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Fans greet Olympians returning from Pyeongchang Games

Salmaan Farooqui, Laura Kane and Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Feb 27th, 2018

Hundreds of fans filled up the tiny arrival section of the airport in London, Ont., singing the national anthem and waving Canadian flags to welcome ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

 

The pair signed flags, signs and Tim Hortons cups in what will be their last Olympic homecoming, as they retire from professional ice dancing after winning two sets of gold medals at the Pyeongchang Games.

Their first-place wins in ice dancing and team figure skating in South Korea brought their total Olympic medal count to five, making them the most decorated figure skaters in the history of the Games.

Cheering crowds also greeted Canada’s athletes in Vancouver, where gold medallists Cassie Sharpe and Patrick Chan returned Monday.

Athletes also received a boisterous welcome in Montreal, where over 100 greeted returning athletes with hollers, horns and cheers at Pierre Trudeau International Airport.

In London, Moir and Virtue were shocked by the number of people who came out to meet them.

“We’re tired but this is so exciting for us, we’ve been thinking about this moment being back home since we won the gold medal,” said Moir, who is from nearby Ilderton, Ont. “It’s been unbelievable, we haven’t come down from Cloud 9.”

Moir said representing Canada had only gotten more special in his third Olympics with Virtue.

“None of the magic had worn off,” said Moir, who together with Virtue was Canada’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony. “If anything, you feel more patriotic and we understand more what it means to represent Canada and wear the flag on our back.”

“It’s special and sentimental because it’s been 20 years in the making and it’s the culmination of it all competitively,” added Virtue. “It couldn’t have gone any better for us.”

Asked when they think they’ll come down from the high of winning, Virtue replied: “do we have to?”

The duo has been melting hearts since they claimed gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games, but this year they garnered a whole new group of fans who swooned over their chemistry on the ice. Some have suggested they might be in a romantic relationship – a rumour the athletes have been denying for years.

In Vancouver, Chan said it was just beginning to sink in that he’d won gold in the team skating event.

“It’s a nice feeling,” the Toronto skater said with a grin, adding that he plans to leave it in his suitcase for a little while.

“I’ll take a look at it every once in a while. It’s sometimes better to keep it away and then just enjoy it once in a while.”

Chan, 27, will also retire from competition, although he said he would continue to be involved in skating and perform at shows. He also hopes to eventually open his own skating school that will bring together Vancouver-area coaches and athletes.

“I’ve waited for so long, in a way,” said Chan, who recently relocated to B.C. “It’s a new beginning and a rebirth.”

But first, he’ll enjoy a rest.

“I’m going to just take a week to not do anything, not be a skater, not be an athlete and just enjoy B.C., enjoy everything I love about this place,” he said.

Sharpe, from Comox, B.C., also said she was excited to be back in her own bed, cook herself some food and “just hang out.” Her gold medal in freestyle skiing halfpipe was tucked into the pocket of her Team Canada sweater.

“It’s phenomenal,” she said. “It feels even better to hold it on Canadian soil. It feels good bringing it home.”

“Personally, it’s a bucket list thing. How many people get to say they won gold at the Olympics?” she added. “But then of course, feeling the pride and feeling everybody from Canada being so proud of you and being so happy that you’re bringing it home to them … it’s incredible.”

Women’s hockey veteran Meghan Agosta was wearing her silver medal as she arrived in Vancouver. She said it was “unfortunate” that the final game against the U.S. ended in a 3-2 shootout loss.

“When it comes down to a shootout, anything could happen,” she said. “But I’m so proud and happy with every single one of us girls in that room, we showed a lot of character, a lot of resilience.”

Asked about her teammate Jocelyn Larocque’s initial refusal to wear her silver medal on the ice, Agosta said it was the “heat of the moment.

“The decision that she made, it wasn’t any ill will,” said Agosta. “She didn’t mean to disrespect anybody. We train so hard and we went there for gold. It was unfortunate that we ended up losing, but Jocelyn Larocque, she’s an amazing leader, an amazing person, a great teammate.”

Agosta took a year off from her job as a Vancouver police officer to train for the Olympics. She said she returns to the force in May.

Bobsled pilot Chris Spring of Priddis, Alta., who didn’t bring home a medal, said he was excited for his fellow athletes who did. He said he was driving well during the two-man race but made a poor choice of runners on the first day, and his efforts to be aggressive on the second day didn’t pan out.

“Huge credit to the coaching staff and everyone behind the scenes, the mechanics,” he said after arriving in Vancouver.

