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Ultrasound technician charged with sexual assault

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Mar 28th, 2018

Toronto police say a sonographer is facing charges of sexual assault after an alleged incident with a patient in November.

Police say the technician was conducting an ultrasound examination on a 48-year-old woman on Nov. 21 when he allegedly sexually assaulted her.

The alleged incident happened at BSA Diagnostics on 4002 Sheppard Avenue East.

Yury Romanov, 69, of Toronto is facing one charge of sexual assault.

Police believe there may be other alleged victims.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police or Crime Stoppers.

Tim Hortons to redesign stores across Canada

Richard Southern | posted Wednesday, Mar 28th, 2018

Tim Hortons plans to spend $700 million to renovate most of its Canadian locations as it looks to turn around slumping sales.

The franchise says that over the next four years the restaurant exterior will be designed to have a more natural and lighter look.  Inside, restaurants will be decorated with artwork that highlights Tim Hortons’ history, including a commissioned portrait of Tim Horton, a mosaic of iconic brand images and a photo wall that features Tim Hortons’ coffee-sourcing process.

The seating will be more open concept and all the tables will be made of Canadian maple wood. The company is also adding more electrical plugs, hoping diners will stay longer if they can plug in and keep devices charged.

However, the problem for Tim Hortons’ owner Restaurant Brands International may be getting the franchise owners on board with the plan. Franchise owners will be expected to split the cost of the renovation with the parent company. However, last March, 70 per cent of Tim Hortons restaurant owners in Canada formed the Great White North Franchisee Association to represent them in their fight against the head office — whose management style they say is hurting the brand.

680 NEWS Business Editor Richard Southern spoke to Alex Macedo, President Tim Hortons, about what the restaurant owners thought about the plan.

“So far the support from the franchisees has been very good. We shared with them the plan to renovate the restaurant just last week and we already have had several sign-ups,” said Macedo.

He added that the company is working on a plan to deal with customer service and long lineups, but stopped short of confirming whether Tim Hortons would be installing self-order kiosks.

“We’re taking a look at self-order kiosks, but its a bit early in the process to share anything right now,” Macedo said.

Metrolinx says plans underway to quadruple weekly GO train trips, build new stations

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Mar 27th, 2018

Metrolinx says planning is underway to quadruple weekly GO train trips and begin servicing new parts of the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area.

Ontario Transportation Minister Kathryn McGarry was at Union Station on Monday to announce the next phase of work to expand the GO Regional Express Rail System (RER).

McGarry said riders can expect more all-day, two way GO train services, as Metrolinx begins the process of designing and ultimately building six new GO stations, and six new City of Toronto Smart-Track stations.

Over 20 existing GO stations will also undergo renovations, as well as new bus loops and digital signage.

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“Work is well underway to build a better, integrated and seamless transit network across the GTHA,” McGarry said in a release.

“Today’s announcement is a major milestone in the delivery of all-day two-way electrified train service, more station stops and more service to get commuters where they need to be sooner.”

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Give a record, take a record: getting into the groove of swapping vinyl

Brandon Rowe and Victoria Revay | posted Tuesday, Mar 27th, 2018

An east-end neighbourhood is taking the love of vintage to a new level, thanks to an avid vinyl fan.

Matt Durant says he started the “Vinyl Swap Box” — a place where anyone can take or leave a record — as a community outreach project, because he wants to build his Leslieville community, and also help people expand their musical horizons.

Durant says the idea was born out of his love of vinyl and fueled by a collection inherited from his father after he passed away. He also wants to keep the momentum of the vinyl revival going.

According to Neilsen Canada, 2017 vinyl sales in Canada were up 22% over the previous year. That’s  804,000 vinyl records sold.

The rules of the Vinyl Swap Box are simple — there are no rules. Vinyl enthusiasts can take or leave a record as they please.

Durant says he’s also hoping local artists will submit their work so that people can hear it.

The box is located outside of Durant’s studio at 1401 Queen Street East.

Panhandlers calling themselves refugees appear on GTA streets

Adrian Ghobrial | posted Tuesday, Mar 27th, 2018

Two women wearing head coverings panhandle on the side of the highway. Another woman with a headscarf asks for spare change from passersby on a downtown street. Still another begs at the crossroads at the heart of Toronto, Dundas Square.

It is how these women are appealing for money that sets them apart from the many others trying to survive on Toronto’s streets: they say they are refugees.

