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Canadian who admitted to plotting terrorist attacks asks for ‘second chance’

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Mar 5th, 2018

A Canadian who admitted to plotting a terrorist attack on New York City is pleading for “a second chance” in a letter submitted to the court ahead of his upcoming sentencing.

In the letter filed to a New York court on Friday, Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy of Mississauga, Ont., outlined his personal history with addiction and mental illness, and explained that he felt American airstrikes against the Middle East drove him to jihadism.

The 20-year-old wrote that he felt that Americans were trying to disrupt the lives of people in the Middle East with airstrikes and he thought “it was appropriate to use similar methods back until and unless they stop.”

The 24-page hand-written letter, addressed to the judge in his case and partially redacted, is part of a package his lawyers submitted ahead of his sentencing for multiple terrorism-related charges that he pleaded guilty to last year.

El Bahnasawy described his disenfranchisement with western society, including “so-called democracy and freedom.”

He said he chose to go to the U.S. to carry out the plan because Canada had recently stopped its airstrikes, “and it didn’t make sense to transgress back against them in such a way.”

Police secretly arrested El Bahnasawy, then 18, in what they said was a plot by Islamic State sympathizers to attack New York City concert venues, subway stations and Times Square. He was arrested after travelling from Canada to New Jersey in 2016. The records in his case were sealed for over a year as police tried to hunt down his accomplices.

Authorities announced the charges against him after two other suspects were arrested in Pakistan and the Philippines.

The Canadian didn’t discuss the specifics of the plot in the letter, instead focusing on why he decided to go to such extremes.

“My detailed reasons about this is in no way a justification for it, I merely am explaining my thought process at the time,” he wrote, adding that he no longer believes extremism is the answer.

“There are many issues in this world but I don’t want to lose my life or freedom to try fixing them, and I definitely do not want to resort to violence or harm to fix them. I sincerely apologize for my (behaviour) and I only ask for a second chance.”

El Bahnasawy also used the letter to outline his struggles with addiction and mental illness, including several trips into hospital psychiatric wards and rehab centres. He said he spent a month in a psych ward in Kuwait, and eight months in rehab in Egypt. Court records show he also spent time at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

“I want to experience life away from drugs and away from war and violence,” he wrote.

He wrote that he wondered where he would be if anyone who knew about his plans had encouraged him to find a more productive way to fight the injustice he saw in the world.

The young man’s lawyers, in a submission included in the package with the letter, requested the judge impose a sentence “no greater than necessary to comply with (the law).”

They suggested that his release might coincide with “the onset of Abdulrahman’s mid-twenties when his cognitive development will be complete.”

El Bahnasawy’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 9.

‘The Shape of Water’ highlights Canada’s night at the Oscars

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Mar 5th, 2018

Toronto producer J. Miles Dale won the best picture award at Sunday’s Academy Awards but almost missed out on delivering his very first Oscar speech.

Dale shared the Oscar with “The Shape of Water” director Guillermo del Toro but found his microphone was cut off when it was his turn to say a few words.

But he was saved by host Jimmy Kimmel, who went up to Dale and asked: “What did you want to say? I’ll tell them.”

Dale was able to briefly salute del Toro’s work on the film, saying: “this is his heart and it’s everything.”

This is the first Oscar win for Dale, who also worked with del Toro on the 2013 film “Mama” and the horror drama series “The Strain.”

The two are now working on new projects, including a film for Fox Searchlight and a Netflix series.

Dale got his start as a producer largely in the TV world, with credits including “RoboCop” and “F/X: The Series.” He then focused largely on films, with other titles including “Pontypool,” “Love Happens,” “The Vow” and 2013’s “Carrie.”

Earlier in the night, Toronto’s growth into a film and TV production powerhouse was touted by a trio of Canadians as they won an Oscar for best production design on “The Shape of Water.”

Canadians Paul Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin and Shane Vieau shared the trophy for crafting the look of the Cold War-era merman romance.

Austerberry is credited for production design while Melvin and Vieau did the set decoration.

Speaking to reporters backstage, Vieau noted that Toronto’s screen community had a huge year not only with the leading 13 Oscar nominations for “The Shape of Water,” but also the accolades for TV’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which was shot in the city.

“Toronto (was) above and beyond with everyone in North America with ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ and ‘Shape of Water,’ we really came out on top,” Vieau said. “It’s a really big thing.”

Melvin said after decades of growth, Toronto’s TV and film industries are truly “world-class.”

“I have 35 years in the business now and worked in Toronto almost exclusively, so I’ve worked with and watched the business grow in Toronto and go from children’s television to Academy Award-winning films,” said Melvin, who is based in Toronto.

“It started with ‘Good Will Hunting,’ ‘Chicago,’ now us…. We want to keep it that way and keep going.”

