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One man in serious condition after shooting in Scarborough

One man is in serious condition after a shooting in Scarborough Tuesday evening, Toronto police say.

The victim, whose age remains unclear to police at this time, was located after police responded to reports of a person with a gun in the area of Lawrence Ave. E. and McCowan Rd. in Scarborough. No person with a gun was located, nor was any firearm found.

Authorities found the victim on the property of a hospital in the area, and he apparently drove there himself, police say.

The victim’s injuries were serious enough to require the care of a trauma centre that was “equipped to deal with more serious gunshot injuries in the city, rather than the hospital that he was in close proximity to,” Toronto Police Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook told the Star.

Police could not confirm the exact extent of the injuries, but confirmed he sustained gunshot wounds.





Stouffville mayor fails to apologize for CSI-style wall

They discussed the installation of furniture for the Whitchurch-Stouffville Library and Leisure Centre, they approved a four-way stop not far from Sunnyridge Park and they pondered next year’s budget and election rules.

But the one thing that never came up at the town’s last council meeting of the year was the one thing many people had been waiting for — an apology from Mayor Justin Altmann for his bizarre CSI-style wall.

While there was no mention of one on Tuesday’s agenda, there was some speculation a last-minute apology that would have put an end to the saga might be forthcoming. But despite the three-hour-long meeting, Altmann did not take the opportunity to make amends, as he had been ordered to do.

The town’s integrity commissioner Suzanne Craig had recommended Altmann be docked a month’s pay and be given 90 days to apologize to town staff during an open session of council for the display she likened to “workplace harassment.”

Altmann’s three months are up on Dec. 22. But Tuesday’s council meeting was the last official opportunity for him to make amends.

“The mayor did not issue an apology in the open session of council,” town spokesman Glenn Jackson confirmed after the meeting.

Altmann gained notoriety earlier this year, when the Star broke a story about the unusual mural he created in his office washroom that included photos of staff, councillors and local citizens with slogans and lines connecting the images together.

In September, Stouffville councillors adopted recommendations from Craig after a probe she launched in the wake of a staff member’s complaint about the display. The probe concluded the creation of the wall breached the town’s code of conduct.

Although the last council meeting of the year has concluded, Altmann may still have one way out, however. According to the town’s bylaws, the mayor could call a special council meeting before his deadline hits — as long as his fellow councillors are given 48 hours notice.

But if no action is taken by Dec. 22, his non-action could trigger another code of conduct complaint — leading to further sanctions.

Altmann has not responded to numerous questions from the Star about whether or not he would apologize.

Previously, he said in a local radio interview that he would not apologize, but rather, would challenge the ethics probe.

“I will be going to appeal the integrity commissioner’s decision,” he said in the Nov. 15 interview.

“I will be asking for a judicial review, and that will take a process, and that will go and look at how the process and everything was done,” he said. “Members of council want an apology; they want to say ‘he was wrong, he’s done this.’ In all honesty, I am a very reputable person. My integrity is everything.”

If Altmann decides to pursue a judicial review, it could cost the town of 45,000 residents.

A judicial review launched by Vaughan’s former deputy mayor, Michael Di Biase, against Craig for her findings in a 2016 ethics probe, cost taxpayers over $130,000 in legal fees.

The judicial review was the first against an integrity commissioner in Ontario, and was dismissed after a two-day hearing.

Craig said of all the ethics probes she has conducted, the Stouffville case would be the first where an apology has not been made.





Teen pleads guilty in two fire deaths at Lindsay foster home

COBOURG, ONT.—A developmentally delayed teenager suffering from schizophrenia and fetal alcohol syndrome has pleaded guilty to setting a fire that killed two people in her Lindsay-area foster home.

The girl, who was 17 when she set the Feb. 24 fire, stood in court and uttered a faint “yeah” when her defence lawyer, David Hodson, asked if she was guilty of manslaughter and arson causing bodily harm.

In an agreed statement of facts, Cobourg provincial court heard the tragic story of the teen’s attempt to rescue two caregivers and a foster child trapped in a second-floor bedroom.

“You tried to save them, right?” Hodson asked the teen, who stood in the prisoner’s box before Justice J.A. Payne.

“Yeah, I tried to,” the heavy-set girl replied in a whisper.

Chantal Finbow sobbed quietly as Crown attorney Sarah Repka told court how Finbow’s daughter, Kassy, 14, succumbed to smoke inhalation in the rural foster home on Quaker Rd. in Oakwood, Ont.

Caregiver Andrea Reid, 43, was declared brain-dead at a Lindsay hospital Feb. 25. She was kept on life support for another day as a candidate for organ donation.

Caregiver Sheila Triggs survived, but suffered carbon monoxide poisoning, was intubated and spent four days in intensive care.

The girl, who can’t be identified because she is being tried as a youth, is now 18. She faces a maximum three years in youth custody and will be sentenced in February. An assessment will determine if she qualifies for a court-ordered intensive rehabilitation program.

The court heard a description of events that mirrored an exclusive Star story this month that quoted Triggs and other caregivers who survived or witnessed the blaze.

The girl, who is Indigenous, had recently changed medication, which made her more alert and prone to “outbursts and temper tantrums,” the court heard. She smoked and conducted smudging ceremonies with sage grass, so caregivers sometimes let her keep a lighter.

On Feb. 24, she was upset to learn she wouldn’t be going back home, to a reserve almost 2,000 kilometres away, when she turned 18.

She flew into a rage and pushed Triggs to the floor. Caregivers then withdrew with Kassy to an upstairs bedroom to let the girl cool off.

Downstairs, the girl used her lighter to set fire to books on a shelf, cardboard on a wall, and a couch, court heard. As the flames spread, she pulled the fire alarm to alert those upstairs.

Reid had called police. When they heard the alarm, they initially thought it was a hoax.

The upstairs bedroom quickly filled with smoke and the caregivers and Kassy ran to a window that was too small to squeeze out of. The court did not hear about a bolted sliding-glass window in the room, which Triggs told the Star they couldn’t break. The bolted window has raised questions about fire code standards for group homes and foster homes in Ontario.

