British police arrest 10 in London attack probe

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 07:27:00 EDT

LONDON—British police are combing through “massive amounts of computer data,” have searched more than 20 sites and have contacted thousands of witnesses in a vast operation to trace how a British man became radicalized and launched a deadly attack on Parliament, a senior official said Friday.

In a briefing outside Scotland Yard, London’s top counterterror officer, Mark Rowley, said more “significant” arrests had been made, bringing to 10 the number of people in custody over Wednesday’s attack, which killed four people and the assailant.

Police said the attacker, Khalid Masood, was born Adrian Russell Ajao in southern England in 1964. He was also known as Adrian Elms and “may also be known by a number of other names,” police said.

The latest arrests were a man and a woman detained early Friday in Manchester, northwest England. Police believe Masood acted alone but Rowley said police were trying to determine whether others “encouraged, supported or directed him.”

Daesh has claimed responsibility for the attack on Westminster Bridge and at Parliament.

Detectives have searched 21 properties in London, Brighton, Wales, Manchester and the central English city of Birmingham in one of Britain’s biggest counterterrorism operations in years. Wednesday’s attack was the deadliest in Britain since suicide bombers killed 52 commuters on London’s transit system in July 2005.

“We’ve seized 2,700 items from these searches, including massive amounts of computer data for us to work through,” Rowley said, adding that contact had been made with 3,500 witnesses.

“We’ve received hundreds of uploads of video images to our online platform. Given this attack was in the heart of the capital we also, of course, are dealing with statements from a wide range of nationalities.”

Read more:

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Masood drove his car into crowds on Westminster Bridge before fatally stabbing a police officer on Parliament grounds. He was shot dead by police.

An American man from Utah, a British retiree and British female school administrator were killed on the bridge, and police officer Keith Palmer was stabbed to death at Parliament, police said.

The latest victim, a man who died in a hospital Thursday, was identified as 75-year-old Leslie Rhodes from south London.

More than 50 people of a dozen nationalities were wounded in the attack, 31 of whom required hospital treatment.

“Those affected include a real cross-section of ages from at least 12 nationalities,” Rowley said. “It’s a poignant reminder, I think, that the impact of this attack on the capital will reach around the world. “

Rowley said two police officers targeted in the attack have significant injuries. Two other people also remain in critical condition, one with life-threatening injuries.

The 52-year-old attacker was born in southeastern England and had most recently been living in Birmingham, where several properties have been searched by police. Police say Masood has had a string of convictions between 1983 and 2003 for offences including assault and possession of an offensive weapon.

Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday that Masood was “investigated in relation to concerns about violent extremism” some years ago. But she called him “a peripheral figure.”

The manager of a hotel in the beachside city of Brighton in southern England, where Masood stayed the night before the attack, said he seemed unusually outgoing and mentioned details about his family, including having a sick father.

“He was normal, in fact friendly, because we spent possibly five or 10 minutes talking to him about his background,” Sabeur Toumi told Sky News.

Police raided the room at the Preston Park Hotel in Brighton after the attack, searching for clues.

Londoners continued to lay flowers and sign condolence books for the victims on Friday, as Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders gathered in solidarity outside Westminster Abbey.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said terrorists “seek to divide us. Londoners are showing right now that we will always stand up with strength to confront terror and we will never be cowed by it.”

Further details about the rampage continued to emerge.

A former British army officer told the BBC that rescuers held the hand of Constable Keith Palmer and talked to him as they tried in vain to save his life after he was stabbed.

Mike Crofts, a former army captain who served in Afghanistan, said he was in the courtyard outside the Houses of Parliament, then rushed toward the scene and began performing first aid. Ultimately, 20 to 30 people were working to save the officer’s life.

“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we were unable to save him,” Crofts said. “Palmer at the time was surrounded by a whole host of colleagues who really loved him. We held his hand through the experience.”

Some security experts, meanwhile, criticized police procedures after newly published video showed confusion and delays as the prime minister was being rushed out of Parliament after the attack. Ken Wharfe, a former bodyguard to the late Princess Diana, said the video reveals that May was not properly protected for about 10 seconds.

Rowley, Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism chief, said changes to Parliamentary security may be needed.

“My team will work with Parliamentary authorities to assess whether a different tone or a different balance is necessary,” he said.

Retired London bus driver Charlie Irvine, laying flowers outside police headquarters, said people should focus less on the killer and more on the victims and those who came to their aid.

“I disagree with the coverage of the guy who caused this,” Irvine said. “I don’t think he should get the publicity. He doesn’t deserve the publicity.”

Quebec considers assisted death for dementia patients

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 11:57:18 EDT

MONTREAL—Quebec's health minister says the province will consider allowing people to make advance requests for assisted suicide, which could grant people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia access to the medical procedure.

Gaetan Barrette told reporters Friday that he is forming an expert group to consider expanding the criteria under Quebec’s pioneering euthanasia law, which came into force in December 2015.

The province will also ask the courts to clarify a section of the federal assisted suicide law which states that the procedure should only be available to those whose deaths are “reasonably foreseeable.”

Barrette said the lack of definition around this term poses a “major problem” for health professionals asked to administer the procedure by patients.

In addition to the expert group and the judicial request, a provincial commission that oversees medical aid in dying in Quebec will also conduct a review of the circumstances in which the procedure has been allowed or refused.

The decision comes less than a year after Bill C-14, the federal assisted suicide legislation, came into effect across Canada.

Barrette said he was persuaded to begin the lengthy process to consider expanding access to the procedure because of the larger-than-estimated number of demands for a hastened death.

“As a doctor and a minister, I think that Quebeckers are ready,” he said, noting that the process is expected to take at least a year.

