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The future that will never be: A Toronto cyclist struck down, a family left to grieve

Christine Crosbie still has a lot of questions about her husband’s death.

Not about his final moments, because she heard from the cyclists who held his hands and stayed with him after he was struck on Dundas St. E. a month ago.

And not about whether he’d been at fault. There is video showing Doug had the right of way on a green light when he was hit by the front bumper of a truck as the driver made a right turn at Jones Ave., police told her.

What Crosbie wants to know is what she’s supposed to do with the rest of her life.

“When the police told me, I said ‘No, no, no. I believe what you’re saying but this has not happened. This is not our story,’ ” Crosbie says, sitting in the east Toronto home she bought with her husband six years ago so their two kids, Davis, now 18, and Marina, 22, would be closer to their French immersion school. The couple met when they were journalism students at Concordia in Montreal and had been married for nearly 25 years.

Doug died May 16 at the age of 54. A woman killed while riding her bike on Bloor St. on June 12 brought to 93 the number of cyclists and pedestrians killed since the city adopted Vision Zero — an initiative to reduce deaths on the streets — last year. The deaths raise the question — once again — of whether Toronto’s goal for safer streets is more rhetoric than reality. And they show the human cost of the failed policy, the lives upended and the trauma that spreads through the community like a widening ripple.

Read more:

‘He was my rock’: Cyclist struck and killed in Leslieville identified in Facebook note

Opinion | Edward Keenan: We know how to make roads safer. We just have to do it

This Toronto cyclist caught his hit-and-run on video. It was the beginning of his frustrations

Crosbie says that her husband was her rock, always there for her and “an amazing friend to so many people.”

“He was such an ideal male role model. He had a super feminist mom so he had all of those ideals,” she says. “He was a really ethical person. He was a really good friend to anybody. If someone was moving or if someone needed some kind of support, he was always there.

“I’m glad my kids are at an age where he’s kind of already bestowed that on them. They’ll take that away. If they were very young, they might not have registered that.”

Close to noon on the day he died, she was called into a meeting in the human resources department of OCAD University, where she works as communications manager. Police came in and told her they were sorry, that there had been an accident and that her husband was killed riding his bike to work that morning. They pushed Doug’s wallet across the table to her.

“It was OK that way because no matter how you do it, no matter how gently or slowly or nicely you do it, it’s just like a total nightmare,” says Crosbie, a former Global News reporter. “You’re in total shock.”

She was thankful there was no chance for her to think something had happened to her kids.

“Do you have a checklist, because I have no idea how to deal with this,” Crosbie says she asked police. “Can you give a checklist? Can you tell me what I’m going to tell my children? Because I don’t know what I’m going to tell my children. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing. Can you just give me some direction? You tell people this all the time,” she said to them.

Afterwards, she went to the hospital and then to her son’s workplace with her brother-in-law to tell him his father had died. She called her daughter in Montreal, where she is a Fine Arts student at Concordia.

Crosbie says word of Doug’s death spread quickly in the neighbourhood and in Riverdale where the family used to live. She posted a kind of obituary and photos publicly on Facebook about Doug, who started his career at the CBC and produced Mayday, an award-winning show on the Discovery Channel, and instantly received hundreds of responses, comfort she says in an impossible situation where you can’t really be comforted.

Crosbie says she would have tattooed the words from the obit on her forehead, “that this amazing person is gone because of this stupid thing that happened. The more people I can tell, the better.”

Her husband’s colleagues at Cineflix Productions downtown reached out on Facebook to say what a fantastic boss he was. She heard from the cyclists who stopped to help Doug as he lay on the ground.

“Four people who were at the crash site when it happened messaged me and said, ‘I want you to know that someone called 911 immediately, that there were three people holding his hand and talking to him and there was someone with him the whole time until he was taken away. I’m sorry we couldn’t do more for you.’ Could you imagine they would do that?” she says of their kindness.

Crosbie doesn’t know all the details contained in the video of her husband’s death, but she knows he was both a cautious driver and rider. Police say he was not at fault and not distracted.

“Not that I would ever fault a cyclist for making any of those mistakes,” she says. “But he didn’t.”

