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Senate passes cannabis bill

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Jun 20th, 2018

Canadians will be able to legally purchase and consume recreational marijuana by mid-September at the latest after the Senate voted Tuesday to lift almost a century-old prohibition on cannabis.

Senators voted 52-29, with two abstentions, to pass Bill C-45, after seven months of study and debate.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor has said the provinces will need two to three months after the bill is passed before they’ll be ready to implement the new legalized cannabis regime.

“We have seen in the Senate tonight a historic vote that ends 90 years of prohibition of cannabis in this country, 90 years of needless criminalization, 90 years of a just-say-no approach to drugs that hasn’t worked,” said independent Sen. Tony Dean, who sponsored the bill in the upper house.

Canada is the first industrialized country to legalize cannabis nationwide.

“I’m proud of Canada today. This is progressive social policy,” Dean said.

However, Dean and other senators stressed that the government is taking a very cautious, prudent approach to this historic change. Cannabis will be strictly regulated, with the objective of keeping it out of the hands of young people and displacing the thriving black market in cannabis controlled by organized crime.

“What the government’s approach has been is, yes, legalization but also strict control,” said Sen. Peter Harder, the government’s representative in the Senate.
“That does not in any way suggest that it’s now party time.”

Conservative senators remained resolutely opposed to legalization, however, and predicted passage of C-45 will not meet the government’s objectives.

“The impact is we’re going to have all those involved in illegal marijuana peddling right now becoming large corporations and making a lot of money and they’re going to be doing it at the expense of vulnerable people in this country,” said Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos, predicting young people will have more – not less – access.

“When you normalize the use of marijuana and you’re a young person and you had certain reservations because of the simple fact that it was illegal, there’s, I believe, a propensity to have somebody be more inclined to use it.”

But Dean countered that the Conservatives have been making the same argument since the bill landed in the Senate seven months ago, regardless of what they heard from expert witnesses. And he suggested that’s because they received marching orders from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to do everything in their power to delay or block legalization.

“That tells me that maybe they haven’t been open to learning and listening the way that other senators have in this place,” he said of the Conservatives’ unchanging position on the bill.

By contrast, Dean said many independent senators were initially opposed to or uncertain about legalization but changed their minds after hearing from more than 200 expert witnesses who testified before five different Senate committees that examined the bill minutely.

The Conservatives are the last remaining openly partisan group in the Senate, to which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has chosen to name only non-partisan, independent senators recommended by an arm’s-length advisory body.

Senators last week approved almost four dozen amendments to C-45. The government accepted 27 of them and tweaked two others. But it rejected 13 amendments.
Among the rejected amendments was one which would have authorized provinces to prohibit home cultivation of marijuana if they choose.

Quebec and Manitoba have already decided to ban home-grown pot, even though the bill specifies that individuals can grow up to four plants per dwelling. The purpose of the Senate’s amendment was to prevent legal challenges to their constitutional right to do so.

Conservative Sen. Claude Carignan attempted Tuesday to have the amendment reinstated in the bill – which would have meant the bill would have to be bounced back to the House of Commons and could have set the stage for a protracted parliamentary battle between the two houses of Parliament.

But senators voted 45-35 not to insist on that change.

Sen. Yen Pau Woo, leader of the independent group of senators, said C-45 was “a bit of a stress test” for the new, less partisan Senate.

Humber engineering student ‘stole the show’ with dance moves at convocation ceremony

News Staff | posted Wednesday, Jun 20th, 2018

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After all those years of note taking, studying and staying up all night to cram for exams, graduation day can feel a bit anticlimactic.

Unless you’re Tuan Ngo.

The loose-jointed Mechanical Engineering student engineered some awe-inspiring dance moves when it was his turn to collect his hard-earned diploma.

Humber College tweeted out video of Ngo (aka Jerry) dancing up a storm at last Friday’s convocation ceremony, saying that he “stole the show.”

When his name was called, Ngo exhibited some 80s break-dance moves, and followed them up with a Usain Bolt-worthy dab.

He also greeted the presenter with a bear hug before dancing off the stage, diploma in hand.

Associate Dean of Engineering Vincent Shaikh gave “Jerry” some props on Twitter, saying the school would miss his “energy and enthusiasm.”

Green renovation rebates funded through cap and trade system cancelled

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Jun 20th, 2018

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A series of rebates offered by the Ontario government for energy-efficient renovations has been cancelled.

A post on the GreenOn.ca website says several residential and commercial rebate programs, including those for ground source heat pumps and smart thermostats for homes, are now closed.

The site says, however, that rebates will be honoured for homeowners who submit an application by Sept. 30 or who have a signed work agreement with a participating contractor for work to be completed by Aug. 31.

The rebate program was announced last year and funded through proceeds from Ontario’s cap-and-trade program through a provincial agency called the Green Ontario Fund.