“I don’t believe that the Quebec population wants us to go fast. I think that the population is asking us to start the reflection in the most prudent manner possible.”

Advocacy groups have identified the inability of patients with conditions that erode their mental capacities, such as Alzheimer’s disease as an oversight in the federal law because those individuals are likely to be unable to give informed consent by the time that their deaths are at hand.

“Our supporters were heartbroken last year when they learned that the federal assisted dying law would unfairly restrict choice for individuals with dementia and other conditions that rob victims of their mental capacity,” said Cory Ruf, a spokesperson for Dying with Dignity Canada.

In a statement, the Federation of Quebec Alzheimer Societies said it is opposed to allowing people with dementia to make advance requests for assisted suicide because of the often long and changing nature of the condition.

“It is difficult or impossible to know what the person with dementia comes to value over time, especially if those values are at odds with previously expressed desires,” the group said.

“Life doesn’t end when the disease begins. People with dementia remain whole individuals right through till their last days.”

In December, the federal government announced it had launched a review of Bill C-14 that would examine issues around requests for assisted suicide made by mature minors, patients for whom mental illness is the only medical condition and advance requests for a doctor-assisted death.

The three federal studies are to be completed and tabled in Parliament by December 2018.

Barrette said there is a delicate and nuanced debate to be had on the expansion of Quebec’s legislation.

“I don’t think that people want medically assisted death through an advanced request at the first sign of inaptitude. At the other extreme I think that, yes, they want to have access to it. But between those two positions there are an infinite number of possibilities,” Barrette said.

He added that he was also troubled to hear of two recent cases of individuals who took extreme measures after being unable to access assisted suicide in the province.

One involved a man who is facing second-degree murder charges in the death of his wife, 60-year-old Jocelyne Lizotte. The woman had Alzheimer’s disease but was refused a doctor-assisted death, according to family members.

Another man, Jean Brault, who had been paralyzed for 42 years, undertook a 53-day hunger strike in 2016 before he was judged to be in a condition that met the criteria for the procedure to be carried out.

“The laws are made to protect the public. I find it cruel to be unable to act in the face of these situations,” Barrette said.

Anglican leader who defrocked, reconciled with gay priest dies

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 12:03:02 EDT

Rev. Terence Edward Finlay was a long-serving Toronto Anglican Church leader who championed reconciliation efforts with indigenous communities. He also made headlines for defrocking a gay priest in 1992 but later became an advocate for the LGBTQ community.

Finlay died Monday in Toronto. He was 79.

“One of the things I remember most about him was his smile and laughter,” said current Toronto Archbishop Colin Johnson in a statement posted to the diocese of Toronto’s website.

“Essentially, right at the heart of things, he was a joyful, hopeful, happy person, and deeply faithful . . . He loved people and met them from all walks of life.”

Born in London, Ont., on May 19, 1937, Finlay was ordained a deacon in 1961 and then a priest a year later. He served at the diocese of Huron before leaving for the diocese of Toronto in 1982, where he was elected a suffragan bishop in 1986, coadjutor bishop in 1987 and installed as the 10th Bishop of Toronto in 1989.

In 2000, Finlay was elected Metropolitan of Ontario and Archbishop of Toronto, a role in which he led the diocese’s support for the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement; the diocese of Toronto went on to give $5 million to the fund.

“He had the gift of being able to bring people with different points of view together and to talk through issues,” said Finlay’s wife of 55 years, Alice Jean. “And not so much to force anybody to change their opinion, but for people to understand where they did have common ground and how they could continue to work together.”

Finlay retired as a bishop in 2004 but continued working as an interim priest for several parishes, also serving as Chaplain to the National House of Bishops, Episcopal visitor to the Mission to Seafarers in Canada and the special envoy for the church on residential schools for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“None of us will ever forget his broad smile and his hearty laugh. None of us will forget those moments when his eyes danced with delight over someone’s happiness or great accomplishment,” Archbishop and Primate Fred Hiltz wrote in a tribute posted to the Anglican Church of Canada’s website.

“Nor will we forget those moments when his eyes welled up with tears over the great pain or grief someone was bearing . . . Nor will we forget seeing his head bowed in shame and contrition for the suffering inflicted upon hundreds and hundreds of children through the Indian Residential Schools.”

Along with working with indigenous communities on reconciliation efforts, Finlay was also known in recent years for his commitment to justice for the LGBTQ community, but that wasn’t always so — earlier in his career, he’d defrocked a gay priest for refusing to end his same-sex relationship.

In 1988, James Ferry, a priest at St. Philip’s Church in Unionville, fell in love with a man and began a relationship with him. As the news spread through the parish, Finlay, then the Bishop of Toronto, ordered Ferry to end the relationship. Ferry refused, at which point Finlay issued a letter to be read at all Anglican parishes outing Ferry and preventing him from performing pastoral duties. A bishop’s court found Ferry guilty of disobeying a superior, and Finlay defrocked him in 1992.

Twenty years later, in 2012, Finlay formally apologized to Ferry in a rare public reconciliation service at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto.

“I’ve moved in different directions,” Finlay told the Star at the time about his views on the LGBTQ community.

“. . . I have been very supportive of the gay and lesbian community, and also the whole question of gay marriage.”

In 2006, Finlay officiated at a same-sex marriage for two close friends at a United Church in Toronto, a move he was admonished for by the Anglican church and that cost him his licence to officiate at weddings in the diocese of Toronto.

“He was always supportive of his gay friends and colleagues, but was constrained by his position at that time and yet it ended up being an opportunity for the talk to be discussed and brought forward in the church to be dealt with,” said his wife Alice Jean.

Finlay is survived by his wife, their two daughters and four grandchildren.

