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2 teens charged in Rexdale fatal shooting

BT Toronto | posted Friday, May 22nd, 2020

Two teens have been charged in the murder of a 23-year-old man in Rexdale last week.

Police said were called to the area of Panorama Court and Kipling Avenue for a report of gunfire on May 14.

When officers arrived, they found 23-year-old Hashim Kinani, inside a tow-truck suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.

He was rushed to hospital, but later died of his injuries. A second man was also found suffering from life-threatening gunshot wounds.

Homicide Det. Sgt. Ted Lioumanis said last week there was some sort of altercation and they believe the victim was targeted.

On Thursday, two young males, aged 15 and 17, turned themselves into police and have been charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder.

They will both appear in court on Friday.

Police say they do not believe the homicide is related to any tow truck turf war. The victim was a tow truck driver, but there’s no indication he was responding to a call.

Toronto Public Library releases dates for curbside drop-off, pick-up coming in June

BT Toronto | posted Friday, May 22nd, 2020

The Toronto Public Library will begin to offer some curbside drop-off starting on May 25 with pick-up available in early June.

The city says starting Monday, select library drop boxes will be opened to allow for the return of library materials. All remaining branches will have drop boxes open by June 1.

The library estimates there are over a million items out on loan right now.

Customers can also continue to place holds on items as a pick-up service will be available starting in early June.

Libraries were mentioned in the list of businesses from the province that could be allowed to open for pickup as restrictions are slowly lifted.

While libraries have been closed, they have not been charging fees, although outstanding fees can currently be paid online.

Testing wastewater could give early warning of second wave of the coronavirus

LAURA OSMAN, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, May 22nd, 2020

As Canada continues to struggle to keep up with the level of COVID-19 tests needed to fend off a potential second wave of the viral disease, researchers say the best early warning system for a second wave could be right beneath our feet — in the sewers.

Several other countries have taken to testing wastewater for signs of the novel coronavirus as an indication of flare-ups in their communities.

Now researchers are beginning to look at the option in Canada.

Given that some people can pass the virus on without even knowing they have it, health officials say testing large portions of the population will be key to detecting and quashing any new community spread of COVID-19.

Several provinces have struggled to keep up with the volume of tests needed to do that, particularly in Ontario and Quebec where rates of infection remain high.

But the virus isn’t only detected in the back of people’s throats. It’s also found in waste. And while not everyone will get tested for COVID-19, most everyone uses the toilet.

“This is a tool that can actually provide an early alert to our public health in regards to re-emergence of infectivity in communities,” said Mike McKay, the executive director of the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Windsor.

His research group is one of several across the country looking at whether sampling sewage could be a viable way to alert public health officials to new outbreaks.

Initially, he said researchers were excited about the possibility that measuring the amount of virus found in the pipes could provide some sense of the number of cases in a community.

But not enough is known about how much of the virus is shed in people’s waste to be able to draw many conclusions yet.

Instead, researchers hope they’ll be able to detect whether the viral load has gone up or down, allowing researchers to flag sudden spikes to public health who will be able to focus their efforts accordingly.

“If it does that, that means it’s saving lives,” said Bernadette Conant, CEO of the Canadian Water Network.

The network is in the early stages of trying to co-ordinate a pilot project in Canadian cities, including Ottawa, Windsor, Montreal and Edmonton, to develop an effective method and determine whether wastewater tests could have the public health applications they hope for.

The ultimate goal, as the technique evolves, is to use the method to root out new outbreaks in certain neighbourhoods, or even specific buildings, like long-term care homes.

That would allow public health authorities to tailor testing, lockdowns or other containment measures to that area.

“This is not a silver bullet and it’s not about replacing the basic testing and contact tracing surveillance,” Conant said. “What it does is offer the potential to fill a gap.”

The idea was tried in the Netherlands and France in the early days of the epidemic, and according to non-peer reviewed studies, both were able to detect traces of the virus in wastewater before widespread outbreaks were confirmed in those countries.

Several states in the U.S., as well as Australia and Israel, have also looked to the sewers to for signs of the virus.

It’s not a totally foreign concept in Canada either. Last year, Statistics Canada released a report on its use of wastewater samples to detect signs of increased drug use.

Accurate information about societal use of drugs, particularly from illegal sources, is difficult to get, the authors explained. So they ran a pilot project to see if sewer systems could give them a better picture.

There were limitations to what the data could tell them, but they said the advantage was the low cost, timeliness and the ability to monitor change over time at the city level _ which is what researchers hope to achieve with COVID-19 tests.

