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TTC begins recalling operators laid off during the pandemic

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Aug 28th, 2020

The TTC is beginning to recall some of its laid-off workers, as it prepares for a bump in ridership when students return to school.

In April, 450 TTC operators were laid off in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The transit agency said 150 of those operators will return to work in September and the remainder will be called back when the TTC reaches at least 50 per cent of pre-pandemic ridership levels.

“These have been difficult times for everyone at the TTC as we’ve been forced to respond to the pandemic by making some tough decisions to reduce expenses and revise service delivery,” TTC CEO Rick Leary said in a release.

“The good news is that things are turning around and we’re able to start bringing back operators and reinstating some of the service as well as adding service to the busiest routes across the network.”

As of this week, the TTC said it is seeing daily ridership in the 35 to 40 per cent range.

Before the pandemic, the TTC saw 1.7 million rides on a typical weekday, and ridership would increase by up to 10 per cent between August and September.


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Trump accepts Republican party nomination in front of packed, largely maskless crowd

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Aug 28th, 2020

Facing a national moment fraught with racial turmoil and a deadly pandemic, President Donald Trump accepted his party’s renomination on a massive White House South Lawn stage Thursday night, boasting of helping African Americans and defying his own administration’s pandemic guidelines to address a tightly packed, largely maskless crowd.

As troubles churned outside the gates, Trump painted an optimistic vision of America’s future, including an eventual triumph over the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 175,000 people, left millions unemployed and rewritten the rules of society. But that brighter horizon can only be secured, Trump asserted, if he defeats Democrat Joe Biden.

Trailing Biden in opinion polls, he blistered the former vice president’s record and even questioned his love of America.

“We have spent the last four years reversing the damage Joe Biden inflicted over the last 47 years,” Trump said.

Presenting himself as the last barrier protecting an American way of life under siege from radical forces, Trump declared that “Joe Biden and his party repeatedly assailed America as a land of racial, economic, and social injustice.”″

“So tonight, I ask you a very simple question: How can the Democrat Party ask to lead our country when it spends so much time tearing down our country?” Trump said. “In the left’s backward view, they do not see America as the most free, just, and exceptional nation on earth. Instead, they see a wicked nation that must be punished for its sins.”

As his speech brought the scaled-back Republican National Convention to a close, Trump’s incendiary rhetoric risked inflaming a divided nation reeling from a series of calamities, including the pandemic, a major hurricane that slammed into the Gulf Coast and nights of racial unrest and violence after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot by a white Wisconsin police officer.

He was introduced by his daughter Ivanka, an influential White House adviser, who portrayed the famously bombastic Trump as someone who shaken up Washington with little record for norms or niceties.

“Dad, people attack you for being unconventional, but I love you for being real. And I respect you for being effective,” she said.

The president spoke from a setting that was both familiar and controversial. Despite tradition and regulation to not use the White House for purely political events,a huge stage was set up outside the executive mansion, dwarfing the trappings for some of the most important moments of past presidencies. The speaker’s stand was flanked by dozens of American flags and two big video screens.

Trying to run as an insurgent as well as incumbent, Trump rarely includes calls for unity, even in a time of national uncertainty. He has repeatedly, if not always effectively, tried to portray Biden — who is considered a moderate Democrat — as a tool of the radical left, fringe forces he has claimed don’t love their country.

The Republicans claim that the violence that has erupted in Kenosha and some other American cities is to be blamed on Democratic governors and mayors. Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday said that Americans wouldn’t be safe in “Joe Biden’s America.”

That drew a stern rebuke from his predecessor in the post.

“The problem we have right now is that we are in Donald Trump’s America,” said Biden on MSNBC. “He views this as a political benefit to him, he is rooting for more violence not less. He is pouring gasoline on the fire.”

Both parties are watching with uncertainty the developments in Wisconsin and cities across the nation with Republicans leaning hard on support for law and order — with no words offered for Black victims of police violence — while falsely claiming that Biden has not condemned the lawlessness. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney and New York City’s former mayor, declared that Democrats’ “silence was so deafening that it reveals an acceptance of this violence because they will accept anything they hope will defeat President Donald Trump.”