Finlay’s funeral will be held at St. James Cathedral 10 a.m. Saturday, following a visitation and overnight vigil that begins Friday evening.

With files from Azzura Lalani

Toronto‚??s Dominion Public Building sells for $275M to Vancouver developer

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 11:03:22 EDT

The company behind the controversial expansion of the Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa has bought one of Toronto's heritage landmarks.

The Dominion Public Building at 1 Front St. W., was purchased by Larco Investments, a Vancouver-based developer for $275.1 million, Canada Lands Company confirmed on Thursday.

It also owns the Chateau Laurier.

But it is unclear what plans the developer has for Toronto's curved Beaux Arts building beside Union Station, which was declared surplus by the federal government and houses about 1,500 employees, including Canada Revenue Agency workers.

A Canada Lands spokeswoman referred questions about the building's future to Larco, which did not return the Star's call. BMO Capital Markets, which acted as agent for the sale, said the bank does not comment on client business.

Its heritage designation means that significant interior and exterior features of the five-storey, flat-roofed building will be protected.

Larco is owned by the Lalji family.

The company's holdings include retail, hotel, residential, office, and industrial properties, according to its website, which also lists it as the largest franchisee of full-service Marriott Hotels in Canada.

Its proposed redesign and expansion of the Ottawa Chateau Laurier announced last year was widely criticized. One social media commenter, quoted by the CBC, called it "the ugliest building downtown."

The Dominion Public building served as the government's first customs house, where imports and exports were administered and inspected. The first of two phases was built from 1929 to 1931. The west pavilion was added in 1934 and 1935.

It was touted for its "exceptional development potential" when advertised by BMO in January.

A developer who spoke with the Star at that time suggested that the 2-acre site could accommodate a skyscraper at least as tall as some nearby buildings that stand 55 and 65 storeys.

Barry Fenton, CEO of Lanterra Group, said the Dominion Public building could work as a hotel, residential or commercial property.

Man arrested by police at gunpoint left shaken

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 18:42:58 EDT

An unarmed Toronto man who was arrested at gunpoint outside his home and released minutes later says he thinks police were out of line.

According to his account, Gus Gustavo, 41, was on the driveway of his home near Kipling Ave. and Finch Ave. on the night of March 15, when he saw a car with no lights pull up.

As he was walking towards his house, he said a light was shone on him and he heard “gun noises,” and someone yelling to get on the ground.

He started walking faster, he said, not realizing it was police. He was about to get to the door when an officer ran up to him with a gun and told him to get down.

He yelled at his girlfriend, Alicia Jackson, who was inside the house, to record what was happening and said before she could begin recording, he was tackled by police.

Toronto Police Service director of corporate communications, Mark Pugash, confirmed in an email Gustavo was detained and handcuffed, however he said he “was not tackled” and complied with officers’ orders to get on the ground.

Pugash said the officers were in the area responding to “an armed hold up involving a shotgun” nearby and were assigned to check the area for suspects.

He confirmed the officers drew their firearms, but said the officers saw “a suspicious man” and “believed he was evading police.”

The incident was resolved safely, said Pugash and Gustavo was released three minutes later.

“They have to take all reasonable steps to protect themselves and anyone involved,” said Pugash. “They did exactly what they should have done under the circumstances.”

Pugash said no complaints have been filed and no officers have been disciplined over the incident.

In the video, Gustavo is seen facedown in the snow and handcuffed with an officer on his back.

“Release him, you have arrested an innocent man, remove his cuffs,” yells Jackson.

The cuffs are taken off and Gustavo is able to get up. There is then a heated exchange between Gustavo and Jackson and police.

A female officer is seen and heard apologizing to Gustavo for what happened and said a report will be filed. If he has any issues he is told to contact the division.

Gustavo, who does plumbing work for a living, said he was “very upset,” by the incident.

“They pulled out weapons that they have in their possession to protect me, to protect you, to protect the public and for them just to pull them out just like that it was not good,” he said.

Gustavo said he and his girlfriend have collectively gone to the police department twice about the incident and have called three times, but he said nothing has come out of it.

“What I’m hoping for is justice,” he said. “I want (the officers) to be held responsible and I want these guys to be made an example of according to what law will allow to happen. To pull a gun on someone like this that could have gone completely out of hand.”

Less sweetness, more savagery in film version of Rob Ford story

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 06:00:00 EDT

Actor Pat Thornton does what the Toronto police could never do. He nails Rob Ford, providing a chaotic and quite perfect impersonation of the late mayor of Toronto.

Four years ago, sitting in the back of a darkened car watching the crack video on an iPhone with colleague Robyn Doolittle, I felt like we were in a cheap crime drama. Late-night phone calls. Coffee. Drive to a prescribed location. Wait. Small talk. Wait. Get into car with strange man. Get driven to a parking lot. Convince a drug and gun dealer to show video of Toronto’s top politician smoking a rock of crack.

The Rob-Ford-on-crack we saw that night on video is the character Thornton has brought to the screen as Mayor Tom Hogg in the movie Filth City. Out of his mind on drugs for most of the film, wheezing, screaming, lecherous, crude and yet quite messianic in his desire to save taxpayers money. Our Ford had the slogan “Stop the gravy train.” This Hogg goes a bit further, vowing to take all of the social programs, the subsidized housing and the schools that are using up taxpayers’ money and “Suck them dry!”

Missing from his depiction of the mayor is what I came to understand as the sweet side of Ford — his actions tormented his family, but he did love them. Among Ford Nation, he was pretty much a deity. That’s why Ford Nation was so angry that the cops and media were after him. This Hogg has no family, but he does have a sidekick he calls “Bro,” a more sympathetic, though less loyal, character than the real Doug Ford, brother of Rob.

