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TDSB, other GTA school boards to close doors if CUPE goes on strike

DILSHAD BURMAN AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Oct 4th, 2019

The Toronto District School Board and several other GTA school boards have announced closures in the event of a strike by school support workers.

If a new deal cannot be reached between the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the provincial government, thousands of workers will walk off the job starting Monday, Oct. 7.

The Toronto District School Board says all schools will be closed for the duration of the strike.

TDSB Director of Education, John Malloy made the announcement Thursday afternoon.

“Our CUPE workers cover many, many different aspects to our board services and we felt that we required this decision in order for our students to be safe,” he said.

Malloy said the decision was based on the board’s inability to ensure student safety in the absence of support staff.

“We understand that this is very challenging for our families, we get the frustration and anger this may cause, and we certainly empathize, but at the end of the day safety is paramount and we could not ensure that for all students,” he added.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board says it will also close its schools to “ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.” The board says third-party child care operators located in TCDSB schools will be permitted to remain open, however, operating hours will be adjusted to 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

The Peel District School Board also cited safety concerns saying “student safety cannot be ensured during a CUPE strike” and have asked parents not to send their children to school starting Monday next week in case of a strike.

York Region District School Board, York Catholic District School Board and Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board will also be closing.

The Halton District School Board says it intends to be open on Monday and the Halton Catholic School Board says they have not made a decision yet.

Durham District School Board says they will make a decision about closures on Friday.

CUPE members began a work-to-rule campaign on Sept. 30 after talks with the province broke down the previous day.

On Wednesday, Laura Walton, President of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions announced at Queens Park that full strike action would go into effect if a fair deal was not reached.

The province and the union are expected to return to the bargaining table Friday.

CUPE represents 55,000 school support workers including education assistants, custodial staff, clerical workers and early childhood educators.

Contracts for Ontario’s public school teachers and education workers expired Aug. 31, and the major unions are in various stages of bargaining.

The talks were prompted by the province’s order for school boards to start increasing class sizes. The Tory government has said that will mean 3,475 fewer teachers in the system over four years, which will be accomplished by not filling vacancies when teachers quit or retire.

Walton has said those cuts will trickle down and impact educational assistant supports and custodial services as well.

A list of provincial school boards and their status should CUPE workers go on strike:

Closed on Monday

Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board
Ottawa Catholic School Board
Peel District School Board
Toronto District School Board
Toronto Catholic District School Board
Waterloo Catholic District School Board
Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board
York Region District School Board
York Catholic District School Board

Open on Monday

Greater Essex County District School Board
Halton District School Board
Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board
Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (not affected by CUPE strike)

Undecided

Durham District School Board (decision coming Friday)
Halton Catholic District School Board
Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is a dual-citizen, in process of renouncing U.S. citizenship

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Oct 4th, 2019

The Director of Communications for Andrew Scheer’s campaign has confirmed media reports that the Conservative Leader is a dual citizen, but says he’s in the process of having his U.S. citizenship renounced.

Brock Harrison told 680 NEWS one of Scheer’s parents was born “in another country and immigrated to Canada to start a family.”

The Globe and Mail first reported Thursday that the Tory leader’s father was born in the U.S. and therefore Scheer and his sisters received American citizenship as a result.

“He and his sisters received United States passports as children and Mr. Scheer has not renewed his as an adult,” Harrison said.

Harrison added that Scheer has not voted in a United States election.

The party says once Scheer became Conservative leader back in 2017 he decided to renounce his American citizenship before the election. In August, he submitted his paperwork and is currently waiting for confirmation from the embassy that he is no longer a dual-citizen.

Members of Parliament are allowed to hold dual citizenship and the United States has no rules preventing one of its citizens from leading a foreign nation.

“I made the decision after I became leader of the party to do this,” Scheer told reporters after addressing a rally of a few hundred people in Bedford, N.S.

“I was focused on other things. I was rebuilding the party, getting ready for the election, working on the platform. It was always my intention to do it before the election.”

But when Conservatives attacked former NDP leader Tom Mulcair and former Liberal leader Stephane Dion over their dual citizenship with France, Scheer said nothing. Mulcair acquired citizenship through his French-born wife and Dion through his French-born mother.

In 2015, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated he is a Canadian and only a Canadian.

“No one has ever asked me before about it,” Scheer responded to questions about whether he thought his actions were hypocritical. “Like millions of Canadians, one of my parents was born in another country.”