Though some of the speakers, unlike on previous nights, offered notes of sympathy to the families of Black men killed by police, Giuliani also took aim at the Black Lives Matter movement, suggesting that it, along with ANTIFA, was part of the extremist voices pushing Biden to “execute their pro-criminal, anti-police policies” and had “hijacked the protests into vicious, brutal riots.”


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3 teens arrested in Scarborough drive-by shooting

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Aug 28th, 2020

Two people — 17 years old and 20 years old — were seriously injured in a drive-by shooting in Scarborough on Thursday night.

Police responded to reports of someone being shot near a bar or restaurant in the Danforth Road and Savarin Street area shortly before 10 p.m.

Officers arrived on scene and initially found one victim with serious injuries. A second victim was located shortly after and both were taken to hospital in serious condition via emergency run. They are expected to survive.

A white vehicle was seen fleeing the area. Officers spotted the suspect vehicle getting onto Highway 401 and stopped the vehicle.

Guns were recovered from the vehicle and three teens — all 16 years old — were taken into custody.


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No decision yet on Raptors’ playoff series opener against Celtics

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Aug 27th, 2020

A decision on the status of the Toronto Raptors’ playoff game Thursday has not been made following the NBA’s postponement of three games Wednesday in the wake of a weekend police shooting in Wisconsin.

Raptors and Boston Celtics players said they were considering boycotting the series opener hours before the Milwaukee Bucks took that action Wednesday prior to their contest against the Orlando Magic. The NBA eventually postponed all three games Wednesday at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

The NBA’s board of governors have called a meeting at 11 a.m. Thursday to discuss the situation — the same time players across the league are expected to meet.

The moves comes after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, about 65 kilometres miles south of Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo says there will be discussions about whether to play Thursday’s game against the Boston Red Sox in Buffalo, N.Y.

The NHL went ahead with three playoff games in Toronto and Edmonton on Wednesday. Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the WNBA all postponed some or all games Wednesday and the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament in New York says it will not hold play on Thursday.

International students concerned about fee increases, future in Canada during coronavirus pandemic

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Aug 27th, 2020

With the fall semester just days away, international students enrolled in Canadian universities are raising concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on their studies, their wallets, and their futures.

A group of international students currently enrolled at the University of Toronto have created the International Student Advocacy Network (ISAN) to present their concerns and demands to university officials.

They say the toll COVID-19 is taking on them, like their fees, is disproportionately higher than domestic students.

“They have increased fees by an average of 5.4 per cent for the coming year and that decision was made after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the global pandemic,” Anna BML Carneiro, coordinator at ISAN, says.

The group says the fee increase is not justified considering a majority of classes are being taught online and is demanding that the university roll back the hike.

“Losing the opportunity to network, to meet different people on campus, to use different resources … everything that makes the campus experience and the university experience so rich for us and makes it worth it coming here is no longer available,” Carneiro says.

ISAN has approached several University officials’ offices and are waiting to hear back as the deadline to register and pay fees approaches.

“We didn’t get a single response. The responses from the students have been very positive – we’ve got the support of various student groups and other campus bodies. The student union has been collaborating with us. But unfortunately we haven’t had a response from administration,” Carneiro explains.

The University of Toronto tells CityNews that incidental fees that cover on-campus experiences have been reduced.

“[They have] been adjusted accordingly to reflect that so much of university life will now be off-campus,” Joseph Wong, Vice-President, International at University of Toronto, says.

However, he says the international tuition fee increase is in line with their normal, annual fee increase. He adds that moving to online learning is not necessarily less expensive.

“We have had to invest significant amounts in terms of new education technology, academic divisions have been bringing in educational technology specialists, faculty instructors have been reworking their courses, in fact adding new elements to their courses that would likely not have occurred had the pandemic not occurred,” Wong says.

Wong also says classrooms are being fitted for a “dual delivery” system, with some students in class while others join online. They have had to be revamped with new equipment including hardware like mics and screens to accommodate both in-class and online learning.

“We want to create, as much as possible, an in-person like experience for all of the students and that requires huge investments. So you look at the renovated room — just the cost of hardware itself to make this happen and to continue to have a really high quality educational experience for our students requires resources,” he explains.