What is not missing from the movie is the crack, and lots of it. The cops do crack. Mayor Hogg does crack. Oh, and the guns. Agatha Christie once said that her approach to writing mystery stories was to drop in another body when things got dull. I stopped counting at 10 killed, mostly in wild shootouts.

Every time I grew to like a character in the movie, he was killed. (Then he was usually dumped near the ever-increasing garbage piles created by a sanitation strike.) That wholesale violence never happened in the Ford story, though two of the three men Ford was photographed with outside the Etobicoke house where the video was filmed were later shot outside a bar, and one of them died.

In Filth City all of the crazy rumours we reporters heard on the chase come to life. The suitcase full of cash in return for the video — it’s in the movie, but it never happened in real life. Cops on the side of the mayor, working aggressively to find the video to destroy it — unfounded scuttlebutt in the Ford case and, at the end of the day, it was then chief Bill Blair who confirmed the video’s existence six months after Robyn and I first saw it.

As in real life, the movie’s star is the crack video itself. The at times fruitless, fraught-with-danger search for the elusive iPhone clip that so many (in Toronto and in the mythical and garbage-ridden York City) wanted for their own purposes. Some wanted it to bring down a mayor. Some wanted it to make sure a mayor stayed propped up. And some wanted it to make money to get out of town, or to tell the public whom they had elected.

In the real story, there was more than one video. The viewing of the third video that came to light (this time in the back of a black SUV in the Sherway Gardens parking lot in Etobicoke) was a comedy of errors. While I was using my charger cable to help the fellow juice up his phone for a second showing, I learned from a text message that a friend of the SUV man had already posted the clip — of Rob Ford’s drunken late-night ramblings from the Steak Queen in 2014 — on YouTube. I always wondered if art would imitate life, and how much easier it would have been in the case of the actual crack video if it had simply been posted on social media.

And like Mayor Ford, Mayor Hogg had a simple plan.

“I’m gonna work my ass off to be the best goddamn mayor of all time!” Hogg tells a very high Hogg Nation campaign crowd. Apart from the carnage in Filth City, it works out a great deal better for this mayor than it did for ours.

Filth City closes the Canadian Film Fest, screening March 25 at Scotiabank Theatre. The show is sold out.

It‚??s do-or-die day for Trumpcare and Republicans say they don‚??t have the votes

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 10:01:00 EDT

WASHINGTON—House Speaker Paul Ryan, facing a revolt among conservative and moderate Republicans, rushed to the White House on Friday afternoon to inform U.S. President Donald Trump that he did not have the votes to pass legislation to repeal the health care law and to decide whether to pull the bill from consideration.

The president and the speaker face the humiliating prospect of a major defeat on legislation promised for seven years, since Barack Obama’s 2010 health law was signed. Trump had demanded a vote regardless, which has been scheduled for Friday afternoon. But House leaders were leaning against such a public loss.

Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

Republican Rep. Mark Walker told reporters, “As of right now, I’m not sure that we are across the finish line. We’ve still got three or four hours and there’s still discussions happening.”

In a backdrop to Friday’s voting, top Trump aides told rank-and-file Republicans late Thursday that the president was through negotiating with holdouts. White House officials said that if the measure failed, Trump would move to the rest of his agenda — leaving lawmakers to blame for blocking the party’s long-time goal of overturning Obama’s overhaul.

Read more: In a risky move, Trump demands make-or-break vote on Obamacare

“We’ll see what happens,” Trump said at the White House Friday when asked his course should the measure fail.

In a morning tweet, Trump targeted the House Freedom Caucus, whose hard-right members have been the core of opposition to the GOP legislation and have faced intense pressure from the White House and party leaders to fall into line. The bill would replace major parts of Obama’s law and block federal payments for a year to Planned Parenthood.

For Trump, victory would clear an initial but crucial hurdle toward achieving the GOP’s lodestar quest to repeal “Obamacare,” the former president’s 2010 health care overhaul. Defeat could weaken Trump’s political potency by adding a legislative failure to a resume already saddled with inquiries into his campaign’s Russia connections and his unfounded wiretapping allegations against Obama.

The GOP bill would eliminate the Obama statute’s unpopular fines on those who do not obtain coverage and the often generous subsidies for those who purchase insurance. Instead, consumers would face a 30 per cent premium penalty if they let coverage lapse.

Republican tax credits would be based on age, not income like Obama’s subsidies, and tax boosts Obama imposed on higher-earning people and health care companies would be repealed. The bill would end Obama’s Medicaid expansion and trim future federal financing for the federal-state program, let states impose work requirements on some of its 70 million beneficiaries.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has said the Republican bill would result in 24 million additional uninsured people in a decade and lead to higher out-of-pocket medical costs for many lower-income and older people just shy of age 65, when they become eligible for Medicare.

Read more: 24 million will lose coverage under Trump’s health bill, says congressional budget office

Obama’s law increased coverage through subsidized private insurance for people who don’t have access to workplace plans, and a state option led t expansion of Medicaid for low-income residents. More than 20 million people have gained coverage since the law was passed.

Democrats were uniformly against the GOP drive to roll back one of Obama’s legacy achievements.

“This bill is pure greed, and real people will suffer and die from it,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state.

In Friday’s first meaningful roll call, the House used a near party-line 230-194 vote to approve changes that leaders hoped would win over unhappy Republicans. These included improving Medicaid benefits for some older and disabled people and abolishing Obama’s requirements that insurers cover specific services like maternity care.

House leaders seem to be calculating that at crunch time enough dissidents will decide against sabotaging the bill, Trump’s young presidency and the House GOP leadership’s ability to set the agenda, with a single, crushing defeat.

