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Tory to make transit announcement at Pape Station

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, Jan 17th, 2019

Mayor John Tory is set to make a transit announcement on Thursday and it is expected to be about the downtown relief line.

The announcement will take place at Pape Station at 10 a.m. A source told Breakfast Television that the announcement is about the relief line.

The planned 7.5-kilometre subway line with eight stations will connect the downtown core to Pape Station on Line 2 Bloor-Danforth to relieve crowding on Line 1 south of Bloor, at the Bloor-Yonge interchange and on surface routes.

The second phase — the Relief Line North — will extend north from Pape Station and connect to existing and future rapid transit, like Line 5 Eglinton and Line 4 Sheppard.

Last October, province gave the city and Metrolinx permission to proceed with the line following its environmental assessment of the project.

Shortly thereafter, Tory announced the creation of a “transit czar” — a role that will focus on building the transit network plan, including the downtown relief line.

Judge poised to instruct jury in case of woman facing terror charges

PAOLA LORIGGIO THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jan 17th, 2019

An Ontario judge is expected to give his final instructions today to jurors weighing the case of a Toronto-area woman facing terror charges in an attack at a Canadian Tire store.

Rehab Dughmosh was arrested in July 2017 on allegations she tried to attack employees with a golf club and a butcher knife at a location at a mall in east Toronto.

She initially faced a total of 21 charges, but court documents filed this week show she now faces four. They include two counts of assault with a weapon and one of carrying a weapon — all in the name of ISIS.

Dughmosh is also charged with leaving Canada for the purpose of committing a criminal offence in connection with an attempted trip to Syria in April 2016.

An agreed statement of facts read in court Wednesday says that while Dughmosh initially denied she was travelling in an effort to join ISIS, she admitted after her arrest in 2017 that it had been the true purpose of the trip.

The statement also says Dughmosh began contemplating an attack in Toronto about a year after her return and quickly began to build an arsenal of storebought and homemade weapons. It says she also made an ISIS banner using black spray paint.

On June 3, 2017, Dughmosh decided to move forward with an attack and packed several bags with makeshift weapons, including a hammer, 31 metal barbecue skewers, 76 straws with screws glued to the tip, scissors and a child’s shovel “converted to claws,” the statement says.

She also hid an archery bow and 20-centimetre butcher knife inside her robe, it says.

However, on her way out, Dughmosh ran into her estranged husband with whom she still shared an apartment, and he confiscated the bags of weapons, the statement says. He did not know about the concealed weapons.

Once she arrived at Canadian Tire, Dughmosh tried to obtain arrows but they were locked in a display case and an employee said he could only bring them to the cashier, the document says.

Dughmosh did not have money so instead she gave up on the arrows and walked through the store collecting tools in a shopping basket, it says. She then went to get a golf club, it says.

Shortly after 5 p.m., Dughmosh pulled an ISIS banner from under her robe, tied an ISIS bandana around her head and took out the bow, the document says. She then grabbed the golf club and walked over to the paint section, where three employees were helping customers, it says.

The statement says Dughmosh charged at them, swinging the club and chanting “This is for ISIS,” but staff were able to grab the club from her hands. She then pulled out the butcher knife, but the employees managed to wrestle her to the ground and eventually seize the knife, it says.

No one was seriously hurt, although one employee suffered bruises and was also bitten by Dughmosh, the document says.

Police arrived and called in RCMP due to the possible terror link, it says. In her interview with the RCMP’s national security unit, Dughmosh admitted that she had unilaterally pledged allegiance to ISIS after reading about the terror group and watching videos online, the statement says.

She told investigators she chose that day for the attack because “there would be many people at the mall,” the statement says.

“She said she wanted to hurt people and make them feel fear but not kill them,” the document says, explaining that the alleged attack was meant as payback for what she saw as the public’s tacit agreement with governments killing Muslims.

“She wanted news of her own attack to be published, she believed ISIS would be happy with what she had done,” it says. “She was disappointed that she failed to hurt anyone in her attack but also stated that the important thing was to try.”

Police later searched her home and found the bags with the weapons confiscated by her estranged husband, as well as a cellphone that contained propaganda videos and a handwritten will in which Dughmosh asked to be granted martyrdom, the statement says.

Dughmosh, who represented herself in court, previously underwent a psychological assessment and was deemed fit to stand trial.

Ontario set to announce tuition cuts

PATRICIA D'CUNHA | posted Thursday, Jan 17th, 2019

The Ontario government is set to announce a 10 per cent cut to tuition fees in the province, but critics and others worry the announcement will be paired with cuts to student grants.

