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RCMP charge Ontario man over ‘hoax,’ say claims he fought for ISIL in Syria duped media

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RCMP has announced charges against a Burlington, Ontario man, saying he claimed to have gone to Syria to fight with ISIL in 2016, but was instead involved in an elaborate hoax.

On Friday, RCMP O Division’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (OINSET) announced the arrest of Shehroze Chaudhry, 25, “in connection with a hoax regarding terrorist activity.”

OINSET investigates people who have left Canada to join terror groups, or who later come back to Canada after being involved in terrorism overseas.

According to a release, Chaudhry did “numerous” media interviews with outlets, in which he claimed he went to Syria to fight for ISIL, and committed terrorist acts. Now, RCMP says it was all a hoax, and says Chaudhry was arrested for causing alarm in this country.

“The interviews were published in multiple media outlets, aired on podcasts and featured on a television documentary, raising public safety concerns amongst Canadians,” RCMP said.

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Alberta justice minister warns Edmonton and Calgary not to comply with calls to ‘defund the police’

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“As minister of municipal affairs, (Madu) was very keen on scrubbing down our budgets,” Iveson said. “Now, as minister of justice, to suggest that we should not be looking at our largest cost centre — which is policing — seems a bit ironic to me.”

Iveson’s office did not respond to emailed follow-up questions about Madu’s specific comments by press time.

Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee-Madu: “An adequately funded police service is essential to ensure that all citizens are able to live safe and secure lives in our communities.” Photo by David Bloom/Postmedia/File

On Thursday, Calgary city council met with the police commission and Calgary police management about the state of policing in the city; the day before, the Calgary Police Service released a document detailing its commitment to anti-racism and equality.

The force argued there needed to be new policing models and would favour reallocating some funding — amounts are not specified — to other community agencies.

“We are in agreement with the community that better models of systems integration involving health, social services, justice, and policing could produce better outcomes and reduce demand on police,” the report reads.

In Edmonton, council voted in June to remove $11 million from the 2021 police budget of around $389 million and approved 20 proposals to reform policing in the city.

In his letter, Madu argues “an adequately funded police service is essential to ensure that all citizens are able to live safe and secure lives in our communities.”

“This is particularly true of racialized members of our communities, including Indigenous Albertans, who are often overrepresented as victims of crime,” he writes.

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1,000 km/h Edmonton-Calgary pod commute is the latest twist of an exploration that’s been happening for ages

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“The Government of Alberta should not invest in a high-speed rail transit system in the Edmonton-Calgary corridor at this time, because the population of the corridor is not sufficient to support the profitable operation of such a system,” the report concluded.

I don’t know if it’s science fiction, but we’ll never know unless we continue to do more testing

Sebastien Gendron, the company’s CEO and co-founder, figures he’s got a solution: The hyperloop could also haul freight, and solar panels placed along the line could be an additional revenue source.

“Most of the high speed rail around the world around the world are not profitable,” said Gendron. “It’s not to fill up the train — which is important — it’s to fill up the infrastructure.”

“That’s the main difference compared to a conventional rail track.”

Still, tubes in the air and shovels in the ground are still a long way off. On Tuesday morning, TransPod, a company headquartered in Toronto, and the Alberta government announced a memorandum of understanding; no financial commitment has been made by the Alberta government, but there would be further study on the feasibility of such a project.

“The MOU facilitates the process of attracting private investment to the province, in order to build a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure project,” says a TransPod statement.

An artist rendering of the hyperloop pod interior. Photo by TransPod

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The project has been in the works since 2018, when the company began discussing building a test track along Alberta’s Highway 7, between Edmonton and Calgary. The company says the project will create 38,000 jobs in Alberta over the course of 10 years. The feasibility study is expected to begin this year and construction to start by 2022.

“Best-case scenario … we could have a line operational by 2030,” Gendron said.

Various politicians, including Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, told media Tuesday they couldn’t help but root for such a project.

“I’m excited about it. I don’t know if it’s real, I don’t know if it’s science fiction, but we’ll never know unless we continue to do more testing with folks other than one entrepreneur who talks about stuff a lot in the U.S.,” said Nenshi.

Alberta has little by way of inter-city transit, especially since Greyhound left in 2018. That leaves travelling by car or truck down Alberta’s main arterial highway, the Queen Elizabeth II Highway, as the only practical way to get north or south in the province.

