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Arbitration gives Toronto firefighters a new collective agreement

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 21:35:20 EDT


Toronto firefighters have a new collective agreement, cementing them as the highest-paid firefighters in the province in terms of base salary.

The decision, awarded on Friday after arbitration between the city and the Toronto Professional Firefighters’ Association, also maintains the long-standing practice of advancing firefighter wages in lock-step with police salaries.

“With arbitration you don’t get everything you want, but overall we feel the decision is balanced,” said Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association president Frank Ramagnano.

“By 2018 we’ll be at the exact same level as Toronto police, we’re just taking a slightly different road to get there,” Ramangnano said.

The new deal covers 2015-18. The arbitration award represents a roughly 8.5-per-cent-increase over four years. Most of those increases are loaded on the front end of the four-year period. In 2018, salaries will increase by only about half a per cent that year.

As of July 2017, the base salary for a first-class firefighter will be $97,910 per year — about $8,000 per year more than under the previous collective agreement.

Retroactive wage increases will be paid out within 90 days to the city’s 3,000 plus firefighters, the arbitration ruling says. That means the majority of cost increases from the new agreement must be paid out in lump sums.

Toronto firefighters had been without a contract since 2014, when talks broke down between the association and the city.

While no other Ontario firefighters earn as high a base salary, Ramagnano said in terms of total compensation, including benefits like bankable sick days and paid-duty assignments, Toronto firefighters are the lowest-paid emergency services workers in the city.

“Our vacation isn’t as generous,” Ramagnano said. “We didn’t get any increase to our eye care packages, like other comparables did.”

Ramagnano also pointed to lower pay on statutory holidays, and a work week that’s two hours longer than that of Toronto police officers.

Given that the new deal covers up to only 2018, Ramagnano said he hopes the next collective agreement can be reached through negotiation, instead of going to arbitration.

The increased costs of the new deal will put more pressure on city coffers, even after city council voted in May to freeze all budgets at 2017 levels for a year.

After accounting for inflation, that’s the equivalent of cutting $11 million from the operating budget.

The city faces an initial budget shortfall of $343 million in 2018 unless property taxes are raised above the roughly 2-per-cent inflation mark.

With files from Betsy Powell


U.S. President Trump, first lady to skip Kennedy Center arts awards

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 08:53:14 EDT


BRIDGEWATER, N.J.—In a break with tradition, U.S. President Donald Trump and the first lady have decided not to participate in events for this year’s Kennedy Center Honors arts awards so honorees can celebrate “without any political distraction,” the White House announced Saturday.

The Kennedy Center said it respected Trump’s decision and the show will go on.

Past presidents and first ladies traditionally host a White House reception in the hours before the Kennedy Center gala, which they would then watch from seats high above the stage. This year’s honours are to be awarded on Dec. 3.

The Trumps reached their decision Friday, said a White House official who insisted on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Read more: Donald Trump defends far-right extremists in astonishing tirade, again blames both sides for Charlottesville violence

It was made the same day that the entire membership of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned to protest Trump’s comments about last weekend’s demonstrations by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. The president has blamed “many sides” for the violence that left an anti-racism activist dead.

Trump has had a long and contentious relationship with the arts world and some Kennedy Center honorees, who are being recognized for lifetime achievement in their fields, already had said they would not attend the White House reception.

One honoree, television writer and producer Norman Lear, had also questioned whether Trump would want to attend the gala, “given his indifference or worse regarding the arts and humanities.”

Trump has recommended defunding the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Dancer Carmen de Lavallade said on her website this week she was honoured to be recognized, but would not go to Trump’s White House.

“In light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our existing leadership is choosing to engage in, and in keeping with the principles that I and so many others have fought for, I will be declining the invitation to attend the reception at the White House,” she said.

Singer Gloria Estefan earlier had said that she would set her personal politics aside to accept the honour, now in its 40th year. She said the image of a Cuban immigrant, like herself, being honoured is important when Latino immigrants in particular have “taken a beating in the recent past.”

Estefan once hosted a Democratic fundraiser attended by President Barack Obama. She said she and her husband, Emilio, are not affiliated with a political party.

The other honorees are hip-hop artist LL Cool J, who had yet to say whether he would attend the White House reception, and singer Lionel Richie, who described himself as a maybe. Representatives for both celebrities did not immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday.

Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein and President Deborah F. Rutter said they respect Trump’s decision.

“In choosing not to participate in this year’s Honors activities, the administration has graciously signalled its respect for the Kennedy Center and ensures the Honors gala remains a deservingly special moment for the honorees. We are grateful for this gesture” they said in a joint statement.

The honorees, announced earlier this month, will be celebrated at a Kennedy Center gala in December, featuring performances and tributes from top entertainers that will be nationally televised. A traditional State Department reception and awards dinner on Dec. 2 will be held as planned.

Rubenstein and Rutter said all five honorees were expected at both events.

The White House said Trump and first lady Melania Trump “extend their sincerest congratulations and well wishes to all of this year’s award recipients for their many accomplishments.”

Trump also chose to skip the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April and instead attended a rally in Pennsylvania where he began with marks attacking the news media while dismissing the dinner and its participants.

“A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation’s capital right now,” Trump said. He added: “And I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington’s swamp, spending my evening with all of you and with a much, much larger crowd and much better people, right?”


Charlottesville rally organizer calls Heather Heyer’s death ‘payback’

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 18:28:32 EDT


A Twitter post from the account of Jason Kessler, the far-right activist who organized the Charlottesville, Va., “Unite the Right” rally, insulted the protester who was killed at the event, saying late Friday night that her death was “payback time.”

“Heather Heyer was a fat, disgusting Communist,” the post said. “Communists have killed 94 million. Looks like it was payback time.”

The post linked to a story on neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer that also insulted Heyer in crude terms and appeared to take glee in her death.

Kessler did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Police say Heyer was killed when a rally attendee, James A. Fields, drove his sports car into a crowd of counterprotesters at the event Aug. 12, which drew white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right figures from around the nation.

