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TORONTO STAR

TOPSTORIES

Fundraiser launched for burial costs of 6-year-old murder-suicide victim

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 07:00:00 EDT


At first glance, there are the visible signs marking the presence of a happy kid. A large height-marker with a cartoon giraffe plastered on a wall. Fourth, fifth and sixth birthday cards mounted side-by-side. Dozens of photographs of a young boy’s many silly faces, everywhere you look.

Then there are the signs of loss you’d have to be looking for to notice. A bicycle with the training wheels still on. The pristine white floor that he used as his dry-erase-marker canvas. His most prized possessions — two paper models of TTC vehicles and a stack of identical transit route maps — packed in a plastic grocery bag.

Everything about this simple, clean home points to the presence of an adored kid who should have grown many inches taller, celebrated many more birthdays and lived to express awe at the TTC subway.

Simon, a healthy six-year-old boy, was taken from his mother when he died in an apparent murder-suicide on July 31.

Simon and his father, Zlatan Cico, 58, were pronounced dead in Cico’s East York apartment last month. Though Simon’s parents were separated and he lived with his mom full time, he sometimes stayed with his father on weekends.

Police said the day after they were found that they were not looking for any other suspects in the case. Neighbours who knew the father and son were shocked by the event.

Simon’s mom, whose name the Star agreed not to publish to protect her privacy, dedicated every year of Simon’s too-short life to giving him every opportunity she could. Now she, with the support of her friend Glenn Watson, is trying to raise money to lay him to rest in a nice place.

The pair recently launched a campaign on GoFundMe with the goal of raising $20,000 that they say will go to Simon’s burial costs. As of Thursday afternoon, they have reached about 15 per cent of their goal.

“I just feel he is so innocent. I couldn’t protect him,” Simon’s mom told the Star in an interview this week at her dining table in the Scarborough home she shared with her son, while Watson sat beside her.

“So I want to try my best to give him a nice place to rest.”

Simon was his mom’s only family in Canada, and Watson described her devotion to the boy as absolute.

“Everything is for Simon,” Watson said. “And, as she says, it was hard to protect him from a threat that you wouldn’t think he needed protecting from.”

They want Simon to be remembered as the boy they knew: curious, sweet, and well-behaved.

His favourite thing in the world was the TTC.

“Every kid in his classroom, they all know Simon loves the subway, loves the TTC,” Simon’s mom said. He would pick up a new subway map whenever he could — no matter how many he already had — and used the floor in their living room to draw out the routes with dry-erase markers.

“Sometimes I tolerate and I let him do it, and sometimes I just mop that,” she said.

Simon’s memory for transit routes surprised even bus drivers, as he effortlessly rhymed off where each route was headed. His collection of route maps and paper TTC models will go with him in his coffin.

Simon’s mom described him as an exceptionally gentle, well-behaved kid.

“My friend had a little baby and the baby was five months, six months. Simon just like, touched the baby gently, looked at the baby,” she said.

Even when she asked him to do something he didn’t want to do, he’d agree without protest.

“Not like some children, who would say ‘no, I don’t want to do that.’ He just listened — he just understood.”

She believes that we can learn from Simon’s simple, happy nature.

“He’s happy easily,” she said. “Something — even just some small thing — can make him very happy. He’s not greedy.”

He also came up with the code word ‘toy’ to ask Glenn to take him for ice cream — a treat his mom seldom allowed. She was undeceived.

A meal from McDonald’s or a covert cup of ice cream was enough to put a huge smile on Simon’s face. The thought led the mom to think about life’s joys — large and small — that she wasn’t yet able to give Simon.

Top of the list was a long-anticipated trip to China, scheduled for next month. He began to ask his mom to take him when his other Chinese friends told him stories about travelling there.

“I said if you go to China, they have long trains — much faster much nicer,” Simon’s mom said. She and Simon would have made the long journey together, and visited her family for the first time since he was a baby.

His ticket will go unused, and now she just hopes to be able to bury him somewhere close enough to her home to visit on birthdays and holidays.


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

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 13:11:00 EDT


Ontario police can be forgiven for doing double takes this summer at the sight of bikers wearing the grinning devil patch of the Satan’s Choice Motorcycle Club on their backs.

Once the second largest outlaw motorcycle club in the world, the Satan’s Choice club folded in December 2000 when it was absorbed by the Hells Angels.

This summer, a group of Durham and Ottawa-area bikers have re-invented the Satan’s Choice club, which will likely upset Hells Angels bikers, said Det. Sgt. Len Isnor of the OPP Biker Enforcement Unit.

“It’s a bit shocking,” Isnor said. “By somebody bringing them back, there could be some problems. Yes, we’re going to watch.”

The Hells Angels had no immediate comment on the new club.

The old Satan’s Choice had well-publicized clashes with the law, but the new version of the club plans to stay out of jail and trouble, according to a spokesperson, who spoke to the Star on the condition that his name not be published.

“We want to keep the club alive but we’re all law-abiding citizens,” he said.

The new Satan’s Choice moved into the Ottawa area last month and has 48 members and two “strikers” — or prospective members — the spokesperson said.

The re-emergence of the Satan’s Choice in Eastern Ontario comes after the Hells Angels shut down its elite Nomads chapter outside Ottawa last September. That Hells Angels’ chapter was based in in a 0.92-acre, gated compound off Highway 417, just a 15-minute drive from downtown Ottawa.

The new Satan’s Choice spokesperson said his club has a clubhouse, although he declined to say where it’s located.

The move to re-establish the Satan’s Choice comes out of respect for older members and the tradition of an all-Canadian club, he said. The club was originally founded in the GTA as part of an auto club back in the late 1950s.

“We have talked to several of the original members and have had nothing but positive feedback from them,” said the new Satan’s Choice spokesperson.

The Satan’s Choice has always been an all-Canadian club. They folded briefly in the early 1960s and then re-emerged under former international boxer Bernie Guindon of Oshawa. It grew to more than 300 members by the early 1970s, making it the second largest outlaw motorcycle club in the world, behind only the Hells Angels.

There are currently 200 full Hells Angels in Ontario and 500 across Canada, Isnor said.

The Hells Angels are a U.S.-based, international club with members on five continents and in 56 countries, according to the club’s website.

The old Satan’s Choice had several well-publicized clashes with the law, including several members who became involved in drug trafficking. Former member Cecil Kirby disappeared into a witness protection program in the early 1980s after admitting he had been hired to do murders for the local mob.

Their former clubhouse on Kintyre Ave. in south Riverdale was hit with a rocket launcher attack in the mid-1990s.


Donald Trump marches to war ‚?? in his own country: Burman

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 09:30:00 EDT


Is America edging closer to a second civil war? In normal times, this question would be dismissed as absurd. But these are no longer normal times.

