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Record-breaking rainfall could hit Toronto and the GTA this weekend

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Jan 10th, 2020

It’s shaping up to be a soggy weekend in Toronto and the GTA as potentially record-breaking rainfall could hit the area.

A special weather statement continues for the area for heavy rain, strong winds and possible freezing rain on Saturday and continuing into Sunday.

Toronto and areas to the southwest could see 50 millimetres of rain on Saturday with an additional 25 millimetres into the evening and overnight, according to 680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor.

Taylor added that it’s a very complex storm system and even a slight change in track or small difference in temps will make a huge difference when it comes to the rain turning to freezing rain or even snow.

Areas to the north, northwest and east of the city could see ice pellets and snow.

A rainfall warning has been issued for parts of southern Ontario, including Windsor, Sarnia and London.

Rain is also in the forecast for Friday, bringing the weekend total close to 100 millimetres. The average rainfall for January is 25.1 millimetres.

Residents are being told to make sure their eavestroughs and downspouts are clear of snow, ice and other debris before the rain hits.

During heavy rain, the sewers can become overloaded and back up into your house, flooding basements.

The City of Toronto has more tips on how to protect your home at toronto.ca.

Vigils held in Toronto, Ottawa for Canadian victims of Iran plane crash

THE CANADIAN PRESS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Jan 10th, 2020

Mourners gathered at more candlelight vigils across Canada on Thursday evening to grieve the 176 victims — including at least 63 Canadians — of a plane crash on the outskirts of Tehran.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said 138 of the 176 passengers aboard the Kyiv-bound plane that crashed Wednesday morning, local time, had a connecting flight to Canada, and the identities of the dead were slowly coming to light through relatives, friends and employers.

In Toronto, hundreds of people came to Mel Lastman Square to attend a vigil.

Some carried photos of victims. Others wept while lighting candles and placing flowers at a makeshift memorial.

Negar Khalili came to pay tribute to her friend, Mahdieh Ghassemi, who died in the crash along with her son and daughter. They were returning from a visit with family in Iran.

“I cannot believe I’m holding her picture and she’s not here anymore.”

Farnaz Bigeli came to the vigil to mourn her friend Farhad Niknam. The father of two had just passed exams to become a dentist in Ontario weeks before he travelled back to Iran to visit family.

“We were shocked when we saw his name on the passenger list,” she said. “I’m thinking about his wife and kids.”

Bigeli, who came to Canada from Iran, said the revelations that the plane was likely hit by a missile have made her angry at the Iranian government.

“My friend had nothing to do with the politics,” she said.

Despite frigid temperatures, hundreds gathered on Parliament Hill to honour the eight victims confirmed to have had ties to the capital.

One by one, people came forward to lay candles, flowers and other trinkets together with photos of their friends and loved ones who died. One woman swept tears from her eyes as she placed a tray of chocolates in front a photo of one of the victims.

Some openly wept and turned to friends for hugs of consolation. Others stood quietly with sad eyes glowing against the light of the Centennial Flame, seemingly unaffected by the deep cold night.

Amir Hossein was among them. He knew two of the victims — Fareed Arasteh, a PhD student at Carleton University and Mehraban Badiei, a first-year student at the University of Ottawa.

He said the train of events affecting Iranians leading up to this tragedy, including the tensions and attacks traded between Iran and the United States, has made it even tougher for him to bear the sadness of losing friends.

“It’s very hard to handle all these things together,” Hossein said. “And when you have such a thing, such an airplane crash, such a saddening moment, it’s very hard.”

Daniella Santos was a co-worker of Alma Oladi, who was also a PhD student at the University of Ottawa studying mathematics before losing her life in the crash. Santos said she wanted to remember and honour her friend.

“She always, always had a smile. She was always happy. Whenever you would come in, she would say hi. I’ll miss her around.”

Trudeau made a brief and quiet appearance. He laid a bouquet of white roses at the makeshift memorial and then bent his head for a moment of quiet reflection.

The crash is among the deadliest air disasters involving Canadians.

More vigils planed

Starting at 7 p.m. on Friday, a candlelight vigil planned by Iranian Women’s Organization of Ontario and members of the Iranian-Canadian community will be held at 1761 Sheppard Ave. E. in North York.

A memorial service will also be held at 1 p.m. Friday at the University of Windsor, which lost five members of its student and research community in the crash.

Iran denies missile hit plane, calls on West to share data

NASSER KARIMI AND JOSEPH KRAUSS, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Friday, Jan 10th, 2020

Iran on Friday denied Western allegations a Ukrainian jetliner that crashed outside Tehran was brought down by an Iranian missile and called on the U.S. and Canada to share any information they have on the crash, which killed all 176 people on board.