After pulling the alarm, the girl ran outside, and fell to her hands and knees crying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” court heard.

By the time paramedics arrived, Kassy and Reid had collapsed in the bedroom. Triggs was left screaming for help at the small window. Firefighters rescued Triggs and used thermal imaging cameras to find Reid and Kassy unconscious on the floor.

“It’s the start of the healing process,” Hodson said after the hearing. “This is a tragic situation for everyone, including the young person,” he added, referring to his client.

The fire triggered investigations by police, government officials, children’s aid societies and the Star. They reveal a child protection system that doesn’t know if minimal standards of care are being met, has no qualifications for caregivers and is governed by a children’s ministry scrambling to perform its oversight role.

The province does not know how many children are being cared for in its 389 licenced group homes. At the end of September 2017, the group homes had 2,914 beds, almost one-third operated by private, for-profit companies. Another 2,005 beds were in foster homes run by companies, where the limit is four kids to a home.

Children taken from abusive or neglectful parents are usually placed in group homes as a last resort, when foster parents can’t deal with them. Most are treated with psychotropic drugs and are left largely in the care of workers who typically start at barely above the minimum wage, with no benefits.

In a 2016 report, a government-appointed panel of experts lambasted a system where the lowest paid, least qualified staff work with kids with the highest needs. The kids suffer from the trauma of abuse and abandonment, compounded by psychiatric and developmental disabilities.

At the site of the Quaker Rd. fire were two houses that operated as group homes for years. They were converted to foster homes run by a company called Connor Homes in September 2016.

A Star investigation found both homes were the site of almost daily violence in 2015-16. An analysis by the Ontario Child Advocate, released Tuesday, found young people in residential care homes were physically restrained 2,230 times by caregivers in a three-month period in 2014. The advocate, Irwin Elman, called that number “troubling.”

The province has been criticized for unveiling a blueprint that won’t see reforms fully implemented until 2025. They include tougher group-home inspections, minimum standards of care, better oversight, and reducing the overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous children in care.

Theresa Stevens, executive director of the Association of Native Child and Family Services of Ontario, accused the government of dragging its heels. She notes that scores of Indigenous children from northern communities are sent thousands of kilometres away because of a lack of resources in the North.

“We can’t afford to wait another eight years before those resources are developed,” Stevens said in a recent interview.

In a statement to the Star last week, Children’s Minister Michael Coteau called the Quaker Rd. fire “an unimaginable tragedy.” He made clear the timetable for reforms would not be accelerated, but said much of the work is underway.

“We aren’t simply improving an old system, we are building a system that has taken a patchwork approach to care for years.”





Edward Keenan: A fond farewell to Toronto’s trolleys

It is, by now, one of the most recognizable and defining sights of Toronto’s streets: through the dark of night, peering down the road, you see the three white lights lined up in a row — the small round headlight on each side and the big one in the middle — and centered above them two green lights.

You see those lights and you know. A streetcar is coming. Finally, you might mutter.

Then there’s the rumble, like a giant ceramic bowl rolling around on its rim, maybe the clang-clang of a bell. And then bands of colour come into view, the red along the front, the shiny dark of the windshield, the white along the roof broken by the black-and-white of the destination sign.

For 40 years, these CLRV streetcars have been Toronto’s trolley, an ever-present feature of downtown streets, our unique ride, a design used nowhere else in the world. Now, of course, they are being phased out as the TTC’s new Flexity cars — a modified version of the most common streetcar design in the world — takes over. The CLRVs, it’s short for Canadian light rail vehicle, won’t completely disappear from service until at least 2019, so it will be a long goodbye. But a fond one, for some of us. And one marked by a milestone last week, when a video uploaded to YouTube December 9 showed Car 4000 lifted from its tracks and placed onto a truck, headed for the scrapyard. The plan, I’m told, is to keep one or two for charters and special occasions, museum pieces, like the old PCC and Peter Witt cars you still spot once or twice a year on Queens Quay.

Car 4000 was not, by a long shot, the first one taken out of service, but it was the first one put into service. It was the first one Toronto ever saw — the prototype, made in Switzerland and brought here in 1977. There were complaints at first: the windows didn’t open despite a lack of air-conditioning, they were very much louder than the PCC “Red Rocket” cars they replaced, they had slanted rows of seats in the front. These complaints were eventually addressed and changed. And though only one car, of the 196 that were produced, ever wound up with air-conditioning (Car 4041), they became beloved. At least to some of us.

Not all of us had the opportunity to ride them, of course. Among the cars’ shortcomings, certainly the biggest one was that they were not accessible to those in wheelchairs. You had to climb multiple stairs to get onto and off of them. For the elderly they were difficult, for those with strollers, too. That’s why, beyond simple age, they had to be replaced by something different. Because it’s about time our fleet was accessible to everyone. And the law says it must be by the end of 2024.

Still, for many of us who rode them, they had their charms. When I was a kid, riding them to hockey games by myself, I’d plonk down beside the driver near the farebox and chat the ride away, mostly so he could alert me when we’d reached my stop.

Later I’d come to think of the standing-room area in the middle of the car as hockey equipment storage space, and riding with my mom and siblings I’d think of it as where you wanted to go with a stroller.

Learning the operation of the back doors was a rite of passage for new riders — so many trips featured a tourist who would stand at the top of the stairs calling to the driver to open the door as everyone nearby shouted “Stand down onto the step! Stand on the step!” Equally often, the crowd would then have to shout at the next person along to climb up off the steps so the doors could close.

They had that row of single seats along the driver’s side — the most-desirable real estate for someone who wanted to settle in with a book undisturbed by their neighbours. And they had plenty of standing room.

The new streetcars, the Flexities, will no doubt grow familiar in time. But after their initial novelty, there are times I have found them wanting in comparison to the old CLRVs — the difficulty of talking to the driver who is suddenly behind a plexiglass shield, the frustration many riders seem to have figuring out how to pay their fare (and pay it quickly enough) at the machine stations midway down the car that take a minute or so to process each transaction, the too-narrow standing-room passage along the middle between seats. And then there’s that seating arrangement that makes passengers face each other in little conversational foursomes, forcing unintentional footsie games and staring contests.