Mayor John Tory called her a week later on the morning of the funeral, when 350 people attended the ceremony for Doug at Eastminster United Church on Danforth Ave., and invited her to have a private meeting with him to discuss ways to improve infrastructure, but as she struggled to even get into her dress, she really couldn’t think about it.

Crosbie says she’s not an activist — not yet.

“I’m not that educated on how things are being done, whose responsibility it is,” she says about road safety. “So I’m just learning that now in the worst possible way.”

She’d like drivers to be smarter, to understand how careful they need to be. “And consequences that go beyond punishment, that are more about educating,” she says. “I would like to see having to do safety lessons before getting your licence back. Having to maybe meet with the family if they (the family) were up for it. Not everybody will be.”

She doesn’t know if the driver will be charged, but she says that even if he is, it won’t bring her husband back. Police say they are still investigating and there is “no determination on charges yet.”

“I’m not looking for vengeance,” Crosbie says.

Now, she busies herself with all the things that have to be done when a person dies, changes to the mortgage, to insurance policies, visits to the bank. Davis, a student at the University of Guelph, will live with her for the summer. Marina goes back to Montreal soon. Friends stop by every day to visit or bring food.

Doug’s colleagues made her a little booklet and each person wrote a paragraph and pasted it in the book. She says someone included the last text message that he had sent them about what a good job they’d done editing some footage. Another said what an awesome boss he’d been.

She says all the care the family has received makes her wonder how elderly people cope, when the number of friends and relatives has dwindled with age and someone they know has died.

Crosbie and her husband did most things together, including picking out the furnishings and artwork in their home, and so she looks for things around her that are just Doug. She had his wedding ring made smaller and wears it with her own on her left hand. She and Marina found a pack of ticket stubs from concerts he’d attended and they plan to do a collage.

Doug had wanted to do a family tattoo and the two of them had been looking for designs, so she and the kids went and got one that says “Heart of Gold,” a song from Neil Young’s Harvest album, Doug’s favourite.

“I still don’t quite get it,” says Crosbie. “I’m fine a lot of the time. But then when I think about it — all these things that we wanted to do, travel plans — and that’s kind of like out the window. He was always there for me,” she says, her voice lowering to a whisper. “For 25 years. We practically grew up together.”

Can Toronto make Vision Zero work?

One of the pillars of Vision Zero, which was adopted by the city last year, is that people will make mistakes.

“In every situation a person might fail, the road system should not,” says the narrator of a video explaining the initiative, which began in Sweden in 1997. Another pillar is that no loss of life due to traffic is acceptable.

“Every crash with serious injuries or fatalities is something you need to carefully look at and say what was wrong here, what should I have done, not the citizen — what should I have done as a professional and responsible person in the system?” Claus Tingvall, a director of traffic safety for the Swedish National Road Administration and co-architect of the vision, says in the video. “That’s the real demand we need to put on ourselves as professionals.”

Sweden has managed to cut traffic-related deaths nearly in half. It has one of the lowest rates of road deaths among developed countries — 2.7 per 100,000 people. Canada has 5.4 deaths per 100,000, third-highest among 10 high-income countries after New Zealand and the U.S., which was at 10.3, according to a CDC report from 2015.

Swedish cities are building more roundabouts instead of intersections to reduce the risk of head-on crashes. Cars aren’t allowed to turn at intersections when pedestrians and cyclists are crossing. And they are building pedestrian bridges. Bicycles have separate lanes and police have cracked down on drinking and driving.

Toronto adopted the Vision Zero policy last year with a five-year action plan to reduce traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries in six key areas — pedestrians, schoolchildren, older adults, cyclists, motorcyclists and aggressive driving and distraction.

But with deaths mounting, critics say the city is failing to keep pedestrians and cyclists safe.

A Pembina Institute study of cycling in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa from 2015 found that Toronto had the second-highest crash rate — five per 100,000 cycling trips, — behind Montreal. The study also found that Toronto has the lowest bicycle infrastructure per capita.