Fields has been charged with her murder. Kessler had blamed city officials for not providing sufficient security for the rally, which was organized to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a Charlottesville park.

Kessler’s Twitter post sparked denunciations from other far-right rally attendees, who quickly distanced themselves from him, accelerating a spiral of recriminations that have been brewing among far-right leaders over who was to blame for the chaos behind last weekend’s violent “Unite the Right” rally.

On Saturday morning, the post had been deleted from Kessler’s account, which initially claimed he’d been hacked, but then backtracked and said he’d been on a mixture of drugs.

“I repudiate the heinous tweet that was sent from my account last night. I’ve been under a crushing amount of stress & death threats,” the post said. “I’m taking ambien, xanax and I had been drinking last night. I sometimes wake up having done strange things I can’t remember.”

Kessler’s posts then were switched to “private” mode before his account was deleted entirely.

“I will no longer associate w/ Jason Kessler; no one should,” Richard Spencer, a white nationalist who was scheduled to speak at Kessler’s event, said on Twitter. “Heyer’s death was deeply saddening. ‘Payback’ is a morally reprehensible idea.”

Another far-right figure who attended the event, Tim Gionet, who goes by the name Baked Alaska, also criticized the remarks.

“This is terribly wrong and vile,” Gionet posted. “We should not rejoice at the people who died in Charlottesville just because we disagree with them.”


Former Breeders' Stakes champ finding the stable life at last

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 20:39:00 EDT


Laurie Gulas was about to hit bottom.

Years removed from her horse-racing highs, the former jockey was addicted to painkillers, running out of money to pay her bills and looking desperately for a way to turn things around. She’d take help from wherever it came, from a man in prison for dealing drugs, from another looking to buy them, if it could give her hope.

“I had the best of intentions and I took a chance,” she says, “and did it the wrong way.”

Gulas needed money. The one currency she had was the pills that were supposed be the answer in an ongoing battle to find relief from the numerous falls she had endured throughout her racing career.

And a friend, a man who had once sold her a car and whose dog she had adopted when he went to county jail, a man she had continued to talk to and had visited in prison, had an idea. He could hook her up with someone looking for prescription drugs.

It would be a one-time deal, the rider known as Longshot Laurie convinced herself. It would be the start of her road back.

***

Laura Lynn Gulas was born in Welland on Feb. 16, 1969, and knew as early as four years old she wanted to become a jockey, without knowing how that would be accomplished. She began working at Fort Erie Racetrack at the age of 15 as a stablehand for trainer Brian Dore and then moved to Toronto to enroll in an equine program.

She was four-foot-nine and weighed 99 pounds when she raced for the first time at Woodbine Racetrack as a 21-year-old. She was diminutive even by jockey standards. Gulas was one of only a handful of female riders and despite her small stature, she displayed both strength and savvy as she put her horses through their paces.

Still, she eased herself into the racing life, competing in just three races that year. She admits she was ill-prepared for it.

“There’s so much more that goes on than just the morning workouts; it blew me away,” she said. “I saw it in a different perspective. It was the actual art of race riding. It was the real deal. I didn’t push to continue riding because I knew I needed more experience.”

Gulas ramped up her schedule the following year, competing in 156 races and winning 11 of them. She also suffered her first major racing injury — a fractured pelvis — in one of many spills she would experience.

But she wasn’t attracting enough clientele and, with an abundance of apprentice riders also beginning their careers, she chose to move away from her home track and head to California, where some of her racing idols were riding. Among them was legendary Canadian Sandy Hawley, the first jockey to win 500 races in one year.

She returned to Woodbine in the winter of 1993 and over the next half-decade she established herself as one of the top 20 jockeys in Ontario, earning a reputation for her “daredevil” ways.

“She would ride anything,” says friend Lori McMahon, a Fort Erie Racetrack worker who leads the horses and their riders onto the track. “She would ride for a trainer who hadn’t won in years just because she loved to ride. No matter what the horse was or the odds, she’d give you 100 per cent. If you needed a rider in the jocks’ room, she was there.”

And that’s the situation veteran trainer Roger Attfield found himself in ahead of the Breeders’ Stakes in 1999. The horse racing hall-of-famer needed a rider for Free Vacation, a three-year-old filly that had shown promise but nothing to indicate she would be a factor in the last leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. The morning-line oddsmaker agreed, handicapping Free Vacation as a 15-1 long shot.

With many of the top jockeys having already committed to other horses, Attfield booked Gulas.

“Laurie had been riding one or two other horses for me and I thought she was a pretty good rider,” Attfield says. “I had no problem putting her on the horse.”

Attfield advised Gulas to bide her time in the race and preserve the filly for a late run. The race didn’t get off to a good start.

“She kind of fussed in the gate and when it opened she lunged out and we got left a couple of lengths,” Gulas told the Star that day.

But Gulas settled the horse into stride and waited patiently as Attfield had instructed. At the top of the stretch, Gulas unleashed the filly and sprinted to an historic victory on the 1 1/2-mile long grass track, edging out John the Drummer by three-quarters of a length.

It marked the first time a female jockey had won a Canadian Triple Crown race in the 70-year history of the series. Longshot Laurie lived up to her nickname.

“It was a barrier breaker,” said Arthur Silvera, a trainer who also booked Gulas to ride some of his horses. “After all these years, a woman could step up and win one of these prestigious races for a (top) trainer that had enough confidence in her to put her aboard this horse. I think it was a reassurance that female riders can get it done as well.”

***

About three weeks after that monumental victory, Gulas was competing at Woodbine when her horse clipped heels with another horse before the first turn and fell hard to the ground. The collision knocked Gulas unconscious and gave her a severe concussion.

“The first words out of the doctor’s mouth were, ‘I’m so sorry, you’ll never ride again.’ One day you could sneeze and you’ll be a vegetable,’ ” Gulas says. “I didn’t hear anything after that. The worst thing you can say to a rider is, ‘You’ll never ride again.’ All I did after that is set out to prove those words were wrong.”