Documents indicate that Merrilee Fullerton, the Progressive Conservative government’s minister of training, colleges and universities, will announce the mandated drop in tuition for colleges and universities on Thursday.

The Canadian Federation of Students wrote on Twitter that it was concerned about the government’s intentions, and whether the move would truly make education more affordable in Ontario.

The federation warned that the province’s auditor general “set the stage” last month for major cuts to student grants under the Ontario Student Assistance Program.

In her December report, Bonnie Lysyk found that costs for OSAP jumped by 25 per cent in 2017-2018, and the program could cost Ontario $2 billion annually by 2020-2021.

The Tories are in the midst of trying to trim a deficit they peg at $14.5 billion, although the province’s financial accountability officer says it’s closer to $12 billion.

St. Mike’s reinstates basketball team following sexual assault probe

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jan 17th, 2019

A prestigious private school in Toronto rocked by allegations of sexual assault by students has reinstated its varsity basketball team for the 2018-19 school year.

St. Michael’s College School, a Catholic institution for boys, says it has completed an internal investigation that cleared the remaining members of the team of any wrongdoing.

In an email to parents Wednesday afternoon, the school says its own investigation followed a police probe that also cleared the basketball players.

The school had announced previously that it was cancelling its varsity basketball team for this season and its football program for next year.

Seven students from the school have been charged. Police say three alleged incidents took place on school grounds last fall and involved members of the football team.

Police have laid a total of 37 charges in the case and said they don’t expect to lay any more.

Canadian mining employee kidnapped in northern Burkina Faso: local officials

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jan 17th, 2019

A Canadian national has been kidnapped in Burkina Faso’s northern Sahel region, government officials said Wednesday.

A spokesman for Burkina Faso’s security ministry identified the man as Kirk Woodman, who works for the Vancouver-based Progress Mineral Mining Company.

Spokesman Jean Paul Badoum said Wednesday that the employee was abducted overnight during a raid on a mining site in Tiabongou, about 20 kilometres from Mansila in Yagha province.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canadian officials are reaching out to the kidnapping victim’s family.

“The Canadian agencies involved in this situation are really aware of this situation, and we’ll be in contact with the family,” she told reporters in Repentigny, northeast of Montreal.

In a statement, his family asked for privacy and said they will not be speaking publicly.

“We have faith and trust in Canadian authorities to bring our husband and father home safe. We are hopeful for a fast resolution to the situation,” they said.

The news comes soon after a 34-year-old Quebec tourist and her travelling companion were reported missing in the west African nation.

Sherbrooke native Edith Blais and her Italian friend Luca Tacchetto were travelling by car in southwestern Burkina Faso when all communication with their families abruptly ended Dec. 15.

A statement by Security Minister Clement Sawadogo referred to the disappearance of Blais and Tacchetto as a kidnapping.

West Africa’s Sahel region has seen a number of abductions of foreigners in recent years by extremists linked to al-Qaida or the Islamic State organization.

Burkina Faso recently declared a state of emergency in the region as attacks by Islamic extremists increased, especially along the border with Niger and Mali.

Sawadogo said foreigners should use extreme caution when travelling in dangerous areas of the country.
With files from The Associated Press

Saudi woman granted asylum in Canada to speak publicly

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jan 15th, 2019

A Saudi woman whose flight from her allegedly abusive family captured global attention will give a public statement in Toronto this morning.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun was granted asylum in Canada after her plight captured global attention on social media.

The 18-year-old ran from her family while visiting Kuwait and flew to Bangkok, then barricaded herself in an airport hotel room and tweeted that she feared for her life if she returned home.

She alleged that her father was physically abusive to her and tried to force her into an arranged marriage.

Alqunun’s case was fast-tracked by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which asked Canada to take her in as a refugee.

When the young woman arrived in Toronto on Saturday morning she was greeted by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

UK government faces no confidence vote after Brexit defeat

DANICA KIRKA, JILL LAWLESS AND GREGORY KATZ, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jan 16th, 2019

British Prime Minister Theresa May faces a no-confidence vote Wednesday, a day after Parliament rejected her Brexit deal by a historic margin.

May is battling to save her job after staking her political reputation on a last-ditch effort to win support for the divorce agreement she negotiated with the European Union over the last two years. Though defeat was widely expected, the scale of the rout — 432-202 — was devastating for May’s leadership.

Immediately after the vote, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn tabled a no-confidence motion, saying it would give Parliament a chance to give its verdict “on the sheer incompetence of this government.”