A newly opened 1.4-kilometre separated bike lane on Lake Shore Blvd. W., between Norris Cres. and First St., is the only one that’s been built this year. Other improvements listed in a pamphlet being circulated at Vision Zero town halls by the city — such as advanced green lights for cyclists and automatic detection at intersections — have not been implemented.

Bike lanes separated from the road by a physical barrier, also called protected bike lanes or cycle tracks, are safer than even off-street bike paths. Riders in cycle tracks have one-ninth the risk of serious injury leading to hospitalization compared to a rider on a major street without any bicycling infrastructure, according to a study of cycling in Toronto and Vancouver in 2012.

“We were quite surprised to see that separated bike lanes made such a big difference,” says Kay Teschke, one of the study’s authors and a professor emeritus of the School of Population and Public Health at UBC.

The lanes typically have good sight lines, because they are on roads designed for cars, and are lit properly, she says.

The lanes also completely remove the risk of dooring, which accounted for 10 per cent of all crashes in Toronto during the study period, and eliminate the chance of being caught in a streetcar track, which accounted for a third of crashes.

But it’s at intersections that cyclists are most at risk.

Nearly three-quarters of deaths and injuries occur there, according to a Toronto Star analysis of Toronto Police Service traffic statistics from 2007 to 2017.

“Being hit when a vehicle is turning left or turning right are the two most common intersection manoeuvres that kill active transportation users,” says Teschke. “And it’s crazy.”

As they do after every fatal accident, city staff from traffic operations and the traffic safety group, along with Shawn Dillon, acting manager of cycling infrastructure and programs, went to Dundas St. E. and Jones Ave. after cyclist Doug Crosbie was killed May 16, to investigate whether elements of the intersection, such as road markings and signal timing, were working as they should.

The city is still compiling the report, which won’t be made public.

“In many cases there may not be anything,” says Dillon. “In this case I think there probably could be some improvements made at that intersection.” The timing of those improvements will depend on cost. Big-budget items get deferred to future years.

Toronto recently made safety improvements at two Queen’s Park Cres. intersections — Wellesley St. W. and Hoskins Ave. — where they put in a dedicated signal for pedestrians and cyclists. The Harbord-Hoskin corridor is the second-busiest cycling route in the city, with 3,500 to 3,900 bikes per day. An city engineering study found the separate signal caused the longest traffic delay, but was the safest for riders on the two-way track. There are also a number of intersections on Queens Quay W. that have a separate signal for pedestrians and cyclists.

Teschke says that separate signal timing is the true vision zero at intersections.

“For a driver there are so many more vehicles and the catastrophe for a driver is being hit by a moving vehicle,” says Teschke. “So what are they looking for when they’re turning right or left? They’re looking for other vehicles. And look but fail to see is the classic problem,” she says of drivers who often don’t see pedestrians, cyclists or motorcycles. Drivers are typically responsible for about 60 per cent of the collisions with cyclists, says Teschke.

At least 1,000 U.S. and European cities have managed to achieve Vision Zero, when there were no traffic-related fatalities for at least a year.

“Canada is better than the U.S. per population rate,” says Teschke, “but we’re still much higher than the best countries in the world like Sweden and Denmark, Germany, the U.K. We have a long way to go.

“And we could save half the deaths from overall traffic — not just bicycling, which is a small proportion because there’s not much bicycling — we could save a lot if we went to and really adopted Vision Zero.”

Patty Winsa is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @PattyWinsa

Message received, now Ontario’s Liberal party will try to reconnect with voters

They’ll spend the summer licking their wounds, and start figuring a way forward in the fall.

The Ontario Liberal Party, after a devastating electoral defeat that brought an end to their 15 years in power and reduced their caucus to seven MPPs and without official party status, now has to find out where things went so wrong.

“Ontarians sent us a clear message,” Liberal Interim Leader John Fraser told the Star. “We need to take a break and do some soul-searching. The caucus and the party, over the coming weeks and months, we will take a look at what went wrong and move forward in a way, together, that’s in the interest of all Ontarians.”

The party, he said “spent $10 million to get seven seats. In that respect, membership wants some answers and we’ll go forward and continue to take a hard look at ourselves and what happened.”

