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Amid cloud of criticism, city opens two more warming centres

CityNews | posted Friday, Jan 5th, 2018

Amid a cloud of criticism, the city continued to take steps to tackle what some have called a homeless crisis.

With Toronto under yet another extreme cold weather warning as temperatures plunged to -30 with the wind chill, the city opened two more warming centres on Thursday night – one at Metro Hall and the other at the Regent Park Community Centre.

The centres will remain open for the duration of the extreme cold weather alert.

As well, additional staff are being brought in to help get the city’s homeless to the warming centres.

“We continue to explore all options and opportunities to protect our city’s most vulnerable residents,” said Tory. “These warming centres provide accessible immediate relief during Extreme Cold Weather events and are in addition to the City’s other winter respite services.”

Tory says the city is in talks with both Ottawa and the provincial government to determine whether the armoury would be suitable as a 24-hour winter respite centre that could remain open until April 15.

He says discussions are moving along quickly and he expects an answer very soon.

The proposal to open the Moss Park Armoury, which was rejected by city council last month, gained fresh life as temperatures plummeted and led to Tory’s promise to reach out to higher orders of government to discuss the idea.

“I want to say those discussions have been going very well, have been very constructive,” he said Thursday. “. . .. I expect that we will have a resolution finalized soon.”

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said the government is working closely with Toronto and has reached out to other municipalities due to be impacted by the frigid weather.

She said protecting homeless residents from the harsh conditions is a high priority.

“It’s going to be very cold tonight,” she said. “Our immediate concern is that we work as quickly as possible with the city to make sure that there is space for anybody who needs a warm place tonight.”

The city’s ability to address the needs of the homeless is now the subject of two inquiries following confusion over the availability of spaces during the prolonged cold snap.

Advocates have said in recent days that they tried to find spots for homeless people only to be told that they were completely full. The city has said there are still beds available and blamed miscommunication for the confusion.

Calling the miscommunication “indefensible,” Tory previously said he welcomes the inquiries recently announced by the city’s general manager of shelter support as well as Toronto’s ombudsman.

The latest data from the city indicates Toronto’s shelters operated at between 94 and 95 per cent capacity on the weekend with 5,460 people staying in the shelter system on Jan. 1. Another 445 people used winter respite centres.

With files from The Canadian Press

Brrr … bundle up: Extreme cold envelops the GTA

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Jan 5th, 2018

You probably don’t need us to tell you this — it is bitterly cold out there.

Every corner of Ontario, including the GTA, remains under an extreme cold warning on Friday, with the wind chill producing lows in the -35 to -40 range.

Environment Canada calls for a “prolonged period of very cold wind chills” with northwest winds up to 50 km/h.

680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor says the high in the GTA will be -16 C but it will feel like -36 C with the wind. With the bitter cold temperatures, exposed skin can freeze in 10 to 30 minutes.

Friday was also the coldest Jan. 5 on record. At 4 a.m., the temperature at Pearson International Airport dropped to -21.9 C, beating -20.6 C set in 1959.

The weather agency says temperatures and windchills will be slightly lower by nightfall, but the extreme cold will continue until Saturday.

There will be some reprieve from the cold on Sunday with some snow in the forecast.

Meanwhile, the City of Toronto opened two more warming centres on Thursday night — one at Metro Hall and the other at the Regent Park Community Centre. The centres, which aim to provide relief for the homeless, will remain open for the duration of the extreme cold weather alert.

Federal Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Ralph Goodale says federal officials are trying to find the most effective solution as quickly as possible, to help ease the strain on Toronto’s homeless shelter system as temperatures plunge.

Toronto Mayor John Tory has requested that a federal armoury be opened up as a shelter for the homeless.

Premier Kathleen Wynne says her government is working closely with Toronto and has reached out to other municipalities that could also be affected by the frigid weather.


What consumers should know about the romaine lettuce-linked E. coli outbreak

Sheryl Ubelacker, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Jan 4th, 2018

Since mid-November, dozens of people have become ill and two people have died in Canada and the U.S. due to infection with E. coli 0157:H7, which has been linked in this country to contaminated romaine lettuce. Here is a primer on E. coli and what consumers can do to avoid becoming sick:

What is E. coli?
Escherichia coli bacteria normally live in the intestines of healthy people and animals and are typically harmless. But infection with the O157:H7 strain, which produces a shiga toxin, can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Healthy adults usually recover within a week, but young children and older adults have an increased risk of developing a life-threatening type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.