“I was excited to leave,” he added with a laugh. “If you have a great Games, you’re excited to come home and share your results with Canada here, with family and friends. If you don’t have a great result at the Games, then you’re also pretty excited to get home.”

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who ended their competitive careers with a bronze medal in pairs figure skating, were among the athletes who returned to Montreal.

“This was our last competitive competition, so it closes the book on this story,” Radford said. “We look forward to doing shows and performing for people, but in a different context.”

Duhamel said she felt “so settled and so content. Couldn’t have asked for it to be any more than what it was. I just felt so settled.”

Moreover, when Canada’s skating team won gold, Radford became the first openly gay man to win an Olympic gold medal.

“I feel really proud of that fact,” he said. “My success in skating allows me to tell my story, and I try to inspire LGBT youth and young athletes in general.”

The Pyeongchang Winter Games were the final Olympis for speedskater Charles Hamelin, who was part of the short-track team which captured bronze in the men’s 5,000-metre relay final.

“I tried to take a little moment with the guys and myself and to look in the crowd,” he said after his last skate. “I tried to look everywhere in the stadium, just to make sure I remember the moment forever.”

Kim Boutin, the 23-year-old flag bearer for the closing ceremonies from Sherbrooke, Que., raced to three speed-skating medals in Pyeongchang – silver in the 1,000 metres, and bronze in both the 500 and 1,500.

“I will be sleeping, eating, just spending time with family,” she said. “I feel accomplished in what I did.”

She was hit hard online, however, with death threats and insults after she was blamed when South Korean star Minjeong Choi was disqualified in the 500.

“That’s part of the athlete’s life,” she said about the online hate. “I was ready for that situation. My team helped me get through that obstacle.”

Man filmed joyriding on back of TTC subway

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Feb 27th, 2018

The TTC is investigating after a video surfaced on social media that appears to show a young man filming himself while riding on the back of a TTC subway car.

The man appears to be holding on to the rear car of an older subway train.

He shouts “on the back of a train!” into his camera as the subway travels through a station.

The video was reportedly filmed about a year ago.

CityNews managed to track down the person who risked life and limb to shoot the brief video. The 20-year-old said it was on his “bucket-list” and admitted that he was inebriated at the time.

He said he shot the video and posted it to an Instagram group.

The TTC’s Stuart Green wasn’t impressed. Green called it an “incredibly dumb thing” to do and said the TTC would be pursuing charges once the thrill-seeker is identified.

“We do have an investigation underway,” Green told CityNews. “We are taking it incredibly seriously.”

“This has to be one of the strangest and dumbest things we’ve seen on our property in a long time.”

Liberals take aim at 2019 election with budget to focus on gender equality

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Feb 27th, 2018

Gender equality and a national pharmacare plan are expected to be two of the cornerstones of the federal budget when it is presented in the House of Commons Tuesday afternoon by Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

He has already hinted at efforts to boost the participation of women in the workforce as part of an overall plan to promote so-called inclusive growth.

One measure expected in the spending plan is dedicated paid leave for new fathers — or, in the case of same-sex relationships, the non-birthing parent. The goal is to allow parents to handle the task of raising children more equitably.

The focus on gender equality — a key priority for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government — could also mean federal dollars to help close the gender wage gap in federally regulated workplaces.

The budget will also include plans to take the first steps toward a national pharmacare plan — a strategy which would outflank NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who has made such a program one of his top priorities.

Senior government officials have told The Canadian Press on condition of anonymity that former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins will be tasked with leading the effort to breathe life into the pharmacare plan.

Hoskins hinted at his new position when he abruptly resigned both his cabinet position and his seat in the Ontario legislature Monday, saying he was leaving “to continue building better health care for all Canadians.”

The parliamentary budget watchdog calculated last fall that a national, universal pharmacare program would cost more than $19 billion, but could still slash the overall cost of drugs in Canada by more than $4 billion a year.

The federal budget is not expected to balance the books, nor is it likely to include a revised timeline for erasing the deficit, which the Liberals initially pledged to do by 2019.

The budget is instead expected to unveil major investments in basic scientific research and environmental conservation.

It is also expected to include nearly $80 million over five years to build and run a computer system aimed at ending no-fly list mismatches and $50 million over five years to support local journalism in underserved communities.

Investments in child welfare and housing for Indigenous communities, expanding a tax credit for low-income earners and spending to help Canadians upgrade their skills for a rapidly changing job market are other expected budget measures.

Patrick Brown ends bid to reclaim Ont. Tory leadership

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Feb 27th, 2018

Patrick Brown, Ontario’s ousted Progressive Conservative leader, says he is ending his bid to reclaim his former job.

