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Mom, 4 kids, dead in fire in Big Trout Lake First Nation

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, May 3rd, 2019

A mother and four of her children were killed in a house fire on a northern Ontario First Nation on Thursday, leaving the remote community struggling to deal with the tragedy.

There was no immediate word on what caused the early morning fire on the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation, located about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ont.

Chief Donny Morris said every member of the community of roughly 1,000 was affected.

“We are in utter disbelief,” he said in a statement. “Today, our community mourns this tragic loss.”

Sam McKay, a spokesman for the chief and council, said the victims of the fire were a single mother and four of her children – aged six, seven, nine and 12.

The woman had another older daughter who was away when the blaze broke out, he said, adding that three of her children were adopted.

“Most everybody is in shock right now,” he said in a telephone interview from the community that is also known as Big Trout Lake. “It’s devastating.”

RoseAnne Archibald, Ontario Regional Chief of the Chiefs of Ontario, said others must act as the community grieves.

“As I continue to reflect on this tragic situation, it is with a sad heart that I realize that this preventable and unnecessary tragedy is affecting yet again another First Nation community,” she said in an statement.

“While we mourn now, we will be looking to seek solutions, with all parties to prevent any future unnecessary deaths of First Nations citizens due to fire.”

Archibald also said she had been in touch with Morris, who had asked community members not to post pictures of the fire or speculate on its cause on social media.

Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents a collection of Indigenous communities in northwestern Ontario, said a team of crisis and support workers will be sent to the community.

“Our prayers are with the victims, their families and the entire community during this difficult time,” Fiddler said in a statement.

Both federal and provincial politicians offered their condolences.

“I offer my support in this time of unbelievable grief,” MP Bob Nault said in a written statement. “In the coming days, I know community members will bring strength and support to each other as they work to overcome this tragedy.”

Provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath issued a joint statement with the community’s representative at Queen’s Park, Sol Mamakwa, saying they joined with the people of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug in their grief.

“Our thoughts and our hearts are with the surviving family members, their friends, and the community,” they said. “We hope they find solace and strength in community, and feel an outpouring of love from across the province.”

Women’s hockey stars lead walkout in bid for a stronger professional league

Donna Spencer | posted Friday, May 3rd, 2019

Unsatisfied with their options, over 200 women say they will not play in any North American hockey league until they get the league they want.

Players from both the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, which shut down Wednesday, and the U.S.-based NWHL have joined the walkout.

Hockey stars Marie-Philip Poulin, Kendall Coyne Schofield, Hilary Knight, Shannon Szabados, Amanda Kessel, Brianna Decker and Noora Raty were among those posting identical statements on social media Thursday declaring “we will not play in ANY professional leagues in North America this season until we get the resources that professional hockey demands and deserves.”

“It certainly is scary, but we do feel united,” forward Brianne Jenner told The Canadian Press.

“There’s over 200 players that are standing with us here. We really believe in why we’re doing this. We believe in our why so I think that takes a little bit of the fear out of it and makes us hopeful for the future.”

When the six-team CWHL announced March 24 it was folding, the five-team NWHL announced plans to expand to both Montreal and Toronto.

Players have shown a lack of faith in the NWHL, however, with their refusal to play in it.

“We don’t see it as a long-term viable league,” Jenner said. “We’ve spoken to a lot of the NWHL players, our American counterparts, there’s just not enough resources and support.”

The NWHL said in a statement that it “respects the wishes of all players to consider their options, and they know we are always available to meet, to participate in open communication addressing their concerns and exchanging ideas, and to collaborate with the players on one league.”

The league said it is continuing with its plans to launch its fifth season in October.

A week after Jenner’s Calgary Inferno hoisted the Clarkson Cup, the CWHL announced it was shutting down after 12 years because it was “economically unsustainable.”

The non-profit league has paid players between $2,000 and $10,000 the last two years in a 28-game regular season.

When the NWHL arrived in 2015, it announced a salary cap of $270,000 per team for an average of $15,000 per player.

But the league slashed salaries by up to half the following year as a cost-cutting measure. NWHL teams played 16 regular-season games in 2018-19.

“If you look at the league right now, the base salary is two thousand dollars,” Jenner said. “Especially those players who are non-national team players, they deserve better. They deserve to have the resources around them.

“My teammates on the Calgary Inferno, it wasn’t until this year they had access to a gym.

“That’s fleeting because it’s based on one sponsor agreeing to cover that. There’s so many things we want to see improved and we think this is our opportunity and our time to demand more.”

Players said in the statement, accompanied by the hashtag ForTheGame, they could not make a sustainable living in the current state of the professional game.