As an MP in 2005, Scheer published a blog post about Michaelle Jean, a few weeks before she was sworn in as Governor General, asking his constituents how they felt about her dual citizenship.

“Does it bother you that she is a dual citizen (France and Canada)? Would it bother you if instead of French citizenship, she held U.S. citizenship?” he wrote, without mentioning his own double citizenship status.

Liberal party spokeswoman Zita Astravas said in a statement, “Andrew Scheer has been fundamentally dishonest with Canadians about who he is.”

“Scheer’s hidden his core personal positions, he hid facts about his career and education,” she said, referring to the fact Scheer’s biography on his party’s website states he was once an insurance broker in Saskatchewan when he was never fully licensed.

“And now he’s been caught hiding his American citizenship even while ridiculing others for holding dual citizenship.”

Canadians head to the polls on Oct. 21.

With files from The Canadian Press

Arrests made after petty crime escalates to homicide in Brampton

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Oct 4th, 2019

Peel Regional Police say they have made several arrests in connection with a petty crime that snowballed into a murder in Brampton earlier this year.

Back on August 2, police say up to five males were committing minor property offences, including thefts from vehicles, on Lanebrook Drive near Castlemore Road and Goreway Drive.

At around 2 a.m. two men, a father and his son who live in the area confronted the suspects.

Glensbert Oliver, 63, was stabbed and died at the scene while his 40-year-old son was hospitalized with stab wounds.

Police are expected to update the investigation Friday morning.

At the time, police urged the suspects to contact lawyers and turn themselves in, calling the incident “senseless” and “tragic.”

“This was people just trying to stop a minor property offence that escalated to the point of becoming a homicide,” said Acting Superintendent Martin Ottaway. “I don’t think they set out … to become involved in a homicide.”

#CityVote2019: public safety, gun violence an urgent concern

DILSHAD BURMAN | posted Friday, Oct 4th, 2019

As communities are left reeling amid rising incidents of violence and loss of life, public safety and gun violence is an urgent concern among GTA voters as they head to the polls in the upcoming federal election.

In 2018, Toronto experienced one of its most violent years on record, with 428 shootings leading to 51 deaths of a total of 81 homicides counted at year’s end.

This year, so far there have been 342 shootings, contributing 29 deaths to a total of 54 homicides to date.

What the federal parties are promising

Proposals for prison or criminal code reform and stricter gun control measures are among party promises.

The Liberals have vowed to ban military-style assault rifles and to give individual municipalities the authority to ban hand guns in their communities. They have also committed to giving $250 million over five years directly to cities to help develop “on the ground” solutions to gang violence.

The NDP is focusing on ensuring funding for youth programs that will keep young people away from gangs and will create a $100 million fund dedicated to such programs.

Toronto Mayor John Tory says he was pleased to see the Liberals and NDP committing funds for community investment in their respective platforms.

“I’m heartened that at least two of the major parties have this in their platform and would intend to proceed with commitments to invest in the community. And they’ve indicated that that money would come, as much as it can, directly to municipalities, which is where we’re delivering those things on the ground, to help kids and families and neighbourhoods,” he said.

The Green party is highlighting prison reform in their platform, promising to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, end solitary confinement and re-invest in rehabilitation of prisoners. They’re also looking launch an anonymous national gun buyback program for handguns and assault weapons.

The Conservatives have not announced an official platform position on the issue but during the last Parliamentary session, PC Leader Andrew Scheer proposed creating new offenses with mandatory minimum sentences specifically for committing and ordering violent gang crimes and ending bail for repeat gang offenders.

Tory commended Scheer for addressing bail laws but added that if the Conservatives focused only on things like tougher sentences and criminal code reform, it would be a “substantial missed opportunity for any one of the major parties to not provide for an increased amount of money for community investments.”

“I think those investments are vital, I’ve always said so, as part of the trifecta, which is: supporting the police, changing the laws — including the gun laws, and investing in neighbourhoods. So I think it would be a significant omission for any party not to provide for that in their platform,” he said.

What the Toronto police is doing

Toronto police chief Mark Saunders said this week that a police initiative called Project Community Space Project Community Space has been effective in curbing shootings.

The 11-week program, is aimed at stemming a surge in gun and gang violence in the GTA.