The Liberals — especially the seven who survived the election — know they have a lot of work ahead of them and will be at the centre of rebuilding efforts.

“The first thing is listening to people, to get a better understanding of why people felt so disconnected,” said MPP Michael Coteau, who was re-elected in Don Valley East in a tough fight with PC candidate Denzil Minnan-Wong.

“What was really behind the hate for the Liberals, in many areas?”

Coteau said he believes Liberal values and policies still have support, but in the last few years, “it was hard for people to stay connected to us.”

Fraser has sent out a letter to the party faithful saying a “campaign post-mortem” would be held in September to “pose the tough questions that need to be asked.” Voters, he wrote, judged the party “as not being worthy of their confidence, a verdict we must accept with humility but also with determination to grow stronger.”

But first, the Liberals have to fight for official party status at Queen’s Park after they fell one seat short of being eligible for getting funding and the opportunity to regularly ask questions in the legislature.

As of Friday, sources said the Progressive Conservatives were not in favour of granting it.

After the June 7 vote, the Liberals faced the wrath of voters who reduced their numbers to a handful of MPPs, including Coteau, departing Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mitzie Hunter in the Toronto area; Fraser, Nathalie Des Rosiers and Marie-France Lalonde in the Ottawa area; and Michael Gravelle in Thunder Bay-Superior North.

“The results speak for themselves — it was a clear message,” Hunter, who represents Scarborough-Guildwood. “We have to listen to that.”

Outrage over issues like hydro — “that was the piece that was obvious,” said Coteau, who held three prominent cabinet portfolios in the Wynne government — children and youth, anti-racism and community and social services. “But there are other pieces that are there that are less obvious, and we need to talk about them.”

Apart from gaining party status, the Liberals will need to make sure they keep the party in the news, said Kathy Brock, a policy studies and political science professor at Queen’s University.

“But the more important thing is that the Liberal party has to get in touch with its constituency associations and find out what was said at the doors” during the election campaign, she said.

“It’s not just anger” that brought them down, she added. “What they’ve got to do is a good analysis of where did things go wrong, and then start to rebuild the party platform that way. They alienated their own voters.”

Though many turned to the NDP this time, she said, “if the Liberals give them a reason to come back, they will.”

As for the party, “the other piece that’s going to be challenging, we are going to be in debt,” Coteau added, at a time when “fundraising is not going to be like it has been over the last 15 years.”

He said “we’re going to have to go back to the base, and we’re going to have to build together and we’re going to have to get ourselves out of debt.

“I don’t know if it’s going to take four years or eight years (to rebuild the party), but I know one thing, it’s going to take a long time and we’ll know better a year from now.”

With files from Robert Benzie

Man arrested in case of hit-and-run that killed motorcyclist

Toronto police have arrested a man in the case of a hit-and-run collision that killed a 55-year-old motorcyclist in Scarborough earlier this month.

The collision happened at St. Claire Ave. E and Danforth Rd. at 6 a.m. Police said the car and motorcycle collided in the intersection when the car attempted to turn left onto Danforth while proceeding east on St. Clair.

The motorcyclist died on scene, making him the fourth motorcyclist to die on a Toronto street this year.

Police had appealed to the public asking for help to locate the driver and car after the vehicle left the scene.

Khaled Saeh Saeed Bin Rbaa, a 29-year-old from Toronto, was charged with one count of criminal negligence causing death and one count of failing to stop after an accident causing death.

Premila D'Sa is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star's radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @premila_dsa

Chantal Hébert: In Ottawa, all eyes are on a wilder-than-ever Donald Trump card

OTTAWA—The main takeaway from Canada’s uncommonly intense political spring is a wilder-than-ever Donald Trump card.

That is first and foremost a challenge for a federal government that has had to deploy more resources to do damage control on the Canada/U.S. front than any of its recent predecessors — with so far less than optimal results.

But it is not only Justin Trudeau’s agenda that has been upended by the Trump factor. With every passing day the political conversation on and off Parliament is being reshaped by the whims of the current occupant of the White House.

And while the prime minister has borne the brunt of Trump’s twitter storms, his opposition rivals are also having to scramble to adjust to an ever-shifting landscape.

