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Hundreds pack Toronto’s Greektown neighbourhood for shooting vigil

ALANNA RIZZA, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jul 26th, 2018

A group of young girls clung to each other Wednesday evening in Toronto’s Greektown, as they mourned a friend and teammate who was killed by a 29-year-old gunman just days earlier in the same neighbourhood.

A stretch of Toronto’s Danforth Avenue was packed with mourners as the community gathered for a candlelit vigil to honour 10-year-old Julianna Kozis of Markham, Ont., and 18-year-old Reese Fallon of Toronto, who were killed in Sunday’s shooting. Thirteen other people were injured, and five patients remained in hospital as of Wednesday afternoon. The gunman, identified by Ontario’s police watchdog as Faisal Hussain, was also killed.

Hundreds of mourners gathered at the corner of Danforth and Bowden Avenue to start Wednesday’s procession, which ended at the nearby Alexander the Great Parkette.

At the parkette, a moment of silence was held to honour Kozis, Fallon and those injured. A rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” brought some in the crowd to tears, including members of Kozis’ swim team, who hugged each other and sobbed as the crowd sang along to the mournful ballad.

Howard Lichtman, a spokesman for the Danforth Business Improvement Association, which co-organized the walk, said he hoped the event would give the community a chance to “re-claim” the neighbourhood after the attack.

“This walk is for those that were senselessly killed and injured. And it’s a thank you to the first responders,” he said.

Karen Chandler, a longtime resident of Greektown, said she attended the vigil because she walks the Danforth streets everyday — but Wednesday evening was quite different.

“It’s hard to imagine that a tragedy like this could happen on pretty much your doorstep,” said Chandler.

Before the vigil began, Reverend Sarah Miller said she hoped the incident did not “stigmatize those with mental health issues,” adding: “We recognize that this doesn’t represent the Muslim community or the practice of Islam.”

The shooter’s family has released a statement saying he struggled with depression and psychosis his entire life, but none of the medications or therapies he tried managed to work.

Toronto’s police chief said Wednesday there was no evidence to support a claim from the Islamic State terror group that it was behind the attack. The federal government also reiterated that there was no national security connection to the gunman.

Among those in attendance at Wednesday evening’s event were Toronto Mayor John Tory, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti and Ontario Premier Doug Ford. Toronto councillors Mary Fragedakis and Paula Fletcher, whose wards include parts of the Greektown neighbourhood, led the procession.

Speeches were read by representatives of the Danforth BIA and a long-time resident of Greektown who heard the gunshots on Sunday night.

On Wednesday evening, the CN Tower was to be lit blue and white in support of the Greektown neighbourhood.

Ontario ends York University strike with back-to-work legislation

SHAWN JEFFORDS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jul 26th, 2018

Students at York University will head back to class this fall after Ontario’s government passed legislation Wednesday ending a nearly five-month-long strike.

An omnibus bill dubbed the Urgent Priorities Act contained key priorities for the newly-elected Progressive Conservatives, who called back the legislature for a rare summer sitting to deal with the issues. The bill contained back-to-work legislation to end the York strike, and was supported by the Tories and Liberals but voted against by the Opposition NDP.

The labour dispute at the Toronto university saw 3,000 contract faculty and graduate teaching and research assistants walk off the job on March 5 over issues of wages and job security.

“It’s not about the union, it’s not about the university, it’s about the students,” said Labour Minister Laurie Scott. “The strike has more than run its course. It’s time to get these students back to class.”

Scott said it was clear in May that all parties had reached an impasse, and the bill’s passage ensures the school and the union will now enter into binding interest arbitration.

He said the strike is believed to have been the longest ever at a Canadian university.

In a statement, Premier Doug Ford lauded the passage of his government’s first bill and confirmed Ontario’s legislature will meet for an additional two or three weeks this summer, continuing the rare summer sitting at Queen’s Park.

“During the election we promised to hit the ground running on delivering our plan for the people of Ontario — a plan to deliver real change for Ontario taxpayers,” Ford said.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the government’s imposition of back-to-work legislation sends a bad message.

“This initial move sends a signal that if the government’s not happy with the process of negotiations, they’re prepared to bring the big hammer of legislation forward. And that’s never a good thing,” she said.

Horwath said the Ford government needs to address the underlying issues which led to the strike, including what she called the under-funding of post-secondary schools.

“What the government needs to do is fund our universities properly. Instead they’ve trampled on the rights of these workers, and we’ll see whether they end up going to court as a result of that.”

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents the workers, said last week it would consider launching a legal challenge if back-to-work legislation was used to end the strike.

Meanwhile, the omnibus legislation also gives the government authority to approve executive compensation at the power utility Hydro One.

It would require the Hydro One board of directors to establish a new compensation framework for the CEO and board, in consultation with the province and the partially privatized utility’s five largest shareholders.

It would also require the Ontario Energy Board to exclude executive compensation from consumer rates for Hydro One or its subsidiaries.

The omnibus bill also cancels the White Pines wind project in Eastern Ontario, something the government promised last week when it laid out its key priorities for the session.

