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Ford forges ahead with back-to-school plan

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Teacher unions, school trustees and, according to polling, the majority of parents have concerns about school reopenings.

A committee of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) passed a motion Tuesday to ask Chair Alexander Brown to write to the Ford government for more resources to implement a COVID-19 plan.

Going before the full TDSB board Thursday is a motion to require all students including the youngest learners to wear masks in schools.

The Ministry of Education has made masks mandatory for students in Grades 4 and up, and recommended face coverings for those in Grade 3 or lower.

When asked about the issue Wednesday, Ford said that as a father of four daughters, he’s not convinced it will be easy to get kids in junior and regular kindergarten to safely wear masks.

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“When they’re four years old, five years old, it’s hard to keep the mask on them,” Ford said. “But, again, we’ll be there, we’ll support the board if that’s what they want to do, but keeping a mask on a JK or senior kindergarten[er] might be difficult. But we’ll support it.”

In Ontario, 2,564 people aged 19 or younger have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the latest public health data.

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Social-distancing circles but no crowds at Trinity Bellwoods park

If you paint it, they will come.

Well, maybe not.

Trinity Bellwoods Park — which attracted a massive gathering that flouted COVID-crowding rules on May 23 — failed to become a socially-distanced Field of Dreams on Sunday.

While the city put down white circles to allow up to 1,500 people to gather and observe social distancing rules, the crowds just didn’t show up.

The sun was shining and the skies were clear but brisk winds and temperatures in the mid-teens weren’t enough to trigger people to head to the Queen St. E. park.

Lauren Gruchy, who was accompanied by her French bulldog Ruby, dropped by the park Sunday to check out the circles.

“Well, I heard what happened (with the crowding on May 23) and I had to come out and check this out,” said Gruchy.  “To be honest, it feels a bit odd like we are being watched all the time.

“It kind of takes the joy out of being here,” she added.

And Gruchy wasn’t wrong as loads of lime-green jacketed bylaw officers walked the perimeter of the park. Special constables and Toronto Police officers on bicycles also kept a close eye on those at Trinity Bellwoods.

There were so many police and bylaw officers at one point that each occupied circle could have had its own personal security officer.

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WARMINGTON: Sanity beginning to prevail in Ontario’s cottage country

The bad news is the province’s public health doctors still don’t really want people to go to their cottages this Victoria Day weekend.

The good news: If you are going up to beautiful Norfolk and Haldimand counties along Lake Erie you will no longer face a $5,000 a day fine.

Mayor Kristal Chopp announced late Friday the decision to rescind an earlier order by Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, chief medical officer for the Haldimand-Nortfolk Health Unit, regarding secondary residences. Since Easter, residents from outside the two counties had been forbidden from accessing vacation properties in Haldimand and Norfolk.

“Rescinding this public health order, however, should not be interpreted to mean that this battle is over,” Nesathurai said in a news release. “Social distancing measures remain in effect and are critical to completely breaking the coronavirus’ chain of transmission in our community.”

It’s a sign that things are starting to open up in this two-month long COVID-19 pandemic. 

But cautiously.

Many cottage country mayors continue to encourage people to limit travel to their areas from major centres over concerns of possibly transporting the coronavirus to rural areas. If non-permanent residents decide to visit, the local leaders are asking that visitors bring their own supplies and avoid local stores and shops — essentially, avoiding any contact within the local community.

It’s a start.

John Henderson of the Long Point Ratepayers Association has been ignoring a rule that effectively banned cottage owners from being at their secondary dwellings during the COVID-19 pandemic. SUPPLIED/JOHN HENDERSON



John Henderson of the Long Point Ratepayers Association (LPRA) was already going to his cottage — making the point that, as a property owner, he has every right to go to his dwelling, as does every other cottage owner.

The apparent violation of rights this pandemic has brought on people has created much polarization in communities, and an us-and-them scenario. Locals versus seasonal.

The damage caused by that may end up being the most lasting fallout from COVID-19. There’s no shortage of hard feelings on both sides of it. Local mayors trying to protect their communities and out-of-towners feeling that they are taxpayers and not second-class citizens.

The truth is, they both need each other.

The local businesses enjoy the seasonal dollars, which allow them to keep their businesses afloat. Meanwhile, the locals do all the heavy lifting to keep their communities strong for the benefit of everybody, including those who come and go.

Premier Doug Ford has been clear in his message that he sees nothing wrong with people going up to their properties to check on them — as he did himself for a short visit over Easter weekend.

But many local mayors still have that unofficial stop sign up for their area’s cottage owners.

My view is they should get out of the way. The seasonal people love their areas, know how to social distance and are respectful of local people. If you are a taxpayer in a region, you are from that region and no one should be able to say you can’t come there.

Hopefully it is heading there soon.

Perhaps the lifting of the heavy fines in Norfolk ahead of this Victoria Day weekend is the beginning of that happening.

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Mississauga murder suspect has criminal history in Calgary

The man accused of killing a Mississauga man in October was due to appear in a Calgary courtroom two weeks after the deadly shooting.

Brandon Horatio Drakes-Simon, 24, was arrested by Peel Regional Police Dec. 6 in connection with the Oct. 22 shooting death of Mario Ibrahim outside of a Webb Dr. condo in Mississauga.

On Monday, members of the Calgary Police Service arrested 24-year-old Melnee Christian in connection with Ibrahim’s death, charging her also with first-degree murder.

Brandon Drakes-Simon, 24 of Mississauga, is charged with first-degree murder.

She was escorted on a commercial flight from Calgary to Toronto Pearson Airport in handcuffs by Peel police Tuesday evening.

Drakes-Simon, who has appeared on Calgary’s ‘most wanted’ lists from as far back as May. 14, 2015, was due to appear in Calgary court Nov 5. for robbery and failure to appear on recognizance charges.