The 2014 study estimated that by 2031, there would be 105 million trips between Edmonton and Calgary annually, meaning that some sort of high-speed transit between the two cities is a good idea — in theory.

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Search for diver who disappeared after jumping off a cliff into a Quebec lake – Montreal

The search resumed Sunday morning with the help of divers from the Sûreté du Québc (SQ), to find a swimmer who dived into a lake in Harrington in the Laurentians and hasn’t been seen since his friends lost sight of him.

Police were notified at around 6 p.m. on Saturday that a young man in his 20s was missing after an outing with friends at Grand MacDonald Lake near Deer Head Road.

READ MORE: St-Lazare family raises awareness about pool safety; Quebec sees spike in drownings

“He allegedly jumped off a cliff into Lake MacDonald. He later surfaced and swam back to their boat, but his friends lost sight of him and he hasn’t been seen since,” said Valérie Beauchamp, spokesperson for the Sûreté du Québec.

Firefighters searched the water with their boats all evening while SQ patrollers scoured the shores and surroundings of the lake, but to no avail. The search was suspended around 8:45 p.m. and resumed in daylight on Sunday, this time with the help of SQ divers.

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‘Heartless’ officials bar fiance of cancer sufferer from coming into Canada

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To have to go through this alone has been one of the most difficult times in my life

Fiances are not on the list of immediate family members who can be allowed in. The order in council about the border closures was extended until August 31.

“It’s so ridiculous that we can fill bars and restaurants, we can have gatherings of 100 people outside, but my one fiance is still being barred entry into Canada as I undergo cancer treatment,” she said.

Taylor said he feels helpless because he is unable to physically be with Campbell.

“It’s been such a tough and trying time emotionally and mentally,” he said. “I’m just trying to always be there for Sarah as much as I can while being thousands of kilometres away.”

Campbell has been writing letters every day for about two weeks to politicians asking them to grant her fiance an exemption on compassionate grounds. She has been averaging three letters per day. The letters are going to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Health Patty Hajdu, MInister Blair, Minister of Immigration Marco Mendicino, and Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne.

Taylor has also been tweeting at politicians, but he said he is unsure if they have seen his tweets. He has called and emailed the British High Commission in Canada, the High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom, the Canada Border Services Agency, his MPs in the United Kingdom, and the British Foreign Office.

Campbell said all she wants is to be with her fiance.

“No one wants to hear that they have cancer, but to have to go through this alone has been one of the most difficult times in my life,” she said.

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Paid leave for public service during pandemic cost $623M, well above estimates: budget watchdog

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Taxpayers spent $311 million covering paid leave for CRA officials alone, over 40,000 of whom accepted paid leave. The next largest cost was for employees at Correctional Service Canada ($33 million), the Canada Border Services Agency ($15 million) and Employment and Social Development Canada ($14 million).

Researchers at the PBO suggested the high proportion of CRA officials is possibly a result of tighter reporting requirements at the agency, which would in turn suggest that current data “is likely an underestimate of the number of hours of work lost during that period,” suggesting that true costs could be higher still.

Aaron Wudrick, director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said costs for paid leave could reach the $1 billion marker by the time the pandemic has run its course, which he says underscores the overly generous nature of public extended leave.

“The 699 was not designed to cover indefinitely for massive numbers of people,” Wudrick said. “And so going forward, when they’re negotiating with the unions, the government needs to put some parameters around this.”

Both Wudrick and the PBO suggested that similar leave provisions did not exist in the private sector. As of July 12, more than eight million Canadians had applied for the $2,000-per-month CERB program, after private businesses went through successive rounds of widespread layoffs.

“The PBO was not able to find a leave policy of a similar scope in the private sector,” the report said.

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One-month-old daughter of TSN star O’Toole reportedly found safe

Oakland Newman-O’Toole, the one-month-old daughter of TSN personality Dan O’Toole, was reportedly found safe.

A Global News reporter tweeted late Thursday night that Durham Regional Police have located the infant, who was safe with her mother.

“There are no concerns for child’s safety at this point,” Travis Dhanraj tweeted.

However O’Toole took to Twitter to criticize Dhanraj on reporting about his daughter’s case before he was informed about her safety.

