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Virtual court appearance today for Alek Minassian as his trial nears

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Oct 22nd, 2020

The man who killed 10 people when he drove a rental van down a busy sidewalk is set to appear in virtual court today as his trial nears.

Alek Minassian faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder in connection with the April 2018 incident.

Court is grappling with the logistics of holding the high-profile murder trial set to begin on Nov. 9 under strict COVID-19 courtroom limits.

Crown attorney Joseph Callaghan said last week the trial may be held over Zoom with the option of allowing families and the public to watch in a large courtroom.

Justice Anne Molloy said last week the main issue remains the 10-person courtroom limit as set out by the chief justice earlier this month.

Minassian’s trial by judge alone was set to begin on April 6, but was postponed because of the pandemic.

In early March, Minassian admitted in court to planning and carrying out the attack.

The judge has said the case will turn on Minassian’s state of state of mind at the time of the attack, not whether he did it.

2 sisters shot at Scarborough playground describe horror through drawings, handwritten words

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Oct 21st, 2020

It was a shooting that stunned the city three summers ago, when gunmen opened fire in a Scarborough playground – sending children running for their lives.

Police estimate there were about 11 children playing in the park at the time of the shooting on June 14, 2018 and believe at least 10 shots were fired.

Now, the two young sisters who were struck are describing the horror of that day in simple detail, through handwritten words and drawings.

The victim impact statements were submitted for the sentencing hearing for T’Quan Robertson, one of the men charged.

RELATED: Crime Stoppers offering $50,000 for information leading to arrest of alleged playground shooter

The younger sister writes, “I was outside playing and then I heard gunshots… the next I know the front of my shirt was red.”

The older sister described screaming when she saw her leg was bleeding — her statement also included a self-portrait of herself next to a basketball net and a gun.

Robertson pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault.  He’s scheduled to be sentenced October 29.

‘Loophole’ in child abuse reporting in historic cases: advocates

ADRIAN GHOBRIAL AND JESSICA BRUNO | posted Wednesday, Oct 21st, 2020

If a child told you they’d been sexually assaulted by an adult what would you do? Would you call police? Would you report the allegations to a children’s aid society? Or would you do neither?

For most of us, the moral choice is clear. So why has the obligation to report often been ignored by many who claim to be doing God’s work?

Sister Nuala Kenny is a pediatrician who has spent decades examining the sexual assault scandal rocking the religious institution she’s given her life to. As a nun, she calls the Catholic Church’s response to the abuse of children “a contradiction to what we’ve been called to be as Christians.”

A CityNews investigation has uncovered several child sexual assault claims against an order of Catholic priests based in Toronto. Dating back decades, the Basilian Fathers were made aware of abuse allegations against their own priests, but historically, cases were never reported to police or a children’s aid society. Instead, allegations were dealt with internally, resulting in alleged predator priests continuing to work in schools and churches.

“If the Church had reacted more effectively and properly, we would not have the catastrophe that we have today.”

It’s a scenario lawyer Rob Talach has seen again and again.

“This is the repetitive story in the Catholic cases, these priests are often reported and moved. I term it ‘the silent shuffle,’” he says. “If the Church had reacted more effectively and properly, we would not have the catastrophe that we have today.”

Disturbing Allegations

It’s the summer of 1978, and as they have for years, hundreds of underprivileged children from the city flood Columbus Boys Camp in Orillia, north of Toronto. The rural refuge is operated by the Basilian Fathers. The order of Catholic priests, also known as the Congregation of St. Basil, founded, runs or staffs schools and other educational institutions across the continent. Their motto is a passage from the Bible’s Book of Psalms: “Teach me goodness, discipline and knowledge.”

Bill Taylor was a 17-year-old camp counselor that summer and has fond memories of his time with the kids. “We took them canoeing, there was archery, camp crafts, it was a lot of fun.”

However, Taylor also says the sunny escape turned into a cabin of horrors for a group of young children.

“One day, three or four of these young boys, maybe six, seven or eight [years old], came to tell us that Father Leo was coming into their cabin at night and putting his hand in their sleeping bags and fondling them,” Taylor tells CityNews.