Those proceedings were stayed.

Sources also tell the Sun Drakes-Simon had active warrants issued against him at the time of his arrest.

Two days prior to his Oct. 22 murder, Ibrahim narrowly escaped an attempt on his life when a dark-coloured SUV pulled up beside him on the eastbound lanes of the 401 near Hwy. 427 and opened fire.

Police are also working on linking Ibrahim’s murder with an earlier robbery and shooting at a Mississauga strip club.

Thirty-eight-year-old Jason Williams faces robbery and gun charges in connection with that crime, and a Canada-wide warrant was issued for 34-year-old Justin Malcolm of Brampton, who police describe as “armed and dangerous.”

The investigation continues.

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Subway fire ignites union’s concern over single-operator trains

Monday’s track-level evacuation of a smoke-filled TTC subway has the city’s transit union raising the alarm over plans to expand the use of single-operator trains.

In a press release issued Monday, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113 says plans by the TTC to move ahead with eliminating subway guards presents a significant safety risk to commuters, as it represents “fewer trained workers on each train who can assist and direct riders to safety during emergencies.”

In the release, Local 113 president Carlos Santos said single-employee trains are unsafe for riders.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he said.

“Keeping two trained workers on each train is safer than having just one operator working alone at the front of a long subway train.”

On Monday, a track-level fire on Line 2 at Dundas West Station forced workers to evacuate passengers from a stranded train into the tunnel and escort them to a nearby station platform.

Currently, only trains on Lines 1 and 2 include guards — employees tasked with operating the train’s doors and signalling when the driver is safe to proceed from the platform.

Trains on Line 3 and the Scarborough RT have operated as single-person trains since they began operation.

The TTC has long stated its intention to remove guards from Line 1 trains once work installing automatic train control (ATC) is complete.

Expected to be complete by 2022, ATC will automatically control speed and separation between trains, allowing for greater capacity during peak times.

Currently, trains rely on an automatic block system to maintain separation that’s both inefficient and prevents rail traffic controllers from knowing the exact location of trains on the network.

TTC spokesman Stuart Green said single-operator trains have a proven track record both in Toronto and in cities like London and Chicago.

“The notion that it is somehow less safe is simply false,” he told the Toronto Sun.

“Under our new stations model, which is already rolling out, we have additional staff in stations to assist in emergencies.”

He also said in the rare event of tunnel emergencies like Monday’s evacuation, additional staff both within and outside of the TTC — including Toronto Fire — are dispatched to assist passengers.

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MANDEL: Sex assault acquittal overturned after judge use ‘discredited rape myths’

She didn’t dress the way he’d expect. She didn’t react the way he’d expect.

She simply didn’t behave the way an Ontario judge expected a sexual assault victim to behave.

After all these years, some on the bench are still trapped in biases of the past. And so Ontario Court Justice Peter J. Wright acquitted the man on trial, finding Richard Lacombe hadn’t twice assaulted his neighbour who lived in an assisted care residence for persons with disabilities.

Among the many factors he found significant?

“She dressed in a loose fitting pyjama top with no bra and underwear, engaging with a man that she really did not know well at all, including significant French kissing.”

The Ontario Court of Appeal has overturned that 2017 acquittal and ordered a new trial, finding the trial judge’s analysis was tainted by “long-discredited myths and stereotypes about sexual assault complainants.”

According to the woman, her neighbour knocked on her door and invited her out for a cigarette on the fire escape. As they chatted, she claimed he began touching and pinching her breasts. She asked him to stop but he just laughed, she said, and put his hand down her pants and rubbed her hard.

When he French kissed her, she kissed him back because, she said, he wasn’t listening to her and she feared he would hit her.

When she went back to her room, she saw that he’d caused her to bleed. She was too terrified to tell anyone.

The following evening, the second alleged assault took place under virtually the same circumstances. She agreed to meet him for a smoke because she was afraid of his reaction if she turned him down, she explained. She became more frightened when the man allegedly got angry when she refused to masturbate him.

This time, though, she complained to her boyfriend and a girlfriend. She listened to their advice and called police.

Lacombe’s story was far different. He said she was the one who came to his room, flashed her breasts and asked him to touch her. But besides that brief consensual touching and a further “peck on the lips” the following night, he insisted nothing else happened between them.

The trial judge listed 11 factors that made him question the woman’s credibility, including the way she was dressed, her failure to leave the situation at once or to immediately report what happened.

He then invoked “common sense and life experiences” to conclude that he should reject her version of events.

The Crown appealed and a Superior Court judge upheld Lacombe’s acquittal.

The Crown appealed again and this time, Ontario’s highest court agreed a retrial was necessary because the judge was working from an outdated lens of “rape myths.”

“Dress does not signify consent, nor does it justify assaultive behaviour,” wrote Justice Sarah E. Pepall on behalf of the three-judge panel. “As such, it had no place in the trial judge’s assessment of the complainant’s credibility and reliability.”

Nor should he have placed any weight on her not immediately telling friends or police.

“The myth that a sexual assault complainant is less credible if she does not immediately complain is one of the more notorious examples of the speculation that in the past has passed for truth in this difficult area of human behaviour and the law,” Pepall wrote, quoting a decision already a decade old.

The appeal court was also critical of the trial judge for questioning why the complainant would have kissed Lacombe and not left.

“There is no rule as to how victims of sexual assault are apt to behave,” Pepall wrote in a stern rebuke. “He was comparing her conduct to conduct he expected of a sexual assault complainant without giving any consideration to her evidence of fear.”

Or as another judge once wisely stated: “These cases should never be decided on how abuse victims are expected to react by people who have never suffered abuse.”

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