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Greek police move thousands of asylum seekers displaced by fire to new camp – National


A Greek police operation is underway on the island of Lesbos to move thousands of migrants and refugees left homeless after a fire destroyed their overcrowded camp into a new facility on the island.

Police said Thursday morning’s operation included 70 female police officers who were approaching asylum-seekers with the aim of persuading them to move to the new camp in the island’s Kara Tepe area. No violence was reported as the operation began.

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Thousands of asylum seekers left homeless after fire at refugee camp in Greece

The notoriously squalid Moria camp burned down last week in fires that Greek authorities said were deliberately set by a small group of the camp’s inhabitants angered by lockdown restrictions imposed after a coronavirus outbreak.

The blazes have left more than 1,200 people in need of emergency shelter. The vast majority have been sleeping rough by the side of a road leading from Moria to the island capital of Mytilene, erecting makeshift shelters made of sheets, blankets, reeds and cardboard.

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Fire destroys Greece’s largest refugee camp


Fire destroys Greece’s largest refugee camp

The new camp consists of large family tents erected in a field by the sea. By Wednesday night, it had a capacity of around 8,000 people, according to the UN refugee agency, but only around 1,100 mostly vulnerable people had entered.

New arrivals are tested for the coronavirus, registered and assigned a tent.

“This is an operation for the protection of public health and with a clear humanitarian content,” the police said in a statement.

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Thousands flee fires at migrant camp in Greece amid coronavirus lockdown

Six Afghans, including two minors, were arrested on suspicion of causing last week’s fires at Moria. The blazes broke out after isolation orders were issued during a generalized camp lockdown, when 35 people tested positive for the coronavirus.

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Moria had a capacity of just over 2,700 people, but more than 12,500 people had been living in and around it when it burned down. The camp and its squalid conditions were held up by critics as a symbol of Europe’s failed migration policies.



© 2020 The Canadian Press





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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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Black man killed by US police after being ‘shot 20 times in back’ by two officers


A black cyclist was killed by police after being shot more than 20 times in the back during a bicycle violation stop, his lawyers claim.

The killing of Dijon Kizzee has renewed protests in Los Angeles by demonstrators angered at deadly violence against black people by police.

The Los Angeles county Sheriff’s Department and a lawyer representing 29-year-old cyclist Mr Kizzee’s family have given diverging accounts of Monday’s incident.

Two sheriff’s deputies opened fire at Mr Kizzee after he dropped a handgun he was carrying and punched one of the officers, police said.

His attorney Benjamin Crump, who also represented the family of George Floyd, said they stopped him over a bicycle violation


Protests have become a near daily occurrence across the US after Mr Floyd was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer in May

They have continued in Kenosha, over a white police officer’s shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, seven times in the back, leaving him paralysed.

“You don’t kill any race but us, and it don’t make any sense,” Fletcher Fair, Mr Kizzee’s aunt, told reporters at the site of the shooting on Tuesday where activists called for an independent investigation by California’s attorney general.



The unrest has become a major issue ahead of November’s presidential election.

Republican President Donald Trump arrived in Kenosha on Tuesday as he seeks to rally his base of white supporters by defending police against criticism of brutality.

Dijon Kizzee’s aunt Debra Ray (L) cries where Dijon Kizzee was shot by two sheriff deputies

Mr Kizzee was riding his bike on Monday afternoon in Los Angeles County’s Westmont neighborhood when two sheriff’s deputies who had been driving by tried to stop him.

He abandoned his bike and ran for a block with the deputies in pursuit, Brandon Dean, a sheriff’s department spokesman, told reporters on Monday evening.

Mr Kizzee then punched one of the deputies in the face, dropping a bundle of clothing he was carrying, the department said.

The deputies said a semi-automatic handgun was in the dropped bundle, and both of them began shooting Mr Kizzee, the department said.

Mr Dean said he did not know what part of the bicycle code Kizzee was suspected to have violated or how many times the deputies shot him, other than saying it was fewer than 20.

His office declined to answer questions about the shooting and the status of the two deputies on Tuesday.

The county coroner was due to conduct an autopsy on Kizzee on Tuesday.

However, Mr Crump, a civil rights lawyer known for representing black victims of police violence around the country, wrote in a Twitter post: “They say he ran, dropped clothes and handgun. He didn’t pick it up, but cops shot him in the back 20+ times then left him for hours.”