And they do not compare to the CLRVs when it comes to the view they offer — that fatal, unfair fault of the old cars, their inaccessible high floor, also meant that those aboard got an elevated view of the streetscape, looking out above the tops of passing cars at the sidewalks and storefronts.

Of course, there was also the view of the streetcars from the outside, that instantly recognizable appearance I mentioned back at the start.

People have made T-shirts with minimalist renditions of the CLRV streetcar — all they need is bands of colour (red, black, white) with that circle in the middle and rounded rectangle across the top.

Spotting one in a Hollywood movie (not always but often supposedly set in New York or Chicago or a generic American city) gave a very specific kind of pleasure, and became a pastime for some people.

Car 4000 lasted 40 years on the street. That’s a long time for a streetcar — longer than we expected them to last, and longer than we expect their replacements to stay in service. That car and the rest of that model served Toronto for a generation, an indelible part of the look and feel and sound and travel plans of the city.

Those who’ll miss them have a while yet to get used to the new ones. And to hope they serve us half as well.

Edward Keenan writes on city issues ekeenan@thestar.ca. Follow: @thekeenanwire





Jailhouse charm at a bargain basement price

So what if the “courtyard” used to be a walled exercise yard and the ensuite bathrooms are incorporated into jail cells?

In Toronto, those features might pass for the charm of a fixer-upper. In Owen Sound, they’re proving a tough sell even at the bargain price of $99,000.

The city of about 21,000 people, on the shore of Georgian Bay, has been trying to sell the original 1854 Grey County courthouse and jail since about 2014.

Owen Sound took over ownership from the county in the 1960s, when the court moved to a new building. It has since been used as offices and artists’ studios, but now sits empty.

Were it in Toronto, it’s the kind of property that would probably have been snapped up by a developer. But when a retirement home chain looked at developing it a couple of years ago, the old courthouse proved unsuitable and was returned to the city, according to Owen Sound architect Grant Diemert, who has researched the property.

He dates the jail to 1866 and the addition on the back of the courthouse to about 1875.

The current real estate listing, posted in August, has generated lots of interest — it’s had about 50 showings so far — but no offers, said local Chestnut Park realtor Dave Moyer, who has a land development background.

Many of the inquiries are from people considering it as a potential home, which would require rezoning.

“But it would have to be done over a reasonable time frame,” he said. “We don’t want someone living in a corner of the building and renovating it over 20 years.”

What Owen Sound really wants is a developer to repurpose the site. Any offer has to come with a development proposal, Moyer said.

The pre-Confederation courthouse and jail, which were originally on two separate parcels of land, are zoned for institutional use. Ideally, the property would be developed as a private school or corporate office.

The list price was chosen as an enticement.

“The city realizes that any company that will take this project on will be investing heavily and is more interested in the long-term viability of the project and tax revenue then the sale price,” he said.

“We are looking for that special buyer that’s got a little bit of philanthropy in their blood,” Moyer said. “I would love to see some form of corporate office come into Owen Sound and take this property and turn it into a world-class headquarters.”

He doesn’t whitewash the condition of the property. Demolition is definitely an option for the back of the courthouse and the old jail, which has tiny cells, cinder-block and concrete furnishings and an Ontario Corrections seal on the wall.

The courthouse, however, has some designated heritage features, including the main courtroom with a Latin inscribed mural and a staircase. The roofline is a variation of a hip roof with a flattened mansard piece on top, according to Diemert.

The courthouse is in better condition than the jail, he said.

The jail was closed in 2011 in favour of Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene, according to an August report in the Owen Sound Sun Times.

A report in the county archives mentioned the original Grey County jail’s “deplorable conditions,” so another was built on the courthouse site around 1866, Diemert said.

All the paint is peeling in the jail, so it’s difficult to discern its condition.

He described the court as “very humble.”

There isn’t much in the way of detail, he said, but its “massive” size gives it an imposing street presence.

It has a hot water heating system, and no duct work was ever added so there are remarkably few false ceilings, Diemert said.

Despite its imposing frontage, the interior square footage is relatively small because the walls are so thick. The rooms are mostly office-sized and there is no elevator. The heat has been turned off for three or four years and there is no gas service, he said. The electricity works though.

Diemert favoured a proposal to use the courthouse to expand Owen Sound’s Tom Thomson Art Gallery, but the work needed was too extensive.

There have been letters to the editor in the local paper and some interest from the historical societies, but Diemert said he hasn’t seen an “overwhelming interest” in the property from the community.





Canadians to stay in the dark about who owns country’s companies

The idea of a national public registry naming the real people behind Canadian companies — a vital tool in the fight against tax evasion, money laundering and corruption — appears to be stalled.

While federal and provincial finance ministers agreed on the weekend to make corporate ownership information — often referred to as “beneficial ownership” — available to law enforcement and tax authorities, there’s no plan to give the public access to the records.

“Just requiring corporations to have the information on hand is not good enough,” says James Cohen, director of policy and programs for Transparency International Canada. “We’d strongly urge the government to consider the benefits of a public registry of beneficial owners . . . because (law enforcement agencies) are already stretched thin.”

A public registry would provide “an extra set of eyes, such as civil society and investigative journalists, to review the information,” he said.

Buried in an announcement Monday, federal and provincial finance ministers acknowledged “blind spots” in Canada’s corporate registry system and said the new measures are intended to “prevent webs of Canadian or international companies from concealing ownership information in order to facilitate tax evasion, money laundering and other criminal activities.”

The announcement says federal and provincial finance ministers are committed to “further strengthening corporate transparency . . . The information revealed through the recent leaks of the Panama and Paradise Papers reinforces the need for action.”

But it makes no reference to corporate transparency being shared with the public.