Taylor says he reported the allegations to Father John Malo, a Basilian Priest he looked up to. He says Fr. Malo appeared angry and the next day Father Leo Campbell was gone from the camp. No one ever spoke to him about the alleged incident, Taylor says, and he doesn’t believe any authorities were contacted.

Two years later, Fr. Campbell, now a teacher at a Basilan-run school in Sault St. Marie, would allegedly sexually assault and rape student Peter Luci for two years. 

Taylor believes “it’s a reasonable conclusion” that if police were called following the allegations at Columbus Boys camp – other young boys would have been spared.

Sr. Kenny calls priests who didn’t investigate or report claims of abuse “enablers of what happened.”

CityNews reached out to the Basilians multiple times, asking for an interview with one of their most senior priests, Vicar General David Katulski. Our requests were denied by their lawyer. Eventually, we sent questions about Taylor’s account to the Basilians for an official response. The order again declined to answer, stating, “we do not feel it is appropriate to answer your questions about specific individuals or events.” Their lawyer sent a statement addressing some of our questions about policy and the history of the Church’s understanding of sex abuse.

Full response from the Basi… by CityNewsToronto

A loophole in the duty to report

Every province and territory in Canada has child protection legislation that requires people who perform professional or official duties alongside children to report reasonable suspicions of abuse, or face legal penalties.

In Ontario, everyone from a teacher to a priest to a member of the public has a duty to immediately report to a children’s aid society if a child tells them they’re being assaulted. It includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, and risk of harm. The duty to report applies to any child who is under 16 years old. A report may be made regarding 16- and 17- year-olds but is not mandatory.

“We know at least in the cases of childhood sex abuse you’re not going to learn about it until decades later.”

Ontario’s Child Youth and Family Services Act came into effect in 2018, updating longstanding provincial child welfare laws. According to Talach, who has worked on more than 400 sexual abuse cases against the Catholic Church, the current laws still do a disservice to victims and society.

“The duty to report child abuse is right now focused on when you learn about it when the kid’s a kid. We know at least in the cases of childhood sex abuse you’re not going to learn about it until decades later.”

When an adult comes forward to report their own historical case of childhood sexual assault, there isn’t the same duty for an organization to report the allegation to children’s aid or police.

CityNews reached out to the Ontario government and asked if they’d consider strengthening the law. They didn’t directly answer our question but noted even historical allegations can result in a “legal duty to report” if it’s believed a child is currently being abused.

CityNews has interviewed five people who say it took them between 20 to 55 years to tell anyone about the sexual assaults they say they endured at the hands of Basilian Priests. In many cases, the survivors blame themselves for what happened, they believe they’re the only victim, or they simply push the dark memories into a hidden corner of their mind. 

“It was very compartmentalized,” says Patrick McMahon, who was sexually abused by Hod Marshall, who was a Basilian priest at the time. “I put it away and for 20 years it was not part of my thought process and life was very difficult for me.”

The consequence of the decades of trauma-induced delay in speaking up keeps Talach up at night.

“Look, let’s just use common sense?” he says. “If there’s someone who’s thirty-five tells you that they’re abused when they were ten and that perpetrators are still working with 10-year-olds, do the math.”

In their original written statement, the Basilians told CityNews the order complies with duty to report laws. They say they would automatically take a current report of abuse of a child (who they take to be anyone up to age 18) to the local children’s aid society, as legislation mandates, “and in conjunction with that office, have it reported to police.”

In a second statement, sent to CityNews on day six of its investigative series, on behalf of Superior General Fr. Kevin Storey reads in part: “Our responsibility to monitor and protect our community is one that we shoulder with the utmost importance. Victims of clerical abuse have been failed in this respect. As a Congregation, we have taken meaningful steps to help prevent such horrific actions from taking place in the future.” The full statement is posted below.

Basilians under fire for handling of St. Mike’s sex assault

However, leadership at Toronto’s Basilian-run St. Michael’s College School came under fire in 2018 for not telling authorities for days about a cellphone video showing students sexually assaulting another boy.