“Having no health insurance and making as low as two thousand dollars a season means players can’t adequately train and prepare to play at the highest level.”

The collective action comes two years after the U.S. women threatened to boycott the world championship in Plymouth, Mich., unless USA Hockey provided more financial and competitive supports.

With the support of 100 players in the national-team pool, the American women earned concessions from their federation and participated in the championship.

“There’s been so many pioneers in this game,” Jenner said. “That’s a big reason why we’re doing this now.

“We don’t want the next generation to have to be pioneers anymore. I want them to have a sustainable viable league that they can aspire to be a part of.”

Jenner said 10 players from the Canadian and U.S. national team met in Finland prior to the world championship in Espoo to strategize in the wake of the CWHL’s announcement.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has repeatedly stated that league isn’t interested in an ownership role in a women’s league while there were leagues already operating. He was also critical of the business models of both the CWHL and NWHL.

In an interview this week with The Associated Press, Bettman referred to the CWHL ceasing operations as something that “proved the point that we have genuine concerns about sustainable models.”

“What we’ve repeatedly said is if there turns out to be a void _ and we don’t wish that on anybody _ then we’ll look at the possibilities and we’ll study what might be appropriate,” Bettman added.

“But at the end of the day, we’re not looking to put anybody out of business. And if the NWHL can make a go of it, we wish them good luck.”

CWHL Players’ Association co-chair Liz Knox believes this is the time for the NHL to get involved.

“The NHL’s saying, ‘Until there’s a voice in women’s hockey we’re not going to step in,”’ Knox told The AP.

“Well, here’s a void. Here’s the players saying this is not enough. We’ve earned better than this. We’ve earned the respect we have, and we deserve what we’re asking for.”

Hockey and USA Hockey must also help develop a women’s league, Knox added.

“Take a look in the mirror, Hockey Canada and USA Hockey,” she said.

“I mean, these are your players who are winning you Olympic medals saying, ‘We’re just not getting enough right now.’ … I would certainly hope it’s a moment for them to self-reflect and say, ‘OK, where are our interests and where do we see it fitting in the future?”

Mississauga woman says she was attacked by pack of coyotes

Mark McAllister | posted Friday, May 3rd, 2019

A Mississauga woman says her daily dog walk turned into a frightening and dangerous encounter when she and her pet were attacked by a pack of coyotes.

Mary Smith tells CityNews six coyotes charged at her and her dog Cricket on the Etobicoke Creek Trail Tuesday night.

“Oh God Cricket, we’re in trouble. They’re coming,” she remembers thinking as she saw the coyotes dashing down a hill in her direction. “These guys saw us … they didn’t even hesitate, they ran right at us.”

Mary recalls the coyotes bit her pant legs as she tried desperately to fend them off by using a big stick and yelling herself hoarse. She says she even used pepper spray, but the animals did not relent.

Because she couldn’t manage to watch after Cricket while trying to save herself, Mary says she told the dog to run away.

“Three stayed with me and three followed her,” she says. “She looked back at me and I said, ‘No Cricket don’t stop, run’.”

Mary says Cricket managed to lose the pursuing coyotes by running in a zig-zag pattern and at one point jumping into the water nearby. She adds that a passerby also may have helped scare the coyotes away as she called out to the person for help.

“It’s not safe to come down here at all. You can’t walk here at night,” she says.

Mary adds she has heard of at least two other incidents where people were attacked by coyotes and wants the city to do more to keep people safe.

“When you phone and report it to Animal Services they turn around and say, ‘You have to remember they were here first’,” she says. “Well we’re here now, what are you going to do about it?”

Mary says there are signs warning people not to walk in the area when it is dark, but she says that defeats the purpose of the walking trails.

“Well, that’s why [the city] made it. For people to come down here and enjoy it and get away from the city life,” she says.

Instead she says there should be more signs warning people to walk at their own risk and what those risks are. She also suggests collaring and monitoring coyotes or trapping them and removing them from the area.

Jay Smith from Mississauga’s Animal Services says it is always concerning when they hear of incidents involving wildlife in the community and an investigation into this encounter is currently ongoing.

Smith adds that they try to be proactive with their communications and public education to avoid incidents with animals. In Mary’s case, Animal Services is taking her suggestion for better signage.

“When there is a reported increase in sightings in a particular area and incidents such as this … we will immediately partner with our parks department, who is in charge of placement of signs. In particular, in this case we do see an opportunity for additional signage.”

Encounters such as the one Mary had do not seem to be frequent, but Smith explains that at this time of year, coyotes tend to be in their breeding phase which makes them more defensive of their territory — especially if they are denning nearby.