The legislation also authorizes the government to pay WPD Canada, the company behind the White Pines project, compensation — but it doesn’t spell out how much. The company has suggested it could be over $100 million.

The bill also contains a clause the government says will make it immune from civil litigation over the cancellation of green energy projects.

Installation of safety gate at Queens Quay TTC tunnel begins

DILSHAD BURMAN | posted Thursday, Jul 26th, 2018

After a number of costly incidents where cars drove into the streetcar tunnel at Queens Quay, the TTC is making good on it’s promise to install a permanent barrier.

Work began Wednesday to install two ten-foot safety gates just outside the entrance of the tunnel.

TTC spokesman Stuart Green says the gates will be operational once they have been tested and the “timing of streetcar transponders is complete.” The process should be complete in around two weeks.

The TTC also installed additional bollards outside the tunnel back in April to make it obvious that the tunnel is a no-go zone for vehicles.

According to the TTC, each time a car drives into a streetcar tunnel, it costs thousands of dollars in time and money to remove the vehicle and fix any track damage.

Staff has to be paid overtime, service is delayed, detours need to be set up and shuttle buses have to be mobilized. In addition,expensive heavy machinery needs to be brought in to remove the cars.

The decision to install a gate came after two vehicles found themselves stuck in the tunnel less than a week apart in March.

At the time, TTC spokesman Brad Ross called the incidents “the tipping point” and staff began looking into a suitable gate mechanism.


Amazon to open Caledon fulfillment centre, creating 800 full-time jobs

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Jul 26th, 2018

Amazon will open a new fulfillment centre in Caledon, Ont. to pick, pack and ship books, electronics and toys.

The Seattle-based e-commerce company says the centre will create more than 800 full-time jobs.

The one-million square foot centre will be Amazon’s sixth facility in Ontario and ninth in Canada.

The centre is expected to be built by the end of 2019 and, along with its future Ottawa facility, will bring more than 1,400 jobs to the province.

The announcement came as Amazon is hunting for a home for its second North American headquarters, dubbed HQ2.

Toronto is the lone Canadian city still in contention to house the headquarters, whose location the company said it will announce sometime this year.

Julianna Kozis, 10, identified as second victim in Danforth shooting

News Staff | posted Wednesday, Jul 25th, 2018

Toronto police have identified Julianna Kozis as the 10-year-old girl killed in the Danforth shooting.

Kozis was from Markham and her family has requested privacy.

She was one of two victims when a gunman opened fire in Greektown around 10 p.m. on Sunday night. Reese Fallon, 18, has been identified as the other victim.

There were 13 others injured in the shooting, with injuries ranging from minor to serious.

Markham Mayor Frank Scaripitti released a statement expressing condolences to the Kozis family.

He adds they will be lowering flags in honour of her memory and a book of condolences will be placed at the Markham Civic Centre.

The full statement reads:

On behalf of the City of Markham and Members of Council, I would like to offer our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of the ten year old girl Julianna Kozis of Markham who tragically died on July 22, 2018 in a shooting in Toronto’s vibrant Greek neighbourhood.

This heartbreaking story speaks to the unbreakable bond between a father and his daughter, and I salute the Toronto Paramedics, doctors and nurses who reportedly brought them together, showing incredible compassion and kindness in her final moments.

This senseless act of violence has shaken us and hurt us. We stand with the victims, the brave first responders and all the communities impacted by this tragedy.

Our thoughts and prayers are also with the family of the 18 year old Reese Fallon who tragically lost her life, an accomplished young woman who had plans to study nursing. We continue to pray for the injured and wish them well.

The City of Markham will lower flags in honour of her memory and in remembrance of all who are affected by this unspeakable tragedy. There will also be a book of condolences at the Markham Civic Centre. We hope by coming together, we can offer some solace in a time of great sadness.

Toronto city Coun. Jim Karygiannis told The Canadian Press that he knows the girl’s family and that her death is a “devastation” to the community.

“She had her whole life ahead of her, only to be taken in a senseless act of terror,” Karygiannis said Tuesday night.

With files from The Canadian Press

Malvern students identify 2 injured during Danforth shooting

News Staff | posted Wednesday, Jul 25th, 2018

Students at Malvern Collegiate Institute have identified two classmates who were injured during a mass shooting on The Danforth on Sunday night.

The students said Miranda Li and Samantha Price were out celebrating a birthday when the incident happened. It wasn’t clear how they were injured and whether they are in hospital.

Around 10 p.m., Faisal Hussain, 29, started shooting people outside a restaurant at Danforth and Logan avenues in Greektown.

He killed 18-year-old Reese Fallon, who also attended Malvern, as well as a 10-year-old girl before dying from a gunshot wound. Police haven’t yet revealed whether the wound was self-inflicted or the result of an exchange of gunfire with police.

The Toronto District School Board released a statement Monday saying Fallon had just graduated from Malvern.

“An engaging student, Reese Fallon graduated from Malvern CI just last month and was highly regarded by staff and loved by her friends,” said TDSB Director of Education John Malloy.

Malloy said supports would be available to any students who need them.