After all, this was the week when, as scholar David Rothkopf put it in The Washington Post, “Donald Trump gave the most disgusting public performance in the history of the American presidency.”

In doing so, the 45th president of the United States, already suspected of being a Russian stooge, revealed himself with extraordinary clarity as an apologist for white supremacists, neo-Nazis and anti-Semites.

But this past week also revealed more. We saw the real danger of Trump’s presidency. By reminding us of his lifetime pattern of fuelling racist divisions to achieve his goals, we saw what Trump will truly risk to ensure his personal survival.

So this question — of whether the U.S. is hurtling toward catastrophic internal conflict as a result — is now being taken seriously by serious people.

In an article in this week’s New Yorker — titled “Is America headed for a new kind of civil war?” — journalist Robin Wright asks a corollary question: “How fragile is the Union, our republic, and a country that has long been considered the world’s most stable democracy? The dangers are now bigger than the collective episodes of violence.”

She quotes the Southern Poverty Law Center: “The radical right was more successful in entering the political mainstream last year than in half a century.”

Last March, Foreign Policy magazine asked several national security experts to evaluate the risks of a second civil war. The consensus number was about 30 per cent, although some put it as high as 60 per cent or even 95 per cent.

Keith Mines was one of those experts. With a career in the U.S. army, State Department and the United Nations, Mines estimated the U.S. faces a 60 per cent chance of civil war over the next 10 to 15 years.

He cited five factors to justify his prediction: “entrenched national polarization,” divisive press coverage, weakened institutions such as the press and judiciary, “total sellout of the Republican leadership” and a belief that “violence is ‘in’ as a method to solve disputes and get one’s way.”

As for events that could spark civil war, Mines listed a terrorist attack, economic downturn, a racial event that spirals out of control or impeachment of the president or his fall from office: “It is like 1859,” Mines wrote. “Everyone is mad about something and everyone has a gun.”

In a presidency that has already experienced dozens of eye-popping moments, Donald Trump’s sickening news conference last Tuesday topped them all.

In a rambling, combative account of how he saw the events last weekend in Charlottesville, Va., Trump equated the neo-Nazi thugs who triggered the violence that led to three deaths and many injured with the people who protested their presence: “There were very fine people on both sides,” he said.

The depravity of that false claim was dramatically exposed in a chilling 20-minute documentary produced by Vice News and distributed widely to U.S. and international media outlets. It can be seen through the Vice website (vice.com).

The documentary opens with torch-wielding white men chanting “Jews will not replace us” and the Nazi slogan, “Blood and soil.” It includes interviews with the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who came to Charlottesville for the march. It reveals how well they were organized and rebuts any suggestion that there were “very fine people” among them, as Trump claimed.

Jews were particular targets. During the march through Charlottesville last Saturday, a group of neo-Nazis with semi-automatic weapons in their hands stood across from the city’s historic Beth Israel synagogue during Shabbat services, shouting slogans such as “Sieg Heil.” The rabbi advised congregants to leave the synagogue through the back door.

If the response to Trump’s actions among Republican leaders was mixed, even muted, the international reaction to this week was ferocious.

“America is now a dangerous nation,” wrote Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Times.

Rachman noted the danger that Trump will use global and domestic conflicts to evade the growing threat of the Russian investigation.

And the enormity of the challenge was surely evident this week.

The U.S. president appears to have decided that he will protect his own skin — come hell or high water — even at the expense of the country’s interests. This is an extraordinary moment in modern American history.

Tony Burman is former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News. Reach him @TonyBurman or at tony.burman@gmail.com .


Bitterness lingers 75 years after Dieppe: ‚??My father always felt that they had been sacrificed‚??

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:00:00 EDT


By early 1942, in one of the bleakest periods of the Second World War, Germany occupied most of Europe. Allied forces had been pushed back across the English Channel to Britain. Nazi forces were driving into the Soviet Union toward Moscow.

The Allies were desperate for a foothold on the continent and a chance to stop Hitler’s war machine.

So 75 years ago, the Royal Regiment of Canada, mostly men from Toronto, many not long out of boyhood, was tapped to be part of the star-crossed Raid on Dieppe, in occupied France, in the early hours of Aug. 19.

“Everything was against them,” says Doug Olver, son of Pte. William Olver, who would survive a catastrophe that was to write Dieppe into a dark chapter of this country’s history books.

Canadians accounted for almost 5,000 of the 6,100 troops involved in the raid, code-named Operation Jubilee. More than 900 Canadian soldiers were killed and thousands more wounded and taken prisoner.

Read more: Shackles, pebbles and posters: The Raid on Dieppe in 10 objects

Of the 554 soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Canada, landing on the beach at Puys, 227 died in battle or later from wounds and 264 were taken prisoner.

It was the highest casualty rate of any Canadian battalion in all of the Second World War for one day’s fighting.


It was only about 18 months ago that Doug Surphlis, Doug Olver and Jayne Poolton-Turvey got to know each other.

But you might say, that as sons and daughter of men who were part of the Raid on Dieppe and ended up as PoWs, they have been living with versions of the same story and the consequences of that awful morning all their lives.

“My mother said it destroyed hundreds of families in Toronto,” says Doug Olver, a retired corrections officer from Georgetown.

So many men killed. So many badly wounded. So many brutalized in PoW camps and returning after the war with what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder.

“They never got help for it,” says Poolton-Turvey, of Barrie. “They just came back and slid into whatever job or career, family, mortgages, whatever, and they lived their lives.

“We all lived with a former prisoner-of-war who had PTSD and they suffered in silence,” she says.

While silence about war’s horror was not uncommon among vets, it was compounded for the Dieppe men with embarrassment at the disaster of it all and guilt at the massive losses.

“They never spoke about it because it was such a horror story on Blue Beach,” says Olver, using the code name for the beach at Puys.

“When I was a kid, I never heard the word ‘Dieppe’ uttered in my house except once a year. My father always took Aug. 19 off. He wasn’t a drinker, but he would have a couple of scotches that day. And my mother would whisper, ‘Dieppe.’ ”

Buried along with the grief was the anger at what the decision-makers had sent them into at Dieppe.

“They were sent there without any hope of success,” says Poolton-Turvey. “My father always felt that they had been sacrificed.”

That’s why she, Olver and Surphlis got active in their “Every Man Remembered” campaign, and why the three children of Royal Regiment soldiers will be present at Dieppe on Saturday for the 75th anniversary of the raid.

Along with about 75 other descendants of soldiers, they will sail into Dieppe to “see what (their relatives) would have seen as they were going in.”