Her attempt proved futile. She returned to riding and began experiencing headaches, finally shutting it down for the remainder of the season. It got worse the following February when she tried riding again and suffered a second concussion and severe neck trauma from the impact of a fall that occurred when the horse she was exercising had a heart attack and died.

Eight months after, with Gulas persistently complaining to doctors of pain, it was discovered one of her collarbones had broken, ripped off the chest wall and wedged against the main nerve of her spinal column. Surgery was needed to insert a metal plate and screws in her chest to mend her collarbone and fuse it back into place.

Healed and ready to ride again, Gulas returned to competition in 2001 and did well, winning 25 of the 281 races she entered and taking home more than $1 million in purses. In 2002, Longshot Laurie won 32 races in 358 starts and a career-best $1.3 million in earnings.

Things were looking up.

“I never had a doubt (about returning to ride again) because I was so determined and that’s all I ever worked for,” she says.

But in 2003, she began suffering excruciating pain in her bones when she rode. Doctors prescribed her medication. It didn’t help.

When the pain intensified she started self-medicating with opioids she bought off the streets — percocet, demerol, morphine, oxycontin, lortabs, darvocet, dilaudid, roxycodone . . .

The pain, she says, was so bad it caused her to become suicidal.

“I tried to help myself. I was fighting a losing battle.”

She spent a month in rehab in 2004 and, as part of the aftercare program, she attended group therapy once a week. She also started galloping horses, with dreams of riding again. Then her mother was diagnosed with dementia. She died in late 2006 at age 58.

“That destroyed me,” Gulas says.

And it led her to begin using again. In fact, Gulas’s drug habit had escalated so much so during her mother’s illness that her weight dropped to 78 pounds.

Longtime friend Carol Arseneau Peters reached out to help.

“She was dealing with a lot and then her mom got sick,” says Arseneau Peters, a retired jockey who started her career at Woodbine around the same time as Gulas. “Within that whole five-year period there were things that quickly combined and snowballed. Unfortunately, that led into a downward spiral and she couldn’t get herself out of there.”

Arseneau Peters was living in South Florida with her husband and their young child when she sent Gulas some money to fly down to stay with them. The one stipulation: no drug use. It took some time but Gulas was able to kick her habit, return to the racetrack and once again start to rebuild her racing career — that is until she suffered the “mother of all concussions” in a morning training accident on a July summer day in 2007.

“That was pretty much the end and the start of the major downfall,” Gulas says.

A few months later, she fell off another horse in what would turn out to be her final ride. That was followed by the death of her stepfather, a man whom she considered her father, after a long battle with cancer.

When Gulas began using pills again, Arseneau Peters asked her not to visit her or her family anymore.

“To be honest, she wasn’t safe to be around my family,” Arseneau Peters says. “She was just really lost.”

***

Gulas was a recluse in her trailer park home when she sought relief from a Florida doctor. She claims he “pounded” her with significant quantities of high-dosage painkillers and anti-anxiety medication.

“I didn’t use all the pills, but when I tell you how many of those things I could take in a day . . . you don’t want to know,” she says.

At the time, South Florida had become a hot spot for buying and selling illegal painkillers. Gulas was running out of money but had a few pills kicking around. She figured maybe she could sell a few — a one-time thing — pay some bills, get her life back on track and perhaps even make a return to riding.

She got a tip from a friend — a man who happened to be serving time in county jail for dealing drugs. During one of her visits to the prison he told her he had a friend coming to town from South Carolina and Gulas could make money selling him her pills. She resisted the idea at first but the temptation proved too much.

They met in a mall parking lot on a Monday around 4 p.m. She got into his car and he started pulling out stacks of money. He told her to count the pills she had. He then excused himself to grab more cash from the trunk; she continued counting.

A bang from the back of the car startled her. When she looked up, she was surrounded by a SWAT team, guns pointing directly at her.

“Oh my God, it was like what you see on TV!” she says. “I don’t even know where they appeared from.

“Knowing what I know now and being more clear-minded, it was screaming a setup the whole way through, but I was so blissfully ignorant of everything.”

Gulas was arrested and charged with one count of trafficking heroin between 28 grams and 30 kilograms. If convicted, she would face a minimum of 25 years in prison and up to a $500,000 fine.

Gulas pled “no contest” and, as part of a plea agreement with the prosecutor, she was sentenced to eight years behind bars.

Arseneau Peters says she was “mortified” upon hearing the news about Gulas. She was also relieved.

“It was really to the point I thought I was going to get a phone call and it’s either going to be she’s arrested or she’s dead,” Arseneau Peters says. “To me, the arrest was the better of the two.”

***

Inside the maximum security prison, Gulas gradually began to turn her life around. She got clean, for one. She found pleasure through art and writing programs and even studied to become a veterinary assistant through distant learning courses from the Stratford Career Institute. She received her diploma after passing with a mark of 99 per cent.

She also befriended a few of the inmates, but there was one in particular, Shelly Goldman, a woman who had overcome her own bitterness and anger and took it upon herself to help others in the prison system through their struggles, that Gulas is thankful for.

“For some reason she reached me. She taught me to basically speak all over again,” Gulas says. “I couldn’t hold a conversation. I would turn beet red, look at you as if I might hurt you, and run away. I was really kind of scary. I looked like a wild animal. My bangs were down to my chin.”

Slowly she began to open up. And feel happiness inside.

“I decided if I was going to live, I had to do it right. I knew if I couldn’t make it clean in prison, I’d never make it outside of there. For the first time I was happy. It’s not happy like I am now (on the outside), but not in troubled suicidal mode. It just opened up my eyes even more.”

Arseneau Peters kept in contact with Gulas and remembers how dramatically different she looked the first time she saw her in prison.