Still, most analysts predict May will survive because lawmakers from her Conservative Party are unlikely to vote against her, and the Democratic Unionist Party, which supports the government, has said it will continue to back the prime minister. If the government were to lose, it would have 14 days to overturn the result or face a national election.

After the biggest defeat for any British government since the 1920s, May promised to consult with senior lawmakers on future moves, but gave little indication of what she plans to do next. Parliament has given the government until Monday to come up with a new plan for leaving the EU.

“The House has spoken and the government will listen,” May said after the vote, which leaves her Brexit plan on life support just 10 weeks before Britain is due to leave the bloc on March 29.

May faces a stark choice: Steer the country toward an abrupt break without a deal on future relations with the EU, or try to nudge it toward a softer departure. Meanwhile, lawmakers from both government and opposition parties are trying to wrest control of the Brexit process from a paralyzed government, so that lawmakers can direct planning for Britain’s departure from the EU.

But with no clear majority in Parliament for any single alternative, there is a growing chance that Britain may seek to postpone its departure date while politicians work on a new plan — or even hand the decision back to voters in a new referendum on EU membership.

Political analyst Anand Menon, from UK in a Changing Europe, said history is being made week after week in the Brexit saga, with government being held in contempt even as May soldiers on in Downing Street.

“She seems content with bringing something back to Parliament to vote on again,” Menon said. “The thing about Theresa May is that nothing seems to phase her. She just keeps on going.”

European leaders are now preparing for the worst. EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the bloc is stepping up preparations for a chaotic “no-deal” departure by Britain after Parliament’s rejection of the draft withdrawal deal left the bloc “fearing more than ever that there is a risk” of a cliff-edge departure.

Economists warn that an abrupt break with the EU could batter the British economy and bring chaotic scenes at borders, ports and airports. Business groups expressed alarm at the prospect of a no-deal exit.

“Every business will feel ‘no-deal’ is hurtling closer,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry. “A new plan is needed immediately.”

But investors have so far shrugged off the rejection of May’s deal. The pound was up 0.1 per cent at $1.2869 in early morning trading in London, and the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.1 per cent at 6,888.

While the uncertainty surrounding Brexit remains elevated, many investors think Tuesday night’s vote makes it less likely Britain will crash out of the bloc with no deal.

James Smith, an economist at ING, says the “calm market response” suggests investors think at the very least that the government will end up having to seek an extension to the Brexit timetable.

May, who postponed a vote on the deal in December to avoid certain defeat, had implored lawmakers to back her deal and deliver on voters’ decision in 2016 to leave the EU.

But the deal was doomed by deep opposition from both sides of the divide over the U.K.’s place in Europe. Pro-Brexit lawmakers say the deal will leave Britain bound indefinitely to EU rules, while pro-EU politicians favour an even closer economic relationship with the bloc.

The most contentious section of the deal was an insurance policy known as the “backstop” designed to prevent the reintroduction of border controls between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. Assurances from EU leaders that the backstop is intended as a temporary measure of last resort failed to win over many British skeptics.

European Council President Donald Tusk highlighted the quagmire the U.K. had sunk into, and hinted that the best solution might be for Britain not to leave.

“If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” he tweeted.

Raf Casert in Strasbourg, France, and Pan Pylas in London, contributed to this report.

Ontario to cut tuition fees by 10 per cent

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jan 16th, 2019

Ontario is set to announce that it is cutting tuition fees for college and university students by 10 per cent.

The government says that means the average university arts and science undergraduate student would save about $660 and the average college student would save $340.

The current tuition fee framework, which has capped increases for most programs at three per cent, expires at the end of this academic year, and the Progressive Conservative government will formally announce a new one on Thursday.

Under the new framework, tuition would decrease by 10 per cent for the 2019-2020 year, then be frozen for the following year.

Core operating grants to post-secondary institutions are contingent on their compliance with the framework.

International student tuition fees aren’t regulated and are not included in the cut.

Danforth shooter had cache of ammunition in bedroom: media reports

NEWS STAFF | posted Wednesday, Jan 16th, 2019

The man responsible for the deadly mass shooting on the Danforth had a frightening cache of ammunition stashed in his bedroom, according to unsealed court documents obtained by multiple media outlets.

The ammunition was reportedly found by police in the bedroom of Faisal Hussain.

The stockpile reportedly included two fully loaded AK-47 magazines, ammunition for a 9 millimetre handgun, along with additional shotgun ammunition.

Two people were killed and 13 others wounded when Hussain opened fire in Toronto’s Greektown back on July 22nd.

Hussain was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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