Initially, the Raid on Dieppe was to be known as “Operation Rutter” and planned for July 1942. It was intended to test German coastal defences and gain experience for the massive amphibious assault — D-Day — that would be necessary to defeat Germany.

Bad weather caused that plan to be postponed. Many wanted it abandoned entirely.

Doug Olver says his father recalled that when the men were told of the first assault plan in July, there was cheering by soldiers eager to get on with the job.

But after they returned from leave after the cancellation and were told in August that the raid was back on as Operation Jubilee, “they were in shock.

“They thought, ‘Oh, my God, what if word has leaked out since last month?’ ”

The Royals were expected to take the small beach and scale the western headlands to knock out German artillery that overlooked the town of Dieppe and its harbour. That would enable the main Canadian force to gain a foothold within Dieppe and beyond.

Everything depended on “stealth, surprise, the cover of darkness,” Olver says. “That was the only way they could succeed in this difficult task of climbing the cliffs.”

From the beginning, however, the plans went awry.

About few kilometres out from Dieppe, as soldiers the were climbing from their mother ships into artillery landing craft at about 3:40 a.m., they ran into a German naval convoy.

The battle was short but loud. “Bullets are pinging off the little craft that my father and uncle were kneeling down in,” Olver says.

The noise alerted any German who might have been sleeping on the coast.

“They’re now in their concrete pillboxes, at their posts,” Olver says. “They just quietly watched as the first wave came in.”

Pte. William Olver, just turned 23, was in the first landing craft and touched down at 5:07 a.m., his son says. They were 17 minutes late because of the engagement with the German convoy and the cover of night was giving way to dawn.

By the time the second wave landed shortly afterward, it was broad daylight.

William Olver was the first man to hit the Puys beach, which was about the size of a football field and shaped like a horseshoe. Olver was also one of the first to cross the beach to the base of the seawall. “That’s what saved his life,” says Doug Olver.

“The Germans waited until his boat was empty and other boats had come on shore. Then they opened a horrific crossfire.

“You’re being shot at from the front, you’re being shot from the left, you’re being shot from the right and right behind you is the English Channel. You had nowhere to go.”

The Allied soldiers “never saw one German until it was all over,” he says.

“There were only approximately 60-70 Germans defending that beach against about 600 men,” Olver says. “But that’s all they needed because of the gun pillboxes.”

As the Canadians were cut down like targets in a shooting range on the beach, or even before they could exit their landing craft, Olver’s father reached the four-metre high seawall with a few other men.

One was Sgt. Charles Surphlis, who almost drowned in the landing. The two men, along with two others on the beach that day, would become friends in the PoW camp and work together after the war for 30 years in the Metropolitan Toronto Police.

Olver blew a hole in the wall and began to scale it.

That’s when he saw the first enemy soldiers, waiting for him.

Atop the seawall, the Canadians were stripped of their weapons. But a young soldier with Olver was shot in the head when the Germans spotted a penknife in his hand.

“So my father thought they were all going to be executed.”

On the beach below, as hundreds of Olver’s comrades lay dead or dying, another German officer came along and taunted him about how prepared the enemy had been for the Allied arrival.

“What happened? You are four days late.”


The campaign to honour the men of Dieppe has “kind of consumed my life,” says Poolton-Turvey, who wrote a book with her late father, Pte. Jack Poolton, in 1998 called Destined to Survive.

“I would go with him to speak at schools and community groups, and I started to learn the story.”

Last year, a group of Dieppe descendants gathered to share information and ensure the sacrifice of their fathers is not forgotten.

Since then, Poolton-Turvey has tried to track down information on almost all the Royals who landed on Blue Beach.

It will be collected in one place where all those vets will be recognized, where future generations can find information about their ancestors.

Poolton-Turvey also organized the tour in which family members of Dieppe vets have travelled to France for the anniversary.

“We’re all going to be standing there shoulder to shoulder honouring the men.”

Photos, a short biography and a Canadian flag will be placed on the graves of the 189 Royal Regiment soldiers buried in the cemetery at Dieppe. (The bodies of some of those killed were never found and others who died later of wounds are buried elsewhere.)

Of the Royals landing on Blue Beach, more than 260 were taken prisoner. During almost three years in captivity, they were given meagre rations, shackled for months at a time, and near the end of the war some endured a “death march” across Germany before being liberated in 1945.

These men were heroes “who never got recognized,” says Poolton-Turvey.

“I’m going to make sure that people know.”


Alberta campers save lucky loon caught in fishing gear

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 22:21:30 EDT


NORDEGG, ALTA.—This is a story about one lucky loon.

Don Gibson was standing with his family on a dock in Fish Lake Provincial Park in west-central Alberta last weekend when he noticed a normally standoffish loon — one of a group of five that call the lake home — swimming toward them.

“I said, ‘There’s no way that’s a real loon because they don’t come that close,’ ” Gibson recalled Friday from his home in Sundre, northwest of Calgary.

“I said, ‘Somebody’s out in the woods playing a trick on us. They’ve got a remote-control bird or something.’ ”

But as the loon got closer, Gibson could tell it needed help.

A piece of fishing gear with wire leaders and multiple hooks, often referred to as a pickerel rig, had become tangled around the bird’s bill, neck and leg.

Loons are sleek and rely on their diving ability to catch fish, frogs and other water creatures. Seeing the way this one was tangled, it was clear to Gibson that it couldn’t hunt.

The bird kept looking up at the campers on the dock and moved to a shallow area along the shore.

“This one just knew he only had another day and he was going to die. He was just right pooped I think.”

Gibson turned to his 12-year-old son.

“I said, ‘We’ve got to go over there. This thing just sent us a sign that he’s in distress and he wants us to help him.’ ”

Gibson was leery about the loon’s sharp beak, but the bird lowered its head and allowed him to give it a stroke.

“When he allowed me to pat his head, I said, ‘That’s it. I am taking my shoes off and I’m going in and I am going to help this guy, because he was obviously not afraid of me.’ ”

Gibson’s wife enlisted the help of a park attendant who had some scissors and they started cutting away the tackle. A hook caught in the back of the bird’s neck came out easily. Gibson then picked up the bird and unwound the line that was wrapped three or four times around its leg.

By then, a fairly large crowd had gathered to watch the rescue.

Gibson put the freed bird back in the water.

As it swam out from shore to rejoin its buddies, it turned back, lifted itself up in the water and gave a flap of its wings as if to say thank you, he said.

Everyone cheered.

“You couldn’t write a fiction novel so perfect.”

Gibson said he saw the five loons feeding on minnows in the lake the next day, so he figures everything worked out fine.

“I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it myself. He knew exactly what he was doing. It was incredible.”


Fleeing to Canada, asylum seekers‚?? old lives revealed in the scraps found along New York‚??s Roxham Rd.