However, while all students, domestic and international, will benefit from the improvements, the only one’s facing a fee hike are international students, who already pay up to seven times the domestic tuition.

“Our domestic students, their fees or the expenses incurred to buy the same educational experience for them is subsidized by the government,” Wong says.

“Given the realities of where the levels of those subsidies are, they’re such that we’ve had to continue to increase our international student tuition — as we would normally. This is not an extraordinary increase, this is just part of our regular stepped increase.”

Along with a disruption in current studies, international students may also find their futures in limbo as some may not be able to fulfill the eligibility criteria for the Post Graduation Work Permit program (PGWP) thanks to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The length of a PGWP is dependent on the length of the program in which a student is enrolled.

In it’s latest update to eligibility criteria, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says students enrolled in an eight or 12 month program, which starts between May and September 2020, can now complete their entire program online from outside Canada and still be eligible for a PGWP.

Those in longer programs can study online from abroad until April 30, 2021 and will have no time deducted from the length of a future post-graduation work permit — but they must still complete 50 per cent of their program while physically present in Canada.

For those currently outside the country, returning to Canada to fulfill that criteria might be tricky, as they have to prove their travel is “non-discretionary” or essential. With many universities offering courses online, proving it is essential for them to be physically present in Canada could be complicated.

Ziah Sumar, an immigration lawyer with Long Mangalji LLP, says some international students may be allowed to return based on other criteria — for example, if an international student moved to Canada and was already living here and went back home for a vacation.

“IRCC has said that the “non-discretionary” [criteria] includes people who are already living in Canada. Technically by IRCC’s definition they should be able to travel back to Canada,” she says.

“With that being said, the IRCC says they “may” be able to and in the end the final decision is up to the border services officer.”

The IRCC confirms on its website that “a border services officer will make the final decision on whether your reason for travelling to Canada is non-discretionary or non-optional.”

Both University of Toronto and Ryerson University say international students will be provided with documentation to prove their travel is essential should they wish to return.

CityNews reached out to the IRCC to confirm whether those documents would be sufficient proof to re-enter the country and they would only say that the criteria for entry for international students remain the same.


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TCDSB confirms staggered start to upcoming school year

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Aug 27th, 2020

The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) has confirmed it will be staggering the start of school year over a one-week period, beginning on Sept. 14.

The board laid out its plans during a virtual town hall meeting Wednesday night.

For elementary students, one-quarter of each class will return to school each day, with full attendance achieved on Sept. 17.

Grade 9 students will attend school for the first two days, while grade 10, 11 and 12 students will start on Sept. 16.

The TCDSB says siblings who attend the same school will be scheduled on the same days.

Schools are currently in the process of establishing class placements.

The board says parents and guardians will receive confirmation of their child’s re-entry schedule from their school as soon as those details have been finalized.


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Authorities name officer who they say shot Jacob Blake


The Wisconsin officer who shot a Black man, Jacob Blake seven times in the back has been identified as a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha Police Department, the state Department of Justice said Wednesday.

Officer Rusten Sheskey shot Blake, 29, while holding onto his shirt after officers first unsuccessfully used a taser and as Blake leaned into his vehicle during an incident Sunday evening, the agency’s news release said.

State agents later recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of the vehicle, the release said. A search of the vehicle located no additional weapons.

No charges were announced and the state Department of Investigation was continuing to investigate.

The shooting set off three nights of unrest in the city midway between Milwaukee and Chicago. Two people were shot and killed during protests Tuesday night.


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NBA postpones 3 playoff games as Raptors consider boycott as well

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Thursday, Aug 27th, 2020

All three NBA playoff games scheduled for Wednesday have been postponed, with players around the league choosing to boycott in their strongest statement yet against racial injustice.

Called off: Games between Milwaukee and Orlando, Houston and Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland. The NBA said all three games would be rescheduled, yet did not say when.

The dramatic series of moves began when the Bucks – the NBA’s team from Wisconsin, a state rocked in recent days by the shooting by police officers of Jacob Blake, a Black man – didn’t take the floor for their playoff game against the Magic. The teams were set to begin Game 5 of their series shortly after 4 p.m., with the Bucks needing a win to advance to the second round.