The attorney asked on Twitter for people to send him any videos of the incident, saying that sheriff’s deputies are not required to wear body cameras.





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Portland police declare ‘riot’ near Kelly Building away from downtown


Unrest continued in Portland, Ore., on Saturday night into Sunday morning, with police declaring a riot just after midnight near the Penumbra Kelly Building, which houses public safety offices, according to reports.

Rioters were seen hurling rocks, bottles and other objects at police officers, Portland’s KGW-TV reported.

“The Incident Commander has declared this a RIOT. Immediately disperse to the WEST,” Portland police wrote on Twitter.

DUELING PORTLAND CLASHES SHUT DOWN STREETS, AS POLICE TRY TO MANAGE CHAOS

Police warned rioters that failure to leave the area would subject them to “citation, arrest, and/or crowd control agents, including but not limited to tear gas and/or impact weapons.”

Officers deployed in the Southeast Portland area, about six miles from downtown, were seen trying to block crowds at 47th and 53rd avenues, KGW reported.

There was no immediate information about arrests, injuries or property damage.

An earlier march to the building was turned back by police, The Associated Press reported.

The government building is located at the corner of 47th Avenue and Burnside Street in Southeast Portland. It houses offices for the Portland Police Bureau and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.

​​​​​​​A Portland, Ore., police officer scans the crowd while dispersing protesters, Aug. 21, 2020. (Getty Images)

​​​​​​​A Portland, Ore., police officer scans the crowd while dispersing protesters, Aug. 21, 2020. (Getty Images)

Crowds arrived near the Kelly building around 11 p.m. local time, Portland’s KOIN-TV reported.

The overnight riot was declared hours after opposing groups of right-wing and left-wing agitators clashed Saturday afternoon near the Terry Schrunk Plaza in downtown Portland, just short of six miles west from the Kelly Building, across the Willamette River.

The city has seen nightly unrest for nearly three months., since the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

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On Saturday, President Trump urged leaders in Oregon to request federal assistance with quelling the violence.

“Would bring in National Guard, end problem immediately,” Trump wrote. “ASK!”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.



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4 arrested on suspicion of assaulting police during L.A. protest


Four people were arrested on suspicion of battery on a police officer Tuesday afternoon during a downtown Los Angeles protest, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The four men were near protesters on Wilshire Boulevard and South Figueroa Street about 3:45 p.m., said Officer Mike Lopez, a spokesman for the LAPD.

“Officers were in the area when they observed a couple individuals who they decided to talk to,” he said. “I guess there were some protesters there in the area and they apparently were getting involved with the officers.”

Lopez could not confirm whether the four people arrested were the protesters themselves. He said he doesn’t know what they did to the officer.

“He’ll be fine,” Lopez said of the officer that was allegedly assaulted.





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Brazil police finish investigation into National Museum fire


The police also said museum directors’ conduct did not constitute neglect, given efforts underway to bring the building up to fire code. It was more than two centuries old.

The National Museum housed furniture and art belonging to the royal family, recordings of Indigenous languages — some of which are no longer spoken — priceless specimens of everything from rare butterflies to coral and a collection of Egyptian mummies and artifacts considered the largest in Latin America.

Some artifacts have been recovered, notably most fragments of a skull belonging to a woman dubbed Luzia. It is one of the oldest human fossils ever found in the Americas, and was a top museum treasure. Recovery efforts have been suspended since March due to the ongoing pandemic.

The building was once a royal palace that served as the seat of the united Portuguese and Brazilian empire before the museum’s collection was transferred there in 1892. Today the colonial-era facade is a burned-out shell that is fenced off for reconstruction.

Following an inspection by Rio’s firefighting corps, the National Museum began negotiating a deal with the Rio-based development bank BNDES to renovate the building and upgrade its fire-prevention system. The loan agreement was signed in June 2018, but the funds hadn’t yet been disbursed when the fire occurred in September.

The fire represented a gut punch for many Brazilians, who felt the incident laid bare the decay of cultural institutions during years of corruption, economic collapse and poor governance. The education ministry and science and technology ministry have since directed millions to the museum for emergency and recovery works. Companies and individuals have also donated, along with the United Nations’ cultural agency UNESCO, Germany’s government and the British Council.

The museum has so far raised about half the $60 million required for reconstruction, and aims for partial reopening by 2022, the bicentenial of Brazil’s independence, its press office said in a statement.