Under the program, police are monitoring bail compliance, engaging with communities and increasing police presence and visibility in areas associated with street gangs and gun violence. The program was funded with $4.5 million given to police by all three levels of government.

Six weeks into the program at the end of September, Police Chief Mark Saunders said officers arrested 240 people and laid 525 charges.

Thirty-five per cent of those arrests were for firearm offences and 12 people who were free on bail for firearm offences were re-arrested.

Saunders said at the midpoint of the project, there was a 30 per cent decrease in shooting events as compared to six weeks prior to its start and emphasized the positive results of officers being on the ground and in the communities.

“This enhancement has allowed our officers to be where communities need us most,” Saunders said on Monday. “The increased visibility of officers, in their patrol cars and on foot in areas where street gangs are prevalent has been effective as a deterrent.”

However, since the program began around August 15, there have been 71 shootings in Toronto. During the same six-week period last year — when the project wasn’t up and running — there were 56 shootings.

What the city is doing

The City Of Toronto runs 160 community and recreation centres offering a wide variety of programming. About 38 of them offer free programming to all.

Thirty-six centres offer youth spaces, with programming specifically aimed at young people including leadership development and employment. Ten of those are “enhanced youth spaces” which have various facilities like recording studios, photography labs and study spaces and they offer WiFi, TV, gaming consoles, computers and other recreational activities. They also have free programs including photography, hairstyling, yoga, nail art, DJing and music recording.

However, Sharon Butler, Manager, Community Recreation for Parks, Forestry and Recreation says it is the city’s 31 youth outreach workers that do the most impactful, on-the-ground work.

“They offer the opportunity to connect, engage with youth as well as referring them and connecting them to other city services and important community services as well,” she says.

Butler says they also run specific workshops and specialty events based on feedback they receive from kids in various neighbourhoods about what would engage them the most.

Along with programming, Butler says the community centres offer a safe space for youth who may need a break from their home, school or neighbourhood.

“There are things that happen in the community. But youth know that they can come through those doors and leave some things behind, maybe some baggage or some problems they’re having,” she says adding that they hear through evaluations that the centres are a “home away from home.”

“Our doors are open to help anyone that requires that help,” she says.

What the community needs

Community activists say that the issue must be tackled at the grassroots level — much like the police is doing — but not just from an enforcement standpoint.

Marcell Wilson, a former gang member who now works to keep youth away from gangs and rehabilitate former gang-involved individuals, says the police is taking the right approach and that he is “hopeful.”

“We had some good interactions with the city, with Toronto Community Housing and with Toronto Police Services showing a great interest in tackling the root cause of issues and really getting into the meat of these problems,” says Wilson, co-founder of the non-profit organization One By One.

In the riding of Eglinton-Lawrence there have been 26 shootings with 42 victims injured this year.

The community of Lawrence Heights within the riding has been dealing with a spate of gun violence in recent months.

“People that come from communities like this feel like they have no voice. They feel like they have no chance, no real shot at making a difference,” says Wilson. “I think if you go to the seed — the actual seed that the roots sprout from would be marginalization and poverty.”

Wilson says while getting guns off the street is one way to approach the problem, a more effective strategy would be to conquer the demand for guns.

“From my life experience and my lived experience, for me what helped was community programs and community outreach,” says Wilson. “It’s not that we’re underserved. These communities are poorly served. We need to lead them and help them understand that there are some resources out there — it’s just that they don’t know about them. They have no clue that they exist,” he says, adding that One by One also acts as a liaison between the community and available resources.

Melissa Hood who used to live outside the riding in another marginalized neighbourhood echoes Wilson’s call for community outreach.

“You look at why people are doing what they are doing — and its like there’s nobody to help elevate and empower them,” she says. “If they had resources and tools to empower them, people would not be conditioned and want to stay in housing. People would want to evolve and make themselves better and be determined to become something more in life.”

Hood says a majority of those who grew up in the neighbourhood and are involved in criminal or gang activity went down that route due to severe a lack of programming. She adds that a continued lack of access to community resources sets up a repetitive, “generational cycle” of people who get sucked into the lifestyle.

“When I lived here there was no programming. If we had programming like basketball, safe zones where we’re able to go and get acquainted with taking trips … seeing what Toronto’s about …if we had another outlet for these youths we would have a better [outcome],” she says.