“It was sort of sad but comforting, too, to see my dear friend again — the person I know and loved and knew she could be and not the person unfortunately that was consumed with her problems and addicted to pills and changed who she was,” Arseneau Peters says. “It was tough, very emotional, to see someone you loved dearly in that situation — finally she seemed healthier (but was) stuck behind bars.”

Not anymore.

On Feb. 16, her 48th birthday, Gulas was released from prison early for good behaviour. She ended up serving 6½ years of the eight-year sentence — 18 months pre-trial and another five in maximum security prison. She is back living with Arseneau Peters and her family and helping manage their horse farm, Oak Wood Stables, in Davies, Fla.

Ask her about a comeback to racing and she’s somewhat ambivalent.

“It’s what I love, it’s all that I loved, lived for, breathed for the majority of the time,” she says. “But I also realize that I don’t want to waste time. I’m not going to win every race and enough can go wrong the minute the starting gate doors slam open.”

It’s been a long, tough journey, but Gulas recorded a victory far greater than anything she experienced riding. Best of all, she’s happy.

“Being arrested and sent to prison was what set things in motion for my life to be saved,” she says.

Longshot Laurie beat the odds again.


Two men in serious condition after hotel shooting downtown

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 07:37:28 EDT


Two men are in serious condition following a shooting in a downtown hotel early Saturday.

Toronto police Const. Caroline de Kloet said two men were found with gunshot wounds in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency hotel at King St. W. and Peter St. near Spadina Ave. around 4:30 a.m.

“One man had a gunshot wound to his stomach and the other man had a gunshot wound to his leg,” she said.

Both were conscious and breathing when they were transported to hospital.

Toronto police were still on the scene as of Saturday morning continuing the investigation. There is currently no information on suspects.

Anyone with information is being asked to contact police at 416-808-5200 or Crime Stoppers at 416-222-8477.


Crumbling gangland partnership probed in two botched GTA murder bids

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 14:52:22 EDT


Police are probing whether a dissolving business partnership involving the London, Ont., Hells Angels is behind two failed murder attempts in the GTA this month.

The latest shooting took place on Wednesday outside a coffee shop at Sherway Gardens near The West Mall and Evans Ave. around 7:30 p.m.

The shootings are the latest in a string of more than a dozen unsolved violent incidents this year in southern Ontario, including killings, explosions and arson.

Organized crime experts say the GTA is undergoing a power struggle that pits established criminals against younger, up-and-coming ones — often from outside the province.

They’re fighting for control of drug networks and online gambling dollars, experts say, adding they don’t expect the fighting to end anytime soon.

Read more:

Organized crime’s interest in the illegal pot business is going up in smoke

Back to the future: Satan’s Choice biker club reappears on Ontario roads

On the organized crime front, several shots were fired in the Wednesday attack that left Mark Peretz of London seriously injured.

A second male victim also suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

The suspects, who were wearing black masks and all-black clothing, fled in a black SUV. The vehicle was later located — burned and abandoned — in Mississauga near Hurontario St. and Queen Elizabeth Way, police said.

Peretz is one of four men who served prison time for a botched Mob hit in 2004 that left an innocent mother-of-three paralyzed from the waist down.

In the other attack, a 35-year-old London man was shot Aug. 4 after he was approached by three men outside a Sunset Grill breakfast restaurant in an Oakville shopping plaza at Cornwall and Trafalgar Rds. around 9:30 a.m.

One male suspect was arrested after fleeing on foot, and two other males are still being sought by police after fleeing in a black pickup truck.

A police source said a dissolving business partnership involving the London Hells Angels and online gambling has contributed to recent underworld tensions.

Peretz was sentenced to nine years in prison in April 2006 for his role in a drive-by shooting attack at a California Sandwich shop on Chesswood Dr. in Etobicoke on April 21, 2004 that left bystander Louise Russo paralyzed from the waist down.

Court heard that Peretz was the driver of a stolen van in the shooting and that the motive was an outstanding $240,000 online gambling debt owed to him.

Peretz took part in a controversial plea bargain that provided Russo with $2 million in restitution, along with Peter Scarcella of York Region, described by Corrections Canada as a Mob figure; Paris Christoforou, who was then sergeant-at-arms for the London Hells Angels; and gunman Antonio Borrelli.

Peretz, Scarcella and Christoforou each were sentenced to nine years in prison while Borrelli received a 10-year term.

Court heard that the target of the botched murder attempt in 2004 was Michele Modica, who was in the restaurant at the time of the shooting but was not injured.

Court heard that Modica entered Canada on a forged passport and, with an associate, ran up online gambling debts of about $240,000 owed to Peretz.

Court heard that Christoforou was Peretz’s partner and head of collections.

Their associate, Raffaele Delle Donne, later became a police agent. He is quoted in the agreed statement of facts on the case as saying that Peretz and Christoforou met with Modica shortly before the shooting and left no doubt they expected payment in full.

“I didn’t see it but I heard that uh, Mark (Peretz) . . . and uh, his bodyguard (Christoforou) I guess . . . kicked (Modica) in the face and put a . . . gun in his mouth,” Delle Donne is reported as saying.


Canadian victim of Barcelona attack mourned as family man, lover of books, beer, debate

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 11:00:00 EDT


A Canadian killed in a terrorist attack on a popular street in Barcelona was described by his family as a man who was “always game for a lively debate, a good book exploring new places, and a proper-sized pint.”

In a Facebook post, Staff Sergeant Fiona Wilson, a member of the Vancouver police department, confirmed that her father, Ian Moore Wilson, was among the 13 people killed in the terrorist attack.

“In the midst of this tragedy, my dad would want those around him to focus on the extraordinary acts of human kindness that our family has experienced over the past several days,” wrote Wilson.

She also thanked first responders and others who helped out in the aftermath of the attack, including “the people who assisted my dad in his final moments, and those who focused on my mum’s urgent medical attention and aftercare.”

Wilson is described as a loving husband to his wife Valerie Wilson of 53 years, a father, brother and grandfather.