In Canada, secrecy around corporate ownership makes it possible to register a corporation, open a bank account, and send and receive money overseas all without disclosing one’s name — the same kind of secrecy offered by traditional tax havens.

An ongoing Star/CBC investigation into corporate ownership secrecy has detailed how Canada has emerged as a popular destination for international companies and individuals seeking to avoid or evade taxes by using this country’s shadowy corporate registration system.

While the new measures announced Monday offer a modest step forward, they fall well short of a British-style beneficial ownership registry that makes public the names of real company owners in the U.K.

In response to questions from the Star over the past year, Finance Minister Bill Morneau has acknowledged the importance of beneficial ownership information in the fight against tax evasion. Yet he has been noncommittal about whether he supports an open and transparent registry available to the public, citing privacy concerns around naming corporate directors and owners.

“I don’t think in any way, shape or form we are ruling (a public registry) out,” Morneau’s spokesperson, Chloe Luciani-Girouard, told the Star on Tuesday. “We have broad consensus and broad agreement to move forward on this.”

This week, the ministers agreed to pursue legislative amendments that would compel corporations to “hold accurate and up-to-date information on beneficial owners that will be available to law enforcement and tax and other authorities.”

That is a far cry from the U.K.’s Companies House registry, which provides public access to a searchable database listing every registered company and details on each beneficial owner including their date of birth, nationality, country of residence, occupation, date they were appointed as a company director and links to all other companies with which they have an affiliation.

It’s a leading global model that would benefit Canada, according to Canadians For Tax Fairness, Publish What You Pay Canada and Transparency International Canada, three leading organizations pushing for a public corporate ownership registry.

“I don’t think it’s closed yet,” says Transparency International Canada’s Cohen. “We hope to see a continued effort to encourage any of the governments who weren’t prepared to have public registries come around and come on board with this and we hope to see much more robust announcements down the line.”





Toronto woman deemed fit to stand trial for allegedly enslaving a homeless man

A Toronto woman, who allegedly enslaved a homeless man, stole his disability cheques, abducted his child and physically abused him and five children in her care, has been deemed fit to stand trial.

In September, McMahon had ordered an assessment for Maria Willett, 61, because she had “significant mental health issues,” he said at the time.

Willett appeared in court Tuesday in front of Judge John McMahon, her cheeks pinched, face white and shoulders slumped, as he ruled she is medically fit to stand trial.

Willett’s six-week, judge-only trial will begin in September 2018 — four years after the charges were laid and a quarter century since the alleged crimes began.

“I am very anxious to set a date for this matter,” said Crown attorney Jennifer Strasberg on Tuesday, adding she’s been ready to try Willett since September. “We don’t have anything to say she’s not fit.”

Willett faces similar charges to her husband, Gary Willett Sr., including forcible confinement and assault of the man to whom the couple allegedly didn’t provide the necessities of life for nearly 25 years, as well as theft over $5,000 and abduction of a child under the age of 14. Both pleaded not guilty, and Gary is waiting for McMahon’s verdict in January.

The allegations against Willett have not been tested in court.

Willett’s lawyer Daniel Kayfetz told McMahon at her last appearance in November that the court-appointed specialist had found her to be “exaggerating symptoms when it comes to communication and loss of memory.”

Willett was initially going to be tried alongside her husband, but a psychiatrist had advised the court that because of her “mental health challenges” she should undergo further assessment, said the judge in September. The Crown decided to sever the cases.

Maria and Gary Willett met the alleged victim, Tim Goldrick (now 57) in the late 1980s when he was scrounging for food in a dumpster near their downtown Toronto apartment. They befriended him and his common-law wife, helping them find a home.

That friendship, the Crown alleges, turned to something much darker as the husband and his wife took advantage of the vulnerable couple, stealing their government disability cheques. They then allegedly took the couple’s first-born son, manipulating hospital records so he would appear to be theirs.

Goldrick, who took the stand in Gary’s trial, said he was routinely beaten and berated. For more than 12 years he lived in a hallway in the basement of their home, sleeping on a single box spring mattress, and only being allowed to leave the house to complete tasks like buying groceries or shoveling snow in the winter.

He testified that he wasn’t allowed to go into the fridge to get food, and ate dog food “quite a few times” because of it. When he was living with the Willetts, he said, he weighed 106 pounds. He currently weighs 230 pounds. He is six foot two.

In 2012, more than two decades after the alleged abuse began, he left the Willetts’ house with the help of his son and a friend.

The verdict in Gary Willett Sr.’s trial is expected in January.





Man recalls lesbian daughter, who died by suicide, in rebuke of Roy Moore

Perhaps it was the man’s strong but plain-spoken rebuke outside a Roy Moore rally on the campaign’s final night, condemning the Republican candidate’s past comments lambasting homosexuality.

Perhaps it was the admission of the man, a peanut farmer, that he too had harboured some of the same anti-gay feelings.

Perhaps it was his sign, a photograph of his daughter, a lesbian who, he said, had killed herself when she was 23.

Whatever it was, the two-minute video of Nathan Mathis struck a nerve, travelling far and wide as a sort of emotional coda to a wrenching U.S. Senate race in Alabama that has captivated the country.

Read more:

Alabama’s turbulent Senate race between Roy Moore and Doug Jones now in hands of voters

‘One of our attorneys is a Jew,’ Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s wife Kayla says

Most Alabama Republicans say they will cote for Roy Moore despite misconduct allegations

Alabama voters will go to the polls Tuesday to choose between Doug Jones, a moderate Democrat who came to prominence helping to prosecute Ku Klux Klan members as a U.S. attorney in the 1990s, and Roy Moore, a far-right conservative and former judge whose candidacy has sharply divided the party he represents and the electorate beyond.

The 74-year-old Mathis, a former county commissioner and state representative in Alabama, said he was speaking out against Moore because of his own experience with his daughter, Patti Sue.

He said that Moore’s comments on homosexuality amounted to calling gay people “perverts.”

“This is something people need to stop and think about,” Mathis said. “You’re supposed to uphold the Constitution. The Constitution said all men were created equal. But how is my daughter a pervert just because she’s gay?”