Take the issue of asylum seekers: Ottawa has been bracing for months for a summer influx of irregular border-crossers coming in from the U.S. The official opposition has been determined to score points on this hot-button issue.

On day one of the G7 summit Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer traveled the Quebec rural road most used by asylum seekers to promote his party’s contention that the entire Canada-U.S. border should be declared an official point of entry. He might not be returning any time soon.

The Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement allows Canadian border authorities to turn back would-be asylum seekers already on American soil at an official point of entry. Extending that status to the whole border would presumably allow Canada to summarily turn back anyone seeking to cross from the U.S. for asylum purposes.

But having now been exposed to the dire consequences of the application of Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy on migrant children and their families, more Canadians could find the Conservative solution of making the border as hermetic to asylum seekers as possible politically unpalatable.

In more normal circumstances, Trudeau’s extraordinary decision to take on the expansion of the Alberta-to-B.C. Kinder Morgan pipeline would have been the policy highlight of the season. For reasons ranging from economics to the environment, it is both a high-risk and a defining political move.

Even among Canadians who do support the expansion of the pipeline, feelings about the federal government owning the infrastructure are decisively mixed. But opinions on that may shift as more voters come around to the notion that exceptional times may call for exceptional measures.

The opposition to the Trans Mountain project will melt away but the case against completing the expansion has likely been weakened by the threat of an all-out trade war with the U.S. and the sense that Canada does need to develop alternative markets.

Cannabis politics: Prior to Trump’s G7 antics, Quebec and Ottawa were poised to do battle over some of the regulations dealing with the legalization of cannabis.

Trudeau’s determination to allow Canadians to grow a small quantity of cannabis at home put Ottawa on a collision course with provinces such as Quebec and Manitoba that wanted the latitude to prohibit the practice.

To varying degrees, Quebec election campaigns have usually featured some jostling among the parties for the position of best provincial champion vis-à-vis the federal government. But Trump’s escalating rhetoric dwarfed the prospect of expanding a lot of energy on a federal-provincial war over a few cannabis plants.

If Premier Philippe Couillard can help it, Quebec’s ballot box question will at least in part revolve around the possible damage to the province of Trump’s vagaries and the party best placed to mitigate it.

In the wake of Trudeau’s decision to impose retaliatory tariffs on the U.S., the prime minister’s flagging approval ratings shot up. And that led to speculation about a snap summer election.

The geo-political circumstances under which Trudeau obtained his mandate in 2015 have changed dramatically. But even if Canada’s parties were adult enough to conduct a fact-based election conversation about the best way to address the Trump factor, they would ultimately still be debating hypothetical scenarios.

If the past year has demonstrated anything it is that when it comes to Trump, reality usually turns out to be beyond the range of any reasonable politician’s imagination.

Canada’s political class has so far succeeded in not negotiating with itself as it negotiates with an unpredictable and not always coherent White House tenant. That consensual front would be the first casualty of a summer election.

That is not to say that there could not at some point be a reason to jump the gun on the scheduled October 2019 election date.

If, for instance, the government’s options came to boil down to living without NAFTA or keeping the tripartite trade accord at the cost of some major structural concessions, a case could be made that voters should be brought in the loop. It may come to that but we are not there yet.

Chantal Hébert is a columnist based in Ottawa covering politics. Follow her on Twitter: @ChantalHbert

Crown drops fraud charges against moving company owners

The owners of a now-defunct Toronto moving and storage company have had fraud charges against them withdrawn.

Last year, Toronto police announced they had charged a number of people after customers alleged a moving company had exaggerated load weights and then refused to release the property until the inflated fees were paid in full.

In May, the Toronto police, RCMP and officials from the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services executed a criminal code search warrant at a building in Scarborough associated to Green Moving and Storage.

Police alleged aliases and multiple company names were used in order to mask the identities of scheme participants.

Earlier this month, the Crown withdrew fraud charges against Mesut Vatansever, Rahime Vatansever, and Gizem Uzum. On Tuesday, charges were also dropped against their co-accused, Burak Ozgan.