As they accepted their trophies onstage, the trio thanked their colleagues back home in Toronto.

“Thanks to all the Canadian crew who are partying right now at the Palais Royale in Toronto – this is for you,” said Austerberry, who was born in Toronto and grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

“Thank you to the academy. Guillermo – may you keep dreaming up your monsters and their wonderful stories so people like us can help shape their worlds.”

It was the first Oscar nomination for the trio, who also won in the same category at the recent British Academy Film Awards.

Besides del Toro and the film’s cinematographer, most of the crew who worked on the movie was Canadian.

Meanwhile, the winners of the best visual effects award for working on Quebec director Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049” thanked their “friends in Montreal,” saying: “Merci beaucoup, this is for you.”

“Thank you to Denis Villeneuve, whose guts are seen in every frame of this film, especially the visual effects,” said John Nelson, who won alongside Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert and Richard R. Hoover.

Villeneuve also got a shout-out onstage from Roger Deakins as he accepted the Oscar for best cinematography on “Blade Runner 2049.”

Jordan Peele won for his script to his horror sensation “Get Out,” becoming the first African-American to win for best original screenplay. Peele said he stopped writing it “20 times,” skeptical that it would ever get made.

“But I kept coming back to it because I knew if someone would let me make this movie, that people would hear it and people would see it,” said Peele. “So I want to dedicate this to all the people who raised my voice and let me make this movie.”

In a year lacking a clear front-runner the awards were spread around. Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic “Dunkirk” landed three awards, all for its technical craft: editing, sound editing and sound design.

Things went expected in the acting categories, where Frances McDormand won her second Oscar for her performance in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” McDormand asked all the attending female nominees stand up in the theatre.

“Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects that need financing,” declared McDormand. “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen, Inclusion Rider.”

Three widely admired veteran actors won their first Oscars. Gary Oldman won for his Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour,” Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”) took best supporting actress, and Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards”) won best supporting actor. Oldman thanked his “99-years young” mother. “Put the kettle on,” he told her. “I’m bringing Oscar home.”

But many of the show’s most powerful moments came in between the awards. Ashley Judd, Anabella Sciorra and Salma Hayek – who all made allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein – together assembled for a mid-show segment dedicated to the #MeToo movement that has followed the downfall of Weinstein, long an Oscar heavyweight. They were met by a standing ovation.

“We work together to make sure the next 90 years empower these limitless possibilities of equality, diversity, inclusion and intersectionality,” said Judd. “That’s what this year has promised us.”

Host Jimmy Kimmel opened with a monologue that mixed Weinstein punchlines with earnest comments about reforming gender equality in Hollywood. And of course, Kimmel – returning to the scene of the flub – dove straight into material about last year’s infamous best-picture mix-up.

“I do want to mention, this year, when you hear your name called, don’t get up right away,” said Kimmel. “Give us a minute.”

But while Kimmel spent a few moments on the fiasco known as Envelopegate, he expended far more minutes frankly and soberly discussing the parade of sexual harassment allegations in the wake of the revelations regarding Weinstein. Kimmel cited the industry’s poor record for female directors and equal pay.

“We can’t let bad behaviour slide anymore,” said Kimmel. “The world is watching us.”

Gesturing to a giant statue on the stage, he praised Oscar, himself for keeping “his hands where you can see them” and for having “no penis at all.” But Kimmel introduced the broadcast as “a night for positivity,” and cited, among other things, the box-office success of “Black Panther” and “Wonder Woman.”

“I remember a time when the major studios didn’t believe a woman or a minority could open a superhero movie – and the reason I remember that time is because it was March of last year,” said Kimmel.

Several cinema legends won their first Oscar. James Ivory, 89, won best adapted screenplay for his script to the coming-of-age drama “Call Me By Your Name,” becoming the oldest winner ever. After 14 nominations, revered cinematographer Roger Deakins finally won for his photography on “Blade Runner 2049.” In the category, Rachel Morrison (“Mudbound”) became the first woman nominated for best cinematography.

Later, Pixar’s colorful ode to Mexican culture “Coco” won best animated film as well as best song for “Remember Me.” Best foreign language film went to Chile’s “A Fantastic Woman,” Sebastian Lelio’s drama starring transgender actress Daniela Vega.

“The biggest thank you of all to the people of Mexico,” said director Lee Unkrich to loud applause. “Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters.”

Netflix scored its first feature-film Oscar, with best documentary going to “Icarus,” Bryan Fogel’s investigation into doping in sports, aided by the assistance of Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory who candidly discussed the doping scheme under Vladimir Putin. Fogel dedicated the award to Rodchenkov, “our fearless whistleblower who now lives in grave danger.”

“Darkest Hour” won for best makeup. The period romance “Phantom Thread” won for costume design.