Republicans can lose only 22 votes in the face of united Democratic opposition. A tally by The Associated Press found at least 32 “no” votes, but the figure was subject to fluctuation amid frantic GOP lobbying.

GOP aides were privately saying conservative opposition was softening, yet another moderate announced he would oppose the legislation. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, of New Jersey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the bill “would place significant new costs and barriers to care on my constituents.”

For one opponent, Rep. Paul Gosar, Trump’s declaration that Friday was the GOP’s last shot at repealing Obama’s statute seemed to inspire only defiance.

“We’re the legislative body last I looked, not the president,” Gosar said.

Other Republicans said it was time for party loyalty.

“Too many people on our team feel like we have team members that are not, they’re deserting us,” said Rep. Chris Collins, an early Trump supporter. “And in some cases for self-preservation. When someone says I have to vote no or I won’t be re-elected, I don’t respect that.”

Even if they prevail in the House, Republicans face an uphill climb in the Senate, where conservatives and moderates are also threatening to sink the legislation.

In an embarrassing setback Thursday, leaders abruptly postponed the vote because a rebellion by conservatives and moderates would have doomed the measure. They’d hoped for a roll call Thursday, which marked the seventh anniversary of Obama’s enactment of his landmark health care statute that Republicans have vowed ever since to annul.

With files from the New York Times

Trump approves Keystone XL pipeline amid continued concerns over the environment

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 07:32:53 EDT

WASHINGTON—Canada’s hotly debated, long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline received its elusive U.S. presidential permit from Donald Trump on Friday, eight years and six months after it first applied to cross the American border.

The president made the announcement at the White House.

He was accompanied by the president of TransCanada Corp., the Calgary-based pipeline company that has wrestled with lawsuits, resistant landowners, protesters and Washington Democrats.

“You’ve been waiting for a long, long time,” Trump said to TransCanada’s Russ Girling.

“It’s a great day for American jobs, and a historic moment for North America, and energy independence. This announcement is part of a new era of American energy policy that will lower costs for American families, . . . reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create thousands of jobs.”

He said the many delays over the years “demonstrates how our government has too often failed its citizens and companies. Today we begin to make things right.”

The new Republican president has removed one big obstacle by issuing the border-crossing permit, but more snags remain. The company must still settle with landowners, gain state permits and face possible court challenges before building the northern leg of the pipeline and connecting it to the already completed southern leg linked to Gulf of Mexico refineries.

Read more:Trudeau welcomes possible American steel exemption for Keystone XL

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Protesters intend to stop the project. The epicentre of the coming battle could be the same place where opposition to the pipeline began: Nebraska. TransCanada still does not have deals with all the landowners there and it lacks a state permit.

The company said Friday it will continue to work with key stakeholders throughout Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota to obtain all the required permits and approvals.

In granting the permit, the U.S. government said it concluded that Keystone XL would serve the national interest after considering a range of factors, including energy security and the environment.

U.S. government studies have repeatedly found that the pipeline would have negligible impact on the environment and potentially even a positive one as a cleaner alternative to oil transport by rail.

But opponents dispute that broad finding. They point to specific conclusions embedded in past U.S. reviews — that if oil prices remain low and no other pipelines get built, the expansion of Alberta’s oilsands will slow and so will its greenhouse-gas emissions.

Facing political pressure on the left, Barack Obama rejected the project.

In response, TransCanada filed a challenge under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement, alleging the U.S. government breached its legal commitments under NAFTA. That challenge has been dropped, TransCanada said Friday.

Republicans had repeatedly promised to reverse Obama’s decision. That included Trump, who had often discussed the Keystone approval as a fait accompli, telegraphing intentions that the market received long ago.

“We believe that the receipt of the presidential permit was expected by the market,” RBC Capital Markets said in a note to clients.

“We note that KXL is not included in our valuation for the stock and if the project moves forward, we view that as upside.”

Trump signed an executive order in his first week in office that invited TransCanada to reapply for a permit and promised a decision within 60 days. That timeline was to expire Monday.

Awarding cross-border pipeline permits is technically the domain of the secretary of state. However, in this case, the file was officially handled by undersecretary Tom Shannon because his boss, former oil executive Rex Tillerson, recused himself from the decision.

Ontario's child support law faces constitutional challenge

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 05:00:00 EDT

A constitutional challenge scheduled to play out in a Brampton court on Friday hinges on two little words: “I Do.”

The case involves a single mother who claims Ontario’s child support law discriminates against disabled children of unmarried parents.

If a couple is divorced, a disabled child is eligible for support into adulthood. But if the parents were never married, support ends when the child is 18 or no longer in school full-time.

“I am very excited this case is going forward,” said Robyn Coates, who has been fighting her son’s estranged father for continued child support for the past four years.

“Initially, it was just for myself,” she said. “But when I see how many other women and their families could potentially benefit from this in terms of being able to provide the kind of quality of life I want to provide for my son, it’s very exciting.”

Coates says her developmentally disabled son, Joshua, who is 22 but reads and writes at a Grade 2 level, will likely continue to live with her and require her financial support indefinitely.

She believes his father, Wayne Watson, should continue to pay support, as he has been doing since Joshua was 4.

If Coates and Watson had been married and divorced, he wouldn’t be off the hook because under the federal Divorce Act, disabled adult children are eligible for child support whether or not they are still in school.

But Ontario’s Family Law Act, which covers child support for unmarried parents, makes no provision for adult disabled children.

“If children of divorced parents can claim support for both education and disability beyond age 18, then children born to parents who were never married should enjoy the same rights,” Coates said.

