist draws, and set up tents.

The demonstration went ahead despite the city banning activists from gathering on the road. The protesters ignored police calls for them to move to a nearby square.

Back in April, members of the group blocked several London roads and bridges during 10 days of action designed to alert the public and politicians to the “climate emergency.”

Extinction Rebellion wants to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2025.

Education minister Lecce optimistic about teacher contract talks

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Oct 7th, 2019

Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he remains optimistic about ongoing teacher contract talks after averting an education workers strike over the weekend.

He says that in reaching a deal with the union representing 55,000 education workers important lessons have been learned which can be applied to other contract talks.

Lecce says he believes there is a “path forward” in the ongoing negotiations with Ontario’s high school and elementary teachers.

Late last night the government, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the school boards announced they’d reached a tentative contract that avoided a strike that was set to begin at midnight.

The potential labour disruption could have closed schools across the province, leaving parents scrambling to make child care arrangements.

Meanwhile, NDP leader Andrea Horwath warns that unless the government reverses school system cuts the remaining talks will be difficult.

Teen struck and killed in hit-and-run in East York

News Staff | posted Monday, Oct 7th, 2019

 

 

A teenager has been struck and killed by a pick-up truck that fled the scene in East York early Monday morning.

Police were called to Cedarvale Avenue near the East York Memorial Arena just after 2 a.m. to reports of a pedestrian struck.

It’s believed the boy, around 16 years old, was walking on the sidewalk when a vehicle struck him and fled the scene. Witnesses on the scene say it appeared the vehicle intentionally hit the victim, but police have yet to determine whether it was an intentional act.

He was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries where he was pronounced dead. The victim has yet to be identified.

Officers are now looking for a black pick-up truck with damage to the front-end.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police.

‘Schools will be open in Ontario:’ CUPE, government reach deal to avert strike

News Staff | posted Monday, Oct 7th, 2019

A potential strike involving 55,000 education support workers in Ontario has been averted following a late night deal between the province and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

The tentative three year agreement means schools across the province are expected to be open as usual on Monday.

“Parents can rest easy knowing that the Government worked tirelessly to ensure their children remain in the classroom, where they belong,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce, without giving any specific details of the new agreement except to say it was “fair and reasonable.”

“We can all leave this deal knowing we’ve achieved some incremental success, and that is important for the students of this province,” he said.

More than two dozen school boards were prepared to shut down classes in the event of a strike.

Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, apologized to parents and student for how long it took to get an agreement.

“To all the parents and students who have waited to know what is happening tomorrow, I would like to apologize for how long it has taken to be able to give you this news,” said Walton. “I do regret the disruption to your lives.”

Tens of thousands of custodians, clerical workers and early childhood educators had begun a work-to-rule campaign last week in a bid to pressure the provincial government into making concessions in contract negotiations.

The union says it was able to secure modest wage increases, a reinstatement of the local priorities fund with a new investment of up to $20 million and maintain its existing sick leave plan – a sticking point for the school trustees.

Lecce said the new deal “strengthens the integrity” of the sick leave program.

“I think the pressure that we applied, the fact that we were going to be going out on strike – a full withdrawl of services – made the difference this weekend,” said Walton.

Asked if the province caved in the negotiations, Walton said they “met us where they needed to be in order to get a deal” and that the union “didn’t give up anything.”

Walton says they hope to have the deal ratified by the end of the month.

CUPE is the first of several unions to reach an agreement with the Ford government since contracts for all of the province’s public school employees expired at the end of August.

TDSB, other GTA school boards to close doors if CUPE goes on strike

DILSHAD BURMAN AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Oct 4th, 2019

The Toronto District School Board and several other GTA school boards have announced closures in the event of a strike by school support workers.

If a new deal cannot be reached between the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the provincial government, thousands of workers will walk off the job starting Monday, Oct. 7.

The Toronto District School Board says all schools will be closed for the duration of the strike.

TDSB Director of Education, John Malloy made the announcement Thursday afternoon.

“Our CUPE workers cover many, many different aspects to our board services and we felt that we required this decision in order for our students to be safe,” he said.

Malloy said the decision was based on the board’s inability to ensure student safety in the absence of support staff.