Players had been discussing boycotting games in the bubble after the shooting of Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The NBA’s board of governors have called a meeting on Thursday to discuss the new developments, said a person with knowledge of the situation.

The NBA did not say if Thursday’s schedule of three more games involving six other teams would be affected. NBA players and coaches met for nearly three hours Wednesday night to determine next steps, including whether the season should continue. They did not come to a consensus, a person with knowledge of the meeting told AP.

Hours before the Bucks refused to take the floor in a historic NBA boycott, the Toronto Raptors were considering a similar protest.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse said the idea of a boycott “is on the table” after players from his team and the Boston Celtics met Tuesday night in advance of their second-round playoff series that is scheduled to tip off Thursday evening.

“They want to be part of a solution, they want to help, they want justice . . . Boycotting the game has come up for them as a way to demand a little more action, and I think that’s really what they want,” Nurse told reporters a couple of hours before the Bucks were scheduled to play Orlando in Game 5 of their opening-round series.

“I think there’s enough attention, and there’s not quite enough action.”

Nurse said he’s heard a couple of his players discussing leaving the NBA campus and going home, though he doesn’t know if that is a team-wide belief.

“It just feels like we’re stuck. It feels like things are not changing. It feels like we’re not doing anything productive, basically. That’s how it feels,” said Raptors forward Pascal Siakam. “Those things hurt. I don’t care where you’re from . . . just seeing that and just knowing that every day it happens and it feels normal, just seeing Black men being shot every day, that hurts, man.”

The 26-year-old Siakam said he wouldn’t watch the video of Blake being shot multiple times in the back by police in Wisconsin.

The Raptors’ all-star said watching the death of George Floyd on video – Floyd died after a white police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck on May 25 – had traumatized him.

The Raptors have been at the forefront of the NBA’s social justice initiatives, arriving to the league’s Walt Disney World campus earlier this summer in buses with “Black Lives Matter” written in huge block letters, and asking for justice for Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black people who have been killed by police. They’ve knelt for both the American and Canadian anthems before games.

Nurse, who was recently named NBA coach of the year, said he can only listen to his players, and supports whatever decision they make.

“I’m trying to give them a forum to talk as much and often as I can. I’m trying to respect their priorities, and also give them some of my own personal thoughts,” Nurse, wearing an orange WNBA hoodie, said on his Zoom media availability.

“I’ve had couple very deep, personal discussions with these guys here this morning about playing, not playing, being in the bubble, leaving the bubble, coming to the bubble. All these things and I just give them my own personal opinion on it.”

He has heard of his players discussing going home, but doesn’t know if “that’s a team-wide thing.”

The day before the Raptors tip off what is expected to be a much tougher series than their 4-0 opening-round sweep of Brooklyn, Siakam was asked if it’s difficult to focus on playing basketball amidst the dark cloud of racial injustice.

“There’s really a lot of things that are way bigger than basketball going on,” he said. “You want to be able to play, you want to be able to, because at the end of the day, we know that basketball brings something to people. But at the same time, just seeing that happening every day, man, it’s tough. It hurts. . . yeah, it hurts.”

The Celtics, who swept their first-round series with Philadelphia, echoed the Raptors’ thoughts of frustration.

“We’re over here, guys are crying, guys are hurting right now because of what’s going on,” said Boston forward Grant Williams. “You never know if that’s your brother. What if that was my cousin? What if that was my family member? That’s something that weighs down on you.”

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said the discussion to boycott started with the Raptors, but that players on other teams are also talking about it. The Celtics forward knows people will ask: What is sitting out going to do?

“Obviously if we sit out a game or the rest of the playoffs, we understand how big of an impact that will have,” he said. “Everybody’s going to have to talk about it, continue to raise awareness. We don’t want to just keep playing and forget about what’s going on in the outside world, because it’s affecting us. We’re more than just basketball players, we’re people. And we have these raw emotions and feelings.”

Before gathering in Florida for the NBA’s restart, Tatum pointed out that players were able to be on the front lines to protest, and many of them did, including Raptors’ point guard Kyle Lowry. Now there’s a feeling of being trapped in the bubble.