It’s a claim that pulls on the heartstrings of many Canadians, especially those who have opened their homes and communities to Syrian refugees. More than 50,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since 2015. They are among the thousands of refugees from across the globe who come to this country every year.

Passersby who saw the women asking for help wanted to know: What brought them to our streets, and have some refugees slipped through the city’s social safety net? We hit the road in search of answers and understanding, and we spoke to several woman who described themselves as refugees panhandling across the GTA.

We first spoke with one woman outside of the old Maple Leaf Gardens at Carlton and Church streets. She said she was Bosnian, has three kids and had been here three months. Two women panhandling in Ajax told us they were Bosnian, though one first told us she was Syrian.

Then we spoke with two other women panhandling along Lakeshore Road, near Etobicoke. They too held signs saying they had three children, they too claimed to be here for three months, though they said they were from Romania.

One day of searching. Five women, all with similar stories. Three claiming they were Bosnian, two from Romania.

The next day, we revisited the first woman we spoke to outside of the Gardens. This time, when I asked where she was from, she admitted she was from Romania. I asked if she was Roma, she nodded her head and said, “Yes. Roma, Gypsy.”

A few minutes later we discovered yet another woman at the intersection of Yonge and Dundas. Her English, like everyone we spoke with, was broken, but she too confirmed she was from Romania and that she was Roma.

CityNews could not independently confirm each woman’s nationality. However, Citizenship and Immigration Canada confirms that in all of 2017, country-wide, there were only two asylum claims from Bosnia, and only one was accepted.

A possible reason for the nationality confusion is that these women identify as Roma – a stateless ethnic group that faces discrimination across much of central, eastern and southeastern Europe.

We showed video of our interactions with the women to Paul St. Clair, an immigration counsellor with Culture Link. St. Clair has helped more than 1,000 Roma secure refugee status in Canada over the last 20 years. He believes the women are indeed Roma.

Before anyone passes judgement on these women, who may or may not have chosen to share their true identities, St. Clair believes it’s vital to understand the lives many Roma are fleeing in Europe.

“They are considered a plague, they are considered dirt, they are considered not even human,” says St. Clair.

He says that in Romania, Roma aren’t let into state schools, or are made to attend segregated ones. They aren’t hired for jobs, even if they’re qualified, they’re also refused healthcare and live in substandard conditions, “and in some cases have had their homes burned down by racists.”

A largely nomadic people, the Romani, or Roma, have roots that can be traced back to India and Pakistan. Romanian census information indicates that about 500,000 Roma call Romania home, though that number is believed to be much higher – into the millions.

It is possible that the women we spoke to have been in the GTA for three months, as they say. In December, the federal government announced that citizens of Romania no longer need a visa to come to Canada for stays of up to six months. St. Clair believes that the women we spoke with could have come in under the new policy. He says some may be falling back on what they had to do to survive back home.

“That’s what everyone does when they are new in Canada, they try and rely on what they know and what they did before,” he explains. “So it can take a while for them to get use to Canadian conditions.”

Since 2015, the government has approved about 70 per cent of Roma refugee claimants in Ontario, estimates Ibrahim Absiye, executive director of Culture Link. The organization is the first stop for many immigrants and refugees who arrive in Toronto. That figure is up from a 20 to 30 per cent acceptance rate as recently as 2013. He says that’s a good thing.

Absiye and his staff say many Roma refugees who go through the centre are eager to find work. Some have found work in construction, truck driving and agriculture, though Absiye says it’s mostly men who are employed. As for women, one panhandler we spoke to, who said her name is Anna, told us she’s staying in a shelter – a common situation for many Toronto refugees.

Last year, nearly 900 refugee claimants from a variety of countries used the city’s emergency shelter beds on an average night. This year that number has increased to an average of almost 2,000 refugee claimants a night – that’s 33 per cent of the entire shelter population.

We spoke to a worker in the city’s family shelter program who told us anecdotally that the system has recently taken in more Roma people, but that it doesn’t presently appear to be a dramatic increase.

Toronto police say they haven’t received any formal complaints about any of the panhandlers, nor do police have any information indicating that the women are involved in an organized network.

As for the future of those who have appeared on Toronto’s doorstep, immigrant counsellors say they’re now preparing to mobilize, to hit the streets and help in any way they can.

And the story doesn’t end here — on Tuesday, CityNews will have the story of one Roma panhandler, her struggles, and hope for the future.