The family said they intend on focusing on “the extraordinary acts of human kindness” they’ve experienced despite the tragedy because that’s what Wilson would have wanted.

They say they’ve received support from Vancouver police, the RCMP, airlines and emergency responders in Spain who helped Wilson in his final moments and provided urgent medical care to Valerie Wilson.

“These are the things we will choose to focus on when we endeavour to come to terms with the senseless violence and acts of hatred that have taken loved ones before their time,” the family statement said.

The family has asked that their privacy be respected.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that in addition to Moore’s death, four other Canadians were injured in the terrorist attack.

“It was with great sadness that I learned today that one Canadian was killed and four others injured during (Thursday’s) cowardly terrorist attack in Barcelona," Trudeau said in a statement.

“Sophie and I offer our condolences to the families and friends in mourning, and hope for a speedy recovery for the injured Canadians,” Trudeau said.

"We join Spain and countries around the world in grieving the senseless loss of so many innocent people. We must stand firm against the spread of hate and intolerance in all its forms. These violent acts that seek to divide us will only strengthen our resolve."

The details about those who were injured or their current condition has not been released. Canadian officials say they are in touch with the affected families.

Here is a look at some of the other victims:

Francisco Lopez Rodriguez, Spain

One of his nieces, Raquel Baron Lopez, said on her Twitter account that Rodriguez, 60, died immediately when he was struck by the van. After the attack, Lopez posted pictures of her uncle on Twitter when his family was looking for him and trying to find out whether he was alive.

The mayor of Lanteira, the southern town in Spain where Rodriguez was born, confirmed his death to Spanish media.


Luca Russo, Italy

His death was confirmed in a tweet by Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni.

Italian media reported that Russo was 25, held a university degree in engineering and lived in northern Italy. Italian officials said Russo’s girlfriend suffered fractures and remains hospitalized.


Bruno Gulotta, 35, Italy

The mayor in his town, Legnano in northern Italy, confirmed Gulotta’s death. One of his Gulotta’s work colleagues, Pino Bruno, told the Italian news agency ANSA that he saved the life of his two young children — Alessandro, 6, and Aria, 7 months — by throwing himself between them and the van that mowed people down.

Bruno said he spoke to Gulotta’s wife, Martina, and that she told him her husband had been holding the 6-year-old’s hand on the tourist-thronged avenue when “the van appeared suddenly.”

“Everyone knelt down, instinctively, as if to protect themselves,” Bruno said, adding that Gulotta put himself in front of his children and was fatally struck.


Elke Vanbockrijck, Belgium

Arnould Partoens, president of the KFC Heur Tongeren football team, said Vanbockrijck was at the club “nearly every day,” ferrying her 10- and 14-year-old boys back and forth to training and matches. He described her as very committed, often speaking her mind about the boys’ and their teams’ performances.

“She was not negative. She was always positive,” he said in a phone interview. He said the team would hold one minute of silence before every match and training session this weekend.

Partoens said the family was on vacation in Barcelona. The boys and their father, a policeman, were unhurt, he said.

“The mother was in the wrong moment and the wrong place,” he said.


Also, listed as missing:

Jared Tucker, U.S.

His sister, Tina Luke, told The Associated Press that Tucker and his wife, Heidi Nunes-Tucker, were celebrating their honeymoon in Barcelona. She said they married a year ago and then saved up for the trip. She said Tucker is listed as missing and hasn’t been found among the more than 100 injured.

San Francisco broadcaster ABC-7 News reported that Tucker, 43, is from Lafayette in California.

It said the Tuckers were in Barcelona after a two-week European vacation.

It quoted brother-in-law Kalani Kalanui as saying: “They were walking through downtown when he stopped to use the restroom, moments later all hell broke loose and Heidi was swept up in the terrified crowd and she lost sight of Jared.”

Read more:

‘Every little movement, every little bang was just horrific,’ Canadian says of attack

Barcelona attackers plotted to combine vehicles and explosives, authorities say

With files from the Associated Press


CNE cancels Youth Day following safety concerns in 2016

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 07:50:27 EDT


The Canadian National Exhibition has cancelled its popular Youth Day for this year’s exhibition, citing issues in 2016 when it was forced to shut down early due to safety concerns.

The CNE reviews its promotions yearly and last year’s incident was a factor in the decision, said media spokesperson Tran Nguyen.

Last year police were called to the fair grounds after multiple fights broke out during Youth Day, when admission prices drop to $6 before 3 p.m. and there are discounted rides.

Two 16-year-olds and a 17-year-old were arrested and, in a “proactive measure,” the exhibition closed nearly three hours early.

The CNE then said it would be re-evaluating the event, which they have had for six years.

“A few bad apples” won’t deter the CNE from welcoming youth, Nguyen said.

Security is “very comprehensive” and they factor in past years’ experiences into the security plan, Nguyen continued.

This year, in an effort to appeal to the younger demographic despite cancelling Youth Day, youth-oriented programming has been expanded for the whole fair, including concerts and things like Parkour demonstrations and laser shows, Nguyen said.

Tickets are being offered at $8 to all ages after 5 p.m. each Monday to Thursday, excluding Labour Day.

In 2015, the CNE closed an hour early due to overcrowding, when 20,000 more people than expected, including “large groups of youth” were counted at the Youth Day event. While they called the turn out a “positive response,” the decision was “simply to ensure the safety of our guests.”

With files from Emily Fearon


Thousands drown out ‘free speech’ rally in Boston with anti-Nazi slogans

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 11:35:00 EDT


BOSTON—Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned “free speech rally” a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

Counterprotesters marched through the city to historic Boston Common, where many gathered near a bandstand abandoned early by conservatives who had planned to deliver a series of speeches. Police vans later escorted the conservatives out of the area, and angry counterprotesters scuffled with armed officers trying to maintain order.

Members of the Black Lives Matter movement later protested on the Common, where a Confederate flag was burned and protesters pounded on the sides of a police vehicle.