“If dogs happen to be off leash, [the coyotes] might see that as an opportunity to try to take away any threat to their territory,” he says, adding that there is a potential for humans to be harmed, but it is “extremely rare” that Animal Services hears of anything that directly impacts an individual.

On their website, Toronto Animal Services provides the following coyote safety tips:

  • Always supervise pets – keep dogs on a leash and keep cats indoors or supervised when outside.
  • Avoid ravines and forests, especially in winter and at dawn and dusk.
  • Do not feed pets outdoors.
  • Do not feed coyotes.

Facebook bans ‘dangerous individuals’ cited for hate speech

Barbara Ortutay, The Associated Press | posted Friday, May 3rd, 2019

After years of pressure to crack down on hate and bigotry, Facebook has banned Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones and other extremists, saying they violated its ban on “dangerous individuals.”

The company also removed right-wing personalities Paul Nehlen, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson and Laura Loomer, along with Jones’ site, Infowars, which often posts conspiracy theories. The latest bans apply to both Facebook’s main service and to Instagram and extend to fan pages and other related accounts.

Decried as censorship by several of those who got the axe, the move signals a renewed effort by the social media giant to remove people and groups promoting objectionable material such as hate, racism and anti-Semitism.

Removing some of the best-known figures of the U.S. political extreme takes away an important virtual megaphone that Facebook has provided the likes of Jones, Yiannopoulos and others over the years. But it does not address what might be done with lesser known figures and those who stay on the margins of what Facebook’s policies allow.

Critics praised the move but said there is more to be done on both Facebook and Instagram.

“We know that there are still white supremacists and other extremist figures who are actively using both platforms to spread their hatred and bigotry,” said Keegan Hankes, senior research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups in the U.S.

Dipayan Ghosh, a former Facebook executive and an internet policy expert at Harvard, said the ban isn’t as big a step as Facebook appears to be painting it – it’s just enforcing its existing policy.

“There will always be more purveyors of hate speech that try to come on these platforms,” he said. “Will advocates have to push year after year just to get (a handful of) individuals off? At this rate it seems likely. And this doesn’t address the problem of what happens at the margins.”

Facebook has previously suspended Jones from its flagship service temporarily; this suspension is permanent and includes Instagram. Twitter has also banned Loomer, Jones and Yiannopoulos, though Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam long known for provocative comments widely considered anti-Semitic, still had an account Thursday. So did Watson, who rose to popularity as editor-at-large at Infowars and has nearly a million followers on the site.

Facebook said the newly banned accounts violated its policy against dangerous individuals and organizations. The company says it has always banned people or groups that proclaim a violent or hateful mission or are engaged in acts of hate or violence, regardless of political ideology.

It added that when it bans someone under this policy, the company said it also prohibits anyone else from praising or supporting them.

For years, social media companies have been under pressure from civil rights groups and other activists to clamp down on hate speech on their services. Following the deadly white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, South Carolina, in 2017, Google, Facebook and PayPal began banishing extremist groups and individuals who identified as or supported white supremacists.

A year later, widespread bans of Jones and Infowars reflected a more aggressive enforcement of policies against hate speech. But Facebook instituted only a 30-day suspension (though Twitter banned him permanently).

It is not clear what events led to Thursday’s announcement. In a statement, Facebook merely said, “The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.”

Last month, it extended its ban on hate speech to prohibit the promotion and support of white nationalism and white separatism. It had previously allowed such material even though it has long banned white supremacists.

Asked to comment on the bans, Yiannopoulos emailed only “You’re next.”

Jones reacted angrily Thursday during a live stream of his show on his Infowars website.

“They didn’t just ban me. They just defamed us. Why did Zuckerberg even do this?” Jones said, referring to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Jones called himself a victim of “racketeering” by “cartels.”

“There’s a new world now, man, where they’re banning everybody and then they tell Congress nobody is getting banned,” he said.

Watson, meanwhile, tweeted that he was not given a reason and that he “broke none of their rules.”

“Hopefully, other prominent conservatives will speak out about me being banned, knowing that they are next if we don’t pressure the Trump administration to take action,” he wrote.

Farrakhan, Nehlen and Loomer did not immediately return messages for comment.

Harvard’s Ghosh said kicking off individuals with big followings, such as Jones, goes against Facebook’s commercial interest.

“As soon as they kick Alex Jones or Laura Loomer off their platform, it immediately ticks of a huge number of people,” he said.

Church-Wellesley Village confrontation with street preacher leads to questions about police response time

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

A tense incident erupted at the intersection of Church and Wellesley streets on Tuesday after a street preacher who denounced homosexuality as sinful was confronted by angry members of the community.