Police confirm they only went to St. Mike’s to investigate after CityNews asked them about anonymous information that an incident had taken place at the school. It was only when officers arrived at St. Mike’s to follow up on our questions that the principal shared the videos with authorities.

At the time, St. Michael’s principal Greg Reeves said he held off on promptly informing police about the locker-room video because the victim hadn’t yet told his family about the incident.

Reeves, and the Basilian president of St Mike’s, Father Jefferson Thompson, would resign from their posts at the prestigious private school a week after the incident.

The pair cited “their shared desire to move the school forward without distractions and allow it to focus on healing and change after the horrific events of student misbehaviour that came to light,” according to a statement released by the school at the time. The Chair of St. Michael’s board, Michael Forsayeth, added that the pair “fulfilled their moral and ethical obligations to manage the immediate crisis.”

Before resigning, Reeves said, “The reality is that I had to make a decision at that time, and when I saw that video, the victim became my most important person. He at that point was the priority,” Reeves added that the next step he took was to “set up expulsion meetings.”

CityNews asked police at the time whether St. Mike’s school administration should have informed them of the sex assault video sooner. Inspector Dominic Sinopoli, commander of Toronto Police’s sex crimes unit, bluntly said: “Yes.”

Handling allegations from the past

An updated 2007 copy of the Basilians’ sexual abuse policy states that if a priest under suspicion is still around children he will be reassigned to a job that “temporarily prevents the individual from having contact with minors.”

The Basilians also note in their original statement that, “For reports of historical abuse, by an adult, for whom a perpetrator might be alive, we respect the right of the victim to report that abuse to the police, or not.”

“If their choice is to report to the police, we would be fully supportive. If their choice is not to report the matter to the police, we will not do so, nor would the police even accept a report from us in such a situation.”

Talach believes the grey area in our duty to report legislation is fraying the fabric of our communities.

“Look: the price of childhood sexual abuse on our society, on a very pragmatic and practical level, is huge. Go into a prison talk to the number of incarcerated people who were abused as children,” he says. “This is a rot, undermining the solid foundation of this nation and every nation.”

Full new statement from the Basilian Fathers of Toronto

Over these last several months, the Basilian Fathers have been reminded of heartbreaking accounts of sexual abuse faced by minors. As a Congregation that has built communities based on goodness, discipline and knowledge, we unreservedly apologize for the trauma and destruction that this has caused.

Our responsibility to monitor and protect our community is one that we shoulder with the utmost importance. Victims of clerical abuse have been failed in this respect. As a Congregation, we have taken meaningful steps to help prevent such horrific actions from taking place in the future.

For instance, since 1992 all candidates for the Basilian Fathers must pass psychological screening by independent assessors and have annual reviews and growth plans. Since 2006, the Basilian Fathers have been audited by an independent third-party organization, Praesidium, to ensure that we provide safe environments. As part of our accreditation, every Basilian must engage in ongoing education regarding healthy boundaries as well as recognizing signs when colleagues are not following proper protocols.

We cooperate fully in all legal investigations when allegations of impropriety are brought forward. An individual who faces an allegation cannot function as a priest while an investigation is taking place. In addition to these steps, a review board of lay professionals is called upon after inappropriate behaviour is identified to determine future steps in relation to the individual involved.

We acknowledge that allegations of this nature hurt the position of trust that we seek to maintain with our community and hope that our students, parishioners, colleagues, family, and friends give us the opportunity to reconcile and regain their trust.

We feel deep sorrow for those who have had their inherent dignity offended and we encourage all victims to let us know how we can help them move forward through a personal apology, counseling and/or financial reparation. We promise to do better, and we are truly sorry.

Fr. Kevin Storey, CSB

Superior General of the Basilian Fathers

Woman, 50, dead after crash near Kennedy and Sheppard

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Oct 21st, 2020

A 50-year-old woman has died after a crash in the city’s east end overnight.

Emergency crews were called to the area of Kennedy Road and Sheppard Avenue East around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The car went off the road and struck a light pole.