Last month, part of the the Federal University of Minas Gerais’ Natural History Museum also burned down.

“We cannot — and should not — ignore another situation like this, especially taking into account the tragic fire of the National Museum,″ the latter institution’s director, Alexander Kellner, said in a statement posted to Facebook at the time.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.



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Reading stabbing: Police declare terror attack after three killed in park



A mass stabbing that left three people dead in a Reading park was a terror attack, police have confirmed.

The Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE) unit has taken over the investigation as a suspect remains in custody.

Chief Constable John Campbell, of Thames Valley Police, said: “I am deeply saddened by the events of last night.

“This was a truly tragic incident and the thoughts of Thames Valley Police are with all those who have been affected.

“Incidents of this nature are very rare, though I know that will be of little comfort to those involved and understand the concern that this incident will have caused amongst our local community.”

The attack was formally declared a terrorist incident by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, the senior national coordinator for counterterror policing.

The suspect, a 25-year-old man of Libyan origin, has been arrested on suspicion of murder and remains in custody.

Police said cordons would remain in place as investigations continued in Forbury Gardens, where the attack happened, and at a block of flats where the suspect lived in nearby Whitley.

“I would also ask that the public avoid speculation,” Mr Campbell said.

“We would like to hear from anyone who has video footage. Out of respect for those deceased and injured, along with their loved ones, please do not circulate this footage on social media – this will be incredibly distressing.”

The knifeman struck at around 7pm on Saturday evening, as groups of friends and families enjoyed the evening sunshine.

A police cordon near the scene where three people have died and three more were seriously injured following stabbings in Forbury Gardens, Reading, on 21 June 2020 (Isabel Infantes/Anadolu Agency/Getty)

A personal trainer who fled the attack said the knifeman had shouted “unintelligible words” before stabbing victims in the neck.

“The park was pretty full, a lot of people sat around drinking with friends, when one lone person walked through, suddenly shouted some unintelligible words and went around a large group of around 10, trying to stab them,” said Lawrence Wort, 20.

”He stabbed three of them, severely in the neck, and under the arms, and then turned and started running towards me, and we turned and started running.

“When he realised that he couldn’t catch us, he tried to stab another group sat down, he got one person in the back of the neck and then when he realised everyone was starting to run, he ran out the park.”

Graphic footage from the scene showed the three victims lying injured metres apart on the grass, surrounded by members of the public as police carried out emergency first aid.

Officers could be heard calling for a defibrillator, as CPR was conducted on one victim.

An air ambulance and several other ambulances were called, as well as teams from London and a hazardous area response team.

The suspect, a young man of North African or Middle Eastern appearance who was wearing black, was chased and pinned to the floor by police officers.

He was searched for weapons before being taken into custody.

Heavily-armed Counter Terrorist Specialist Firearms Officers later searched a flat in Basingstoke Road, in the Reading suburb of Whitley.

Residents were evacuated from the block, which sits just under two miles from the scene of the stabbing.

A local woman, who did not want to be named, told The Independent the flat where the suspect lived was council-owned and used as temporary accommodation, including for people recently released from prison.

“First there were armed response cars, and then unmarked vans with armed police wearing balaclavas turned up,” she added.

At the beginning of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown, the closure of large venues and transport hubs caused counter-terror police to assess that the risk of mass stabbings had reduced, because of a reduction in crowded places.

(PA)

But at the same time, there were concerns that the effects of online radicalisation could be more pronounced as people became more isolated and spent more time on the internet.

The head of the Prevent counter-extremism programme previously told The Independent referrals had fallen sharply during the pandemic, raising fears that potential threats were not being spotted by teachers, probation workers, NHS staff and other agencies forced to reduce contact with people.

Isis has incited its supporters to carry out low-technology terror attacks using knives and vehicles around the world.

The terrorist group released advice on picking “soft targets” containing crowds of people but low security.

The tactics have been used in several recent terror attacks in the UK, including at Fishmongers’ Hall in November and Streatham in January.

Anyone with information about the incident or video material is asked to contact police on 101.



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In five years as Toronto police chief, what did Mark Saunders accomplish?


It was perhaps the best-kept secret in Toronto police history.

With little fanfare and not a hint of what was coming, Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders announced his resignation at a midday press conference this week, surprise news landing after two weeks of growing calls for police reform in Toronto and across North America.