“My clients have maintained their innocence from the beginning,” said lawyer Domenic Basile, who represented the first three defendants. “They’re happy that justice was done ... and they’re going to move on with their lives. It’s been quite upsetting and traumatic to have been charged.”

Ozgan’s lawyer, Marco Forte, said his client “maintained his innocence from the start and eventually the prosecution and police agreed.”

Basile said there was no evidence suggesting a fraud had been committed.

Rather than the moving company adding weight to the loads, customers were underestimating the weight of their belongings, Basile said. The company was exercising its contractual right not to release the property until it was paid for the service provided, he said.

“If you have a contract with someone and then you go to try and provide a service and then they’ve told you we have this many pounds of items we want to move and it turns out they have twice as much, I think my client has a right to say ...‘well, you got to pay more because you didn’t tell us you had more than you originally said.’ ”

Forte said police “are now devoting resources to help the complainants get their property back.”

In an emailed statement, Ministry of the Attorney General spokesperson Brian Gray confirmed that all the charges had been withdrawn.

“The Crown carefully considers a number of factors, including all of the available evidence, the applicable legal principles, and the circumstances specific to each charge and every complainant in any particular matter,” Gray wrote.

“If the Crown determines that there is no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction, or that it is not in the public interest to proceed, the Crown is duty bound to withdraw the charges.”

Real estate deal gone bad led to three Brampton men being viciously beaten: police

Halton Regional Police say a real-estate deal gone sour was the precipitator of a swarming that saw three Brampton men viciously beaten with bats and sticks on the Halton/Brampton border Wednesday morning.

And they have now issued an arrest warrant for Rankirat Singh, 20, of Brampton. He is a suspect in the beating

He is wanted on two charges of aggravated assault and one count of assault causing bodily harm.

Two of the victims, aged 28 and 26, remain in hospital recovering from head injuries. They are both in serious but stable condition, according to police. A third victim, aged 27, is recovering at home.

There are multiple outstanding suspects Halton police are working to identify, according to Det. Const. Dylan Price of the One District Criminal Investigations Bureau. Investigators have reports of anywhere from eight to 20 others possibly being involved.

Police say one of the victims had arranged a real estate deal, and had been given a deposit, allegedly paid by Singh.

But the property owner decided against the lease deal, and the victim arranged a meeting to return the deposit, just after midnight, according to police. Price said police are not revealing where that meeting had been scheduled to take place.

The victim took two friends with him, but when they arrived, they saw several men with what appeared to be sticks and bats, according to police.

They tried to escape in their pickup truck, but at a red light at Winston Churchill Boul. and Steeles Ave., they were surrounded and beaten.

Police raided a Brampton house Thursday and seized two vehicles they allege were involved in the attack, and several “sticks and a baton,” according to a news release.

Police said the public is helping in the investigation, and they released a message for the wanted man:

“To Mr. Singh and the individuals involved, contact a lawyer and arrange for your safe surrender to investigators,” said Det. Sgt. Dave Costantini. “The investigation is ongoing and police wish to thank the members of the public and media who have provided vital information regarding this investigation.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Acting Detective Dylan Price of the Halton Regional Police Service One District Criminal Investigations Bureau at 905-825-4747 ext. 2422.

As anti-LGBTQ activist wanted for promotion of hatred surrenders to police, he says he regrets nothing

CALGARY—Moments before William Whatcott turned himself in to Calgary police Friday morning, the anti-LGBTQ activist wanted on Canada-wide warrants for promotion of hatred said he regretted nothing.

Whatcott is accused of distributing 3,000 pamphlets containing “hateful content” to attendees at Pride Toronto’s 2016 parade. The warrant for his arrest, issued this spring, has been hailed as a positive step by LGBTQ advocates.

“I have absolutely no apologies to make,” Whatcott told a crowd of roughly 30 supporters outside Calgary police headquarters Friday morning — some of whom wore T-shirts for the anti-Muslim group Worldwide Coalition Against Islam.

Whatcott also attempted to hand out a stack of flyers warning of “homosexual inspired oppression,” which he said were identical to the ones related to the warrant for his arrest, to passersby. Meanwhile, his supporters prayed and gave short speeches, by turns denouncing the LGBTQ community, the media and Muslims.