Its cancellation comes after Ontario’s incoming premier said he would carry out his campaign promise to scrap the cap-and-trade system and fight federal rules that would impose a carbon tax on provinces without their own carbon pricing system.

Doug Ford, who is expected to be sworn in as premier on June 29, said last week that getting rid of cap and trade would be his first order of business once the legislature resumes.

PC Spokesperson Jeff Silverstein told 680 News this cancellation was Ford delivering on his promise.

“Doug Ford received a clear mandate from the people of Ontario to cancel Kathleen Wynne’s cap-and-trade carbon tax and the slush fund that was paid for by the carbon tax,” said Silverstein. “Doug Ford is delivering on his promise to put more money back into people’s pockets.”

The New Democrats, who will form the province’s official Opposition, slammed Ford for the cancellation of the rebate program saying it was “beyond irresponsible to scrap clean air and climate-change initiatives with no plan to replace them.”

Ontario has made close to $3 billion in a series of cap-and-trade auctions since the system was introduced by the Liberals last year.

Tory says subway barriers could cost ‘well north’ of $1B

News Staff | posted Wednesday, Jun 20th, 2018

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A day after a man was allegedly pushed in front of a moving train at Bloor-Yonge Station, Mayor John Tory said he was awaiting the results of a TTC study into the feasibility of erecting safety barriers in the city’s subway stations.

Tory said he voted in favour of the study, but admitted that the potentially staggering costs of retrofitting the city’s aging stations could pose a problem.

“Always the issue that looms out there, and I don’t mean to bring this back to money when you are trying to save lives, but in the end this is a huge undertaking … the question would arise how we would pay for it,” he said.

“This would cost, by most estimates … well north of a billion dollars.”

Despite the hefty price tag, Tory said the barriers are worth considering.

“I will await that report because I think when we are losing lives, we owe it to the city … to take a really serious look at it.”

The TTC’s Brad Ross told CityNews the study is expected to be completed by 2020 and would probe engineering and design challenges, as well as associated costs.

“It’s something that other transit systems around the world do,” Ross said. “(But) to retrofit a system as old as the TTC’s is a significant amount of work and a significant amount of money.”

Coun. Joe Mihevc, who sits on the TTC Board, touted the many benefits of the barriers, while noting they would cost around $10 million to $15 million per station.

“There are many advantages,” he stressed. “One: you protect lives.

“It stops all those operational difficulties we have … When you hear the conductor saying we have had to stop service because of things at track level.

“It would make our system up to 20 per cent more efficient. So there’s lots of good reasons to do it.”

Man, 57, charged with first-degree-murder in Yonge subway station death

News Staff | posted Tuesday, Jun 19th, 2018

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Toronto police have charged a 57-year old with first-degree murder in the Yonge subway station death.

Homicide Detective Rob North said police were called to the station at around 10:15 a.m. and a man suffering from serious injuries. He died later at hospital.

The suspect was arrested at the scene and North said no other suspects are being sought. He has not been identified.

North said they have viewed the CCTV footage from inside the subway station during the incident.

Police are alleging both the suspect and the victim were waiting for the eastbound train when there is a brief interaction between the two before the victim is pushed in front of the train. There was no audio on the video.

Police say they are still trying to identify the victim, but say he is an Asian man believed to be in his 50s or early 60s with white hair. He was wearing blue running shoes, a white baseball cap and shorts at the time of his death. Police previously believed the victim was in his 20s.

North asked anyone who knows someone matching that description who they haven’t been able to get in touch with, please contact police immediately.

Police say there is no connection between the suspect and the victim.

North said he wanted to address the 7 to 8 people who police believe were direct witnesses to this murder based on CCTV footage. He is encouraging them to come forward to help the investigation.

He adds if anyone is struggling with witnessing this incident, they are welcome to contact victim services.

The suspect will appear on Tuesday in court at 10 a.m.

HOMICIDE ON TTC A RARE OCCURRENCE

When asked about past homicide investigations on the TTC, Ross said the “last time someone was intentionally pushed … in front of a subway, was in 1997 at Dundas station.”

Charlene Minkowski, 23, was hit by a train on Sept. 25, 1997.

Herbert Cheong, 41 at the time, was charged with first-degree murder, but eventually confessed to a lesser second-degree murder charge.

Cheong, a diagnosed schizophrenic, eventually received a long term sentence, with no parole possibility for 15 years. He told the court he’d been kicked out of his rooming house that day and was angry – so he decided to take his rage out on a perfect stranger.

Toronto sign embracing National Indigenous People’s Day

Meredith Bond | posted Tuesday, Jun 19th, 2018

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You may notice some new additions to the Toronto sign in Nathan Phillip’s Square over the next few days and it’s all in honour of National Indigenous People’s Day on Thursday.