Another vigil to be held for Danforth shooting victims

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Jul 25th, 2018

Residents of the Danforth and beyond will attend another vigil Wednesday night to mourn two people who were killed and 13 others left wounded in a horrific shooting on Sunday.

They will be joined by Mayor John Tory at 7 p.m. at a local church before they walk along Danforth Avenue bearing lanterns and candles.

On Monday evening, Toronto police identified a 10-year-old girl who was killed in the attack as Julianna Kozis of Markham, Ont. Police said in a news release that her family is asking for privacy while they grieve her death.

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said the city would lower its flags to honour the girl and that the community north of Toronto had been shaken and hurt by this “senseless act of violence.”

Reese Fallon, 18, who recently graduated from high school and was preparing to study nursing at Hamilton’s McMaster University in the fall, was also killed in the attack. Photos of the young woman have been left at makeshift memorials along Danforth Avenue.

A fountain in the Alexander the Great Parkette has become one of the main places for people to leave flowers, candles and messages.

“The people here are very friendly and it’s a very loving community,” said Marlene Julien. “What I see here is very touching.”

She said it’s important that the community comes together because residents of Greek town need support and positivity.

“We really need to embrace the opportunity to make a change,” said Julien. “We just need to bring back our peaceful Toronto that we had before.”

On Tuesday evening, heavy rain and a thunderstorm forced pedestrians to seek shelter in restaurants and bars on the Danforth.

7 Numbers restaurant at Danforth Avenue and Bowden Street was packed with customers happily drinking and eating with occasional mention of the gunman who was found dead after an exchange of gunfire with police just steps away.

Earl D’Almeida said he felt it was important to eat at a restaurant on the Danforth to support the community and local businesses.

“We’re here to show that we’re not scared and that we’re going to pick ourselves up and the community up.”

Activity in the area had largely come to a halt after Faisal Hussain, 29, fired indiscriminately at pedestrians and restaurant patrons.

He died after an exchange of gunfire with police but it remains unclear whether he took his own life or was killed by police.

Violent, anti-social behaviour down sharply among Ontario students, survey finds

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Jul 25th, 2018

TORONTO – Violence and other anti-social behaviour among Grade 7 to Grade 12 students in Ontario has dropped significantly over the past two decades, according to one of the longest-running mental-health studies of its type.

In addition, results from the latest Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey being released Wednesday show a sharp overall drop in bullying, although cyberbullying remains a consistent problem.

“This decline in risk behaviours over time parallels the declines seen in drug-using behaviours … suggesting a wider cultural shift to less externalizing or rebellious behaviours among young people today compared with previous generations,” the researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health say. “Ongoing monitoring will determine whether these trends reflect more enduring changes or temporary fluctuations.”

Other findings include 81 per cent of students saying they like school to some degree, with nearly half liking school quite a lot or very much.

The survey of students has been done every two years since 1977, making it the longest ongoing school survey of adolescents in Canada and one of the longest in the world, the researchers say. More than 11,000 students in Grade 7 through 12 from 214 schools took part in last year’s edition.

One of the most dramatic changes uncovered by the survey relates to the prescription of opioid pain relievers to students — an important finding given the current addiction and overdose crisis that has killed tens of thousands of people across North America in recent years. Over the past decade, medical use of prescribed opioids among students has plunged to 18 per cent from 41 per cent, the survey finds.

Among concerning trends, the survey indicates a growing number of the students — particularly girls — have symptoms of depression and anxiety. In fact, the study finds, slightly more than half of female students in Ontario show signs of moderate to serious psychological distress — the first time that threshold has been crossed since the survey started tracking the issue in 2013.

“Female students are more than twice as likely than males to report elevated stress, poor mental health, seeking mental health counselling, thoughts of suicide, and being prescribed medication for anxiety or depression,” said Dr. Hayley Hamilton, the survey co-lead.

While 19 per cent of students rate their mental health as fair or poor — sharply higher since 2007 — more than half say theirs is very good or excellent.

A key question for further research is the impact of technology on students’ well-being, in particular in light of the surge in time spent on social media in recent years.

In total, 20 per cent of students said they spent five or more hours on social media a day — almost double the finding in 2013. One in 20 high school students reported symptoms suggesting they had a serious problem with technology — such as a loss of control, withdrawal symptoms, and issues with family and friends.

“While the survey can’t tell us whether technology use causes mental health issues, or vice versa, there is some evidence from other studies that there may be a link,” said Dr. Robert Mann, also survey co-lead.

When it comes to bullying at school, about one in five students reported being victims — down sharply from one in three since 2003. However, the same number reported being cyberbullied — unchanged from previous surveys.

For the first time, the survey asked about concussions. More than one-third reported the injury in their lifetime, and 15 per cent — about 130,700 students — said they had experienced one in the past year — invariably from playing hockey or another team sport.

The study also turned up marked differences between girls and boys. For example, males are much more likely to engage in daily physical activity and get at least eight hours of sleep. They are also more likely to be anti-social, gamble, or spend excessive hours playing video games. Girls, however, are more likely to report inferior mental and physical health, physical inactivity, and fears of harm at school.

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