Moore, whose politics are sharply tinged by a rigid interpretation of Christianity, has a long track record of speaking harshly about gays. He has said that homosexual conduct “should be illegal,” that it is “an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it,” and that “sodomy is against the laws of nature.”

Mathis, who described himself as religious, said that he too shared some of those anti-gay beliefs.

“I said bad things to my daughter myself, which I regret,” he said. “But I can’t take back what happened to my daughter. Stuff like saying my daughter was a pervert, I’m sure that bothered her.”

But he said Moore’s thoughts on gay people rang false to him.

“We don’t need a person like that representing us in Washington,” he said. “That’s why I’m here.”

He held a sign that noted the accusations, which surfaced during the campaign, by women who said that Moore made sexual advances toward them when they were teenagers.

“So that makes him a pervert of the worst kind,” the sign read. “Please don’t vote for Roy Moore!”

Moore has denied these allegations.

Mathis wrote about his daughter in a letter to the Dothan Eagle, a small Alabama newspaper, in 2012.

Born in 1972, she was “a wonderful child” who was “very athletic, tomboyish (I always had to pitch batting practice to her after Dixie Youth practice), very beautiful and smart,” he wrote. But after he learned that she was gay from a friend while she was in high school, he confronted her and “said some things to her that still eat on me to this day,” he wrote, though he later apologized.

A few years later, she killed herself. Mathis wrote that he found her; she was 23.

“She was tired of being ridiculed and made fun of,” Mathis wrote. “She was tired of seeing how a lot of people treat gay people.”

He described another moment of regret after his daughter’s death, after sitting in a church while a preacher bashed gays.

“I was ashamed of myself for sitting there and not defending Patti,” he wrote. “May God have mercy on us all. I only know I miss my daughter Patti very much and I am grateful for having her as my daughter.”

Mathis’ exact views on gay people were not entirely clear. In the 2012 letter, he writes of taking his daughter to doctors and psychiatrists in the hope of resolving her sexuality at her request. He has run for office as both a Democrat and a Republican.

On Monday, a reporter asked him what he was hoping to accomplish with his protest.

“I had mixed emotions about coming, but somebody needs to speak up,” he said. “And if it’s all to no avail, so be it. It won’t be the first time I’ve done something to no avail.”





Stephen LeDrew, CP24 part ways after suspension, Bell Media confirms

Following a much criticized appearance on Fox News at the end of last month, Stephen LeDrew is no longer on CP24, where he served as a political commentator and co-host of the popular Live at Noon show, Bell Media confirms.

LeDrew was initially suspended for a week after he appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight for a discussion that questioned an extended acronym for the LGBTQ community used in inclusivity training for teachers.

The suspension was said to be a “result of his violation of the CTV news policy and code of conduct,” according to a statement Tuesday from Scott Henderson, a spokesperson for Bell Media, which owns CTV and CP24.

Although LeDrew was ostensibly defending the idea of the sensitivity training in his conversation with Carlson, he drew sharp criticism across social media for remarks concerning two-spirited individuals, who he said were “clearly confused.”

A two-spirited person is someone who embodies both a masculine and feminine spirit, and it is a specifically Indigenous term encompassing gender identity and expression.

Despite admitting that he didn’t know the meaning of all the terms on the list, he claimed two-spirit sounded like a word for someone who didn’t know whether “they’re fish or fowl, frick or frack.”

Bell Media would not say whether the termination of LeDrew’s employment was connected to his comments or whether it was because he appeared as a guest on another news outlet’s broadcast.

“I can confirm that Stephen LeDrew is no longer with Bell Media,” Henderson said. “We won’t be commenting beyond that.”

LeDrew once was president of the Liberal Party of Canada, elected twice to serve from 1998 to 2003. He ran for mayor in Toronto in 2006, placing a distant third.





Chantal Hébert: Liberals’ byelection wins signal problems for Singh and Scheer

MONTREAL—On the morning after his party endured a quadruple byelection beating, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh had this to offer on Twitter: “Each and every one of us has an inherent self worth. Nurture and grow it. Give it time and love. Build a courageous belief in your own self worth and you will have the strength to overcome any challenge you face.”

Whether a dose of social media philosophy will provide much solace to a party that has endured diminishing returns since it elected its latest leader is an open question.

The only saving grace for the NDP on Monday was that Singh took a pass on trying to enter the House of Commons via one of the ridings in play, thus avoiding an even more personal defeat.

Read more:

Liberal Jean Yip declares victory in Scarborough-Agincourt byelection

Opinion: Singh does not need a seat in Commons

Liberal MPs to blitz home ridings in campaign to spread accomplishments

The downside is that if he wanted to reverse his initial decision to stay out of the House until the 2019 election — possibly because his absence from the parliamentary stage has made him virtually invisible on the national radar — he could be hard-pressed to find a reasonably safe place to run.

It is increasingly fair to ask just how many safe New-Democrats seats there are left in the country.

None of the federal ridings in contention this fall was a promising one for the NDP. But Scarborough-Agincourt should have been within the sphere of influence of its rookie leader.

Scarborough is Singh’s birthplace, and his former provincial seat was in the GTA. As recently as 2011 the NDP won a riding whose territory is now part of Scarborough-Agincourt with 40 per cent of the vote.

Six years and two leaders later there is barely a trace left of the party’s former strength.

On Monday, the New Democrats barely took 5 per cent of the vote in Scarborough-Agincourt, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Bonavista-Burin-Trinity and B.C.’s South Surrey–White Rock.

In Saskatchewan’s Battlefords-Lloydminster, the party finished second, with 13 per cent of the vote. In all cases, the NDP’s share of the vote went down from 2015.

Stacked against the party’s performance in the same ridings at the time of Jack Layton’s last election campaign, the picture is even more dismal. Indeed, the end-of-year polls show the federal NDP deep in third-party territory across the board.

As the Singh-led New Democrats fail to register, the Conservatives under Andrew Scheer are losing long-held seats to the Liberals. The two are not unrelated.