Hey Travis. First off, this is not a Durham police matter. Secondly, should the police maybe call me first once my child has been found?” O’Toole tweeted.

A post appeared on O’Toole’s Instagram account shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday night alongside a black-and-white picture of the little girl wrapped in a blanket.  In the post, O’Toole hinted that Oakland was missing.

“My baby Oakland. I’m praying that whoever has you, is holding you. That whoever has taken you from me, is protecting you. That however (sic) has you, let’s you come back into my arms,” the post reads. “I love you Oakland. I can’t wait to one day hold you again. My heart is broken. I am broken. To be clear, Oakland is alive, we think. But we don’t know. I have a one month old child, and I don’t know where she is.”

The post was later updated to include the following: “ATTN: my amazing ex wife Corrie has NOTHING to do with this. Please leave her alone.”

O’Toole co-stars on the nightly sports highlight/segments show SC with Jay and Dan alongside longtime TSN partner Jay Onrait.

O’Toole announced the birth of his third daughter, Oakland, at the end of May.

“Meet Oakland Eleanor Sandra Newman-O’Toole,” read an Instagram post from O’Toole’s account on May 26.

“My brand new lil girl who has a million names, and all of my heart. In case it was ever in doubt, no officially NEVER forgetting 2020.”

Reached Thursday night via email, Scott Henderson, vice-president, communications, Bell Media, said the company would not be commenting on the matter.

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Canada has power to end Meng extradition, bring Canadians home from China, Kovrig’s wife says

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Since January, China has prevented Canadian diplomats from visiting Kovrig and Spavor, citing COVID-19 restrictions.

Trudeau rejected suggestions that Canada should intervene to resolve the Meng case in an attempt to free Kovrig and Spavor.

“We continue to stand up both for the independence of our judicial system and Canadian interests and values,” the prime minister said. “We work behind the scenes and in public to ensure that everyone understands we will continue to work extremely hard to get these Canadians home.”

Garnett Genuis, the Conservative critic on Canada-China Relations, was critical of former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley and Eddie Goldenberg, a former aide to ex-prime minister Jean Chrétien, for advocating for a prisoner exchange to free Kovrig and Spavor.

“Conservatives continue to call on Justin Trudeau to respect the independence of Canada’s judicial system and reject this position by senior Liberal insiders,” said Genuis.

Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, is living in a luxury Vancouver home while her extradition case wends its way through a British Columbia court.

The United States wants to prosecute Meng for fraud, alleging she lied to banks about her company’s connections with Iran, which could possibly violate U.S. sanctions.

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LILLEY: Conservative leadership hopefuls poised to square off

Are you ready to watch the barnburner of the Conservative leadership debates this week?

Did you remember there is a Conservative leadership race on in the middle of the world melting?

Depending on how much French you speak or understand, you may want to give your ears a break on Wednesday night and skip round one. None of the leadership contenders are Francophone, none of them are naturals when it comes to speaking French, so getting by will be the order of the night.

Or you can be like me and watch to see if they hold the same positions in English as they do in French.

The leadership race was mostly put on hold during COVID-19 and is only now coming back to life. In order to vote, you had to buy a membership by May 15.

So, if you missed that date, you can enjoy the spectacle but the candidates aren’t speaking to you; they will be speaking to party members and the supporters of other candidates.

A friend posted an interesting chart the other day that showed the Facebook traffic each of the candidates was getting.

Erin O’Toole far and away had the most followers and the most traffic, Leslyn Lewis was third in terms of followers but had almost five times the interactions on postings compared to Peter MacKay.

MacKay was second in terms of Facebook followers but trailed even Derek Sloan when it came to people reacting online.

Here’s the thing, Facebook traffic doesn’t equal membership.

MacKay launched first and started out well. He fundraised, he sold memberships, he got media attention. Then he started getting the wrong kind of media attention. The campaign made mistakes.

Then COVID put the campaign on ice.

O’Toole, much like he did when he finished third in the 2017 leadership race, took a slow and steady approach. He has gained traction slowly, pitched himself as more conservative, more right-wing than I think he actually is and went after the party’s base.

He outperforms MacKay on social media and hasn’t made as many public errors, but has he sold the memberships?

Right now, that is the big question.

Lewis has been making strides but perhaps a bit too late unless she can convince people who bought memberships for other candidates to switch their vote and that may very well happen. Lewis is impressing all kinds of people with her calm demeanour and unflinching stances on key conservative issues.