Edmonton’s water utility company, Epcor, said in a statement that workers already take regular wastewater samples, so the effort and risk in gathering extra samples for testing is minimal.

As for creating a national sewage surveillance system in Canada, Conant said public health officials are beginning to show an interest but logistics, including lab capability and capacity, would still need to be worked out.

Will coronavirus bring down Airbnb?

THE BIG STORY | posted Friday, May 22nd, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, nearly every story on a housing crisis casts Airbnb as one the chief villains driving up rents and home prices. So it should not come as a shock that the crisis facing the company as worldwide travel grinds to a halt has been met with glee from people who have struggled to find affordable housing. But will this virus kill the short-term rental app, or merely change it?

What has happened to rents and home prices in cities like Toronto and Vancouver where Airbnb hosts hold a massive amount of units? What about Airbnb landlords, some of whom have sunk their life savings into properties they rent through the app? And what can we learn from this situation about how our cities function and what they should be when life returns to normal?

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle and Spotify

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.


A groundbreaking terrorism charge against an alleged ‘incel’

THE BIG STORY | posted Thursday, May 21st, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, the crime itself did not generate many headlines at the time it happened. Partly because the COVID-19 pandemic was ramping up, and partly because women are killed with shocking regularity in Canada. But three months later, two words were added to the murder charge against the accused: “terrorist activity.”

For those who watch the way these crimes are usually prosecuted, the change this week was an incredibly significant one, signalling both our willingness to move on from the “terrorist” stereotype, and the growing concern authorities have with the self-described ‘incel’ ideology. So why was the charge changed? What does it mean, both symbolically and legally? And what happens next?


Police investigating reports of two sexual assaults in North York

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, May 21st, 2020

Toronto police are investigating reports of two sexual assaults in the same North York area.

Officers were called to Faywood Boulevard near Sheppard and Wilson Avenues just after 6 p.m. for reports of the sexual assault of a woman. Just a few minutes later, they received reports of a second assault in the same area.

Police believe the same man is responsible for both.

The suspect is described as five foot five inches with a slim build. He was wearing a black hat, a black windbreaker-style jacket with silver stripe, black pinstripe pants and light coloured shoes. He was also on a black mountain bike.

The suspect was last seen fleeing the scene on Faywood Boulevard.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police.

Feds to announce additional pandemic funding for off-reserve Indigenous People

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, May 21st, 2020

OTTAWA — The federal government is to provide more financial support to help off-reserve Indigenous People weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

The additional funding expected today comes amid criticism that the Trudeau government has largely ignored the plight of thousands of Indigenous people who live off-reserve and in urban centres.

Many of them were already among Canada’s most vulnerable before the pandemic hit in mid-March — struggling with poverty, homelessness, food insecurity and mental health and addiction issues.

The Congress of Aboriginal People, which represents some 90,000 off-reserve and non-status Indigenous people, has gone to court over what it says is the “inadequate and discriminatory” funding it has received compared to other Indigenous groups.

In mid-March, the government created the $305-million Indigenous Community Support Fund, most of which went to organizations representing First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities to help them prepare for and cope with the pandemic.

Only $15 million of that was allotted for off-reserve organizations, even though they serve more than half of Canada’s Indigenous population, and of that, CAP, which is seeking $16 million, received just $250,000.

“The amount CAP has received for our constituents across Canada is a slap in the face,” the group’s national chief, Robert Bertrand, told a Commons committee last week.

The additional funding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is to announce today is expected to go to organizations that serve the off-reserve Indigenous population, such as the National Association of Friendship Centres.

The association says it has been delivering food, dealing with increased domestic violence, caring for elders and helping off-reserve Indigenous people find safe shelter and transportation and apply for emergency aid benefits, despite little financial help from Ottawa.

Association president Christopher Sheppard-Buote last week told the Commons committee that people not living on a First Nation reserve or in an Inuit or Metis community feel “unseen” by the federal government during the pandemic.

However, other emergency aid programs created for the general population — including the $2,000 per month Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the 75-per-cent wage subsidy program — are available to eligible off-reserve Indigenous people.

As well, the government announced in April up to $306.8 million to help small- and medium-sized Indigenous businesses, and to support Indigenous institutions that offer financing to these businesses.

At that time, the government said the funding — providing short-term, interest-free loans and non-repayable contributions — would help some 6,000 Indigenous-owned businesses survive the pandemic.

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