When the party lost Lac-Saint-Jean in October, many rationalized the defeat as the product of a Quebec microclimate that is more auspicious to a native son such as Justin Trudeau than to a relatively obscure Conservative leader from Western Canada.

The NDP had been fading in Quebec before Singh became leader. No one was surprised that it fell 17 points in a byelection that immediately followed his leadership victory.

But Monday’s Conservative loss of South Surrey-White Rock combined with the lacklustre NDP scores points to a larger pattern. The B.C. riding had not elected a Liberal since 1972. And while Trudeau did recruit a popular candidate, the Conservative tasked with holding the riding — Kerry-Lynne Findlay — was a former Harper minister.

Buoyed by two upset byelection victories over the Conservatives this fall and with a solid shot at winning back Outremont from the NDP if and when Thomas Mulcair retires in the new year, few in the Liberal backrooms will lose sleep over the fact that overall, the Conservatives increased their vote share in three of four ridings on Monday.

Scheer cannot win the next general election in the face of a Liberal juggernaut in Quebec and B.C. And he won’t have much of a shot at toppling Trudeau unless the NDP reverses its decline.

The two parties to the left of the CPC are communicating vessels. A lost vote for the New Democrats is almost always a vote gained for the Liberals. It usually takes a split in the non-conservative vote for the Conservatives to win government.

Throughout the fall — Trudeau’s most difficult political season to date — the New Democrats and the Conservatives have been telling themselves that buyer’s remorse was about to catch up to the Liberals.

It seems both opposition parties had been inhaling their own question period fumes.

In the end the only seeds of buyer’s remorse that may have been planted in the mid-mandate byelections would pertain to the opposition’s leadership choices.

Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.





Rosie DiManno: Guns, drugs and murder — What the Laura Babcock jury wasn't told

They’re killers accused of murder.

It’s unlikely any juror was unaware of that, the intertwining of homicide proven and homicide alleged.

But never was the name of Tim Bosma uttered in Courtroom 2-7 over the seven weeks of trial. Not in front of the jury anyway.

That Dellen Millard and Mark Smich shot the Hamilton man dead and fed his body into an industrial incinerator — a ghastly crime for which they were both convicted in 2016 — was ruled inadmissible as similar fact evidence by Justice Michael Code in a pretrial proceeding. Hence the interminable box-empty wrangling over leaving a false impression with the jury that human bones were never found in “the Eliminator” as experts pondered blurry photo images of what might have been a specimen fragment from a deer or a person.

Possibly the scant remains of Laura Babcock, the fun-loving if mentally troubled 23-year-old last seen alive shortly after Canada Day, 2012. Her body has never been found.

No body. No crime scene. But mounds of circumstantial evidence presented by the prosecution, even winnowed by Code.

How to say what can’t be said?

Or reported.

Until now, as the jury began deliberations around 1:45 p.m. Tuesday.

What the jury didn’t know, these wraps-off stories are labelled.

Plenty.

Jurors were not permitted to hear, for instance, about the illegal enterprises in which the defendants were apparently involved, together or independently, or which they discussed as future endeavours before their arrest on April 10, 2014; their mutual obsession with a criminal lifestyle: drug trafficking, drug importing, arson, theft, robbery, chopping vehicles, obstructing police and prostitution.

A far broader conspiracy than the events which brought Millard and Smich to court, what they referred to as “missions” and “dark deeds.”

“I’m down to merk (murder) people if it’s a big enough payoff,” Millard texted Smich in early 2012.

From Smich to Millard: “Like I said, this is only the beginning. I’m makin us a team, an army. You kno. We will be proper soon. Nobody can f--- with Say10 and Dman.”

Dman was Millard. Say10 was Smich. Both were self-adopted nicknames and lawyers were cautioned to enunciate them carefully, as spelled, so they didn’t come out sounding like “Demon” and “Satan,” vaguely prejudicial.

Both above entries were edited, as per Code’s ruling, arising from just one of 17 pretrial motions, many weighed for “extrinsic misconduct,” argued as relevant or irrelevant, overly prejudicial or critically probative. Sixteen purported criminal incidents related to Millard, specifically, that could “indicate a pervasive and casual amorality,” as Code wrote, dismissing a Crown gambit to frame “thrill-seeking” as an included motive for the murder of Babcock.

Of several guns that Millard had purchased before and after the alleged murder of Laura Babcock, the existence of only one was deemed admissible — a .32 calibre firearm Millard bought from a now convicted (and extraordinarily tattooed) gun trafficker, brought from the hoosegow to testify (twice), but narrowly. Millard acquired that gun in early July, 2012, so analogous with Babcock’s disappearance at a time when the defendants were allegedly planning and deliberating Babcock’s murder.

So, a good-to-go-in gun, unlike the 9 mm Walther Millard acquired in February of that year or his purchase of another handgun in September or his attempts to buy a gun and ammunition for Smich during a trip to the U.S. in April.

The .32 was found lying beside Millard’s father, Wayne Millard, in November, 2012, in what was initially ruled a suicide. Millard said he’d bought it as a birthday present for his dad, who at one time had up to half a dozen guns in the house.

Millard has since been charged with murdering his own father, with trial scheduled for next March.

Jurors weren’t told about that either.

Smich had boasted to two friends — dubbed the “garage confession” — of actually killing a girl and the rap lyrics he wrote about describing the crime were drawn from reality rather than his perverse imagination. But only the first of seven verses was submitted into evidence by the Crown. Prior to his arrest, Smich also told his girlfriend that “it wasn’t the first time” they had burned a body and that “it wasn’t the only body they had burned,” evidence that didn’t pass the admissibility sniff test.

Or that Smich had sought to have his trial severed from Millard and tried by judge only, overriding the attorney general’s refusal to consent to a judge-alone trial. Denied.

Smich’s legal team, which also defended him at the Bosma trial, got nowhere with a charter argument seeking “relief” against trial by jury, premised on the belief he could not receive a fair trial after the abundance of media coverage from Bosma.