As for Sloan, he’s battling it out to be the social conservative kingmaker but I’m not sure he will even accomplish this.

He draws much of his support from the Life Site News crowd, a significant army of volunteers and donors, but he hasn’t broken out of that.

Leslyn Lewis

Lewis is also coming out of the social conservative faction of the party though her backing comes mainly from the Charles McVety, Canada Christian College following. The big difference is she has grown her base from there while Sloan has not.

O’Toole has been careful not to alienate social conservatives and has asked them to make him their number two choice in this ranked ballot runoff.

MacKay called social conservative issues a “stinking albatross” around Andrew Scheer’s neck in the postmortem of last fall’s election.

I don’t see MacKay getting many votes from that camp.

The conventional thinking is that MacKay has to win on the first ballot or lose to O’Toole, if not Lewis, later on in the voting.

I’m not sure that’s the case, he just has to convince enough existing members that he’s the man to beat Trudeau.

I have no vote in this; I’m not a party member and never have been. So, I’ll be watching to see who the candidates are pitching at, trying to decipher where they think their growth is.

The biggest question going through the minds of members needs to be who can beat Justin Trudeau and lead this country back to a solid footing after the next election.

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Ontario non-profit tackling racism in justice system through education, enhanced reporting

A newly launched not-for-profit organization is embarking on a mission of tackling anti-Black and systemic racism in the justice system by working to directly support those impacted during the sentencing process and to better educate the legal community.

Faisal Mirza, a criminal trial and appeals lawyer, is one of three directors who recently launched The Sentencing and Parole Project.

The initiative, which has been in the works for months, has three focus areas: Addressing the over-representation and mistreatment of racialized residents in correctional facilities; proving education as it relates to anti-Black and systemic racism to all those involved in the justice system; and providing courts with enhanced pre-sentence reports.

READ MORE: Minorities over-represented in Canadian prisons, report finds

“You have systemic discrimination into society intersecting with systemic discrimination in the justice system, so they don’t live in silos,” Mirza told Global News in an interview.

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“In society, you will have a disproportionate number of racialized people living in the lower socio-economic conditions they will experience … which numerous studies have now documented.”

Indigenous, Black inmates disproportionately in Canadian correctional facilities

According to the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s (OCI) 2018-2019 annual report, Indigenous and Black inmates were over-represented in Canada’s corrections system.

While the 2016 Census found that approximately 4.9 per cent of Canada’s population is Indigenous, the OCI report said 28 per cent of those in custody were Indigenous — an 11 per cent overall increase compared to 10 years earlier.

Census data estimated Black residents make up almost 3.5 per cent of Canada’s overall population, but the OCI report found eight per cent of those in custody are Black — an overall one per cent increase compared to 10 years earlier and a two per cent decrease compared to three years earlier.

Canada’s prison watchdog disturbed by ‘Indigenization’ of correctional system

Issues have been raised about mistreatment in correctional facilities. The report noted “though still low,” discrimination complaints appeared to be trending upward. The OCI said reports of discrimination from Black inmates represented 37 per cent of all complaints between 2008 and 2018.

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The OCI report also noted there has been a disproportionate increase of inmates who identify as being Muslim, noting there has been a 74 per cent increase over 10 years — now representing 7.73 per cent of the overall population. The report said the reason for this increase was unclear.

Meanwhile, the OCI found there was a “relative and proportional decline” in the total number of white inmates. As of 2018-2019, 52 per cent of those in custody are white — down overall by 14 per cent. 2016 Census data estimated almost 73 per cent of Canada’s population is white.

Pre-sentence reports and the call for enhanced information

Mirza said when it comes to the justice system and addressing systemic racism, an area that needs immediate attention is the pre-sentence report process.

Pre-sentence reports are often requested of probation officers by judges in cases where someone has been found guilty of a serious criminal offence. The specific policies and use of pre-sentence reports vary by province and territory. Judges are not bound by pre-sentence reports and can potentially use the reports as one of multiple factors in sentencing.

“The problem with the conventional pre-sentence report is that it is insufficient and inadequate, and over the past several decades we’ve relied on those conventional pre-sentence reports to provide essential information about offenders and the reality is that they fail to do so,” he said, noting while some submitted reports are decent others have just basic biographical details with limited background information.