Later Saturday afternoon, Boston’s police department tweeted that protesters were throwing bottles, urine and rocks at them and asked people publicly to refrain from doing so.

Boston Commissioner William Evans said 27 arrests were made — mostly for disorderly conduct while some were for assaulting police officers. Officials said the rallies drew about 40,000 people.

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U.S. President Donald Trump applauded the people in Boston who he said were “speaking out” against bigotry and hate. Trump added in a Twitter message that “Our country will soon come together as one!”

Organizers of the event, which had been billed as a “Free Speech Rally,” had publicly distanced themselves from the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and others who fomented violence in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. A woman was killed at that Unite the Right rally, and many others were injured, when a car plowed into counterdemonstrators.

Opponents feared that white nationalists might show up in Boston anyway, raising the spectre of ugly confrontations in the first potentially large and racially charged gathering in a major U.S. city since Charlottesville.

One of the planned speakers of the conservative activist rally said the event “fell apart.”

Congressional candidate Samson Racioppi, who was among several slated to speak, told WCVB-TV that he didn’t realize “how unplanned of an event it was going to be.”

Some counterprotesters dressed entirely in black and wore bandanas over their faces. They chanted anti-Nazi and anti-fascism slogans, and waved signs that said: “Make Nazis Afraid Again,” “Love your neighbour,” “Resist fascism” and “Hate never made U.S. great.” Others carried a large banner that read: “SMASH WHITE SUPREMACY.”

Chris Hood, a free speech rally attendee from Dorchester, Mass., said people were unfairly making it seem like the rally was going to be “a white supremacist Klan rally.”

“That was never the intention,” he said. “We’ve only come here to promote free speech on college campuses, free speech on social media for conservative, right-wing speakers. And we have no intention of violence.”

Rockeem Robinson, a youth counsellor from Cambridge, Mass., said he joined the counterprotest to “show support for the Black community and for all minority communities.”

TV cameras showed a group of boisterous counterprotesters on the Common chasing a man with a Trump campaign banner and cap, shouting and swearing at him. But other counterprotesters intervened and helped the man safely over a fence into the area where the conservative rally was to be staged. Black-clad counterprotesters also grabbed an American flag out of an elderly woman’s hands, and she stumbled and fell to the ground.

Saturday’s showdown was mostly peaceable, and after demonstrators dispersed, a picnic atmosphere took over with stragglers tossing beach balls, banging on bongo drums and playing reggae music.

The Boston Free Speech Coalition, which organized the event, said it has nothing to do with white nationalism or racism and its group is not affiliated with the Charlottesville rally organizers in any way.

Rallies in other cities around the country each attracted hundreds of people who wanted to show their opposition to white supremacist groups.

Counterprotesters marched through New Orleans, some of them carrying signs that read “White People Against White Supremacy” and “Black Lives Matter.”

In Atlanta, Ga., a diverse crowd marched from the city’s downtown to the home of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Meredith Dubé brought along her daughters, 2-year-old Willow Dubé and 12-year-old Rai Chin. Dubé is white and her daughters are mixed race. She said it is essential to show children at an early age that love is more powerful than hate.

An anti-racism rally was held in Laguna Beach, Calif., one day before the group America First! planned to hold a demonstration in the same place that’s being billed as an “Electric Vigil for the Victims of Illegals and Refugees.”

Mayor Toni Iselman told the crowd that “Laguna Beach doesn’t tolerate diversity, we embrace diversity.”

In Dallas, officials were expecting thousands of people for a Saturday evening rally against white supremacy at city hall plaza, a short distance from the city’s Confederate War Memorial. About a half-dozen people wearing camouflage and toting guns patrolled Pioneer Park and its Civil War cemetery. They said they were there to make sure there was no vandalism to graves or the Confederate memorial.


Millions expected to watch solar eclipse

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 19:32:34 EDT


CARBONDALE, ILL.—The warning signs hang above hundreds of kilometres of highway, flashing the same message from Illinois to Tennessee: “SOLAR ECLIPSE. AUGUST 21. PLAN AHEAD.”

On Monday, the moon will pass in front of the sun and cast a shadow over a 112-kilometre-wide cross-section of the continent known as the “path of totality.” It will be the country’s first total solar eclipse in nearly 40 years, and an estimated 12 million people are expected to witness it. That estimate may well be low.

A good chunk of those people will watch from somewhere along Interstate 24. It’s a smooth, straight highway that cuts across the American heartland, passing cornfields, churches, Chik-fil-As and dozens of billboards bearing stern instructions not to leave your car to look at the sun.

This is the road to totality. And already, eclipse chasers are congregating here, ready for the moon’s shadow to fall on them.

Rose Gilbert arrived days ago. It took the Columbia, Md., resident 11 hours to drive herself, her husband, three of their daughters and Gilbert’s octogenarian parents to Nashville, where they’ve rented a house with a view of a lake and a wide open stretch of sky.

“Suppose it’s cloudy?” asks her father, Carl Landi. He’s been skeptical about this whole endeavour since she first proposed it more than a year ago. (“Had it been up to me, I probably wouldn’t be here,” he confides privately.)

“Then we’ll get in the car and drive,” Rose replies, not missing a beat.

She and her husband, John, wouldn’t call themselves astronomy buffs. She’s a nurse, he’s a physician assistant. They don’t own telescopes or plan their vacations around celestial events.

But an eclipse is different, Rose says.

“It’s two whole minutes of the sun being blocked.”

“That’s a once in a lifetime experience for most people,” John says.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Rose responds.

So here they are, the whole family. Their cameras are outfitted with solar filters. Their eclipse glasses are NASA-certified — Rose double checked. Even Carl is grudgingly looking forward to the event. T-minus three days and ready to go.

Signs of the coming spectacle are evident to those who look. There’s an unusual abundance of out-of-state plates in Midwestern towns that rarely get tourists. Restaurants have announced economically awkward Monday afternoon closings between noon and 3 p.m. The billboard outside the Park Avenue Baptist Church in Paducah, Ky., asks: “We live on a planet that circles the sun and you don’t believe in miracles?”