How does contamination occur?
E. coli can be shed in the feces of cattle, poultry and other animals, polluting water used to irrigate crops and the soil where fruits and vegetables are grown. Leafy greens, such as lettuce and spinach, can become contaminated during and after harvest from handling, storing and being transported. An individual infected with E. coli also can transmit it to other people.

“This strain of E. coli causes more outbreaks than all other strains combined, so it’s the big problem,” said Herb Schellhorn, a microbiologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, who specializes in the study of E. coli and other water- and food-borne pathogens.

What’s the source of this outbreak?
A Canadian Food Inspection Agency-led investigation has determined that romaine lettuce is at the heart of the E. coli outbreak in five eastern provinces, but the source of the produce has not yet been identified. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has concluded the E. coli involved in 17 cases in 13 states has a closely related genetic signature as the strain behind Canada’s 41 cases, but has not confirmed the food source. One person in Canada and one in the U.S. have died.

“This time of year, most of our lettuce will come from southern places … so if it’s affecting both countries, it may be from California or Mexico or other countries that produce romaine lettuce,” said Schellhorn. “But it also can be contaminated during the processing by individuals who are infected or if there was fecal contamination introduced at some point in the distribution (process).”

He said the longer it takes to pin down the source of adulteration, the more difficult it will become over time, given that romaine is a perishable item.

“It’s not like it’s frozen and we can go into meat lockers and test food materials for contamination. Depending on how it was contaminated, if it was in one large place and it’s the water that was contaminated, that could have implications for other food materials that might have been exposed.”

While that “doesn’t appear to be the case” with this outbreak, Schellhorn said E. coli. 0157:H7 is highly infectious and exposure to only a very small amount can cause disease.

What can consumers do?
The Public Health Agency of Canada says on its website that thoroughly washing potentially contaminated romaine lettuce — or any other fresh produce — in water can remove the bacteria.

But Schellhorn suggests it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Not only does he advise not purchasing romaine lettuce currently on grocery store shelves, he suggests consumers toss out any they have in the fridge.

“It’s not worth taking a chance … Lettuce isn’t that expensive, it has a short shelf life anyway,” he said.

“I think I would just throw it out.”

Woman’s death in Etobicoke now a homicide

CityNews | posted Thursday, Jan 4th, 2018

The death of a woman in her 70s in Etobicoke that police had deemed suspicious is now being investigated as a homicide.

Paramedics were called to the area of Farley Crescent and Callowhill Drive just before 11 p.m. Wednesday for what was initially termed a medical complaint.

When officers arrived on scene they reported the woman was suffering from severe trauma and was without vital signs. She was eventually pronounced dead by paramedics.

A man in his 80s was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

Police said the man has been placed in custody and will be charged with murder.

Home flooded as residents wait 4 days for city to fix burst pipe

CityNews | posted Thursday, Jan 4th, 2018

City of Toronto workers finally arrived to fix a burst pipe on Wednesday evening, four days after it ruptured in a west-end neighbourhood, flooding a family home and threatening another.

On New Year’s Day, when Daniel and Robyn Eliesen returned home after a winter vacation, they found a flood on their front lawn on Lauder Avenue, near Dufferin and St. Clair. A city pipe had burst underneath the grass and water was flooding the area and street.

A neighbour had already called the city about the problem two days before. But as far as the Eliesens could see, all the city had done was to place a pylon at the site.

The Eliesens also called the city, but to no avail.

“I think I’ve called like 10 to 12 times that 311 number,” Robyn Eliesen said. “At some point it’s just like, ‘What are you going to do?’

“It’s incredibly frustrating because the water keeps coming in and there’s nothing you can do to make it stop. Three days — more than three days — this has been ongoing. Is that acceptable service in your opinion? Absolutely not. At some point there should be some emergency action taken.”

Eventually their sump pump gave out, and on Tuesday night their basement began to flood.

They called Toronto Fire, which on Wednesday removed the basement toilet so the water would have another avenue to drain.

The Eliesens also brought in a plumber, who told CityNews the couple had prepared the home correctly, with a sump pump, but it simply couldn’t keep up with the amount of water pouring into the house.

He estimated the damage to be as much as $15,000.



Airlines brace for east coast winter storm with delays, cancellations

The Associated Press | posted Thursday, Jan 4th, 2018

With severe winter weather scheduled to slam into the east coast on Thursday and Friday, some airlines are warning of delayed or cancelled flights.

A winter storm warning has been issued for much of Atlantic Canada and parts of the eastern United States with snow expected to start falling Thursday morning.