‘Die-in’ held outside City Hall ahead of Yonge Street vote

Nitish Bissonauth | posted Tuesday, Mar 27th, 2018

Dozens of demonstrators lay on the ground at the doorsteps of City Hall for a ‘die-in’ on Monday evening.

Pedestrians and cyclists who participated say it was a vigil for those who have died on our streets, struck down by motorists. Some of those who attended have been affected firsthand.

“I hope this dramatic sight of all of these bodies on the ground will drive home the fact that people die. These are real people, they have families, they are loved, they should still be with us. It was senseless that they died, it was completely preventable. We need to create safer streets” said Jessica Spieker, a volunteer with Friends and Families for Safe Streets, an organization made up of people who have had similar ordeals.

The demonstration was held on the eve of a crucial vote that will decide how a major stretch of Yonge Street in North York will be re-vamped, a stretch of road which hasn’t been upgraded since 1975.

The organization was hoping to send a message to Mayor John Tory that the road has become far too dangerous for some.

“It’s very scary biking there,” says cyclist Jonathan Farrell. “Cars go very fast, doors are always opening, it’s a very busy street.”

One plan includes dedicated bike lanes, and enhanced pedestrian crossing and – controversially – cutting Yonge Street from 6 lanes of traffic to 4, north of Sheppard.

An alternative measure includes having the dedicated bike lanes on Beecroft Road, a side street that is one block west of Yonge St, something the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee has supported.

The mayor has been clear that he also supports the latter.

In an email statement to CityNews, Tory’s office says, “The Mayor believes bike lanes running on neighbouring streets along with public realm improvements to Yonge would be a win-win for the area that wouldn’t increase congestion.”

But not everyone agrees.

“As far as public safety goes, we need wider boulevards and you can’t do that unless you remove lanes of traffic on Yonge Street,” says Ward 23 Councillor John Filion.

According to Ken Greenberg, an Urban Design Expert with Greenberg Consultants Inc., this decision could be a defining moment for Toronto, choosing to follow other cities around the world in becoming more safe and friendly for cyclists and pedestrians

“I think this plan is a once in a generation opportunity to build Yonge street for the 21st century, not the 1960’s where we give priorities to motor vehicles.”

It’s been a deadly year on the road so far for Toronto’s pedestrians – as of mid-March, 11 people have died.

That’s four more than the seven fatalities the same time last year.

Jessica Spieker is lucky – she is just one of the many pedestrians and cyclists who have narrowly escaped death on the roads.

“A careless driver managed to not see me during a left hand turn,” she recalls, “She T-boned me and in the crash my spine was broken, I sustained a brain injury and the left side of my body was badly injured.”

Dr. Samantha Green, a family practitioner, says these injuries are all too familiar and adds shes seen too many patients get struck and killed this year.

“People can’t protect themselves just by wearing a helmet and pedestrians can’t protect themselves just by walking slower, what we need is better infrastructure.”

City council is expected to vote on which plan to adopt on Tuesday.

Liberals promise to boost funding for special needs education

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Mar 27th, 2018

Ontario’s Liberal government is promising to spend more than $300 million over three years to improve supports for children with special needs and hire more teachers, a pledge that comes just months ahead of the spring election.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said Monday that the money will be spent to eliminate the wait list to have children with special needs assessed, and to hire 2,000 new teachers and education workers.

The additional staff will include educational assistants for students with exceptionally high needs and specialists such as social workers and speech pathologists.

“We recognize that there are needs that people are confronting; that teachers are confronting; that parents are confronting; that communities are confronting; that parents of children with mental health needs are confronting, and we are responding to those needs,” Wynne said, defending the new spending.

The announcement comes just days before the Liberals present their final budget ahead of the June election.

Wynne has made several major funding promises over the last week, vowing to expand the government’s free pharmacare program to cover seniors and to spend $2.1 billion over the next four years to rebuild Ontario’s mental health system, which includes funding for 180 mental health workers in schools.

Education Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris said the province is also promising to spend $140 million over three years to hire guidance counsellors.

“Our investment ensures that every student has the support they need to succeed in the classroom, in their communities and in the world,” she said.

Progressive Conservative legislator Todd Smith questioned the timing of the announcement, noting that the provincial election is less than three months away.

“Clearly, what they’re trying to do is make up for 15 years that our school system hasn’t been paid proper attention to,” he said. “Clearly, there needs to be a change to the way we fund our schools, particularly rural schools and special education programs.”

Ontario’s spring election will be held on June 7.

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