Locals compare the eclipse mania to a fever. It started almost imperceptibly — a date on the calendar, a one-minute preview on the nightly news. Then came the special sections of the newspaper, the cartons full of cardboard solar glasses in every storefront and posters of the sun in every window. The obsession grew and grew. Now, the whole region is half delirious.

“I’ve heard some pretty apocalyptic sounding things,” said Melanie Cochran, of Nashville. “Cellphones dying. Power lines overloaded. They say you should get all your grocery shopping done now, in case the stores run out of food.”

“Pfft,” Demeka Fritts, also of Nashville, lets out an exasperated breath. “Every newscast is eclipse and politics.”

Don’t be fooled by her tone. Fritts long ago made plans to watch the event from her sister’s rooftop. It’s been a while since she spent time gazing at the sky. The 38-year-old used to love looking at the stars, but now her job keeps her busy and the lights in Nashville are too bright to see much. On Monday, she’ll stop and look up again. The whole country will.

“It’s kind of cool,” she says.

Businesses are closing for the big event. Schools are sending their students home early — or asking them not to come in at all.

Shelley and John Henry Wells, of San Francisco, were supposed to be at an artist’s conference in the Smoky Mountains next week. A few months ago, they found out that the organizers had cancelled all of Monday’s events; instead, attendees will be given a bagged lunch and a seat on a bus to a viewing location near Hendersonville, N.C.

Meanwhile, anyone who can turn the eclipse into a marketing opportunity has done so. The Warby Parker hipster eyewear chain is handing out branded solar glasses. A billboard for Harrah’s Casino in Metropolis promises a $100,000 (U.S.) eclipse giveaway.

At the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, curators have pulled out of storage an award-winning 1989 work called “Corona II” — a fabric and thread depiction of the sun’s outer atmosphere as seen during an eclipse. On Friday, at least two dozen visitors came into the museum specifically to see it.

“It’s just magical,” said Laura Hendrickson, the museum’s registrar, her gaze tracing the quilt’s stunning, swirling design. “That’s the only way to describe it.”

That this quilt happens to hang within the path of totality seems a stunning cosmic coincidence. (Then again, the path of totality also encompasses “Carhenge.”)

Hendrickson confessed that she harbours a secret hope that something special will happen during Monday’s event. She’s a “megafan” of the TV show Heroes, in which characters gain superpowers from watching a total solar eclipse.

“The nerd in me is like, ‘what if the eclipse happens and someone can fly?’” Hendrickson laughed.

“I’ll be right here,” she said of her plans for the eclipse. Watching through solar glasses decorated with an image of “Corona II.” Waiting for something magical to occur.


Wreck of warship USS Indianapolis found deep in Pacific after 72 years

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 22:17:38 EDT


WASHINGTON—Civilian researchers say they have located the wreck of the USS Indianapolis, the Second World War heavy cruiser that played a critical role in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima before being struck by Japanese torpedoes.

The sinking of the Indianapolis remains the U.S. Navy’s single worst loss at sea. The fate of its crew — nearly 900 were killed, many by sharks, and just 316 survived — was one of the Pacific war’s more horrible and fascinating tales.

The expedition crew of Research Vessel Petrel, which is owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, says it located the wreckage of the Indianapolis on the floor of the North Pacific Ocean, more than 5,500 metres (18,000 feet) below the surface, the U.S. Navy said in a news release Saturday.

“To be able to honour the brave men of the USS Indianapolis and their families through the discovery of a ship that played such a significant role in ending World War II is truly humbling,” Allen said in the news release.

The Indianapolis, with 1,196 sailors and Marines on board, was sailing the Philippine Sea between Guam and Leyte Gulf when two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine struck just after midnight on July 30, 1945. It sank in 12 minutes, killing about 300. Survivors were left in the water, most of them with only life jackets.

There was no time to send a distress signal, and four days passed before a bomber on routine patrol happened to spot the survivors in the water. By the time rescuers arrived, a combination of exposure, dehydration, drowning and constant shark attacks had left only one-fourth of the ship’s original number alive.

Over the years numerous books recounted the ship’s disaster and its role in delivering key components of what would become the atomic bomb “Little Boy” to the island of Tinian, the takeoff point for the bomber Enola Gay’s mission to Hiroshima in August 1945. Documentaries and movies, most recently USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage (2016) starring Nicolas Cage, have recounted the crew’s horror-filled days at sea. The Indianapolis sinking also was a plot point in the Steven Spielberg blockbuster Jaws (1975), with the fictitious survivor Capt. Quint recounting the terror he felt waiting to be rescued.

The Navy news release issued Saturday said a key to finding the Indianapolis came in 2016 when Richard Hulver, a historian with the Naval History and Heritage Command, determined a new search area. Hulver’s research identified a naval landing craft that had recorded a sighting of the Indianapolis the day before it sank. The research team developed a new search area, although it was still 600 square miles of open ocean.

The Navy said the 13-person expedition team on the R/V Petrel was surveying the Indianapolis site. The team’s work has been compliant with U.S. law regarding a sunken warship as a military grave not to be disturbed, according to the Navy. The wrecked ship remains the property of the Navy and its location is both confidential and restricted, it said.


U.S. signals Trump’s Buy American agenda is non-negotiable in NAFTA talks

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 15:30:24 EDT


WASHINGTON—The leader of Canada’s largest private sector union says the United States must “soften its stance” on its push for Buy American rules in government procurement if it wants to get a new NAFTA deal.

Unifor president Jerry Dias said he has heard American negotiators are standing firm on their demand to gain more access to government procurement contracts in Canada and Mexico, while restricting businesses in those countries from competing for bids in the U.S. through so-called Buy American laws that have been championed by President Donald Trump.

“They want to build a wall around Buy American policies, (and) yet have full access to procurement policies in Canada and Mexico,” he told the Star in an interview Saturday at the Washington hotel where NAFTA renegotiations are being held this week.