The ceremony was the crescendo of one of Hollywood’s most turbulent awards seasons ever – one that saw cascading allegations of sexual harassment topple movie moguls, upended Oscar campaigns and new movements launched to improve gender equality throughout the industry.

No Golden Globes-style fashion protest was held by organizers of Time’s Up, the initiative begun by several hundred prominent women in entertainment to combat sexual harassment. Their goals go beyond red carpets, organizers said in the lead-up to the Oscars. “We did the dress code thing and now we’re doing the work,” said #MeToo founder Tarana Burke on the red carpet.

McArthur murder investigation to be updated on Monday

News Staff and The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Mar 5th, 2018

Toronto police will have the latest update in the ongoing investigation into alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur on Monday morning.

According to the CBC, police have found the remains of a seventh person at a Leaside property where McArthur worked as a landscaper.

Police reportedly found the remains inside garden planters seized from the home.

Det. Sgt. Hank Idsinga will provide an update at 10:30 a.m.

Last month police charged McArthur with a sixth count of first-degree murder in the death of 40-year-old Skandaraj Navaratnam, who disappeared from the city’s gay village in 2010.

Navaratnam’s remains were among those of six people recovered from planters at a home on Mallory Crescent.

Three of the six sets of remains have now been identified using fingerprint analysis and dental records, Idsinga said, adding other confirmed victims are 49-year-old Andrew Kinsman and 50-year-old Soroush Mahmudi.

McArthur has also been charged with first-degree murder in the presumed deaths of 44-year-old Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, 58, and Dean Lisowick, either 43 or 44.

Sources told 680 NEWS investigators have found photos of eight possible victims on McArthur’s computer. Idsinga would not comment on those claims.

Toronto’s birthday celebrations among the fun for first weekend of March

Patricia D'Cunha and Samantha Knight | posted Friday, Mar 2nd, 2018

March has arrived and while the weather may be unpredictable this month, one thing is constant: there is no shortage of fun taking place every weekend. There is so much to do, you may need to take a power nap.

Happy Birthday, Toronto
A four-day party will be held at Nathan Phillips Square to celebrate Toronto’s 184th birthday on Tuesday. The party starts on Saturday and continues until the big day. The extravaganza includes skating parties, food trucks, a market in the square, interactive activities and a photo contest, to name a few. Toronto was incorporated on March 6, 1834, and William Lyon Mackenzie was elected the city’s first mayor. The year 1834 was also an important year for Canada, as slavery was abolished in British North America that summer.

Toronto-run spring and summer fun
Get ready! Registration starts this weekend for spring/summer programs and summer camps at Toronto Parks and Recreation. Registration for Etobicoke York is on Saturday, Scarborough on Sunday, North York on Tuesday and Toronto and East York on Wednesday — it starts at 7 a.m. on each date. The city says registering online is the best way to sign up for programs, but residents can also register by phone. Before registering, you will need family and client numbers. If you don’t have those, call customer service at 416-338-4386.
Click here to get more information about the registration process.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors
The highly anticipated Infinity Mirrors exhibition is making its debut at the AGO this weekend. The exhibition features the works of Yayoi Kusama. Guests can immerse themselves in six kaleidoscopic environments where they will be endlessly reflected within fantastic landscapes. Kusama’s drawings, her early Infinity Net paintings and sculpture objects will also be on display. Infinity Mirrors starts Saturday and will be on display until May 27.


Toronto Storytelling Festival

The second-oldest arts festival returns to the city this Friday. The Toronto Storytelling Festivalfeatures local, Canadian and international storytellers. Indigenous storytellers are also a big part of this year’s event, with Yukon Indigenous comedy duo Susie and Charlie, bringing their hilarious take on elder wisdom. Some of the city’s top storytellers will be featured in venues including the Bata Shoe Museum, Artscape Wychwood Barns and the Toronto Reference Library. The festival runs from Friday to Sunday, and then March 19-25.

Toronto Irish Film Festival
The best in Irish cinema will be showcased at this weekend’s Toronto Irish Film Festival. The festival opens on Friday with A Date for Mad Mary, a drama-comedy about love and redemption. It won best film at the 2017 Irish Film and Television Academy and Awards. Some of the other films being screened are Maze, which is based on the 1983 prison breakout of 38 IRA prisoners from the infamous prison in Northern Ireland and the documentary In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America, narrated by Liam Neeson, which is about Derry politician John Hume who worked to create peace in Northern Ireland.

Video credit: YouTube/TOIrishFilmFest

Rogers Hometown Hockey heads to Markham
Each weekend during the hockey season, the *Rogers hometown tour travels to a different city in Canada. Starting Friday and into the weekend, it will be in Markham. Fans can check out the Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit and the Toronto Maple Leafs fan zone, take part in various activities including a friends and family skate, and watch the Maple Leafs take on the Washington Capitals at a view party on Saturday. There will also be special appearances by NHL alumni. On Sunday, a live broadcast will be hosted by Ron MacLean and Tara Slone, ahead of the game between the Winnipeg Jets take and the Carolina Hurricanes.