Pearson International Airport is asking anyone flying to the east coast to check your flight status with your airline before arriving at the airport.

Air Canada, Porter Airlines and WestJet have all issued travel advisories for Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick as well as U.S. destinations Boston and New York.

Air Canada and Porter says it is waiving change fees for anyone looking to rebook their flights while WestJet has implemented flexible change and cancel rules.

Delta Airlines has proactively cancelled more than 400 flights as of Wednesday evening and into Thursday, primarily at JFK and LaGuardia airports in New York and Boston’s Logan International.

This same weather system forced Delta to suspend operations at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport in Georgia due to snow and ice accumulation on runways and taxiways.

The system hitting the east coast has been described as a “bomb cyclone.” But as fearsome as the storm is with high winds and some snow, it may not be quite as explosive as the term sounds.

“Bombogenesis is the technical term. Bomb cyclone is a shortened version of it, better for social media,” said Weather.US meteorologist Ryan Maue, who helped popularize the term polar vortex in 2014.

“The actual impacts aren’t going to be a bomb at all,” Maue said. “There’s nothing exploding or detonating.”

Bomb cyclones draw air from polar regions after they leave. In this case, it means extra cold Arctic air because of where the polar vortex is

Storm intensity is measured by central pressure – the lower the pressure, the stronger. A storm is considered a “bomb” when the pressure drops rapidly – at least 24 millibars in 24 hours.

This storm looks like it will intensify at twice that rate, said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.

While the worst of this storm will stay out at sea, high winds with gusts approaching 100 km/h and the bitter cold that follows will be the real culprits.

Special weather statement for Toronto warns of extreme cold coming Thursday

CityNews | posted Thursday, Jan 4th, 2018

You know it’s been cold when temperatures like -6 C start to feel balmy. But the brief reprieve is about to come to an end.

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for Toronto, warning of an incoming blast of frigid air.



The latest cold snap is expected to begin on Thursday night and roll into Saturday.

During the stretch temperatures are expected to plummet to -30 C.

The temperature will begin to rise again on Sunday when a southwesterly air flow moves into southern Ontario.

Ex-hostage Joshua Boyle charged with sex assault, assault, forcible confinement: lawyer

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jan 3rd, 2018

A Canadian man recently freed with his wife and young children after years of being held hostage in Afghanistan has been charged with at least a dozen offences, including sexual assault, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Joshua Boyle, 34, was arrested in Ottawa, his lawyer, Eric Granger, told The Canadian Press.

Ottawa police declined to provide any details on the case.

Boyle and his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, were taken hostage in 2012 by a Taliban-linked group while on a backpacking trip in Afghanistan. Coleman was pregnant at the time and the couple had three children in captivity.

Granger said the charges against Boyle also include assault and forcible confinement.

“He’s never been in trouble before,” Granger said. “No evidence has been provided yet, which is typical at this early stage. We look forward to receiving the evidence and defending him against these charges.”

Granger said his client is “coping.”

“He’s as OK as anyone is who is suddenly and unexpectedly facing charges for the first time,” he said.

A publication ban bars any information that could identify the alleged victims or witnesses in the case.

A man who answered the phone at the residence of Boyle’s parents in Smith Falls, Ont., on Tuesday said he did not want to comment.

The Prime Minister’s Office also said it would not comment since the investigation is ongoing.

A government official said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the Boyles at the family’s request.

The official said the prime minister would generally meet with any returning hostage with connections to Canada, and discussion of the hostage-taking was the main purpose of the meeting with the Boyles.

Boyle has said he and his wife were helping ordinary villagers in a Taliban-controlled area of Afghanistan when they were seized. He told The Canadian Press that conditions during their five-year ordeal changed over time as the family was shuffled among at least three prisons.

He described the first as “remarkably barbaric,” the second as more comfortable and the third as a place of violence in which he and his wife were frequently separated and beaten.

Boyle said their captors from the Taliban-linked Haqqani network raped his wife and had also caused her to suffer a miscarriage. Shortly after landing in Toronto after being rescued, he demanded that his kidnappers be brought to justice.

In an interview with ABC NEWS, Coleman, who is from Stewartstown, Pa., recalled that guards dragged her husband from their cell, and one of them threw her on the ground, shouting, “I will kill you, I will kill you” before assaulting her.

She also said their captors beat their eldest son with a stick.

The couple and their children had gone to Boyle’s parents home in Smiths Falls, Ont., after being rescued.

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