A vinyl wrap will cover the outside of the letters of the Toronto sign while a Medicine Wheel has been placed next to the sign’s ‘T.’

The medicine wheel is based on Indigenous cultural values, tradition and spirituality and the four directions symbolize completeness, wholeness, connectedness and strength. It will remain through the Canada Day weekend and will be brought back in early October for the Indian Residential School Survivors Legacy celebration on October 9.

In a statement, Chair of the Economic Development Committee Councillor Michael Thompson said the city is “proud to mark Indigenous presence, historical and contemporary, in Toronto.”

Work on the vinyl wrap is expected to begin on Tuesday. It will resemble birch bark with symbols of significance for Indigenous communities.

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The Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Affairs Advisory Committee Frances Sanderson commended the city for “honouring their commitment to the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people of this land by incorporating the healing of the Medicine Wheel in the iconic Toronto sign.”

The vinyl wrap will remain on until the fall.

This is just one of the ways Toronto is celebrating National Indigenous People’s Day. A free Indigenous Arts Festival is being held from June 21-24 at Fort York. It will showcase over 30 performances by Indigenous artists across a variety of mediums.

Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna intends to plead not guilty to assault: lawyer

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Jun 19th, 2018

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The lawyer for Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna says his client intends to plead not guilty to an assault charge.

Osuna, a 23-year-old closer originally from Mexico, was arrested last month.

His lawyer Domenic Basile says Osuna’s charge is related to an alleged domestic incident.

Basile appeared on his client’s behalf in a Toronto court today, and noted that the Crown has turned over a “substantive” amount of their evidence to him.

Basile says Major League Baseball has placed Osuna on paid administrative leave and is renewing it week by week.

He says the pitcher, who is out on bail, has spent much of his time since his arrest in Florida working out in preparation for his return to the Jays.

Osuna’s case is scheduled to return to court July 9

Man dies after allegedly being trapped in bed rail at nursing home

Cristina Howorun | posted Tuesday, Jun 19th, 2018

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Danny McNeill died alone, allegedly trapped in his bed rail, his 69-year-old body apparently fighting desperately to escape the very rails that were supposed to protect him. That’s how his son, Kevin, describes his father’s final minutes and death at the Maple Manor Long Term Care Home in Tillsonburg.

According to Health Canada there have been 25 reported incidents involving bed entrapment over the past two years, seven were fatal. Since 2008 Health Canada has issued several safety communications about the use of bed rails as restraints in hospitals and long term care homes — most recently in April 2017 — yet they are still used in most homes and hospitals.

“That’s why I’m here, to let people know that they’re being used. Our family members are using them and getting their heads trapped in them,” Kevin McNeill told CityNews. “I’m disgusted.”

“He got trapped between the bars of his bed rail and mattress. That was the call. They said he had died and that was pretty much it,” McNeill says, recalling the phone call he got from the home last Sunday.

McNeill doesn’t know why the restrains were in use. He says an alarm should’ve sounded when his father fell from the bed.

“If he was to fall off the bed or make a movement, the alarm would go off and notify the nursing station and buzz at the bed as well. In the case of falling, the alarm goes off,” he explains.

“The alarm should have been going off as soon as he probably left the area of the pad. He made it to the floor and got his head trapped for too long. That was the case. We really don’t know how long it took until that alarm was heard. I don’t know if they heard.”

In a statement, Maple Manor’s administrator Marlene Van Ham would only say: “We are deeply saddened by this incident. As this matter is presently under investigation we cannot comment on the specifics.”

Van Ham refused to tell CityNews if the home had set standardized response times for alarms, or if the alarm even sounded.

The home has been cited for safety violations involving both the use of restraints and bed rails in the past — including in 2016 when inspectors found that the “licencee (had) failed to ensure that no resident of the home was restrained by the use of a physical device.”

In 2015, the home was cited for failing to ensure that where bed rails were “used in the home (it) had taken steps to avoid patient entrapment” and later that year, 36 of 108 beds were identified as “failed” — in some cases because of a lack of mattress keepers or rails that required ongoing tightening.

Staff at the home told Ministry of Health inspectors that they had received no training on rail safety.

Van Ham refused to tell CityNews if staff had been trained on bed rail safety recently, both via email and when we visited her office in Tillsonburg.

When asked about this incident and the investigation, Ministry of Health spokesperson David Jensen told CityNews in an emailed statement: “The ministry is aware of the issue and is unable to comment on the specifics of this incidents, as per requirements under the Personal Health Information Act.”

McNeill is still very much grieving the loss of his father but says the practice of using bed rails has to be re-examined.

“Maybe they’ve got to change those rails and make sure we’re not using them as restraints, just using them for getting out of bed. i didn’t know what they were used for until I did some research myself. gotta let people know.”

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