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High school in Pembroke first in Ontario to be closed due to coronavirus outbreak

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Sep 17th, 2020

A high school in Pembroke, Ontario has been closed after three cases of COVID-19 were detected at the school.

The latest case at Fellowes High School was confirmed Wednesday and was linked to two previously announced cases, all among staff members at the school located northwest of Ottawa. That prompted the acting Chief Medical Officer of Health for the Renfrew County and District Health Unit (RCDHU) to order an immediate shutdown.

The school will remain closed until further notice and reopen only with the approval of public health.

In a release, the Renfrew County District School Board said any students or staff who may have been exposed will be contacted directly by public health.

Fellowes High School is the first school in the province to be closed due to COVID-19.

According to provincial data updated on Wednesday morning, 35 out of more than 4,800 schools in Ontario have reported at least one case of COVID-19.

Man connected to 2006 Brampton homicide extradited from Mexico, Peel police say

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Sep 16th, 2020

A man that has been on the run after allegedly killing his wife nearly 14 years ago has been extradited from Mexico and charged, Peel police said Tuesday.

On July 13, 2006, police said they found the body of a woman in an apartment building in the Steeles Avenue and McMurchy Avenue area in Brampton.

The victim, 31-year-old Malena Morales, was a mother of two children, police said.

On July 14, 2006,  police issued a Canada-wide warrant for the victim’s husband, Henry Morales, who was 30-years-old at the time of the alleged incident.

It was discovered that Morales had fled to Mexico after the alleged homicide, but his exact location was unknown, police said.

Investigators continued to search for Morales over the course of 14 years, even getting the case profiled on “America’s Most Wanted” in 2009.

In 2019, Morales was found in an undisclosed location in Mexico, police said.  With the help of Mexican authorities, Morales was arrested and extradited back to Canada.

Morales, now 44-years-old, is charged with murder and is being held for a bail hearing on Sept. 16, police said.

“This case is a shining example of the level of determination by our officers, in their relentless pursuit of justice and to secure closure for the family of Malena Morales. It also serves as a reminder that intimate partner violence is a real threat for some members of our community” said Deputy Chief Nick Milinovich in a news release.

 

Toronto convention centre to serve as backup location for jury selection

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Sep 16th, 2020

Some prospective jurors will be summoned to a downtown Toronto convention centre as the province resumes jury selection following a six-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a notice issued Tuesday to those in the legal field, the Ministry of the Attorney General says the Metro Toronto Convention Centre is “prepared to host jury events” on its targeted date of Sept. 16.

The ministry says the centre will be used as a backup location for the Superior Court of Justice and the Civil Superior Court of Justice.

The Ontario Superior Court temporarily halted in-person operations in mid-March due to concerns over the novel coronavirus, with all criminal and civil matters suspended or adjourned until June.

Dozens of courthouses reopened in July, with more doing so this week.

However, Chief Justice Geoffrey B. Morawetz previously said jury selection and jury trials would remain on hold until September at the earliest.

Jury selection brings together large groups of prospective jurors, which raised concerns about the possibility of maintaining proper physical distancing and other health measures.

In another document issued last week, the ministry said government staff visited the convention centre and conducted a risk assessment to identify any further controls that could help curb the spread of the virus during jury selection.

It called for, among other things, a staggered arrival for prospective jurors, mandatory face masks for the public and staff, and a deferral for any members of the public unable to wear a mask for medical reasons.

Toronto mosque urges calm, vigilance in wake of caretaker’s fatal stabbing

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Sep 16th, 2020

A Toronto mosque urged worshippers Tuesday to be vigilant of their surroundings after a volunteer caretaker was stabbed to death.

But the International Muslim Organization of Toronto said the incident should not discourage congregants from attending service, despite the fear it has created in the community.

Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, 58, was outside the mosque controlling entry to the building when he was fatally stabbed. The suspect took off and remains at large.

“At this point, we still cannot say definitively what the motive of the attacker was,” said the board of the mosque in a statement.