Whatcott — who described himself in previous court proceedings as a “Christian activist” who formerly “engaged in same-sex sexual activity” — has consistently denied doing anything criminal.

After the 2016 Toronto Pride Parade, Whatcott was the subject of a $103-million class-action lawsuit alleging hate speech directed at the LGBTQ community. Last March, an Ontario Superior Court judge said the suit wouldn’t stand as a class-action, but that those who filed it could pursue individual lawsuits against Whatcott.

He’s also the subject of a human-rights discrimination complaint in British Columbia.

According to human-rights tribunal documents, Whatcott allegedly distributed flyers disparaging transgender rights advocate Morgane Oger during the spring 2017 B.C. election, when Oger was running as the NDP candidate for Vancouver-False Creek.

Whatcott allegedly wrote that Oger is unfit to work as a politician because she’s transgender, expressing concerns about the “growth of homosexuality and transvestitism.” He has argued his conduct was protected by the Charter rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Pride Toronto executive director Olivia Nuamah previously told StarMetro that the charge against Whatcott is a “positive” step, noting that the arrest and prosecution rates for hate crimes against LGBTQ people are low.

And Jeremy Dias, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, has said police need to do more to discourage anti-LGBTQ activists from disrupting Pride festivities. Dias, who attended the 2016 parade, said the pamphlets were “reprehensible.”

“We really need police services to take these actions more seriously,” Dias said. “If you’re breaking the law and conducting hate speech, then that’s a problem ... It should be prosecuted, period. No questions asked.”

Police looked for Whatcott in several provinces, including B.C., StarMetro previously reported. Though Whatcott and his wife, Jadranka, used to live in New Westminster, B.C., they now live in Alberta.

Speaking from his car Thursday, en route to Calgary with his wife, Whatcott said he expects Toronto police will come to Calgary to bring him back to Ontario to face the charge.

“I’m not sad for anything I did,” said Whatcott. “Yeah, it’s violent. Yeah, there’s a lot of homosexuals in jail. But, yeah, I also have the father, the son and the holy spirit, and I’m prepared to suffer for my convictions.”

In an interview Wednesday, Jadranka Whatcott said she stands by her husband and will remain in Calgary for a few days for protests and demonstrations related to his case.

“We haven’t discussed what to do after yet.”

With files from Michael Mui and Tess Vikander, StarMetro Vancouver

Emma McIntosh is an environment, justice and investigative reporter with StarMetro Calgary. Follow her on Twitter at @EmmaMci

Toronto police seize their largest single stash of guns in raids targeting street gang

Toronto police seized 78 firearms in a series of raids targeting a notorious street gang, including some multi-coloured guns that they say could be mistaken for water pistols.

More than 800 officers across southern Ontario conducted early Thursday morning raids across the GTA, with 75 individuals linked to the Five Point Generals arrested and more than 1,000 charges laid.

The operation, dubbed Project Patton, took nine months to plan, police said.

Some of the seized guns displayed at the Friday news conference came in teal, gold and orange colours.

Toronto police Deputy Chief Jim Ramer said the different colours were a first for him, adding that it was “very concerning” how easily the guns could be mistaken for a toy.

Officers are being warned not to dismiss any potential gun threats because of their appearance, he said.

“I commented that the one in orange looked like a water pistol my granddaughter has,” Ramer told reporters.

One suspect was arrested with 60 firearms in a raid that took place last month, making it the largest seizure of guns from one source, Ramer said.

The suspect had picked up the brand new guns in Cornwall and was en route to Toronto when arrested by police, acting Insp. Don Belanger said.

The guns had been purchased in Florida, where police said they retailed for $500, selling in Canada for $4,000.

Belanger declined to comment when asked if the guns were purchased legally in Florida.

In total, 75 handguns, three long guns and 270 rounds of ammunition were seized. A gun manufacturing device was also found with enough parts to make four more firearms, police said.

Drugs including cocaine, fentanyl, carfentanil, heroin and marijuana were seized and $184,000 in cash was confiscated.

Thirteen suspects arrested in the raids Thursday were previously charged in a 2010 police operation that also targeted the Five Point Generals.