In a four-page statement posted on social media, Brown says he is quitting the party’s leadership race because it has been difficult on his family, and his candidacy has distracted from the policy discussion needed for the party as it heads toward a spring election.

Brown abruptly resigned from his post in January amid sexual misconduct allegations he denies.

His departure plunged the Tories into chaos and triggered a leadership race that Brown joined a little over a week ago, saying he had helped grow the party to unprecedented levels and should be the one to lead it into the province’s upcoming election.

Four candidates now remain in the race for the party leadership – former legislator Christine Elliott, lawyer Caroline Mulroney, former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford and parental rights advocate Tanya Granic Allen.

Tory members are set to begin voting online for the new leader on March 2 and the winner will be announced on March 10.

 

Man dies after assault near Bathurst and St. Clair

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Feb 27th, 2018

The Toronto police homicide unit is investigating a fatal assault in the Bathurst Street and St. Clair Avenue area.

Emergency crews were called to the area of Nina Street and Bathurst just after midnight for reports of one man assaulting another.

When police arrived on scene they found the victim lying on the ground.

Paramedics said the victim, who appeared to be in his 60s, was rushed to a trauma unit with critical injuries. He later died in hospital.

The suspect, who fled the scene before officers arrived, is described as a man in his 40s, white, with a goatee. He was wearing a black jacket and a blue hooded top.

 

City looks to rename homeless services, ‘shelter’ to be phased out

Amanda Ferguson | posted Monday, Feb 26th, 2018

City hall is looking to change the language around homeless shelters by doing away with the word “shelter” altogether.

 

The move is part of a wider plan launched last April to rethink the way emergency shelters operate. Part of that plan looks to change public attitudes, or NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard), around adding shelters to communities.

Those behind New Hope Leslieville, a 60 bed men’s shelter that opened last month, intentionally left out the word “shelter” when renaming the new facility. It was created to replace the 124 bed Hope Shelter, which operated for 40 years at the intersection of McCaul and College streets before closing in 2015.

“To me, ‘shelter’ has always represented some sort of a stigma,” says homeless advocate Alex Zsager.

Zsager used Toronto’s shelter system for about a year when the company he was working for downsized and he was laid off.

He says renaming shelters would go a long way to give users hope and help dispel NIMBYism in the community.

“75 per cent (of shelter users) are there because they lost their job, or illness, or accident, or trauma,” Zsager said. “It’s not by choice, so they just need the opportunity to get away.”

Councillor Paula Fletcher says while the term doesn’t affect her negatively, recent city surveys showed the opposite.

A survey done in fall 2017 found 93 per cent of respondents felt “shelter” was either a negative or neutral term. Many recommended a new moniker altogether.

“We found that yes, a lot of people said, ‘Ooh shelter. That makes me afraid’,” Fletcher said. “So, it’s time to look at that.”

The city is now testing out nine names in a new survey, including ‘Connect’, ‘Link’, ‘Junction Services’, ‘First Step Housing and Services’ or ‘Navigation Centre’.

Toronto’s emergency shelter system is almost always near or at capacity. Last Wednesday, it held about 5,800 people, including almost 1,600 in motel beds.

City council approved a motion last week to introduce 1,000 shelter beds over the next three years.

Click here to take the survey and weigh in on alternative terms for “shelter”.

Peak Canadian: Team Canada’s rendition of ‘My Heart Will Go On’

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Feb 26th, 2018

With Canada’s most successful Winter Games in the books, celebrations are in order and Team Canada aptly showed their pride with a Canadian classic.

Gold medalist skier Mikael Kingsbury tweeted out 19 seconds of ‘peak Canadian’ on Friday, showing his teammates on a bus belting out Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”.

Complete with dramatic fist clenching and emotional lip syncing, the video has been viewed over 260,000 times. Kingsbury also made sure to tag Dion in his tweet and succeeded in catching her attention.

On Sunday she responded, congratulating the team and sending her love.

Team Canada won a total of 29 medals at the Pyeonchang Olympic Winter Games, surpassing the previous medal record of 26 set at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

SickKids put on lockdown overnight

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Feb 26th, 2018

A very intense situation at SickKids hospital, after it was put on lockdown overnight.

Police were called to the scene at Gerrard Street West and University Avenue around 10:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Officers carrying riffles scoured the area for hours.

Gates at the hospital’s emergency room entrance were brought down. It’s still not clear if police actually entered the hospital.

Around the same time, the Alberta Children’s hospital also went into lockdown.

Police tactical units searched that hospital but found nothing.

Both areas have since been cleared by police.

There’s no word if the two incidents are related.

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