Hood says the government should channel funding toward local, grass root causes within communities to help “rewire” how people think about themselves, their potential and their circumstances.

“We need to start focusing on — how are we going to start changing the narrative in these marginalized communities? We don’t have hope here. And we need hope.”

Liberal candidate for Eglinton-Lawrence Marco Mendicino agrees with both Wilson and Hood, saying investment in community-led programming is essential.

“[These programs] will help prevent these crimes from occurring in the first place and that means looking at some of the root causes like homelessness and poverty and mental health,” he says, adding that community-led organizations will ensure that residents “voices are heard on what they need.”

The Eglinton-Lawrence riding is largely considered a two party race between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

The conservative candidate for the riding, Chani Aryeh-Bain,  declined CityNews’ request for an interview.

Man in stable condition after shooting near Kipling and Finch

News Staff | posted Thursday, Oct 3rd, 2019

A 31-year-old man is recovering in hospital after he was shot outside of an apartment complex in the city’s west end.

Police were called to the area of Kipling Avenue and Mount Olive Drive, north of Finch Avenue West, around 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Police said the victim was approached by two men wearing black hoodies, and one of them started shooting.

The victim was taken to hospital with serious injuries, but his condition has since been stabilized.

The man’s girlfriend was with him at the time but was not injured.

The suspects are still at-large but no descriptions have been released yet.

Former Vaughan mayor Di Biase facing corruption charge

News Staff | posted Thursday, Oct 3rd, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The former mayor of Vaughan is facing breach of trust and corruption charges following an investigation into allegations of municipal corruption.

Ontario Provincial Police say an investigation began in April 2015 following a request for assistance from York Regional Police after the Integrity Commissioner for the City of Vaughan had received a complaint from a private citizen involving allegations of corruption by then municipal councillor Michael Di Biase.

The OPP have now charged Di Biase with one count each of Breach of Trust and Municipal Corruption. He is scheduled to appear in a Newmarket court at the end of the month.

“The OPP will not comment further in order to protect the integrity of the investigation and any ensuing court processes,” the force said in a statement Wednesday night.

Di Biase was elected mayor of Vaughan in 2003 but failed to win re-election three years later. He returned to city hall as a regional councillor in 2010.

In 2015, the Integrity Commissioner recommended Di Biase’s salary be suspended for three months, the stiffest penalty allowed, after a number of code of conduct violations.

In May 2017, Di Biase resigned as councillor and deputy mayor following allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment made by a city staffer.

Four federal party leaders square off in feisty French language debate

The Canadian Press and News Staff | posted Thursday, Oct 3rd, 2019

The separation of church and state – as well as questions about personal character – took the stage during the first French-language debate of the election campaign, the first time Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau faced off against his political rivals.

The controversial Quebec secularism law, known as Bill 21, that bans some public-sector employees from wearing religious symbols in the workplace, featured prominently in the first section of the debate, along with abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

Bill 21 is overwhelmingly popular among francophones in Quebec, where four federal leaders tried to make their marks with voters on Wednesday night, in a debate hosted by the private TVA television network and the Montreal newspaper Le Journal.

Conservative Andrew Scheer, New Democrat Jagmeet Singh and Yves-Francois Blanchet of the Bloc Quebecois joined Trudeau on stage as they appealed to voters in a province that could hold the key to their electoral fortunes in the Oct. 21 vote.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault has urged all federal party leaders to promise to stay out of the court challenges against the secularism law and none of the party leaders has called for immediate intervention in existing cases.

Only Trudeau has said a government he leads might seek to intervene and he defended that position Wednesday night.

“I do not want to close the door,” Trudeau said, to the federal government one day needing to defend the rights of Canadians.

“Because for me, the defence of rights, be they for women, for francophones outside of Quebec – the federal government has a role to play.”

Singh, who wears a turban as an expression of his Sikh faith, has said he would not intervene to challenge the law, despite opposing it.

Singh sought to counter any suggestion that his personal religion would get in the way of his strong support for secularism as a public value.

“I am for the separation between church and state,” said Singh, adding that he supports the rights of women to abortion, same-sex marriage and medical assistance in dying.

“I will defend these rights with all my strength,” he said.

Scheer said he would not impose a secularism law federally, but that he would also not intervene in the court challenges against it.

The debate became heated during a discussion about the fight against climate change, where Pierre Bruneau, the news anchor moderating the debate, noted Trudeau had portrayed himself as a champion of the environment but then bought a pipeline.