Insp. Hank Idsinga, the head of Toronto’s homicide unit, said Monday the death may be linked to another homicide after a homeless man who lived under a bridge several kilometres away was stabbed to death five days earlier.

Idsinga said both victims were men with brown skin and stabbed in “blitz-type attacks.” He did not discount that it could be the work of a serial killer.

He said no evidence currently suggests the incidents were hate-motivated, but it remains a possibility.

But the mosque urged caution about those theories.

“Toronto Police Service is entertaining multiple theories – and that means that nothing has been ruled out, including the potential for a hate crime, or even that this is a part of a series of targeted killings,” the mosque said.

“However, we must be clear – the fact that theories have not been ruled out should not lead us to spreading news that a hate crime was committed or that a serial killer is on the loose, as has been shared by some sources.”

The mosque said there have been sleepless nights for many in the community since the stabbing.

“We urge our congregants to keep our brother in your prayers and to of course continue to be vigilant about any suspicious activity in the area,” the mosque said.

“At this point, we are not encouraging mosques in the Greater Toronto Area to shut down or to discourage worshipers, as there is insufficient evidence to make such a recommendation at this point.”

Police said they have increased patrols in the area.

A funeral will be held for Zafis on Wednesday.

7 TDSB schools report COVID-19 cases as kids return to class

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Sep 16th, 2020

Seven Toronto District School Board (TDSB) schools are among the 27 in the province that have reported COVID-19 cases.

All seven of the cases have been attributed to staff members, three of them at high schools — Earl Haig Secondary School, York Mills Collegiate Institute and the School of Experiential Education.

Earl Haig is one of the schools that was identified by the TDSB as having a potential classroom shortfall as 78 per cent of the student body or 1,423 students will be returning when classes start on Thursday.

Bloordale Middle School, Don Mills Middle School, Brookhaven Public School and Charles G. Fraser Junior Public School also all reported cases on Tuesday.

Elementary schools began a staggered start to the school year on Tuesday with the return to class happening over three days.

Goodbye summer and hello back-to-school

Melanie Ng | posted Tuesday, Sep 15th, 2020

Like clockwork.  Labour Day weekend wraps up.  It’s goodbye summer and hello back-to-school.

Being in the news business, that means gearing up for wall-to-wall coverage.  Speaking with parents, teachers, kids, officials… it’s all hands on deck.  Many of our viewers are looking to get back into a routine and BT is honoured to be part of that.  We want to give you everything you need to feel prepared, especially this year, with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Except this year is different for me – and not just because of coronavirus.

Of all the years that my son could start his schooling journey, this is the one he’ll need to navigate: 2020, the year of uncertainty.  For me, on top of the typical “my baby is all grown up and going to Junior Kindergarten” feelings, my anxiety is through the roof…and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.  Every parent I speak to is second-guessing their decisions when it comes to schooling.   My professional obligations (being there for my news team) and my personal feelings (being there for my 4-year-old, who will be attending in-person classes) were having an epic battle.  In my 10 years at Citytv, I’ve never had the first day of school off.  I’ve never needed it.  To be honest, no one really asks for it because typically you can take your kids to school and then head to work.  But with my early hours, it’s impossible – and I knew that for my son’s very first day, I NEEDED to be at home.

I wrote a long e-mail to the bosses making my case for the day off.  The worst they could say was NO.  But instead, I got a YES.  More importantly, on top of that yes, I got support.  Here’s the thing that not everyone gets to see behind the cameras.  Our BT team is like a family.  Just like how I worried about being there for my family, they worried about me.   When you cover the news, it’s easy to put on a tough face and ask the difficult questions.   But at the end of the day, I’ll always be that mom, trying to balance it all while serving up Kraft Dinner because it’s easy in a pinch (and let’s face it, it’s delicious).

As I sift through the multiple masks, hand sanitizers and menu inspirations for litterless lunches, I know there’s only so much I can personally do to prepare him (and me).  Let’s face it, kids are more resilient and adaptable than we give them credit for.  But, here’s one thing I know for sure:  I’ll never stop asking the questions – for him, for me and for YOU.