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 15:12:00 EDT


CHAMPLAIN, N.Y.—In the bushes at the end of Roxham Rd., just steps from Canada, lay a sheet of white paper that had been ripped from a notebook and soaked from the previous day’s rain.

It was torn into 11 pieces and tossed away, seemingly moments before its author followed in the steps of the nearly 7,000 others who have sought asylum in Canada so far in 2017 via this hole in the border with the U.S.

In handwritten French, it said: “I have come here to live in peace.”

The writer identified herself only as a Muslim woman from the African country of Djibouti. The intended recipient of her plea was also unnamed, but her audience was clearly Canadian.

She wrote of having moved to the United States with her husband and with hope. A victim of genital mutilation at the age of 7 and now suffering marital problems as a result, she said she was fleeing both an abusive marriage as well as a hostile nation.

“President Donald Trump detests Muslims. The people of this country insult us and even spit in our faces,” it reads. “It’s for this reason that I am coming to your country.”

Composed with care, abandoned in haste, the letter was the most personal piece of detritus recovered during a visit this week to the road that runs from Champlain, N.Y., to the Canadian border.

But it is not the only item testifying to the journey thousands of people have taken to get to Canada since the current migrant spike began in November 2016.

There were airplane boarding passes and luggage tags from Haiti, Florida, Ethiopia, Salt Lake City and New York; Greyhound bus tickets from Albany and Indianapolis; a Delaware driver’s licence and a U.S. Social Security number; Florida detention records; immigration documents from Orlando; and medical laboratory test records for a Delaware man.

Dampened by rain and dried by sun, the scraps of papers discarded while fleeing for a new life in Canada offer insight into the journeys made by asylum seekers. They may have been thrown away as simple garbage from a life abandoned or been purposefully left behind for fear of complicating an expected refugee claim in Canada.

Canadian officials said this week that there have been about 250 people crossing each day at Roxham Rd. in the past few weeks, with a one-day peak of 500 about a week ago.

About 85 per cent have been Haitian nationals worried that the U.S. government intends to get rid of a special immigration designation, known as a Temporary Protected Status, that prevents deportation back to Haiti and nine other countries.

Among them is the Baptiste family — mother Sophonie, father Michel and son Colby — who stepped off a Greyhound bus at 6 p.m. Wednesday along with an elderly grandfather, an aunt and a cousin after deciding to leave behind the life they had built over the past decade in Queens, N.Y.

In Haiti, they ran a successful home renovation business that was abandoned over fears of kidnapping. Colby Baptiste said he was employed by Honda and was a registered real estate agent in New York before the family decided to seek refuge in Canada.

Pushing them to take that decision was a letter they received from immigration authorities advising them to prepare for the expiration of their Temporary Protected Status and an eventual return to Haiti.

With tears welling in her eyes, Sophonie Baptiste said she saw Canada as a more generous and open country and was confident her family would be able to rebuild once again.

Colby Baptiste had an expensive camera around his neck and wore a baseball cap pulled low on his head. He looked like any other disoriented tourist arriving in a new town when he got off the bus in the parking lot of a Mountain Mart convenience store in Plattsburgh, N.Y., this week.

He was stoic upon hearing that his family’s first stop in Canada would be a 1,200-person army field camp erected at the nearby Lacolle border post to handle the wave of refugee claimants. Then he stepped away to negotiate the 30-minute taxi ride to Roxham Rd., settling on a price of $40-per-person and beginning the last leg of the family’s northern journey.

Some of the discarded papers testify to the mundane, everyday existences that have been interrupted: a paper ordering medical tests for one man’s apparent kidney problems; a 2016 report on a vehicle emission test in New Jersey; an employment information form for someone who worked as a chicken de-boner at a poultry farm.

But other documents demonstrate the lengths refugee claimants go to, the risks that they take and the threats they claim to be fleeing. The Star is withholding some information contained in the documents that could identify refugee claimants.

One person threw away a sheet of paper marked “Inmate Summary” that was dated this year. The document outlined five charges an individual was facing for violations of laws in the state of Florida, including possession of forged documents, fraudulent use of another person’s identification and making false statements to obtain a driver’s license. A trial was pending.

A discarded scrap of newsprint ripped from the weather section of the Dallas Morning News contained fragments of another individual’s story written in black pen in Amharic writing, the language spoken by Ethiopians: “In 92 it was started. In June 2013 he was killed. In 94 I was helping him and in Feb 2015 both my brother and father disappeared.”

The scraps of paper contain pieces of stories that Canadian law enforcement, border agents and immigration officials will also be challenged to document and assess as the refugee claims are being processed on this side of the border.

That process was already underway in the United States for one man, who appears to have tossed his entire 54-page immigration file, contained in a maroon folder, into a wooded area along Roxham Rd.

The man was originally from Haiti, according to a transcript of his December 2016 interview with a U.S. asylum officer.

Speaking through a Haitian Creole interpreter, the man said that he travelled from Brazil, where he had been working, through Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras to Mexico. From there, he crossed the U.S. border at San Luis, Ariz., in November and made an asylum claim.

He said he was an evangelical Christian and his life was at risk from his half-siblings, who practice voodoo. On one occasion in late 2012 or early 2013, the man said his half-brother attacked him with a stick and broke his finger because he was preaching the Bible.

Then, after a dispute about whether to give their father a Christian or voodoo funeral, the man said his half-siblings employed a criminal gang to harm him.

“I fear greatly for my life and the safety of my family. I know if we were to return to Haiti we would be tortured and killed. I fear I have no protection there,” the man wrote in his asylum application.

However, in an initial interview upon arrival in the United States, the man said he had no fears of persecution.

“My true intentions are to look for a better life,” he said, according to the Department of Homeland Security transcript. He later explained that he had not spoken of the threats to his life because of the stress and shock of being handcuffed and taken into custody at the border.

A U.S. immigration court judge ordered him released from detention several weeks ago after he posted bond.

It’s not clear when the man decided to continue north to Canada or when he tossed his American immigration records into the bush on Roxham Rd. But Canadian officials this week are warning would-be refugee claimants that their tales of persecution and requests for asylum do not mean they will be accepted into Canada.

There is no special protected designation for Haitian migrants in Canada and immigration officials said this week that about half of all Haitian citizens who sought asylum in this country in 2016 were refused.

But that message isn’t getting out to the Haitian diaspora in the United States, said Mathieu Eugène, a Haitian-born New York City councillor who conducted a fact-finding mission to Montreal this week.

“Every time that I’m in the streets, my constituents, the Haitian people, stop me to tell me of their intention to come to Canada,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s because they want to come over here. They would like to stay in the United States. Canada is a great country, but they would like to stay.”