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Ontario judge chastises Quebec over ‘useless’ and ‘inflammatory’ sentencing report

“What we’ve tried to do is address that gap in information because we think it’s critical for judges to have that information in order to fairly sentence people — in order to get to the right determination.”

In Ontario’s pre-sentence report process, information gathered by a probation and parole officer includes factors relating to personal and family details, education and employment history, substance use and addictions, character and behaviour, a response to community supervision, an overall assessment and recommendations for the court. The officer can potentially gather information from interviews with the person charged, family members and police sources.

At the Sentencing and Parole Project, an enhanced pre-screening report prepared for the court is written by a clinician or an expert with medical training. They too can potentially conduct interviews with the person charged as well as with family and friends.

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The enhanced report more broadly considers the person’s social history — how they identify, background on their family, their social environment, their social relationships, education, lived experiences with anti-Black racism, work history, jail conditions, substance use and addictions, their character and behaviour, and an overall assessment and summary. The enhanced report may also include more detailed interview notes and contacts.

“It’s very difficult for an individual over the span of a single interview that lasts a few hours to tell them about what it was like to grow up in an impoverished neighborhood, what it was like to have significant police presence and negative experiences with the police, what it was like to be streamed in the education system and be subject to unfairness,” Mirza said, noting systemic disadvantages have affected the ability to get employment for many.

“So it’s very hard for a probation officer to get that information from an individual because they don’t have the resources, they don’t have the time, they don’t have the training, and they don’t seem to be able to develop the trust relationship in order to pull that information out.

“If you can’t identify what the person has gone through, got them up to that point, then you can’t really figure out what programs that they should be put into and then that’s where you get the problems and the jails.”

Mirza said the enhanced pre-sentence report process is newer in Ontario, noting it took quite a bit of time to get the first test case report done. He said The Sentencing and Parole Project can now potentially file an enhanced report between 60 and 90 days, a time period consistent with conventional reporting.

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‘Level the playing field’

While Mirza said the enhanced pre-sentence report process is newer in Ontario, he cited “pioneering” work in Nova Scotia by social worker Robert Wright.

He said courts in Nova Scotia aren’t waiting for defence lawyers to get legal aid funding and that enhanced pre-sentence reports are routinely ordered by judges.

Mirza said some lawyers have brought that approach to Ontario, adding over-representation of racialized residents in the justice system is a major concern.

READ MORE: UN council to discuss report calling on Canada to address anti-Black racism

“[The reports] provide the type of information that’s required for fairness, for decisions to be based on accurate information, so they’re evidence-based decisions. [It’s} no different than if somebody had a mental health issue — you would want the judge to know the particulars of that mental health issue so that they could use that information to determine what the right disposition is and what the right programs are for the individual,” he said.

“When they receive a report, it’s not an ‘aha’ moment. It’s an, ‘I understand. I get it. I’ve been exposed to this,’ right? And I can connect the dots so that when the individualized information is presented, they move away from the one-size-fits-all approach.”

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Increasing calls for Ontario government to declare anti-Black racism public health crisis

Mirza said providing access to enhanced reports helps “level the playing field” for those who are marginalized and don’t have money to get privately funded pre-sentence reports prepared by social workers and doctors.

“They provide that information and the courts will look at that and say, ‘you know, this is a good person who did something wrong.’ And then the filter through which those people are examined is entirely different,” he said.

“This is a very important piece of the puzzle and we think that there needs to be a recognition that these better pre-sentence reports are required for everyone, and in particular for people who are over-represented, to understand their experiences with racial inequality and poverty.”

Educating the legal community, calls for other measures

When it comes to tackling systemic discrimination, Mirza said the provincial and federal governments have a lot of work to do and need to make investments.

He said education and government action needs to start at the earliest levels of education, citing recent reports of allegations of racism at the Peel District School Board.

Is the Liberal government’s promise to repeal mandatory minimum sentences dead?

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As for other justice system reforms, he called for mandatory anti-Black racism training for all those in the justice system, improved use of force and de-escalation training, and scrapping mandatory minimum sentences.

“Anti-Black racism is at the forefront right now because of the social movement that’s going on and it presents an opportunity for us to do some inflection and look at what are the deficiencies in our justice system.”

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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