Winter Brewfest
Sample more than 150 beers crafted from brewers across Ontario and Quebec this weekend at the third annual Winter Brewfest. The festival is being held at Enercare Centre’s Heritage Court on Friday and Saturday. While sampling the craft beers, guests can enjoy gourmet food from the city’s best food trucks.

Toronto International Bicycle Show
Bicycle enthusiasts will be flocking to the Better Living Centre, Exhibition Place this weekend for the Toronto International Bicycle Show. The event kicks off Friday and runs through Sunday. It features over 175 exhibitors, a retail marketplace, and bicycle frame building. Highlights include the 2,000-foot test track for every type of bike, a new X-JAM course and a bike polo competition.


*Rogers is the parent company of this station and website.

Loblaw recalling cooked shrimp; packages may also contain raw shrimp

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Mar 2nd, 2018

Loblaw Companies Ltd. is recalling certain pre-packaged cooked shrimp due to the potential presence of raw shrimp, which may contain harmful bacteria.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the shrimp is sold in 300-gram packages containing 56-65 shrimp per pound.

It was sold across the country at Loblaw banner stores such as Fortinos, No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore, Dominion and Provigo.

The CFIA says consumers who have this product should toss it out or return it to the store where purchased.

The agency says the recall was triggered by the company and there have been no reported illnesses linked to eating this product.

Click here for more information on the recall.

Online voting begins today for new Ontario Progressive Conservative leader

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Mar 2nd, 2018

Online voting begins today in the race to pick a leader to guide Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party through the June 7 election.

The leadership campaign began after Patrick Brown resigned from his post last month amid sexual misconduct allegations.

Brown vehemently denies the allegations and even briefly entered the contest to reclaim his old job, but pulled out earlier this week, saying the race was taking a toll on his friends and family.

The four candidates vying for the top job are former Tory legislator Christine Elliott, Toronto lawyer and businesswomen Caroline Mulroney, former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford, and parental rights activist Tanya Granic Allen.

Tories who wish to cast a vote originally had until today to register, but the party now says it has extended the deadline to 11:59 p.m. on Monday.

Voting is set to take place until Thursday, with the results announced on March 10.

Tory says city hall will remain open to the public despite security incident Thursday

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Mar 2nd, 2018

Mayor John Tory says Toronto City Hall will remain open to the public despite a disturbing incident on Thursday where a distressed woman began screaming outside the mayor’s protocol lounge, demanding to speak to him about the state of Toronto Community Housing.

The woman’s violent shrieks interrupted a news conference where Mayor Tory and Premier Kathleen Wynne were discussing Toronto transit.

The mayor, premier, and several journalists were holed up inside the conference room while security staff tried to calm the woman down.

Mayor Tory later addressed the incident, saying he didn’t want city hall to turn into a fortress closed off to the public.

“The premier and I were talking about this as we walked in the building this morning,” Tory said. “She (Wynne) was saying how refreshing it is to see people in the rotunda at city hall doing business with the city government.”

“People can come to my office and come to the offices of the councillors with the problems they have…and I think that’s a good thing about the building.”

When asked about obvious safety concerns, Tory said he was hopeful a reasonable balance could be found.

“When you’re in a job like this … I think you’d be not telling the truth if you were utterly unconcerned about it. But I’m confident that the measures that we’ve discussed and the things that we’ve done…both respect my strongest desire, and that of city council, to keep this building an open place for the people, but at the same time make sure that there are reasonable measures.”

“It comes with having a very open building,” he added. “Where people can come right to the office of their elected representatives, including the mayor, and tell us about some of the challenges they face.”


Winter weather returns to the GTA overnight

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Mar 2nd, 2018

The month of March appears to be coming in like a lion.

A special weather statement was in effect for Toronto and most of the GTA overnight as another blast of winter swept through the area. A winter storm warning remains in place for areas west of Toronto including Niagara and Hamilton.

A rain and wet snow mix moved into the area Thursday night with snowfall amounts of between 5 to 10 cm expected by Friday morning.

“There remains uncertainty as to the exact track and intensity of the low pressure area,” says Environment Canada. “This will affect how much snow falls across the area.”

Snowfall accumulations for areas west of Oakville into Hamilton and the Niagara region are projected to be between 15 to 30 cm.

CityNews meteorologist Adam Stiles said some of the heaviest snow was expected to be seen around 2:30 a.m.

The snow is expected to taper off early Friday morning, which may mean the morning commute may not be as bad as initially anticipated.


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