If the case succeeds, thousands of single parents and their adult disabled children would gain the right to claim child support in Ontario, says a lawyer acting on behalf of two groups with intervener status in the case, including Sherbourne Health Centre, which supports LGBTQ parents and children.

Since same-sex marriage was not legal in Canada until 2003, disabled young adult children of LGBTQ parents also face discrimination under Ontario’s child support laws, the clinic argues.

“The current legislative scheme sends the message that children of unmarried parents are less worthy of the non-custodial parent’s support,” says clinic lawyer Joanna Radbord, who is also representing Family Alliance Ontario, an organization that supports individuals with disabilities and their families.

“The potential availability of limited public benefits for adults with disabilities does not extinguish the non-custodial parent’s obligation where a child is unable to withdraw from the custodial parent’s charge . . . by reason of disability, illness, coming out, gender transition, or other cause,” Radbord writes in her affidavit before the Ontario Court of Justice.

As a result, Ontario’s child support law should be declared unconstitutional and replaced to reflect “the equality of all children,” writes Radbord.

Coates currently receives about $800 a month from Watson to support Joshua. Although the parents never lived together or married, Watson has paid court-ordered child support of varying amounts since Joshua was 4.

Watson, who married another woman after Joshua was born and is raising two other children with his wife, previously told the Star he has never missed a court-ordered support payment.

But now that Joshua is no longer in school and is receiving provincial social assistance for adults with disabilities, Watson says his legal obligation has ended.

“It is the legislature which has the ability to expand the class of people entitled to child support. It is not the role of the court to legislate,” says lawyer Michael Tweyman, who is acting pro bono as a “friend of the court” and is arguing Watson’s side in the case. Watson did not return a request for comment Thursday.

“When a disabled person becomes an adult, the burden of his or her care shifts from the parents to society as a whole,” Tweyman writes, quoting an earlier Supreme Court case on the court’s approach to the care of disabled adults.

Coates, an educational resource worker for students with special needs in the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board, says she needs child support to help defray the costs of day programs for Joshua that can run as high as $1,400 a month.

“It’s very exciting to have society as a whole see what costs are involved in looking after an adult with a disability,” she said.

People don’t realize that parents are on their own to pay for day programs if their disabled adult child is unable to work or can’t find paid employment when school ends, she said.

The Ontario Disability Support Program provides some support, Coates said. But many of Joshua’s expenses such as orthotics, massage therapy and his sleeping medication are not covered under the program’s benefits, she said. Coates can’t claim those costs under her own work-based health benefits because the insurer doesn’t cover children over age 21, she added.

Adult children with disabilities are eligible for child support in every province except Ontario and Alberta, regardless of the parents’ previous marital status and whether children are in school or not, said Coates’s lawyer Robert Shawyer, who is also working pro bono on the case.

Ontario’s attorney general’s office is not intervening. But a spokeswoman said the ministry “is always willing to consider proposals for reforms to Ontario’s family laws.”

In addition to provincial social assistance, Ontario’s Passport program provides funding for activities and for parents of an adult with a developmental disability to take a break from their care-giving responsibilities.

Note – March 24, 2017: This article was edited from a previous version that referred to Sherbourne Health Centre as Sherbourne Health Clinic.

Florida sex offender granted licence to practise law in Ontario

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 11:22:08 EDT

A registered Florida sex offender, who spent two years in prison on a child pornography conviction, has been granted a licence to practise law in Ontario.

Ronald Ori Davidovic, 44, appeared before a three-member panel of the Law Society of Upper Canada tribunal last December in what is known as a “good character hearing,” where he sought to prove that he is rehabilitated and committed to upholding the law if allowed to practise.

Counsel for the law society ultimately decided not to oppose his application, and Davidovic’s wish was granted by the panel in a 2-1 decision released last week.

Davidovic still must pass a written test to be eligible to practise law in the province.

“The applicant has thoroughly understood what he has done. He has worked very hard since (his arrest) to reach this point in terms of rehabilitation,” wrote panel members Raj Anand and Jan Richardson. “We therefore find that the applicant is of good character and grant his application for licensing as a lawyer in Ontario.”

But the dissenting panel member, criminal defence lawyer Paul Cooper, found that there simply wasn’t enough evidence of rehabilitation before the tribunal, and said he would not have granted Davidovic a licence.

“In this case, the applicant’s statements of regret at the hearing focused on the nightmare he suffers or the shame he suffers and as he describes in his testimony the ‘handicap’ of him being labeled as a consumer of child pornography by the community. Mr. Davidovic failed to recognize what he has done and only provides lip service to any victim empathy,” Cooper wrote.

“There is insufficient evidence that the applicant is rehabilitated. The misconduct was sexually motivated and he possessed a magnetic attraction. He has been diagnosed with non-specified paraphilia and this diagnosis remains unresolved.”

Davidovic, who was born in Montreal but moved to Florida with his family when he was a child, pleaded guilty in 2004 to one count of “receiving material containing the visual depiction of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct,” according to an agreed statement of fact filed at the tribunal.

He had practised in Florida for eight years, including estate and financial planning and then as general counsel “for a large telecommunications company.” He was permitted to resign from the Florida bar after his conviction.

Davidovic told the law society panel that he has many close relatives in Toronto, and wants to practise criminal law. “He believes that his experience will enable him to assist others,” the majority wrote.

He told the Star in an email this week that he is grateful for the majority’s decision.

“I am naturally pleased with the outcome, which was the culmination of a long investigative process,” he wrote.

“I respect Mr. Cooper’s opinion but look forward to the opportunity to prove otherwise. My position, right now, is to focus on the positive news and commit myself to being an asset to the practice.”

Davidovic began viewing child porn in 1998, according to the agreed statement of fact, and admitted to the panel having viewed hundreds or thousands of images, although his viewing frequency “lessened somewhat” after his first marriage.