“We understand that this is very challenging for our families, we get the frustration and anger this may cause, and we certainly empathize, but at the end of the day safety is paramount and we could not ensure that for all students,” he added.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board says it will also close its schools to “ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.” The board says third-party child care operators located in TCDSB schools will be permitted to remain open, however, operating hours will be adjusted to 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

The Peel District School Board also cited safety concerns saying “student safety cannot be ensured during a CUPE strike” and have asked parents not to send their children to school starting Monday next week in case of a strike.

York Region District School Board, York Catholic District School Board and Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board will also be closing.

The Halton District School Board says it intends to be open on Monday and the Halton Catholic School Board says they have not made a decision yet.

Durham District School Board says they will make a decision about closures on Friday.

CUPE members began a work-to-rule campaign on Sept. 30 after talks with the province broke down the previous day.

On Wednesday, Laura Walton, President of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions announced at Queens Park that full strike action would go into effect if a fair deal was not reached.

The province and the union are expected to return to the bargaining table Friday.

CUPE represents 55,000 school support workers including education assistants, custodial staff, clerical workers and early childhood educators.

Contracts for Ontario’s public school teachers and education workers expired Aug. 31, and the major unions are in various stages of bargaining.

The talks were prompted by the province’s order for school boards to start increasing class sizes. The Tory government has said that will mean 3,475 fewer teachers in the system over four years, which will be accomplished by not filling vacancies when teachers quit or retire.

Walton has said those cuts will trickle down and impact educational assistant supports and custodial services as well.

A list of provincial school boards and their status should CUPE workers go on strike:

Closed on Monday

Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board
Ottawa Catholic School Board
Peel District School Board
Toronto District School Board
Toronto Catholic District School Board
Waterloo Catholic District School Board
Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board
York Region District School Board
York Catholic District School Board

Open on Monday

Greater Essex County District School Board
Halton District School Board
Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board
Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (not affected by CUPE strike)

Undecided

Durham District School Board (decision coming Friday)
Halton Catholic District School Board
Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is a dual-citizen, in process of renouncing U.S. citizenship

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Oct 4th, 2019

The Director of Communications for Andrew Scheer’s campaign has confirmed media reports that the Conservative Leader is a dual citizen, but says he’s in the process of having his U.S. citizenship renounced.

Brock Harrison told 680 NEWS one of Scheer’s parents was born “in another country and immigrated to Canada to start a family.”

The Globe and Mail first reported Thursday that the Tory leader’s father was born in the U.S. and therefore Scheer and his sisters received American citizenship as a result.

“He and his sisters received United States passports as children and Mr. Scheer has not renewed his as an adult,” Harrison said.

Harrison added that Scheer has not voted in a United States election.

The party says once Scheer became Conservative leader back in 2017 he decided to renounce his American citizenship before the election. In August, he submitted his paperwork and is currently waiting for confirmation from the embassy that he is no longer a dual-citizen.

Members of Parliament are allowed to hold dual citizenship and the United States has no rules preventing one of its citizens from leading a foreign nation.

“I made the decision after I became leader of the party to do this,” Scheer told reporters after addressing a rally of a few hundred people in Bedford, N.S.

“I was focused on other things. I was rebuilding the party, getting ready for the election, working on the platform. It was always my intention to do it before the election.”

But when Conservatives attacked former NDP leader Tom Mulcair and former Liberal leader Stephane Dion over their dual citizenship with France, Scheer said nothing. Mulcair acquired citizenship through his French-born wife and Dion through his French-born mother.

In 2015, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated he is a Canadian and only a Canadian.

“No one has ever asked me before about it,” Scheer responded to questions about whether he thought his actions were hypocritical. “Like millions of Canadians, one of my parents was born in another country.”

As an MP in 2005, Scheer published a blog post about Michaelle Jean, a few weeks before she was sworn in as Governor General, asking his constituents how they felt about her dual citizenship.

“Does it bother you that she is a dual citizen (France and Canada)? Would it bother you if instead of French citizenship, she held U.S. citizenship?” he wrote, without mentioning his own double citizenship status.

Liberal party spokeswoman Zita Astravas said in a statement, “Andrew Scheer has been fundamentally dishonest with Canadians about who he is.”

“Scheer’s hidden his core personal positions, he hid facts about his career and education,” she said, referring to the fact Scheer’s biography on his party’s website states he was once an insurance broker in Saskatchewan when he was never fully licensed.