The driver was rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries but later died.

Trudeau Liberals face confidence vote over proposed anticorruption committee

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Oct 21st, 2020

A dispute over the scope and composition of a House of Commons committee will come to a head Wednesday in a vote that could trigger a federal election in the midst of the second deadly wave of COVID-19.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has declared that the vote on a Conservative motion to create a special anticorruption committee will be a test of confidence in his minority Liberal government.

The Conservatives are willing to drop “anticorruption” from the name of their proposed committee but the intent remains the same: to create a disproportionately opposition-dominated committee to investigate the WE Charity affair and other issues the official Opposition maintains reek of the government funnelling pandemic-related funding to Liberal friends.

The motion would give the committee broad powers to call witnesses, including the prime minister and other ministers, and to demand documents on a range of issues, including the speaking fees earned by Trudeau’s mother and brother over the past 12 years.

The Liberals maintain the committee would amount to a time-consuming fishing expedition that would paralyze the government when it should be focused on helping Canadians get through the second wave of the pandemic.

They’ve proposed their own special committee to examine all government pandemic-related spending, including but not exclusively the WE affair and other matters the Opposition deems suspicious.

The Bloc Quebecois is planning to support the Conservative motion but NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh refused Tuesday to give a clear indication of what his party will do.

New Democrats have said they believe the Conservative motion is “over the top,” but they’ve also said the Liberal counter-proposal isn’t good enough — particularly since it calls for a Liberal chair rather than allowing an opposition member to preside.

Singh said Tuesday that making the issue a test of confidence is absurd and that his party won’t take part in a “farce” that gives Trudeau an excuse to force an election.

Should New Democrats abstain on today’s vote, the Liberals and combined Conservative and Bloc MPs would have an equal number of votes, 153 each. That would leave the three Green and two independent MPs to decide the fate of the government.

The dispute comes after the Liberals filibustered opposition attempts to revive their investigations into the WE affair at the Commons finance and ethics committees, whose probes were shut down when Trudeau prorogued Parliament in August.

The controversy revolves around the government’s decision last June to pay WE Charity $43.5 million to administer a now-cancelled student service grant program, despite Trudeau’s long-standing family ties to the organization.

Trudeau has said public servants recommended WE as the only group that could manage the program. He has nevertheless apologized for not recusing himself from the decision to involve WE, as has former finance minister Bill Morneau, who also has close family ties to WE.

Both Trudeau and Morneau are under investigation by the federal ethics commissioner for possible violations of the Conflict of Interest Act.

Trick-or-treating not recommended in hotspots this Halloween: Ontario’s top doctor

MICHELLE MORTON | posted Tuesday, Oct 20th, 2020

If you live in Ontario’s hotspots, Toronto, Peel, Ottawa, and York, and have been thinking about taking your kids door-to-door trick or treating — consider another way to celebrate Halloween.

That message from the province’s top doctor, Dr. David Williams, who announced public health advice for Halloween this year.

This advice comes the same day York Region begins its modified Stage 2 restrictions as the province continues to see rising new daily COVID-19 case numbers.

Canada is approaching the 200,000 COVID-19 case count, with Quebec, followed by Ontario, leading the numbers.

“As Ontarians begin to prepare for Halloween this year, I’d like to remind everyone to take extra precautions to ensure you are keeping yourself and your families safe,” Williams said.

Williams said given the high transmission of COVID-19 in the modified Stage 2 public health unit regions, door-to-door trick or treating is not recommended.

Instead, the province is recommending residents living in the hotspot regions to instead encourage kids to dress up and participate in virtual activities and parties, organize a Halloween candy hunt with people living in the same household, carving pumpkins, movie night, and to decorate front lawns.

Williams is also recommending that you check with your local municipality or public health unit for any additional advice or restrictions that may be in place.

RELATED: Restaurants near COVID-19 hotspots implement locals-only dining

“It is also critical that families not travel outside of their neighbourhood to celebrate Halloween,” Williams said.

Williams is also recommending Ontarians to avoid gatherings with people outside of their household, to stay home if you are feeling ill, or if you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19.