“We’re not so naive, we know that not everyone who goes through the correctional process comes out rehabilitated,” Belanger said. “Unfortunately these people are lured back into gang life and let’s be honest, I don’t think the day will ever come where we can completely stop that.”

Police Chief Mark Saunders said Thursday that the gang, based at Weston Rd. and Lawrence Ave. W., operated as a “highly organized criminal organization” and had a significant impact on violent crime across the city while also having connections in other parts of Canada, the U.S. and the Caribbean.

The latest raids took down a significant portion of the gang and its “sophisticated” gun smuggling operation was dismantled, Belanger said.

Premila D'Sa is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star's radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @premila_dsa

Demolition reveals LGBTQ landmark on Yonge — and a dark chapter in Toronto's history is brought to light

A relic of Toronto’s past has been unveiled due to demolition for a new condo building.

Construction of Halo Residences at Yonge and Grosvenor Sts. this month revealed the entirety of the 19th-Century firehouse tower that once stretched above the St. Charles Tavern, a landmark in the history of Toronto’s LGBTQ community.

Gay patrons gathered at the tavern “under the beacon of the clock tower still standing” from the late 1950s into the ’80s, according to a blog post from the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. For years, the gay bar was also the site of homophobic violence — a place where hateful spectators gathered to pelt arriving patrons with eggs and rotting fruit, and patrons leaving could risk being arrested.

The clock tower — which was built as part of the Yonge Street Fire Hall in 1872, and has a heritage designation — will be preserved and integrated into the condo’s design, according to the developer.

“We believe that it is a privilege to restore and showcase Toronto heritage, and made sure to include the clock tower to our architecture in the best way possible — to showcase its value and its beauty,” said Maria Athanasoulis, president of Cresford Developments, in an email.

Dennis Findlay, president of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, was a patron of the St. Charles in the 1970s. He said the firehouse clock tower is a historic monument, but cautioned against conflating its history with that of the tavern below.

“Below that tower there were moments of queer history and those of us that were a part of that queer history don’t want to forget it,” he said. “But we also don’t want to memorialize it, in the sense that it was a step on the road to where we are now and where we’re going to in the future.”

There were positives, he said, in that the St. Charles created a “somewhat-positive” space for LGBTQ people to gather.

In the early days of gay people coming out of the closet, “toleration was better than total rejection,” he said.

But there were negatives. Police would frequently wander through the tavern, and “their presence implied a distaste for the fact that we were gay,” Findlay said.

“We were patrons, but we were not respected or appreciated or loved.”

The slogan “Meet Me Under the Clock,” which was plastered across the tavern’s menus, also has historic meaning.

“In Toronto in the ’70s, that would be kind of like a campy slur that kids would use on the playground to insinuate that other kids were gay,” said Lauren Hortie, whose 2017 short film titled “Meet Me Under the Clock” explored how the bar’s Halloween party and drag show became an annual confrontation with straight spectators.

“Thousands of people would line up outside (in) kind of a mixture of admiration and jeering and egg and brick throwing,” Hortie said.

In 1979, the Star reported on the chaotic scene as a crowd of about 5,000 gathered outside the tavern to throw eggs at people arriving for the party.

Hundreds of partygoers instead used the back entrance, reporter Stef Donev wrote in a piece from Nov. 1, 1979: “With the music blaring, they couldn’t even hear the noise the outsiders were making with their shouts, noisemakers and firecrackers.”

As the night wore on, the crowd outside instead lobbed eggs at each other, police and passing cars, as spectators looking on.

“I’m here to watch the homosexuals and the eggs being thrown,” one spectator, 17, said.

The site of the tower itself has a long-standing place in city history.

When the Town of York was founded in the late 18th century, the land was divided into 100-acre country estates for members of the provincial government. The site was once part of a lot owned by John Elmsley, chief justice of Upper Canada.

The Yonge Street Fire Hall and clock tower opening in the 1870s, serving the northern district of the city. By the time of the First World War, the fire hall was one of the last in Toronto to still use horse-drawn steam engines.

Tamar Harris is a general assignment reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @tamarmharris

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