“And now he’s been caught hiding his American citizenship even while ridiculing others for holding dual citizenship.”

Canadians head to the polls on Oct. 21.

With files from The Canadian Press

Arrests made after petty crime escalates to homicide in Brampton

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Oct 4th, 2019

Peel Regional Police say they have made several arrests in connection with a petty crime that snowballed into a murder in Brampton earlier this year.

Back on August 2, police say up to five males were committing minor property offences, including thefts from vehicles, on Lanebrook Drive near Castlemore Road and Goreway Drive.

At around 2 a.m. two men, a father and his son who live in the area confronted the suspects.

Glensbert Oliver, 63, was stabbed and died at the scene while his 40-year-old son was hospitalized with stab wounds.

Police are expected to update the investigation Friday morning.

At the time, police urged the suspects to contact lawyers and turn themselves in, calling the incident “senseless” and “tragic.”

“This was people just trying to stop a minor property offence that escalated to the point of becoming a homicide,” said Acting Superintendent Martin Ottaway. “I don’t think they set out … to become involved in a homicide.”

#CityVote2019: public safety, gun violence an urgent concern

DILSHAD BURMAN | posted Friday, Oct 4th, 2019

As communities are left reeling amid rising incidents of violence and loss of life, public safety and gun violence is an urgent concern among GTA voters as they head to the polls in the upcoming federal election.

In 2018, Toronto experienced one of its most violent years on record, with 428 shootings leading to 51 deaths of a total of 81 homicides counted at year’s end.

This year, so far there have been 342 shootings, contributing 29 deaths to a total of 54 homicides to date.

What the federal parties are promising

Proposals for prison or criminal code reform and stricter gun control measures are among party promises.

The Liberals have vowed to ban military-style assault rifles and to give individual municipalities the authority to ban hand guns in their communities. They have also committed to giving $250 million over five years directly to cities to help develop “on the ground” solutions to gang violence.

The NDP is focusing on ensuring funding for youth programs that will keep young people away from gangs and will create a $100 million fund dedicated to such programs.

Toronto Mayor John Tory says he was pleased to see the Liberals and NDP committing funds for community investment in their respective platforms.

“I’m heartened that at least two of the major parties have this in their platform and would intend to proceed with commitments to invest in the community. And they’ve indicated that that money would come, as much as it can, directly to municipalities, which is where we’re delivering those things on the ground, to help kids and families and neighbourhoods,” he said.

The Green party is highlighting prison reform in their platform, promising to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, end solitary confinement and re-invest in rehabilitation of prisoners. They’re also looking launch an anonymous national gun buyback program for handguns and assault weapons.

The Conservatives have not announced an official platform position on the issue but during the last Parliamentary session, PC Leader Andrew Scheer proposed creating new offenses with mandatory minimum sentences specifically for committing and ordering violent gang crimes and ending bail for repeat gang offenders.

Tory commended Scheer for addressing bail laws but added that if the Conservatives focused only on things like tougher sentences and criminal code reform, it would be a “substantial missed opportunity for any one of the major parties to not provide for an increased amount of money for community investments.”

“I think those investments are vital, I’ve always said so, as part of the trifecta, which is: supporting the police, changing the laws — including the gun laws, and investing in neighbourhoods. So I think it would be a significant omission for any party not to provide for that in their platform,” he said.

What the Toronto police is doing

Toronto police chief Mark Saunders said this week that a police initiative called Project Community Space Project Community Space has been effective in curbing shootings.

The 11-week program, is aimed at stemming a surge in gun and gang violence in the GTA.

Under the program, police are monitoring bail compliance, engaging with communities and increasing police presence and visibility in areas associated with street gangs and gun violence. The program was funded with $4.5 million given to police by all three levels of government.

Six weeks into the program at the end of September, Police Chief Mark Saunders said officers arrested 240 people and laid 525 charges.

Thirty-five per cent of those arrests were for firearm offences and 12 people who were free on bail for firearm offences were re-arrested.

Saunders said at the midpoint of the project, there was a 30 per cent decrease in shooting events as compared to six weeks prior to its start and emphasized the positive results of officers being on the ground and in the communities.

“This enhancement has allowed our officers to be where communities need us most,” Saunders said on Monday. “The increased visibility of officers, in their patrol cars and on foot in areas where street gangs are prevalent has been effective as a deterrent.”