“We’re in this bubble and we’re isolated from everyone else and that’s frustrating,” the Celtics forward said. “I know some guys have talked about going home.”

Being a Black man in America, Tatum said, is “more important than what I do on the basketball court. . .When you think of a man getting shot seven times in the back with his kids in the car, that’s way more important.”

Boston coach Brad Stevens said he hasn’t heard much talk from his team on potentially boycotting games. He said the Celtics have met to allow players to speak about their feelings.

“I just simply said, each individual, we support 110 per cent,” Stevens said. “This is not easy. From the standpoint of being down here and feeling like you’re in this place that you can’t leave. . . totally understand anybody’s reaction to what’s going on outside of here and the desire to do more. Or the desire to not play. Or the desire to leave.”

The postponed NBA games came on the fourth anniversary of Colin Kaepernick’s very first protest of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before an NFL preseason game. Kaepernick sat through the anthem for his first protest, which he said was to protest racial inequality and police mistreatment of minorities. then famously kneeled during the anthem going forward.


The WNBA will not play its three games Wednesday night following the shooting of Jacob Blake over the weekend.

In Bradenton, Florida, on Wednesday, Washington was set to play Atlanta, Minnesota was going to face Los Angeles, and Connecticut was going to meet Phoenix. Players from the Mystics, Dream, Sparks and Lynx were talking on the court for about an hour deciding whether to play or not. The decision was announced shortly before the expected 7 pm. EDT tip for the Mystics and Dream.

All four teams took a knee at centre court right before leaving the court.

Atlanta Dream player Elizabeth Williams read a statement on ESPN saying that the “consensus is not to play in tonight’s games. We stand in solidarity with our brothers in the NBA.”

The Mystics came into the arena wearing shirts that spelled out Blake’s name on the front and had holes in the back to signify the seven bullets that he was hit with by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The WNBA and its players have dedicated this season to social justice. Players have been wearing the name of Breonna Taylor on the back of the uniforms all season long.


Three Major League Baseball games were postponed Wednesday.

Games between the Cincinnati Reds and Brewers in Milwaukee, Seattle Mariners and Padres in San Diego and the Los Angeles Dodgers and Giants in San Francisco were called off hours before they were set to begin.

Dodgers star Mookie Betts, who is Black, told his teammates he was sitting out and they backed him.

“For me, I think no matter what, I wasn’t going to play tonight,” Betts said.

Other MLB games had finished, were in progress or just about to start as the announcements were made.

“The players from the Brewers and Reds have decided to not play tonight’s baseball game. With our community and our nation in such pain, we wanted to draw as much attention to the issues that really matter, especially racial injustice and systemic oppression,” players from both teams said in a joint statement.

Mariners infielder/outfielder Dee Gordon said the team decided unanimously to skip Wednesday’s game.

“There are serious issues in this country,” Gordon tweeted. “For me, and for many of my teammates, the injustices, violence, death and systemic racism is deeply personal. This is impacting not only my community, but very directly my family and friends. Our team voted unanimously not to play tonight.”

“Instead of watching us, we hope people will focus on the things more important than sports that are happening,” he said.

Mariners pitcher Justin Dunn tweeted: “Enough is enough.”

Dunn included a Black Lives Matter hashtag and a cartoon image of he and his Black teammates in Black Lives Matter shirts.

Colorado outfielder Matt Kemp, who is Black, announced on social media he would skip the Rockies’ game in Arizona “in protest of the injustices my people continue to suffer.”

“I could not play this game I love so much tonight knowing the hurt and anguish my people continue to feel,” he wrote. “In a world where we are the ones who need to remain calm while a trained professional points a gun in our face; a world where the people in uniforms who took an oath to protect us are the same ones killing us; a world where we become hashtags before we even reach our potential; we must stand together, speak out, protest, and be the change we demand, require, and need so bad.”


Five of six Major League Soccer games Wednesday have been postponed in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

The only match that kicked off prior to the postponements was Nashville vs. Orlando City.

Following the news of the NBA’s postponements, Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore tweeted at MLS asking “what are you going to do?”

Altidore has since responded positively to MLS and the sporting world’s response, tweeting “Proud of sports tonight and all of my guys in MLS.”

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report


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