Western leaders said the plane appeared to have been unintentionally hit by a surface-to-air missile near Tehran, just hours after Iran launched a series of ballistic missiles at two U.S. bases in Iraq to avenge the killing of its top general in an American airstrike last week.

“What is obvious for us, and what we can say with certainty, is that no missile hit the plane,” Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s national aviation department, told a press conference.

“If they are really sure, they should come and show their findings to the world” in accordance with international standards, he added.

Hassan Rezaeifar, the head of Iranian investigation team on Friday told the same press conference that recovering data from the black box flight recorders could take more than a month and that the entire investigation could stretch into next year.

He also said Iran may request help from international experts if it is not able to extract the flight recordings.

The ballistic missile attack on the bases in Iraq caused no casualties, raising hopes that the standoff over the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani would end relatively peacefully, though Iran has sent mixed signals over whether its retaliation is complete.

If the U.S. or Canada were to present incontrovertible evidence that the plane was shot down by Iran, even if unintentionally, it could have a dramatic impact on public opinion in Iran.

The Iranian public had rallied around the leadership after the killing of Soleimani last Friday, with hundreds of thousands joining the general’s funeral processions in several cities, in an unprecedented display of grief and unity.

But sentiments in Iran are still raw over the government’s crackdown on large-scale protests late last year sparked by the worsening economic situation. Several hundred protesters were reported to have been killed in the clampdown.

Those fissures could quickly break open again if public evidence is presented that Iranian authorities were responsible for the deaths of 176 people, mainly Iranians or dual Iranian-Canadian citizens.

The state-run IRNA news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying Iran “has invited both Ukraine and the Boeing company to participate in the investigations.” The spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said it will also welcome experts from other countries’ whose citizens died in the crash.

Iran had initially said it would not allow Boeing to take part in the probe, going against prevailing international norms on crash investigations. It later invited the U.S. accident-investigating agency to take part in the investigation.

The National Transportation Safety Board said late Thursday that it would “evaluate its level of participation,” but its role could be limited by U.S. sanctions on Iran. U.S. officials have also expressed concern about sending employees to Iran because of the heightened tensions.

Under rules set by a United Nations aviation organization, the NTSB is entitled to participate because the crash involved a Boeing 737-800 jet that was designed and built in the U.S.

There was no immediate comment from Boeing.

U.S., Canadian and British officials said Thursday it is “highly likely” that Iran shot down the Boeing 737 that crashed near Tehran late Tuesday. U.S. officials said the jetliner might have been mistakenly identified as a threat.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose country lost at least 63 citizens in the downing, said “we have intelligence from multiple sources including our allies and our own intelligence.”

“The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile,” he said. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison offered similar statements.

The U.S. officials did not say what intelligence they had that pointed to an Iranian missile, believed to be fired by Russian Tor system, known to NATO as the SA-15. But they acknowledged the existence of satellites and other sensors in the region, as well as the likelihood of communication interceptions and other similar intelligence.

Western countries may hesitate to share information on such a strike because it comes from highly classified sources.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said “the missile theory is not ruled out, but it has not been confirmed yet.”

In a Facebook post, he reiterated his call “on all international partners” — the U.S., Britain and Canada in particular — to share data and evidence relevant to the crash. He also announced plans to discuss the investigation with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later on Friday.

Iranian officials initially said the plane appeared to have crashed because of technical difficulties.

A preliminary Iranian investigative report released Thursday said that the airliner pilots never made a radio call for help and that the aircraft was trying to turn back for the airport when the burning plane went down.

The Iranian report suggested that a sudden emergency struck the Boeing 737, operated by Ukrainian International Airlines, just minutes after taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran early Wednesday.

Abedzadeh, the senior aviation official, had earlier said that by law there is “full co-ordination” between the country’s air defences and the civil aviation system. He said it is “absolutely impossible” that the armed forces would shoot down a civilian plane.

He said authorities have recovered two black box flight recorders, saying they are “damaged” but readable, which may shed further light on what caused the crash.

Ukraine said Iranian authorities allowed Ukrainian investigators to examine fragments of the plane late Thursday.

“It is too early on in the investigation to reveal specific details,” the statement from the Ukraine president’s office said. It added that DNA is being collected from relatives of Ukrainians who died in the crash in order to identify the bodies.

Associated Press writer Daria Litvinova in Moscow contributed to this report.

Ontario’s Catholic school teachers union, province head to the bargaining table

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jan 9th, 2020

The union representing Ontario’s Catholic teachers will be at the bargaining table with the provincial government today.