The majority wrote that Davidovic satisfied his probation requirements including counselling and has not been found guilty of a crime since then or committed improper conduct.

A therapist who saw Davidovic after his release from prison told the law society that he “worked very hard to understand his disorder,” took complete responsibility and his chance of reoffending is small.

“The applicant’s misconduct was very serious, and justified elevated concern from a public protection standpoint,” the majority wrote.

“Although there is a reference in one of the Florida court documents to a ‘victimless’ crime, we view it as anything but that. The underage victims were nameless, vulnerable and perhaps distant from the computer screen, but they suffered exploitation and incalculable harm to satisfy the sexual urges of viewers such as the applicant.

“As a lawyer, occupying a crucial role in upholding the rule of law, the applicant’s offence constituted a breach of trust.”

The panel chose not to rely on evidence in the agreed statement of fact from an Anglican reverend and “analytical psychologist” who began seeing Davidovic in the year preceding his time in prison and after his release.

The majority said they found Rev. Fred Fleischer’s opinions were not “sufficiently precise to be of assistance to us in making this decision.”

Fleischer saw Davidovic to help him understand why he had a “magnetic pull” to child pornography, as well as to help him cope with his divorce from his first wife and the death of his father, according to the agreed statement of fact.

“The applicant’s parents were Holocaust survivors and his father in particular had never connected with his parents. His father was an emotional wreck who felt he was never good enough and as such placed the burden on the applicant to be his redeemer,” says the agreed statement of fact regarding Fleischer’s opinions on Davidovic.

“Therefore, from the time the applicant was a small child, a lot was projected on him by his father to be the golden boy. He had to carry his father’s acceptability and respectability from the time he was an infant and, he was robbed his childhood. The images of the children having sex forced on them was symbolic, as these images represented the applicant as a child having to carry his father’s burden.”

Cooper, in his dissent, took issue with the fact that the expert reports that were relied on by the panel were all quite dated, some more than a decade old.

He also called Fleischer’s description of his opinion of Davidovic “callous” and “insensitive.”

“It is outrageous for Rev. Fleischer to suggest the applicant’s upbringing was akin to having his mind raped with the backdrop of children aged 5 to 17 who were in fact exploited, abused, and raped,” Cooper wrote.

Air Miles investigating after cash miles have been stolen from some members

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 08:33:06 EDT

Air Miles has posted a letter on its website warning that criminals have stolen cash miles from some of its members.

The rewards program says a small number of in-store transactions with stolen cash miles has occurred in which the criminals used them to buy goods.

Air Miles spokeswoman Rachael Montgomery says the manner in which the cash miles were fraudulently accessed has not compromised members’ personal information.

Read more:

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She said the company is not sharing more specific details at this time because its investigation of the breach is ongoing.

While the company works to resolve the situation, it has temporarily removed the cash miles option for in-store purchases.

Montgomery said the company does not have a timeline in place for how long the suspension will be in effect.

However, members can still access their cash miles at the company’s website to redeem for e-vouchers.

The alert comes a few weeks after Air Miles sent a note to its members apologizing for the controversy it caused last year over changes to its expiration policy.

The rewards program angered many members with its proposal to void unused Air Miles after five years, only to abandon that plan weeks before it was to take effect.

Senator Don Meredith's new lawyer says sex scandal outcry isn't racist

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 16:29:47 EDT

OTTAWA—Disgraced Sen. Don Meredith’s new lawyer says racism doesn’t play into the widespread condemnations of his client’s affair with a teenage girl, after the senator and his previous lawyer claimed he was being treated unfairly in the wake of the sex scandal.

“It’s not my approach, nor is it my opinion, that there is any racial bias or issue here in relation to the matter, or how the Senate has been dealing with it,” Bill Trudell, a Toronto defence lawyer, said in an interview Thursday.

He added that Meredith, 52, is under a doctor’s care for stress related to the explosive scandal, and that the senator made the race comment while he was under tremendous public pressure.

“Anyone facing this kind of public attention and allegations; and having to realize that they made serious mistakes; and looking at their future; and realizing all the people that were hurt, and the institution — it’s incredibly stressful,” Trudell said.

Meredith has so far refused to resign his seat in the Upper Chamber, which he has held since 2010, as the senate ethics committee ponders whether to try and expel him.

Senators of varying political stripes have called for his resignation, after an investigation by the Senate ethics officer — prompted by the Star’s reporting in 2015 — concluded that Meredith used his position of power to lure a teenage girl into a sexual relationship.

The Pentecostal pastor from Richmond Hill apologized in an interview with the Canadian Press last week, while also claiming that “race has played a role” in the backlash against him.

Then, on Sunday, his lawyer Selwyn Pieters appeared on CTV and said Meredith—who is black—would be treated differently if he were part of an “old white boys club.”

The next day, Pieters announced on the Twitter that he was no longer representing Meredith.

Meanwhile, the Senate ethics committee met Wednesday to discuss how the institution should respond to the report on Meredith’s affair, which found that Meredith broke the chamber’s ethics rules. It is up to the committee to recommend whether to punish or expel the senator from his seat. A final decision will be made by a Senate vote, said Sen. Raynell Andreychuk, the committee chair, on Wednesday.

Trudell said he is working to catch up on Meredith’s case, and that he has been in contact with the committee. He said that given Meredith’s stress-related health concerns, it’s not clear when he could appear in Ottawa to address the committee members.

According to Senate rules, the committee has to give Meredith the chance to speak about the ethics report before the members make a recommendation to the Senate.

Trudell said he may submit Meredith’s position on his client’s behalf, and added that calls for the Senator to resign are not helpful.