Toronto’s top doctor details where rise of COVID-19 infections are coming from

LUCAS CASALETTO | posted Tuesday, Sep 15th, 2020

As Toronto deals with an increase in daily COVID-19 infections, the city’s top doctor shared some recent examples attributing where the spike is coming from.

Alongside Mayor John Tory, Medical Officer of Health, doctor Eileen de Villa, says large gatherings are resulting in more and more positive cases.

“We know of a big family gathering where there was very little mask wearing and too much close contact,” de Villa said.

“Our case investigators were told by those involved ‘we’re family. we didn’t think we could get this disease from each other’. We also know of an infection that resulted from a family trip.”

Doctor de Villa says there were also reports over the weekend of a busy restaurant where a performer was moving from table to table un-masked and people had to speak loudly to be heard.

She says it’s a prime example of how the virus can spread.

“It doesn’t mean you can’t spend time with family or friends. It doesn’t mean you should stop going about your daily life,” she added.

“Every place is a question of low, medium and high risk determined in part by what does on there and in a very big part by what steps for self protection you take while you’re there.”

Mayor Tory says he, too, is deeply concerned with the rise of cases across the city and that health officials, including doctor de Villa, will continue to share daily details around the COVID-19 cases in Toronto.

“I think this is important for the public to know how the virus is spreading across our community. This information will help us to make sure we’re focusing our efforts to stop the spread of the virus in the right places and in the right ways.”

Premier Doug Ford continues to urge the public on limiting large social gatherings, maintaining that busy bars and restaurants are not necessarily behind the rise in cases.

Toronto is reporting 264 new COVID-19 infections since Friday.

Homicide detectives investigate possible link between 2 recent stabbing deaths

THE CANADIAN PRESS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Sep 15th, 2020

Toronto police say they’re investigating the possibility that the stabbing death of a volunteer caretaker at a west-end mosque is linked to another recent homicide in the city.

Insp. Hank Idsinga, head of the force’s homicide unit, says both cases involve brown-skinned victims who died of stab wounds after sudden, vicious attacks that took place within kilometres of one another.

Idsinga says the most recent homicide took place on Saturday evening while 58-year-old Mohamed-Aslim Zafis was seated outside the mosque controlling entry to the building in order to comply with public health protocols.

Idsinga alleges a suspect fatally stabbed Zafis in the neck before fleeing the scene.

Five days earlier, Idsinga alleges Rampreet (Peter) Singh was stabbed multiple times under the well-travelled bridge where he’d been living for several months.

Idsinga says that while officers have not yet determined whether the same suspect is involved in both cases, investigators feel there are too many parallels to dismiss.

“If you look at the circumstances of both cases, they’re both within a few kilometres of one another,” he said in a telephone interview. “Both victims were stabbed, by all accounts blitz-type attacks on the victims. And both victims are brown-skinned males. There’s some other angles that we’re working on as well that I can’t disclose yet, but … it’s certainly something we can’t ignore. We’ve got to be cognizant of the possibility that they are connected.”

Idsinga declined to say whether the same weapon was used in the two attacks.

He said no evidence currently suggests the incidents were hate-motivated but said police remain open to that possibility. There’s also nothing to indicate that Singh and Zafis knew each other, he added.

Idsinga said extra officers are patrolling the neighbourhood in northwest Toronto where the two homicides took place.

Any area residents who observe suspicious activity are encouraged to contact the police immediately.

Idsinga said officers are currently looking for one suspect in Zafis’s death, describing him as a man believed to be roughly five feet six inches tall and 130 pounds.

Zafis’s death prompted a statement of condolence from the mosque where he both worked and worshipped.

Board members of the International Muslim Organization of Toronto said they’re “deeply saddened and shocked” by what happened.

“We pray that our brother is in a better place. We ask you that you spend your time praying for him and his family in these testing times,” the statement read.

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