However, since the program began around August 15, there have been 71 shootings in Toronto. During the same six-week period last year — when the project wasn’t up and running — there were 56 shootings.

What the city is doing

The City Of Toronto runs 160 community and recreation centres offering a wide variety of programming. About 38 of them offer free programming to all.

Thirty-six centres offer youth spaces, with programming specifically aimed at young people including leadership development and employment. Ten of those are “enhanced youth spaces” which have various facilities like recording studios, photography labs and study spaces and they offer WiFi, TV, gaming consoles, computers and other recreational activities. They also have free programs including photography, hairstyling, yoga, nail art, DJing and music recording.

However, Sharon Butler, Manager, Community Recreation for Parks, Forestry and Recreation says it is the city’s 31 youth outreach workers that do the most impactful, on-the-ground work.

“They offer the opportunity to connect, engage with youth as well as referring them and connecting them to other city services and important community services as well,” she says.

Butler says they also run specific workshops and specialty events based on feedback they receive from kids in various neighbourhoods about what would engage them the most.

Along with programming, Butler says the community centres offer a safe space for youth who may need a break from their home, school or neighbourhood.

“There are things that happen in the community. But youth know that they can come through those doors and leave some things behind, maybe some baggage or some problems they’re having,” she says adding that they hear through evaluations that the centres are a “home away from home.”

“Our doors are open to help anyone that requires that help,” she says.

What the community needs

Community activists say that the issue must be tackled at the grassroots level — much like the police is doing — but not just from an enforcement standpoint.

Marcell Wilson, a former gang member who now works to keep youth away from gangs and rehabilitate former gang-involved individuals, says the police is taking the right approach and that he is “hopeful.”

“We had some good interactions with the city, with Toronto Community Housing and with Toronto Police Services showing a great interest in tackling the root cause of issues and really getting into the meat of these problems,” says Wilson, co-founder of the non-profit organization One By One.

In the riding of Eglinton-Lawrence there have been 26 shootings with 42 victims injured this year.

The community of Lawrence Heights within the riding has been dealing with a spate of gun violence in recent months.

“People that come from communities like this feel like they have no voice. They feel like they have no chance, no real shot at making a difference,” says Wilson. “I think if you go to the seed — the actual seed that the roots sprout from would be marginalization and poverty.”

Wilson says while getting guns off the street is one way to approach the problem, a more effective strategy would be to conquer the demand for guns.

“From my life experience and my lived experience, for me what helped was community programs and community outreach,” says Wilson. “It’s not that we’re underserved. These communities are poorly served. We need to lead them and help them understand that there are some resources out there — it’s just that they don’t know about them. They have no clue that they exist,” he says, adding that One by One also acts as a liaison between the community and available resources.

Melissa Hood who used to live outside the riding in another marginalized neighbourhood echoes Wilson’s call for community outreach.

“You look at why people are doing what they are doing — and its like there’s nobody to help elevate and empower them,” she says. “If they had resources and tools to empower them, people would not be conditioned and want to stay in housing. People would want to evolve and make themselves better and be determined to become something more in life.”

Hood says a majority of those who grew up in the neighbourhood and are involved in criminal or gang activity went down that route due to severe a lack of programming. She adds that a continued lack of access to community resources sets up a repetitive, “generational cycle” of people who get sucked into the lifestyle.

“When I lived here there was no programming. If we had programming like basketball, safe zones where we’re able to go and get acquainted with taking trips … seeing what Toronto’s about …if we had another outlet for these youths we would have a better [outcome],” she says.

Hood says the government should channel funding toward local, grass root causes within communities to help “rewire” how people think about themselves, their potential and their circumstances.

“We need to start focusing on — how are we going to start changing the narrative in these marginalized communities? We don’t have hope here. And we need hope.”

Liberal candidate for Eglinton-Lawrence Marco Mendicino agrees with both Wilson and Hood, saying investment in community-led programming is essential.

“[These programs] will help prevent these crimes from occurring in the first place and that means looking at some of the root causes like homelessness and poverty and mental health,” he says, adding that community-led organizations will ensure that residents “voices are heard on what they need.”

The Eglinton-Lawrence riding is largely considered a two party race between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

The conservative candidate for the riding, Chani Aryeh-Bain,  declined CityNews’ request for an interview.

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