Police tell CityNews they received a call at around 5:18 p.m. for a man causing a disturbance by yelling hateful messages. A second call was placed minutes later for an assault in progress.

By the time police arrived at around 5:47 p.m. the incident had cleared, but video showing parts of the heated confrontation was posted to Instagram.

Marianne Thea, who was walking home from work along Church Street, recorded two separate videos that she’s since posted to the social media site.

“I heard a lot of screaming and yelling…people throwing things. As I got closer it sounded like “gays are sinners” and swearing, and people defending themselves,” she explained. “It’s an aggressive attack on someone’s lifestyle and being.”

The first video Thea recorded shows several members of the community confronting the preacher, who was accompanied by another person.

“Back up, back up, back up,” the preacher can be heard telling one bearded man who stands within inches of him.

“God loves you and I love you,” the preacher says into a microphone as an agitated crowd surrounds him.

“Why the f**k are you even here with your s**t?” one person asks.

“Because you guys are sinners,” he responds, to audible shouts and laughter from bystanders.

A second video begins with the man’s podium, which reads Ministry of the WORD, toppled and his pamphlets scattered on the sidewalk.

A person appears to take a swat at him and yells “f**k you.”

“I still love you,” the preacher exclaims. “This is true love. Show me your love. You can hit me, you can throw stuff on me, you can destroy my stuff and I still love you.”

“You guys have all just made yourselves look terrible and millions of people are going to see this,” he adds before the video abruptly ends.

It’s not clear what transpired between the two videos but witness Jaymie Sampa says the community members took matters into their own hands after police failed to show up in a timely fashion.

Sampa, who is in charge of anti-violence initiatives for The 519 on Church Street — an organization dedicated to advocacy for the inclusion of LGBTQ communities — believes the preachers purposely incited violence.

“There was an obvious desire to incite a response, to incite violence and unsurprisingly the response from the community was exactly that,” she said. “It was like a growing and escalating mass of people who responded to being under attack and having their very existence called into question.”

“We as a queer and trans community…are not strangers to violence, we are not strangers to having to listen to unrelentingly hurtful and hateful things. And people responded. We are exceptionally resilient. So yes, people took action. People unplugged the microphone, people responded in ways that become physical.”

Toronto police tell CityNews an investigation is underway. So far no charges have been laid and no victims have come forward.

The Toronto police LGBTQ community liaison team acknowledged the incident on Twitter, saying that a team member had already reached out to community members and would be in the Church-Wellesley area on Thursday “to support those impacted.”

Pickering man to be sentenced in pregnant wife’s murder

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

A Pickering man convicted in the brutal murder of his pregnant wife is expected to be sentenced Thursday.

Arianna Goberdhan, 26, was 20 days short of her due date when she was murdered on April 7, 2017.

Her husband, Nicholas Baig, was initially charged with second-degree murder but that charge was later upgraded to first-degree.

He has since been convicted in his wife’s death, but under Canadian law, an unborn child cannot be considered a homicide victim.

After the sentencing, friends and family of Goberdhan are expected to hold a rally outside the courthouse in Durham Region to petition the Canadian government to change its legislation to reflect the death of unborn babies as a result of domestic violence.

Elderly woman struck and killed in Mississauga

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

A 75-year-old woman is dead after she was struck by a vehicle in Mississauga.

The incident happened just after 5 p.m. at the intersection of Sorrento Drive and Elia Avenue, near Eglinton Avenue and Hurontario Street.

Police say the woman, who has been identified as Rafaela Piedrasanta, of Mississauga, was walking from the south side of Elia Avenue to the north side of Elia Avenue at Sorrento Drive when she was struck by a white truck that was turning right.

Paramedics say the woman was transported to hospital without vital signs, where she died of her injuries.

Police say the vehicle failed to remain on the scene of the accident.

Through video surveillance in the area, they have identified the vehicle as a white 2018 Ford pick-up truck with four doors and a white Leer cap on the box. The vehicle licence plate is AV27643.

Police say this is the fourth fail-to-remain collision of 2019.

2 dead after stabbing in Brampton, SIU called in

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

A man and a woman are dead after a stabbing at a home in Brampton late Wednesday night.

Peel police were called to Quarry Edge Drive near Main Street and Bovaird Drive East just before 11:30 p.m.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) was called to the scene just before 5 a.m. Thursday.

The SIU said police were called to the home for a domestic incident. When police arrived, they found a man with stab wounds in the bathroom. He was arrested but was pronounced dead at the scene just after midnight.

A woman, who was also in the home, suffered serious injuries and died in hospital.

The SIU said a child was also injured. Sources told CityNews a young boy was taken to hospital with stab wounds but is expected to survive.

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