Millard steadfastly opposed a judge-alone trial though he supported severing the proceedings. For this trial, an added grounds for severance was that Millard wanted to compel Smich to testify for the defence, a tactic he considered following the lengthy (if futile) testimony Smich gave against his co-accused in the Bosma trial. In any event, he apparently made no attempt to put Smich on the stand.

Smich’s lawyers, for their part, called no evidence at all.

And if the jury ever wondered why Millard — who represented himself — never approached them, especially during his closing address when lawyers usually stand directly in front of the jury box, why he scarcely budged from the lectern while questioning witnesses, it was because they were not to know his stationary stance was intended to block his ankle shackle from view. Lest they realize that he, like Smich, was in custody throughout.

The jury was shielded from all these matters, most intensely argued before Code before the trial began, several bickered over again on the countless occasions when the jury was asked to step out.

Probably most confounding for the Crown was the erasure of Bosma from this trial.

It is an ancient conceit that jurors can’t be trusted with the truth. It is also fundamental to trial fairness — the potentially prejudicial outweighing the probative (having the effect of truth or tending to prove).

Ignorance of the Bosma murder — that Millard and Smich are already serving life sentences for slaying a stranger who tragically crossed paths with the co-accused when they responded to his ad about selling a truck — was not required of the jurors during the selection process. (The verdict is under appeal.) Finding a panel of 14 (two were dropped before deliberations began) who had no knowledge of the notorious crime might have been well nigh impossible.

Prospective jurors were permitted to be asked if, as a result of having “seen, heard, read, discussed or communicated” about the Babcock murder, they had formed an opinion about the possible guilt or innocence of Millard and Smich; whether opinions formed were “strong”; whether they could put opinions aside and decide the case solely on the evidence presented and later follow the judge’s instructions not conduct any research on the case.

Particularly wince-inducing for everybody in the courtroom were the occasions when three specific witnesses were subjected to cross-examination by Millard — the victim’s father, Clayton Babcock, and her former boyfriend, Shawn Lerner; and Smich’s former girlfriend, Marlena Meneses, who may have been an unwitting witness to the alleged incineration of Babcock’s body. (She recalled seeing the Eliminator in action one night — told the apparatus was being tested for disposal of animal carcasses — but couldn’t provide an exact date. The prosecution maintains Babcock was killed July3-4 and her remains cremated late in the late hours of July 23.)

The Crown had sought to have these individuals spared the ordeal of being questioned by Millard.

Mr. Babcock was “concerned” about his ability to give a full and candid account if cross-examined by Millard. Lerner, who had spearheaded the investigation into Babcock’s disappearance, and Meneses, who had clearly been mocked and belittled by Millard during the time she was intimately involved with his wingman, were similarly “uncomfortable” with the prospect.

Prosecutors asked that a step-in counsel be appointed for the purpose.

Code said no. “The three witnesses in question . . . are all adults and this is not a sexual assault or criminal harassment case.” Adding: “I am also not satisfied that it would ‘otherwise be in the interest of the administration of justice’ to interfere with Millard’s right to conduct his own defence personally and without counsel.”

It was a starring role Millard palpably relished.

But whatever the jury decides, he and Smich are going straight back to prison.

Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.





Ontario passes Cannabis Act, will take effect July 1, 2018

The trillium is Ontario’s official flower and marijuana could now be considered the province’s official weed with the passage of the Cannabis Act.

Liberals and New Democrats voted 63 to 27 in favour of the legislation Tuesday with the Progressive Conservatives opposed as the province now begins work in earnest on how to split pot tax revenues with municipalities.

The new law gives Queen’s Park a monopoly on recreational marijuana when the federal government’s legalization takes effect on July 1.

Weed will only be sold by the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation, a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

Starting next summer, the OCRC will operate 40 stand-alone marijuana shops, increasing to 150 stores by 2020.

Illegal pot dispensaries will be forced to close.

With the federal government now pledging to give provinces and territories 75 per cent of what Sousa said is an estimated $450 million in annual pot tax revenue nationwide, Ontario will work on a share of its roughly 40 per cent portion with municipalities for enforcement.

“We have to be mindful what costs are being borne,” Finance Minister Charles Sousa told reporters, declining to specify how the tax money will be split.

“Not all municipalities are being treated the same,” Sousa added, noting some jurisdictions have their own police forces while others rely on the OPP.

Federal Liberal MP Bill Blair said last month that the tax haul from cannabis, including the HST and excise taxes, could total up to $1 billion in a legalized market with 400,000 kilograms of marijuana a year.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said the city will need funding to cover policing, social services and zoning enforcement.

“I will be looking to recover all of our costs once we calculate them,” he told reporters at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Although Sousa said the 75 per cent from the feds will not be enough to meet the costs that we are going to incur,” the deal got a joint thumbs-up from the premiers of Ontario and Quebec.

“I’m happy with the arrangement. The provinces and municipalities will have many more costs than the federal government,” Kathleen Wynne said at a confederation conference in Toronto.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard agreed, adding “it’s obvious we will have to share our share” with local governments.

New Democrats supported the bill despite concerns “unanswered questions” about money to municipalities and the small number of stores to open next summer.

“Forty store fronts basically tells the criminal element it’s wide open season for marijuana here in Ontario and I don’t think that’s very responsible,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

Her Conservative counterpart said his MPPs opposed the bill because police associations have warned more support is needed, particularly for enforcing drug-impaired driving.

“They’ve expressed significant reservations that they don’t have the resources and equipment right now to keep our streets safe,” Patrick Brown said.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the legislation won’t put much of a dent in the illegal, underground market.

“Instead of trying to drive existing dispensaries out of business, the government should allow them to apply to become legal and heavily regulated retailers of cannabis.”

The first 14 municipalities that will be home to the shops are in Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Vaughan, Hamilton, Barrie, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, and Windsor.

Staff at the stores, like LCBO outlets, will be specially trained members of the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union.

There will no self-service at the shops, where marijuana will retail for $10 a gram. It will be sold from behind the counter to patrons 19 and older.