Last year, the Liberal government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline project from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion, after political opposition to expanding the existing pipeline between Alberta and the B.C. coast gave the company and its investors cold feet.

Trudeau argued that Canada needs time to transition away from fossil fuels and into a greener economy and said the proceeds from the pipeline will help pay for the changes needed to get there.

Scheer, who is in favour of building pipelines and has vowed to repeal the federal carbon tax the Liberals brought in for provinces that don’t have equivalent measures of their own, tried to undercut the Trudeau record on the environment in a different way, by noting the Liberal leader has two campaign planes.

“You are a fake environmentalist,” said Scheer.

Singh, meanwhile, took Scheer to task over his promise to create a national energy corridor to transport oil, gas, hydroelectricity and telecommunications from one coast to the other, which could be a tough sell in Quebec.

TransCanada Corporation had proposed the $15.7-billion Energy East pipeline to bring western crude through Quebec to New Brunswick before being shipped overseas, but the company abandoned the project more than a year ago citing market changes and government red tape.

The project faced a lot of opposition in Quebec and Legault has suggested that would be the case for any other proposed pipeline.

Singh accused Scheer of wanting to impose a pipeline on Quebec. Blanchet also went after Scheer by demanding to know how many more years he thinks Canada will need to extract and export fossil fuels.

Earlier, Scheer was put on the defensive as he was pressed by all his political rivals to elaborate on his personal views about abortion.

“Quebecers can be confident that a Conservative government would not reopen this debate,” Scheer said in one of the debate’s first exchanges, with Blanchet.

Scheer was pushed to clarify his stance on abortion this summer after it emerged that his Quebec lieutenant, Alain Rayes, had told candidates in the province that backbench MPs would not be allowed to bring forward any bills or motions on the issue.

That goes against party policy and created confusion until Scheer, a practising Catholic who has voted in favour of restricting abortion rights in the past, said he would oppose any attempt to reopen the debate should he become prime minister.

Scheer repeated that position on stage again Wednesday night, but his political rivals pressed him to go further.

That included Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who asked him directly whether he personally believes women should have the right to abortion.

“I have always been open about my personal views,” Scheer said.

None of the federal parties have seen much movement – either gains or losses – in opinion polls despite weeks of campaigning, which some experts attribute variously to a degree of comfort with the status quo as well as a rise in public disillusionment and strategic voting.

The Liberals and Conservatives remain locked in a fight for first place, hovering around 33 per cent support nationally, but with the Liberals apparently having a small edge because so much Conservative support is concentrated in the Prairie provinces.

A strong Liberal showing in Quebec, where polls show them with a small but consequential lead, could sustain the Liberals in power; a strong Conservative showing could sink them.

Trudeau was able to ride a wave of unhappiness with a decade of Conservative rule under Stephen Harper to power in 2015 in an election campaign that saw the NDP start in the lead before giving way to the Tories, until voters rallied behind the Liberals to give them the win.

Four years later, Trudeau’s record in office – including his broken promise on electoral reform and decision to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline – has turned off many of those same voters, especially progressives, who cast their ballots for the Liberals.

Despite that disappointment with Trudeau, Christian Bourque, executive vice-president of polling firm Leger, said there does not seem to be the same overwhelming drive for change that existed in 2015, when a majority of Canadians were ready for a new direction.

“So there’s this sort of comfort with the current government, even though some may be disappointed with the leader,” Bourque said. “So there’s no urge for that amount of change. And at the same time, there’s nobody convincing them of the need for change on the other side.”

Of course, even though it is past the halfway mark, the election campaign is far from over and Wednesday’s French-language debate was seen as an key opportunity for the four participating leaders to talk directly to Quebecers, in particular, and start gaining some momentum.

Ontario Human Rights Commission to make accessible education announcement

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Oct 3rd, 2019

 

TORONTO – Ontario’s human rights watchdog is to make an announcement this morning about accessible education.

No details were immediately available from the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

But in August 2018, the oversight body updated its education policy for the first time in 14 years and issued recommendations to help make the system more inclusive.

The policy says disabled students face barriers from primary school through to post-secondary education.

It says the system needs to modernize its approach to people with disabilities and do more to accommodate their diverse needs.

Today’s announcement will come at a news conference scheduled for 10:00 a.m.

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