Steve Bannon fired as White House chief strategist

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:54:10 EDT


WASHINGTON—Steve Bannon, the polarizing nationalist whose race-baiting tactics have been an incendiary hallmark of U.S. President Donald Trump’s flailing young administration, was ousted on Friday in another indication of the White House chaos that shows no sign of abating.

Bannon was the fourth top Trump aide to be fired or to resign in less than a month, an alarming rate of turnover for a presidency just seven months old. He was the second aide, after Anthony Scaramucci, to be forced out after calling up a journalist and ranting about his colleagues.

The departure of Bannon, described by the White House as a mutual decision, comes as Trump’s new chief of staff, former Marine Gen. John Kelly, tries to find a way to impose discipline on a dysfunctional organization mired in infighting, policy confusion and a race-related confidence crisis.

The move pleased, though did not satisfy, leaders of minority communities who had been aghast at the elevation of a person with Bannon’s views to a position of power. On the other side, some nationalist conservatives were alarmed that Trump’s inner circle is now nearly devoid of aides who subscribe to his racially inflammatory, economically protectionist populism.

“The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” Bannon told the Weekly Standard magazine. “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else.”

Bannon blamed “the Republican establishment” for the failure of Trump’s attempts at unorthodoxy.

“The Republican establishment has no interest in Trump’s success on this. They’re not populists, they’re not nationalists, they had no interest in his program. Zero,” he said.

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

Bannon was beloved by segments of the president’s base, including trade hawks, opponents of immigration and anti-Muslim bigots. His take-no-prisoners attitude toward Trump’s critics and the media, which he gleefully labelled “the opposition party,” made him a symbol and a proponent of Trump’s unusually antagonistic public message.

It was far from clear Bannon’s exit would change anything about Trump’s behaviour. The president, resistant to advice of all kinds, has sounded Bannon-like notes on race and trade for decades.

“Steve Bannon’s firing is welcome news, but it doesn’t disguise where President Trump himself stands on white supremacists and the bigoted beliefs they advance,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

Scaramucci, press secretary Sean Spicer and chief of staff Reince Priebus all preceded Bannon in leaving the White House over the past 30 days, a period during which Trump has threatened North Korea with nuclear war and triggered global condemnation by defending participants in a white supremacist demonstration in which a woman was allegedly murdered by an alleged racist.

As Trump’s campaign CEO for the last three months before November’s election, Bannon helped engineer one of the most improbable triumphs in American political history. As a presidential strategist, he had few victories.

He was a leading proponent of the base-first, outreach-last strategy has kept Trump in the good graces of Republicans but also kept his overall approval rating stuck at historically low levels. And though he cultivated a reputation as a Machiavellian mastermind, he was often outmanoeuvred by aides with more liberal and more conventional views.

Bannon is now free to scheme as he wishes. Sources close to him told various U.S. outlets that he would wage a fierce battle from the outside against the former internal rivals, such as Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn, he believes are establishment “globalists” insufficiently committed to Trump’s “America First” campaign agenda.

Joshua Green, author of a book on Bannon, said Bannon was returning immediately to Breitbart News, the website he had once turned into a “platform” for the white supremacist “alt-right” – leaving the White House to chair the website’s evening editorial meeting.

Bannon told Green that he would be fighting on Trump’s behalf, not against him.

“If there’s any confusion out there, let me clear it up: I’m leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents – on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America,” Bannon said.

Read more: Bromance begone: Gerald Butts must ‘disavow’ reported friendship with Steve Bannon, NDP leader says

Steve Bannon calls white supremacists ‘clowns,’ says rivals ‘wetting themselves’ in interview

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

Bannon’s history of bigotry, including years of unconcealed anti-Muslim sentiment and Breitbart fearmongering about Black people and Hispanic immigrants, had made him the most controversial adviser to Trump. Democrats had demanded Trump remove him in the wake of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday.

But this is probably not why Bannon was shuffled out. Trump defended Bannon at a press conference on Tuesday, saying he was “not a racist.” Ominously, he added: “We’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon.”

Among the people pushing for Bannon to be fired, according to the New York Times, was conservative media titan Rupert Murdoch, an informal Trump adviser. Politico reported that Kelly did not understand what Bannon was actually doing, or why he was so disliked by the rest of the team.

Bannon had feuded with several of his colleagues, including Trump’s son-in-law, Kushner, and was suspected to have irked Trump by appearing to orchestrate a campaign to discredit national security adviser H.R. McMaster. He had angered Trump and others this week by phoning a left-leaning journalist, unprompted, and sharing candid thoughts about North Korea policy and about other administration figures.

Bannon’s remarks on North Korea, in which he said the idea of a military strike was unrealistic given the regime’s ability to devastate Seoul, were seen as undercutting the president’s own threat of “fire and fury,” confusing Asian allies.

Some of Trump’s irritation with Bannon was not about policy at all. U.S. media outlets have reported that Trump resented the credit Bannon has received for election success that Trump sees as his own.

Trump was said to be especially annoyed by a Time magazine cover of Bannon in February that labelled the strategist “The Great Manipulator” and by Green’s Bannon-focused book on the campaign, Devil’sBargain.

“Mr. Bannon came on very late — you know that,” Trump said Tuesday when asked if he still had confidence in Bannon. “I went through 17 senators, governors and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that, and I like him, he’s a good man.”

Bannon, who has pushed Trump to take an aggressive stand on NAFTA, was even the subject of controversy in Canada. This week, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair called on Gerald Butts, Bannon’s counterpart in the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to “immediately disavow” the supposed friendship the New Yorker magazine reported Butts had developed with Bannon.

In addition to encouraging Trump to embrace race-baiting, Bannon also served as a resident skeptic of military action and advocate of left-leaning economic proposals like hiking taxes on millionaires. The New Yorker suggested Bannon was partly inspired by Butts’s account of Trudeau’s success with such a tax hike.

New York Stock Exchange traders were heard on television cheering when the Bannon news broke.

In a rare public appearance, at a conservative conference in Washington in February, Bannon drew cheers by advocating the “deconstruction of the administrative state,” by urging a focus on “sovereignty” and by railing against the “corporatist, globalist media.”

Bannon had sounded confident in his standing in the administration as recently as Tuesday, when he boasted of his plans to get some of his rivals fired.

“They’re wetting themselves,” he said.


Refugees stuck in backlog have a chance at getting out of it ‚?? if they can afford the legal fees

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 00:00:00 EDT


Refugee claimants stuck in Canada’s growing backlog have a chance to get their cases heard speedily — if they can afford to take the Immigration and Refugee Board to court.