Online sales will also be controlled by the OCRC, which is still developing its branding for the stores.

The remaining illegal storefront “dispensaries” still operating will be forced out of business under threat of cash fines of up to $1 million and jail terms as long as two years less a day.

Usage will be restricted to private homes and consumption will continue to be outlawed in all parks and other public places as well as in vehicles.

Ontarians of age will, however, be permitted to grow up to four cannabis plants for personal use.

The legislation passed one day after Ottawa and the provinces forged a revenue-sharing agreement.

Under the deal, the provinces will get a 75 per cent share of recreational cannabis tax revenues.

With files from David Rider





Democrat Doug Jones ekes out stunning win over controversial Republican Roy Moore

MONTGOMERY, ALA.—In a stunning victory aided by scandal, Democrat Doug Jones won Alabama’s special Senate election on Tuesday, beating back history, an embattled Republican opponent and President Donald Trump, who urgently endorsed GOP rebel Roy Moore despite a litany of sexual misconduct allegations.

It was the first Democratic Senate victory in a quarter-century in Alabama, one of the reddest of red states, and proved anew that party loyalty is anything but sure in the age of Trump. It was a major embarrassment for the president and a fresh wound for the already divided U.S. Republican Party.

Jones said his victory over Moore marks a moment for national unity.

“I have always believed that the people of Alabama have more in common than divides us,” Moore told supporters at his campaign victory rally. “We have shown the country the way that we can be.”

Jones said he was overwhelmed by his upset win. “At the end of the day, this entire race has been about dignity and respect,” Jones said.

The victory by Jones, a former U.S. attorney best known for prosecuting two Ku Klux Klansmen responsible for Birmingham’s infamous 1963 church bombing, narrows the GOP advantage in the U.S. Senate to 51-49. That imperils already-uncertain Republican tax, budget and health proposals and injects tremendous energy into the Democratic Party’s early push to reclaim House and Senate majorities in 2018.

Still, many Washington Republicans viewed the defeat of Moore as perhaps the best outcome for the party nationally despite the short-term sting. The fiery Christian conservative’s positions have alienated women, racial minorities, gays and Muslims — in addition to the multiple allegations that he was guilty of sexual misconduct with teens, one only 14, when he was in his 30s.

A number of Republicans declined to support him, including Alabama’s long-serving Sen. Richard Shelby. But Trump lent his name and the national GOP’s resources to Moore’s campaign in recent days.

Had Moore won, the GOP would have been saddled with a colleague accused of sordid conduct as Republicans nationwide struggle with Trump’s historically low popularity. Senate leaders had promised that Moore would have faced an immediate ethics investigation.

Jones takes over the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The term expires in January 2021.

Read more:

Final push for Roy Moore, Doug Jones before Tuesday’s Alabama Senate election

‘One of our attorneys is a Jew,’ Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s wife Kayla says

Women who accused Trump of sexual assault say his election was ‘heartbreaking’

Republicans on Capitol Hill have expressed hopes of scheduling a vote on their tax legislation before Jones is sworn in, but lawmakers are still struggling to devise a compromise bill to bridge the divide between the House and Senate legislation that can win majority support in both chambers.

The Republican loss also gives Democrats a clearer path to a Senate majority in 2018 — albeit a narrow one — in an election cycle where Democrats are far more optimistic about seizing control of the House of Representatives.

Ultimately, Tuesday’s contest came down to which side better motivated its supporters to vote. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said turnout would probably not exceed 25 per cent of registered voters.

Jones successfully fought to cobble together an unlikely coalition of Black voters, liberal whites and moderate Republicans.

“This is an important time in Alabama’s history, and we feel very confident where we are and how this is going to turn out,” the Democrat said after casting his ballot Tuesday.

On the ground in Alabama on Tuesday, those who stood in line to cast their ballots were far more focused on the candidates than the broader political fallout.

Teresa Brown, a 53-year-old administrative assistant, said she preferred Jones, in part, because he would be better positioned to work across party lines. “We don’t need a pedophile in there,” Brown added.

She was among more than two dozen people queued up in the chilly morning air at Legion Field, a predominantly black precinct in Birmingham, to cast their ballots. Al Bright, 63, who does refrigeration repair, said he voted for Moore.

“Regardless of the allegations against him, I believe he is an honourable man,” Bright said.

Mary Multrie, 69, who works in a children’s hospital, disagreed.

“He’s not a truthful man,” 69-year-old Mary Multrie said of Moore. Multrie wasn’t influenced by accusations of sexual misconduct against Moore, she said, because she already did not like him. “He talks about God, but you don’t see God in his actions.”

Moore, who largely avoided public events in the final weeks of the race and spent far less money on advertising than his opponent, bet big — and lost — on the state’s traditional Republican leanings and the strength of his passionate evangelical Christian supporters.

He sidestepped questions about sexual misconduct as he arrived at his polling place on horseback.

Democrats were not supposed to have a chance in Alabama, one of the most Republican-leaning states in the U.S. Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton here by nearly 28 points just 13 months ago. Yet Moore had political baggage that repelled some moderate Republicans even before allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced.

Virtually the entire Republican establishment, Trump included, supported Moore’s primary opponent, Sen. Luther Strange in September. Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was one of the only early high-profile Moore backers.

Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida wrote in a tweet: “The people of #Alabama put country first tonight by rejecting the disgusting Roy Moore. Congratulations to the Bannon wing of the @GOP for gifting a seat to @SenateDems in one of the reddest states. You have no future in our country’s politics.”

Moore was removed from his position as state Supreme Court chief justice the first time after he refused to remove a boulder-sized Ten Commandments monument at the state court building. The second time, he was permanently suspended for urging state probate judges to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In his final pitch before polls opened across the state, Jones called the choice a “crossroads” and asked that “decency” prevail.

“We’ve had this history in the past, going down the road that ... has not been productive,” Jones said. “We’ve lagged behind in industry. We’ve lagged behind in education. We’ve lagged behind in health care. It’s time we take the road that’s going to get us on the path to progress.”





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