“I’m hoping to make representations for a proportionate and fair resolution,” he said.

Asked what he would like to see for his client, Trudell said it’s too soon to say what he will push for.

“The best case scenario would have been that these mistakes were not made, but they were. It’s really early for me to suggest what I think should happen,” he said.

The teenage girl — who has only been identified as Ms. M — was between 16 and 18 years old during the affair, according to the ethics report. Last year, Ottawa police concluded an investigation without laying charges. The legal age of consent in Canada is 16, and goes up to 18 in situations where there is a relationship of authority, trust or dependency.

The senator is being investigated for separate allegations of workplace harassment.

Veteran Toronto judge asks Federal Court to suspend discipline proceedings

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 06:00:00 EDT

A Toronto judge who just wants to retire in peace is coming out swinging against an oversight body that wants to haul him in front of a discipline panel for alleged wrongdoing.

Superior Court Justice Frank Newbould, 73, is seeking a judicial review of a decision made at the Canadian Judicial Council to hold an inquiry over advice he provided to South Bruce Peninsula town council in 2014 on defending against a First Nations land claim, in an area where his family owns a cottage.

The judicial council said in a statement last month that a five-member review panel found the allegations surrounding Newbould’s “intervention . . . in the context of a court case” so serious that if proven, “they may warrant the judge’s removal from office.”

Newbould, who was appointed to the bench in 2006, already informed the federal justice minister that he intends to retire June 1. He has asked the Federal Court to impose a stay on the proceedings against him until his judicial review application is heard, which he has requested be dealt with on an expedited basis.

And he’s got some friends in high places coming to his defence.

“It is certainly not in the public interest in the case of Justice Newbould to continue an irrelevant process against one of Ontario’s most outstanding jurists, during the final months of his stellar career,” wrote Justice Susan Himel, president of the Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association, in a letter to members of the council’s judicial conduct committee.

“You are well aware of Justice Newbould’s many contributions to the administration of justice so I do not need to outline them here. Suffice to say that he has been a giant in the area of commercial law and has devoted himself to public service. The public interest demands that he be allowed to retire with dignity.”

Himel declined to comment to the Star. She was also the presiding judge in a sensational 2004 court case, in which the general manager of the exclusive Rosedale Golf Club had brought a $475,000 wrongful dismissal lawsuit. Newbould, then still a lawyer, was a member of the club’s board, and testified in court.

During the course of the trial, it emerged that an unidentified regular member of the club had said George Cohon, then president of McDonald’s Canada, shouldn’t be allowed to join because it would “open the floodgates” to Jews, the Star reported at the time.

Newbould testified that he supported Cohon’s application and dismissed the member’s comments as “stupid . . . It doesn't really matter what a person's religion is or race.” (Cohon was ultimately granted membership).

Newbould’s lawyer in the case at the judicial council, Brian Gover, said that the complaints against his client had been dismissed by the council in 2015. The file was reopened following a request from the president of the Indigenous Bar Association. Gover said it is Newbould’s position that the council does not have the jurisdiction to reconsider a closed complaint.

“The situation raised an issue involving perception,” said a statement issued last month by Gover, who declined further comment to the Star this week. “It is one for which Justice Newbould apologized in 2014 due to the perception caused by the fact he is a judge.”

The review panel found it does have the power to reconsider, and said last month an inquiry committee should be struck in the case, including one or more members appointed by the minister of justice. But because the minister has 60 days to do so, with the possibility of an extension, it’s doubtful the committee would be up and running before Newbould retires.

The question around reconsideration powers, or lack thereof, is at the heart of Newbould’s case in Federal Court. The request for a stay pending the hearing of the judicial review application was heard March 14, but a decision has yet to be made.

“It was only upon receiving a request from one of the complainants to reconsider its decision — an action that is not contemplated in the council’s bylaws, procedures or enabling statute — that the Canadian Judicial Council relented and reopened the complaint. It did so without receiving any new information that had not been before it when it initially dismissed the complaint,” says Newbould’s factum filed in Federal Court.

His lawyers reiterate the consequences of his impending retirement date in their factum.

“Once he retires, the council will lose jurisdiction to inquire into the complaints. It is inconceivable that an inquiry will be concluded prior to the applicant’s retirement. To start the process now, with a serious live question in this judicial review as to its jurisdictional basis, will only damage the applicant’s professional reputation.”

Lawyers for the federal government have argued against the stay, saying Newbould can challenge the reconsideration of the complaints in front of the judicial council’s inquiry committee once it is constituted.

“The applicant’s claim that he will suffer irreparable harm remains hypothetical and speculative,” says the government’s factum, which goes on to state:

“Any damages occasioned to the applicant was as a result of the media coverage of his participation in the public discussions regarding the settlement of Saugeen First Nation’s land claims. As the applicant himself notes, given that he is retiring effective June 1, 2017, it is unlikely that any findings of misconduct will be made against him prior to that time.”

A trial date for the land claim case in which Newbould intervened has yet to be set.

In an eight-page 2014 letter addressed to the mayor and town council, which is posted on the website of a local radio station, Newbould indicates he’s reviewed a great deal of evidence regarding the land claim and also that the lawyers for the federal and provincial governments have declined to discuss the case with him.

“In my view, there are strong defences to the claim of the Saugeen First Nation,” Newbould wrote, going on to say: “It is difficult to understand how the town could agree to the proposed settlement with all its weaknesses.”

He recommends, among other things, that there should be representation on any negotiating committee from Sauble Beach residents, and getting a legal opinion from another lawyer.

“If a satisfactory settlement cannot be made . . . the town should not shy away from defending the claim along with the Province of Ontario,” he wrote.

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