The Star has learned that at least a dozen asylum cases in which claimants took the board to court, including some that have been in the queue since 2012 and earlier, have been scheduled for hearings by the board since July.

By giving the asylum-seekers their long-awaited hearings, the board avoided the possibility the Federal Court would make a ruling in relation to its handling of the backlog.

Critics say timely processing of asylum claims should not be available only to those who pursue legal action against the government.

“Those who have money can go to the expensive litigation and may be able to get a resolution for themselves,” said lawyer Raoul Boulakia, who represented two of these asylum claimants, a Sri Lankan man and a woman from Burundi.

“But this is not the answer for the vast majority of refugees in the backlog who don’t have the money or are too afraid to litigate against the Canadian government.”

There are some 5,500 so-called legacy asylum claims, those that were filed before 2012 reforms that required new cases to be heard within 60 days. While the refugee board has focused on the new claims, the legacy cases were put on the back-burner. Even some of the new cases have been delayed, meaning the backlog has continued to grow.

Exacerbating the situation is the surge of asylum seekers crossing the border via the United States since President Donald Trump came into power.

The board declined to comment on the litigation, saying it doesn’t comment on individual cases or private proceedings.

Board spokesperson Anna Pape said the refugee backlog stood at 25,365 in June 2017 and is currently growing at a rate of about 1,000 cases per month.

“Over the past 18 months, the (board) has been facing mounting workload pressures amid a rising intake of refugee claims and fixed output capacity. These pressures have led directly to lengthening processing times,” she said.

So far, Ottawa hasn’t provided additional funding to the board, which has the capacity to hear about 21,000 claims a year.

In 2015, some frustrated claimants in the backlog initiated what’s known as “mandamus” litigation with the Federal Court of Canada in an effort to challenge the inaction of the board on their files and order officials to adjudicate their cases.

The backlog has created tremendous hardship for some claimants, who are often separated from their families and cannot plan their lives without permanent status.

Legal Aid Ontario does not usually cover mandamus litigation, but it did fund some of the claimants — from Afghanistan, Burundi, Congo, Eritrea, Guinea, Namibia, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Turkey — represented by Boulakia and the Refugee Law Office in Toronto. There were also similar cases handled by other lawyers.

One of Boulakia’s clients, Ingrid Ntahigima, was a member of the Movement for Solidarity and Democracy, an opposition party in Burundi. She fled to Canada and made an asylum claim in October 2012 due to political persecution.

For years the refugee board didn’t hear her case, despite her repeated pleas and a psychiatric report that showed she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder due to trauma in Burundi and severe depression as a result of the inability to get her asylum resolved.

“I didn’t have any option. I felt so powerless. I didn’t see any hope. I didn’t see any future,” said the 25-year-old from Bujumbura, who works as a customer service representative. She paid more than $3,000 for the litigation out of her own pocket.

“The wait wasn’t necessary. They wasted five years of my life. I understand there is a process, but this is people’s lives. Five years is a long time. It should not be that way. It is just unfair.”

In July, the refugee board agreed to schedule the asylum hearing for Ntahigima and the other litigants. After previewing the woman’s file before the hearing, a refugee judge decided to grant her asylum status immediately because she had such a strong claim. Once she was given a hearing date, her court case was over.

“The violence that reigns in Burundi includes acts of violence motivated by ethnic hatred against the Tutsi minority. Since the claimant is identified as being an opponent of the current regime, she risks being targeted, arrested and abused by the Burundian authorities,” wrote adjudicator Robert Riley in his asylum decision.

“The political opinion of the claimant, combined with her ethnicity, establishes a nexus to the (United Nations) Convention refugee definition.”

While Ntahigima is relieved that she can now move on with her life, she feels the delay was unnecessary.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Ntahigima, who is trying to save up money to apply for permanent residency and continue her university education, hopefully pursuing a degree in international studies and business.

“I’m happy I was granted (refugee) status and can now move on with my life, but it is an injustice if you don’t have the money to sue or are too afraid to raise your voice.”


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

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 11:00:00 EDT


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The family has asked that their privacy be respected.

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a look at some of the other victims:

Francisco Lopez Rodriguez, Spain

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

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


Luca Russo, Italy

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

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


Bruno Gulotta, 35, Italy

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

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

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


Elke Vanbockrijck, Belgium

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

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

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

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


Also, listed as missing:

Jared Tucker, U.S.

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

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

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

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

Read more:

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

Barcelona attackers plotted to combine vehicles and explosives, authorities say

With files from the Associated Press


At the centre of Toronto's opioids crisis, an unexpected view: DiManno

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 17:11:38 EDT


She carefully unfolds a foil wrapper, delicately removes the crumble of tar heroin within, places it in a spoon. Spits to moisten. Flicks a lighter to cook it, the substance dissolving into a viscous liquid. Rips open a clean needle and draws the solution into the barrel.

Hands it to the man she loves.

He leans over to look at himself in a small mirror. Plunges the needle into his neck.

His name, he says, is Oliver Smith and he’s 34 years old, addicted to heroin since he was 21.

On this afternoon, with rolling IV — saline bag and monitor — still attached to one arm, Smith has trundled over from St. Michael’s Hospital to the pop-up “safe” injection site at Moss Park for his fix. Even though he’s on a methadone regimen. He makes this excursion at least twice a day.

Plodding back to the hospital, passersby offer him food: a burger from McDonald’s, an apple, a doughnut. He is grateful. Especially so when a church volunteer presses a small Bible into his hand.

“Can I have one too?” asks his long-time girlfriend, Angie Austin.

She had just injected herself as well, immediately nodding off, chin sinking into her breast bone.

They are nice people, well-known in the neighbourhood. Many stop to say hello. “His sweetie,” says Austin to a street friend. Several inquire about the IV. “My foot got infected,” Smith explains.

Unlike many of their acquaintances, Smith and Austin aren’t homeless. They live in a subsidized apartment.

But they are both deeply ashamed.

“I grew up in Mississauga,” says Smith. “A Jamaican family living in a middle-class white community. I never felt accepted. Only when I got high with my friends, both white and Black. That gave me a kind of acceptance, you know? At first it was just dope, then I started snorting cocaine. But cocaine is really a nonsociable drug. When you come down, there’s this burnt-out feeling, yucky feeling. So I moved on to opiates.

“The fentanyl scares me. I’ve overdosed 11, 12 times.’’

Austin: “You never know what you’re getting, what the heroin has been mixed with.”

That’s why they’ve been taking advantage of the Moss Park facility — an unsanctioned “safe” and hygienic facility operated by harm reduction volunteers, including a nurse who observes every injection. At least one OD has occurred at the site, last weekend, but workers — with naloxone kits (the nasal spray fentanyl antidote) holstered to their belts — were able to revive the individual before paramedics arrived.