If you live outside the modified Stage 2 public health unit regions, and plan to go trick-or-treat, Williams recommends:

  • To only go out with members of your household.
  • Trick-or-treat outside.
  • Trick-or-treaters, and people handing out candy should wear a face covering, adding that a costume mask is not a substitute for a face covering, and shouldn’t be worn over a face covering because it may make it difficult to breathe.
  • Not congregate or linger at doorsteps and remember to line up two metres apart if waiting.
  • To avoid high-touch surfaces and objects.
  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly, or use hand sanitizer, whether collecting or handing out treats.
  • Not to leave treats in a bucket or bowl for children to grab and consider using tongs or similar tools to hand out treats.


“I would also like to remind everyone that we are in a second wave of COVID-19. There have been increases in cases in many areas across the province, and the percentage of people tested who get a positive result is going up,” Williams said.

“The severity of this second wave is in our hands. Through our collective efforts, we can change the outcome of this new outbreak,” he said.

RELATED: Two protests take over downtown Toronto Saturday

In order to protect your health and stop the spread of COVID-19, Williams is reminding you to continue following these actions:

  • Limit trips outside of you home, except for essential purposes.
  • Stay home if you feel ill or have mild symptoms.
  • Maintain physical distancing of at least two metres with those outside your household.
  • Wear a face covering indoors, and outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained, or if wearing one is required.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly.
  • Follow social gathering and organized public event limits.
  • Download the COVID Alert mobile app.
  • If you are concerned you were exposed to COVID-19, or have symptoms, take the online COVID-19 self-assessment.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms compatible with COVID-19, or if you have been advised of exposure by your local public health unit or through COVID Alert.


To find the nearest COVID-19 testing location to you, the province has it listed for you online.

Dance classes allowed to resume in modified stage 2 regions of Ontario

MICHAEL RANGER | posted Tuesday, Oct 20th, 2020

Dance studios in COVID-19 hotspots throughout the province are being given the all-clear to reopen their doors.

The decision was made with advice from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Ministry of Health.

Studios were forced to close in Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Ottawa under the Ford Governments modified stage 2 emergency orders. Almost 25,000 people signed a petition for indoor dance classes to be able to resume.

Sports Minister Lisa MacLeod says that dancers will be required to pre-register for classes and adhere to physical distancing guidelines.

1 in 4 Canadians say their mental health is worse than during first COVID-19 wave

CHRIS REYNOLDS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Oct 20th, 2020

Canadians continue to experience mental health difficulties due to the pandemic, with one in four saying their stress level is higher than during the first COVID-19 wave, according to a new poll.

The online survey by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found that only 19 per cent of Canadians say their mental health is better now than in March and April as infection rates tick up and autumn sets in.

However, about 54 per cent said their mental state is about the same as when the coronavirus first struck the country.

Participants cited concerns about the length and severity of the pandemic as their biggest source of anxiety, followed closely by social isolation and family health.

“If we cannot see extended family during the holidays and rekindle that positive energy that we get from family and friends, it might lead to a long winter,” said Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque.

“It’s almost like, when is this thing going to end?”

Still, the proportion of Canadians who peg their mental health at very good or excellent has remained fairly consistent since March, ranging between 35 and 46 per cent. Last week saw the percentage at 36, according to the survey.

“It’s amazing that we did not go through more peaks and valleys,” Bourque said. “The number is not that positive, but that trend line seems to be hanging on, as if it’s resilience.”

Canadians proved less upbeat than their American counterparts, of whom 24 per cent said their mental health had improved since the outbreak began while only 16 per cent felt worse off, despite high case numbers across swaths of the United States.

Virtually half of Americans surveyed said their mental health was very good or excellent, compared with about one in three Canadians.

“I think ideologically there’s a whole segment of America that’s … trying to downplay the pandemic,” Bourque said.

“Some Americans just seem to think it will just go away. The president himself promised a vaccine in the next few weeks, right?”

Conducted Oct. 16 to 18, the online poll surveyed 1,512 adult Canadians and 1,001 Americans. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

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