It’s the first day of scheduled talks between the province and the Ontario English Catholic Teacher’s Association.

If the talks don’t go well today and tomorrow, the union has indicated it’s prepared to launch a work-to-rule campaign on Monday.

All the province’s teachers are in the middle of tense contract negotiations with the government.

Ontario sets official end date of July 1 for red-and-white health cards

ALLISON JONES, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jan 9th, 2020

Hundreds of thousands of Ontarians will soon have to say goodbye for good to their old, red-and-white health cards.

The Canadian Press has learned the government has set July 1 as the date the cards will no longer be accepted.

It comes more than 25 years after the province first announced those cards would be phased out.

There are still about 300,000 red-and-white health cards in circulation, representing about two per cent of all Ontario health cards.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says those cards are more susceptible to fraud than the newer cards, which feature a photo and a signature.

She says people who still have the old health cards will get notices this month, and after that they will get monthly reminders to get a new card.

“After July 1, the card will not be accepted for services,” Elliott said in an interview. “Hospitals, if someone attends with an emergency where they need medical attention right away, of course they won’t be denied care, but they will be receiving the hospital bill for those services.”

Anyone who has to pay up front for doctor’s office or hospital services will be reimbursed once they get a new health card, Elliott said.

Photo health cards can be obtained for free at ServiceOntario locations.

The province is also going to ask doctor’s offices, hospitals and pharmacists to remind anyone using a red-and-white health card about the imminent need to switch to a new one.

It was late 1994 when the then-NDP government announced that due to fraud and misuse, the cards — which were introduced just four years prior — would be phased out over three years.

When the photo ID cards were first announced in 1995, the government estimated the red-and-white cards were being used for $65 million in fraudulent claims a year. At the time, Ontario’s health cards had the least amount of printed information of any province, including only a name and no expiry date, according to a 2006 auditor general report.

There were about 300,000 more health cards in circulation than there were people in Ontario, the auditor said.

In the years before the photo ID cards were introduced, health officials warned that some cards had fallen into the hands of Americans and other non-residents, with fraudulent use the most prevalent in Ontario’s border communities.

138 passengers on plane that crashed in Iran were connecting to Canada: Trudeau

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jan 9th, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a total of 138 passengers aboard the plane that crashed outside Tehran were connecting to Canada.

The Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800, bound for Kyiv, crashed shortly after taking off from the Iranian capital, killing all 176 people on board.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said the plane was carrying 63 Canadians, 82 Iranians, 11 Ukrainian passengers and crew, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three Britons.

Trudeau says there were 138 empty seats on a plane that landed in Toronto Wednesday afternoon. They were supposed to be filled by people aboard the downed flight who were set to connect in Kyiv.

Trudeau says it is too early to speculate, but he knows Canadians have questions about how the crash happened and that they deserve answers.

He says Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne will be speaking with the Iranian foreign minister and conveying the need for a thorough investigation into the crash.

Trudeau says he also spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump along with other allies earlier today, who all offered their sympathies and support.

Watch the prime minister’s full remarks below.

Trudeau speaks after at least 63 Canadians killed in Ukrainian airlines crash in Iran

Trudeau speaks after at least 63 Canadians killed in Ukrainian airlines crash in Iran READ HERE: http://ow.ly/PARU30q7Uan

Posted by CityNews Toronto on Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Transport Minister Marc Garneau says it’s too early to say what caused a plane to crash in Iran but he says it’s clear that something “very unusual” happened.

He says the pilot lost communication with controllers shortly after a normal takeoff.

He’s urging against speculation until an investigation reveals more.

The Transportation Safety Board said it appointed an expert to monitor the progress of the Iranian investigation.

Iran says Ukrainian plane was on fire, tried to turn back

AMIR VAHDAT, JON GAMBRELL AND DARIA LITVINOVA, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Thursday, Jan 9th, 2020

The crew of a Ukrainian jetliner that crashed in Iran, killing 176 people, never made a radio call for help and were trying to turn back for the airport when their burning plane went down, an initial Iranian report said Thursday. Ukraine, meanwhile, said it considered a missile strike or terrorism as possible theories for the crash, despite Iran’s denials.

The Iranian report suggests a sudden emergency struck the Boeing 737 operated by Ukrainian International Airlines early Wednesday morning, when it crashed, just minutes after taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran.

Investigators from Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization offered no immediate explanation for the disaster, however. Iranian officials initially blamed a technical malfunction for the crash, something initially backed by Ukrainian officials before they said they wouldn’t speculate amid an ongoing investigation.

The crash came just a few hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack against Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops amid a confrontation with Washington over it killing an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general in a drone strike last week.