Three permanent injection sites are planned for downtown, South Riverdale and Parkdale but not scheduled to open until the fall. This pop-up and perhaps others are intended to fill that gap amidst an opioids crisis in the city.

“Most of us work in harm reduction,” explains Nick Broyce, whose full-time job is in that field. “All these volunteers are highly experienced in harm reduction, how to respond to overdoses. We’ve revived multiple people.’’

This is a tawdry area of Toronto, surrounded by missions and hostels, possibly the city’s most crime-infested neighbourhood. But businesses line Queen St. and there are new condo buildings nearby. Few are amenable to an injection site added into the mix, fearful of even more crime and violence as a result.

“I don’t think we’re drawing more people into the area who are problematic,” counters Broyce. “These are people who were already here. We’ve set up away from the park benches and the playground. And we clean up every day, remove needles that were discarded overnight.

The injection tents have been set up between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Over-the-counter naloxone kits are available free from pharmacies in Ontario — 80,000 kits have been distributed by the Health Ministry this year — but Broyce points out that users seeking them have to show a health card. “Many don’t have them, don’t have any ID, don’t have a permanent address.”

Not all heroin users fit the stereotype, nor are they all addicts. But clearly many have all sorts of related issues — mental health problems, poverty, the physical manifestations of living rough.

“They’re already highly stigmatized,” Broyce continues. “Is it better to deal with addiction as a health issue or a moral issue — bad people making bad choices? These are vulnerable people who often don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Many have serious mental issues. What is there for them to attach to? For all kinds of reasons many attach to drugs.”

Walking her boyfriend back to the hospital, Austin, 42, describes why she first turned to heroin nine years ago. “Because of him,” she says, referring to Smith. “Because he was using and at first I didn’t even know, he hid it from me. After I found out, I thought it would bring us closer, that it would help our relationship. It was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Smith: “I told her not to.”

And now here they are, all these years later, leaning on each other, often trying — and failing — to get clean. “Withdrawal is awful,” says Smith. “It makes you sicker than anything you can imagine. I want a normal life, a job, to be able to see my young son without upsetting him. I don’t want him to see me like this.”

Austin, who has no family: “I would love to work with kids in some way. If I could help change just one child’s life . . . ”

Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, and others, have called for a public discussion on decriminalizing all drugs, in the wake of the ongoing overdose epidemic; some 2,400 deaths in Canada last year believed attributable to opioid-related ODs.

A matter of health rather than criminality, they argue.

Which is facile to promote from a distance, from a harm-reduction posture, from even the outsider intimacy of front-line workers.

At ground zero of heroin addiction, the view is not necessarily what you’d expect.

Smith: “No, no, no, I’m not in favour of that. We shouldn’t make it easier to end up like me.”

Austin: “Being illegal, that’s what scares a lot of people away from doing it. I wish it had scared me. I wish I could go back.”

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


How best to spend $50 at the CNE

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 17:15:00 EDT


Sammy Hudes:

A family tradition, I’ve gone to the CNE every year of my life that I can remember. I come with a plan, knowing every ride I want to go on as soon as I get there, after a stop at the Tiny Tom Donut stand (which is vastly superior to every other CNE mini-donut brand), of course. But this time was different, because of the $50 budget I was assigned, which included $19 admission. After a quick scan of the midway, it was go-time.

$21.25 — ride tickets

While Vjosa brought her appetite to the CNE, I came there to let out my inner-child. Making a bee-line for the ticket booth, I started out by buying 12 tickets for $15. That got me on two rides: Polar Express (six tickets) and the bumper cars (five tickets). There I was, a grown man and fully licensed driver, ramming into dozens of tweens with braces. It felt good.

But with one useless ticket left, and an overpowering desire to take a ride on the swings, I purchased five more tickets for $6.25 (which ended up putting me slightly over budget). It turns out I had missed a deal all along, because for 75 more cents, I could have guaranteed myself eight rides in total. Learn from my mistakes.

$5.00 — games

No day at a fair is complete without at least one try at the midway games. Eager to prove my strength, I walked up to the hammer game, where I was told I had three tries to hit a black metal slab with a sledgehammer. “Hold it like a hockey stick, not a baseball bat,” Tony, the compassionate man running the game, told me.

My best score, measured on a vertical bar which provides a very descriptive assessment of your level of strength, was “go girl!” It was a rung higher than “big boy,” but not quite at “fat cat.” Still, my performance was good enough to land me an oversized red, blowup baseball bat. Tony was his ever-reassuring self.

“That’s OK, it’s not every day you have to swing with a sledgehammer,” he said.

$5.00 — massage

I’m not going to lie, the day wasn’t perfect. For one thing, some rides weren’t ready in the first few hours of opening day, like the Ferris Wheel and drop-zone, two of my personal favourites. I also searched the entire grounds for my annual treat, a delicious giant pickle, which I was told by one customer service agent was no longer available in the food building.

To relieve my anger, I headed to the Enercare Centre, packed with vendors of all kinds, and sat down on the $9,000 Panasonic massage chair. It was the most relaxing five minutes of my life.

“We create our own activity by people enjoying the massage at the fair. It’s a full-body massage,” said vendor Jim Markley, adding people can also pay $10 for 15 minutes in the chair. “(We like) making people smile and happy.”

Unfortunately, I had no money leftover for my precious Tiny Tom Donuts.

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Vjosa Isai

What I remember from my one and only prior trip to the Ex was how pricey the short rides were, so I wanted to spend the day taking in the sights, carnival games and wacky eats instead.

Here’s how I spent my $31, after the $19 admission fee:

$7 — Carnival games

I didn’t want to walk out of the Ex empty-handed, so the first booth I zeroed in on was the Birthday Game, a $1 dice roll. My gut was telling me I’d roll on a spring month, so I stuck my loonie in the May slot, held my breath and rolled the giant dice on the table. The dice rolled August, and I walked away hoping for better luck on my prize hunt.

As much as I love basketball, I couldn’t justify spending $5 to inevitably miss the smaller-than-regulation sized hoop. But for $1, you get a better chance at winning on the rolling ball game. You have six tries to roll the balls on the platform, which then jump into the slots and you have to get 190 points. I didn’t even make it to 100.

By the end of the day, I was impatient to win something after watching Sammy parade his giant, inflatable bat everywhere. Even though I would have preferred to win a game on merit, I decided to throw two darts at a balloon wall for $5, missing one. My consolation prize was a fidget spinner.