“Why would we do this? We’re a polite nation, but we’re not a stupid nation,” he said.

“They can’t say they want a deal and then bargain as if they don’t want one.”

Dias’s comments came as the U.S. trade office, together with the commerce department, published an eight-page call for “industry outreach” on how U.S. trade deals, including NAFTA, affect the costs and benefits of Buy American laws. The call stems from an executive order — titled “Buy American and Hire American” — made by Trump earlier this year, which instructed government departments to study how these provisions would work.

Dan Ujczo, a trade lawyer from Ohio who has worked for both the U.S. and Canadian governments, said he finds the timing of the public call — in the midst of the first round of NAFTA renegotiations — hardly coincidental.

He explained that it may be a way for the U.S. to take the issue off the NAFTA table, because the government can say they are holding consultations on the issue and how it relates to a series of agreements. In that sense, the issue could be swept from the NAFTA table, Ujczo said, thus blocking any Mexican and Canadian objections to Buy American provisions in the renegotiation process.

“This seems to be a pretty deliberate strategy,” he told the Star. “This takes it off the table”

One of the hallmarks of Trump’s rise to power and subsequent presidency has been his penchant for inflammatory rhetoric on NAFTA. He has called it the worst deal ever signed and threatened to tear it up unless a better agreement can be negotiated for American workers. He has also advocated “America First” policies, which include the exploration of ways to create rules where government projects and large-scale private enterprises — such as the Keystone XL pipeline — would have to hire American workers and use American-made resources.

Canada is expected to push back on this. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a speech Monday that restrictions on government procurement are like “political junk food,” in that they are “superficially appetizing, but unhealthy in the long run.”

Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said the Americans’ push to restrict government procurement in the U.S. while opening it in Canada and Mexico is anything but “reciprocity” — which was the stated goal for the process outlined by U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer in his opening remarks to the talks on Wednesday.

Beatty added that the ambitious timeline set out for the renegotiations — the U.S. and Mexico reportedly want a new deal by the end of the year — will be scuttled if the U.S. holds firm on positions like this.

“If (the goal) is simply rewrite the agreement to favour one party at the expense of the other two, there’s not going to be an early conclusion. And if there is an early conclusions, there won’t be a happy one,” he said.

Despite the appearance that the U.S. is standing firm on a key disagreement, Beatty said it’s still early in the renegotiation process. “Everybody should keep their cool,” he said.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress and member of the Liberal government’s cross-partisan NAFTA advisory council, told the Star that the negotiations to this point have been “very respectful and cordial.” He said the sense from the Canadian side is that the talks could actually wrap up by December.

At the same time, he expressed confusion at the U.S. stance on Buy American, which he said is a major issue for Canadian industries like steel and aluminum.

“I’m not convinced that will be their bottom line, but that’s the kind of message that they want to send to the American public, and specifically to (Trump’s) constituency — that they’re tough,” he said.

The three countries that are party to NAFTA have outlined their own goals for the renegotiation. The U.S. has pointed to trade deficits with Mexico and to a lesser degree Canada as a key problem they hope to solve. Lighthizer also said this week that the agreement was a “failure” for countless Americans, pointing to the decline of manufacturing in some sectors and placed blame on the agreement.

Canada, meanwhile, has said it wants to see chapters on the environment, gender and Indigenous peoples added to the agreement, as well as find ways to increase the cross-border flow of business professionals and cut down red tape.

All three countries have said they’d like to see the agreement “modernized” to reflect the realities of technological progress since NAFTA came into effect in 1994.

As the fourth day of negotiations began Saturday, Canada’s chief negotiator strolled by a group of reporters. One of them asked if things are going as expected. Steve Verheul smiled as he passed.

“So far,” he said. “So far.”

The first round of negotiations is scheduled to finish with a joint communiqué from the negotiating teams Sunday afternoon.


Eaton Centre Uniqlo workers seeking to unionize

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 07:00:00 EDT


Employees at the Uniqlo store at Toronto Eaton Centre have decided to hold a vote on whether to join a union to improve conditions at the Japanese apparel retailer’s first Canadian location.

Staff at the store are being scheduled for 9.5-hour workdays that include 90 minutes of unpaid breaks and they are often asked to work overtime on top of that, said Chicheng Wat, 35, who works on the sales floor and in the management office.

“People say: ‘It’s just retail, what do you expect,’ but we work hard, we deserve to be treated fairly,” said Wat.

Other employees have said that during peak periods, they are expected to work 12-hour days, said Tanya Ferguson, organizing co-ordinator for Workers United Canada Council.

“I think fundamentally what it comes down to is there just seems to be a lack of respect,” said Ferguson.

The 169 non-management Eaton Centre store employees are scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to join Workers United Canada, after more than 40 per cent of them signed union cards — the first step in the process toward union certification.

If 50 per cent plus one of the votes are in favour of a union, they can begin negotiating a contract with management.

Uniqlo, a division of Japan’s Fast Retailing Co. Ltd., opened two stores in the GTA last year, the first at the Eaton Centre, the second at Yorkdale. It sells casualwear for men, women and children. It is planning to open a third Canadian store in Burnaby, B.C.

Uniqlo has 837 stores in Japan, accounting for 6.5 per cent of the Japanese apparel market and it is now pursuing growth via global markets in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea the United Kingdom, where it began opening stores in 2001.

It has 51 stores in the U.S.

Uniqlo Canada said it could not make the deadline to comment for this story.

Workers first reached out to the union in July, after hearing of its success in organizing personal trainers at GoodLife Fitness.

“They felt the best way to improve the workplace and stem high turnover was to unionize,” said Ryan Hayes, communications and research, Workers United Canada Council.

“To our knowledge, this is the first unionization drive at a Uniqlo anywhere in the world.”

The union, which has its roots in the garment trade, represents 10,000 workers in Canada and is part of a North American union representing 100,000, said Hayes.