The Ukrainian International Airlines took off at 6:12 a.m. Wednesday, after nearly an hour’s delay at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport, the main airport for travellers in Iran. It gained altitude heading west, reaching nearly 8,000 feet, according to both the report and flight-tracking data.

Then something went wrong, though “no radio messages were received from the pilot regarding unusual situations,” the report said. In emergencies, pilots typically immediately contact air-traffic controllers.

Eyewitnesses, including the crew of another flight passing above it, described seeing the plane engulfed in flames before crashing at 6:18 a.m., the report said.

The crash caused a massive explosion when the plane hit the ground, likely because the aircraft had been fully loaded with fuel for the flight to Kyiv, Ukraine.

The report also confirmed that both of the so-called “black boxes” that contain data and cockpit communications from the plane had been recovered, though they sustained damage and some parts of their memory was lost. It also said that investigators have initially ruled out laser or electromagnetic interference as causing the crash.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s Security Council, told Ukrainian media that officials had several working theories regarding the crash, including a missile strike.

“A strike by a missile, possibly a Tor missile system, is among the main (theories), as information has surfaced on the internet about elements of a missile being found near the site of the crash,” Danilov said. He did not elaborate on where he saw the information on the internet.

Ukrainian investigators that arrived in Iran earlier on Thursday currently await permission from Iranian authorities to examine the crash site and look for missile fragments, Danilov said.

The Tor is a Russian-made missile system. Russia delivered 29 Tor-M1s to Iran in 2007 as part of a $700 million contract signed in December 2005. Iran has displayed the missiles in military parades as well.

Iran did not immediately respond to the Ukrainian comments. However, Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, the spokesman of the Iranian armed forces, denied a missile hit the airplane in a comments reported Wednesday by the semiofficial Fars news agency. He dismissed the allegation as “psychological warfare” by foreign-based Iranian opposition groups.

Danilov also said other possible causes under consideration included a drone or another flying object crashing into the plane, a terrorist attack or an engine malfunction causing an explosion.

The plane was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, at least 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials. The crash just before dawn scattered flaming debris and passengers’ belongings across a wide stretch of farmland.

Many of the passengers were believed to be international students attending universities in Canada; they were making their way back to Toronto by way of Kyiv after visiting with family during the winter break.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he planned to call Iranian President Hassan Rouhani about the crash and the investigation.

“Undoubtedly, the priority for Ukraine is to identify the causes of the plane crash,” Zelenskiy said. “We will surely find out the truth.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said 138 of the passengers were bound for Canada.. The flight also included a family of four and newlyweds, too. The manifest listed several teenagers and children, some as young as 1 or 2.

The crash ranked among the worst losses of life for Canadians in an aviation disaster. The flag over Parliament in Ottawa was lowered to half-staff, and Trudeau vowed to get to the bottom of the disaster.

“Know that all Canadians are grieving with you,” he said, addressing the victims’ families.

Ukrainian officials, for their part, initially agreed with Iranian suspicions that the 3 1/2-year-old plane was brought down by mechanical trouble but later backed away from that and declined to offer a cause while the investigation is going on.

While the cause of the tragedy remained unknown, the disaster could further damage Boeing’s reputation, which has been battered by the furor over two deadly crashes involving a different model of the Boeing jet, the much-newer 737 Max, which has been grounded for nearly 10 months. The uproar led to the firing of the company’s CEO last month.

Boeing extended condolences to the victims’ families and said it stands ready to assist.

Concerns continue around whether EQAO will take place amid OSSTF strikes

Simone Gavros | posted Wednesday, Jan 8th, 2020

Today marks the fourth one-day walkout that has been taking place across numerous school boards in Ontario since Dec. 4th, 2019. The strike, that included eight school boards today, prompted questions around what the plan is for Grade 9 students participating in the EQAO math assessment next Monday.

In a news conference held at Queen’s Park on Wednesday morning, Education Minister Stephen Lecce says that it’s up to the school boards to decide on whether or not to hold the test for their Grade 9 students, despite the work-to-rule.

With the continuous striking action among high school teachers in the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation’s (OSSTF), Lecce is aware that the likelihood of the assessment taking place across the majority of school boards is slim. The decision will impact Ontario students and could negatively affect their overall performance, especially for students who haven’t done Math since the previous semester.

“It is unfair that union actions are undermining student success. They are jeopardizing the learning experience of Ontario’s future leaders,” Lecce said in a statement.

The test is still scheduled to take place on January 13, 2020, should school boards decide to proceed with the assessment. Students who do not participate in the EQAO math assessment next Monday will be able to complete it in June 2020.

 

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