$19 — Food and beverages

A plate of deep-fried Oreos dusted in powdered sugar satisfied my CNE food craving early on in the day, but I didn’t want to leave without trying one more carnival staple. Short a few dollars for poutine, I decided to try Messy Fries at Sloppy’s Sandwich bar in the Food Pavilion. The Oreos and fries cost $8 each, but the portions were big enough for Sammy and I to share. I was more disappointed about forgetting my water bottle than losing at the carnival games. After a few hours of walking by all the free water re-fills stations, I finally gave into my thirst and spent $3 on a water bottle.

$6.25 — Ride coupons

As a thrill seeker, the slight dropping feeling you get in your stomach on the Pharaoh’s Fury — a giant boat that swings side to side next to the Ferris wheel — was not worth the $6.25 I spent on my only ride of the day. A group of four tickets costs $5, and most rides will run you at least five tickets. I went over budget to dish out the extra $1.25 for a single ticket.

Free attractions

I tried to make some of my own fun without reaching for my wallet. I checked out the military vehicles at the Canadian Armed Forces booth, photo-bombed a marching band and got some laughs from the Mighty Mike’s busker performance. His classic move? Juggling the sledgehammer.

“That’s the thing that I’m pretty unique, that I’m the only one that does that,” Mike said.

I missed out on the two daily ice shows starring world champion figure skater Elvis Stojko at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., but it’s a good place to stop by if you need to cool off.


Montreal amusement park pulls carousel horse showing Indigenous man‚??s severed head

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 16:48:20 EDT


Montreal’s La Ronde amusement park says it has removed a carousel horse depicting an Indigenous man’s severed head in a bag.

The move comes after several complaints, including one by a resident of the Kahnawake Mohawk reserve near Montreal who shared a photo of it online this week.

Jessica Hernandez said she’d heard about its existence and saw it during a visit to the popular park Wednesday.

For her part, she said all she did was post photos on Facebook and Twitter showing a man’s head in a bag on the saddle.

“I wanted to see what people had to say,” Hernandez said Friday. “I thought: ‘how long has this been here? No one has said anything?’”

Hernandez, a mother of two, said the depiction was disturbing and shocking to see, particularly amid efforts to improve education about Indigenous culture.

“For us as Indigenous people, we know what that symbolizes, we’re taught about it and we’re educated on what an Indian head or scalp meant in history,” she said. “It incites a certain emotion in us when we see it.”

Hernandez says she was sad to learn it took multiple complaints, including some reportedly from park employees, to have the horse ultimately removed.

Julie Perrone, a spokeswoman for La Ronde, confirmed in an email the horse was taken out of commission. She didn’t provide any further details about the ride.

“The offensive symbol has since been removed and we apologize to our guests for this oversight,” she said Friday.

La Ronde, one of Canada’s largest amusement parks, is operated by U.S.-based Six Flags.


For those fleeing the U.S. for Canada, our undefended frontier is a fantasy: Cohn

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 17:53:12 EDT


We’ve all grown up with the story of living alongside the world’s longest undefended border. Here’s another chapter.

For the last few summers, we’ve vacationed on the Vermont side of the frontier with family friends from the U.S., perched a stone’s throw from the international boundary.

I get to jog past American border patrols, bicycle up to checkpoints (passport in hand), and hike alongside unguarded border markings. We browse for books at the Haskell Library that straddles the two countries, where a line along the floor marks the border (no fines for crossing over, just for late returns).

The stories of Stanstead (Canada) and Derby Line (USA) — twin towns whose intertwined sewer lines and bloodlines surmount the borderline — have always been too good to be true. For decades, their shared cross-border heritage withstood the transgressions of smugglers sneaking in booze, drugs and guns.

Then came 9/11 — and terrorist fears tightened up security while loosening interconnectedness. Today, a line of oversized flower pots has closed off the street alongside the historic library. A border patrol vehicle is a constant presence, with American agents reflexively reminding all bookworms not to worm their way into America.

Where once residents of the USA could casually cross the aptly named Canusa St. to use our sidewalk, they must now report to the border post. Homes that once offered the best of both worlds have plunged in price as prospective buyers feared double trouble.

Despite the strain, co-existence continued. This year, the frontier felt different.

Walking unchallenged through a wildlife sanctuary abutting the border — where the white markings of the International Boundary Commission dot the landscape — I couldn’t help thinking of the recent surge in migrants, who take the extra step of crossing onto Canadian soil. It must be odd for the ever-vigilant American patrols on the borderline, now watching from the sidelines, mindful less of infiltration than exfiltration.

Initially, many Canadians reacted to the news reports with customary smugness and superiority about our humane treatment of downtrodden refugees. But it bears repeating that the sudden increase — Haitians make up an estimated 85 per cent — isn’t as simple as a Donald Trump crackdown versus a Justin Trudeau haven.

In fact, the U.S. still gives sanctuary to Haitians in the wake of a 2010 earthquake, though it is under review. Ottawa quietly resumed deportations in 2014. That means they still have legal status in Trump’s America, but not in Trudeau’s Canada.

That’s not to say Ottawa was wrong to wrap up its program — the earthquake occurred seven years ago — just that it’s wrongheaded to view Canada as the good guy and America as the bad guy. Despite the obvious strains in U.S. immigration policy, its refugee system is still better than most, and Canada has been deporting Haitians while the U.S. hasn’t.

Most have crossed into Quebec, and many will soon be sent to temporary housing in eastern Ontario. They are exploiting a little-understood loophole in our carefully regulated but largely undefended frontier: refugee claimants are turned back at official border points if they already have safe haven in the U.S., yet are allowed to file new claims in Canada if they walk over in between crossings.

It is an axiom of refugee policy that you shouldn’t shuttle from one safe haven to another in search of a better outcome. And as difficult as Haiti can be, economic migrants aren’t bona fide refugees.

“Unless you are being persecuted or fleeing terror or war, you would not qualify as a refugee,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau noted Thursday after the RCMP announced nearly 4,000 crossings so far this month — double the rate for July and five times the pace in June.

The rising tide of refugee claims is a reminder of the sometimes irresistible impulse that drives so many migrants to take risks — and try their chances elsewhere. Easy as it is for us here in Canada to criticize others (notably Europeans and Australians) for trying to stem the tide of boat people, the relatively modest surge in arrivals here puts the problem in perspective.

The only consolation for those crossing the Canada-U.S. border is that they are not risking their lives on unseaworthy vessels in the hands of human smugglers. The death rate among migrants crossing the Mediterranean has nearly doubled, with more than 1,500 lives lost so far this year.

Haitian arrivals deserve to be treated with humanity and dignity — and due process. Yet the surge is a recipe for refugee chaos and dashed hopes if it continues unabated.

And a reminder that the fantasy of open borders — the cornerstone of which is compliance — is usually a story without a happy ending.

Martin Regg Cohn's political column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. mcohn@thestar.ca , Twitter: @reggcohn