Saunders, 57, gave little explanation for his departure except to say he wanted more time to be a father and husband.

“Family is the most important thing to me right now,” Saunders told reporters about his departure, eight months before his extended contract was set to expire. “And sorry if anybody is shocked in a bad way.”

Saunders’ rise to top cop is well documented. After an unofficial campaign for the support of the Toronto police board, Saunders — a longtime front-line cop who’d led the homicide squad and had the backing of outgoing chief Bill Blair and the powerful Toronto Police Association — bested a polished and progressive front-runner in Peter Sloly (now chief of police in Ottawa, where he said this week he intends to stay).

Back in April 2015, the hope was that Saunders, Toronto’s first Black police chief, could be a change agent capable of making cost-cutting and trust-building reforms precisely because he was a “cop’s cop” with the backing of the front-line.

More than five years later, did he succeed?

The goal: Cutting costs and “modernizing” the police service

A ballooning budget. An outdated policing model. Low levels of trust.

Saunders’ first year in the job was spent developing a plan to address big problems he inherited as chief. His modernization “action plan” aimed at overhauling police service delivery, decreasing costs and improving declining public trust. The goals and recommendations were drawn up by a task force made up equally of police and community members — including former Toronto budget chief David Soknacki and community advocate Idil Burale.

To Saunders’ credit, Burale told the Star this week, “he chose to include me on the (task force) even though I was publicly critical of him and an avid Sloly-for-chief supporter.”

The task force made 33 recommendations, including changes to training and hiring, greater partnerships with the community, investments in technology and giving more work to non-uniform staff. The overarching aim was to redefine policing and bring about “comprehensive and long-lasting change.”

Saunders cited the task force as a highlight of his term this week, saying it gave “the community equal ownership of what the Toronto Police Service should look like.”

But results have been mixed. And amid calls for reform and an upcoming motion to city council to cut the police budget, Saunders and the board have been criticized for a lack of significant change.

The police budget passed $1 billion in 2019 and 2020; last week, Soknacki said, “there is a sense that a lot of changes that could have been made more quickly and deeper have not been made.”

Some big gains have been made. A freeze on hiring and promotions in part saved about $100 million between 2016 and 2018. And, after decades of failed negotiations with the union, the service rolled out far more efficient shift schedule.

“That’s going to have huge benefits down the road, putting the right number of people at the right places at the right time,” said Toronto police board chair Jim Hart, who stepped into the role last fall.

Andy Pringle, who was chair of the Toronto police board from 2015 until last fall, praised Saunders for having the courage to go ahead with the changes. “Some of these things we put in place, he was going to get criticized internally, for trying to move too far, too quickly,” he said.

Shelley Carroll, the Toronto city councillor who sat on the police board when Saunders was hired, said Saunders “laid the foundation for change” even if “getting it fully implemented has met with frustration.”

Both Hart and Mayor John Tory cited cost savings from civilianizing work previously done by officers, resulting in more cost savings. Saunders has “definitely created a more efficient organization,” Hart said, noting that between 2015 and 2019, the number of calls for service per deployed officer went up by nearly 20 per cent.

Tory also noted the service’s investments in technology, including the “connected officer” program — a “godsend” for freeing officers of paperwork and constant trips back to the police division.

One swift action taken as a result of the task force was ending the controversial Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) unit. The unit had become notorious for its high rate of carding, the practice of stopping and documenting people not suspected of committing a crime, which disproportionately impacted Black and brown men.

Tory acknowledged that when it comes to modernization, “we are nowhere near where we have to be.” But he said Saunders and the board get a “bad rap” when critics don’t recognize how big of a challenge it is to change the course of a ship that’s been steaming ahead in one direction for a long time.

“It’s about the art of the possible, and how fast you can bring these changes in a big, complex organization,” Tory said.

To Burale real meaningful change has not been achieved: “I know there’s been some symbolic efforts to convey ‘change’ but at the end of the day, from an outsider perspective, TPS has not changed towards the spirit of the (task force) report,” she said.

The result: Some gains, both big and bureaucratic, but overall? Not enough.

The goal: Fighting gun violence

Undoubtedly, Toronto’s rising gun violence was the biggest crime-fighting challenge of Saunders’ tenure. The number of people injured or killed by gun violence each year has steadily increased. 2018 saw the most homicides in the city’s history, including 51 gun deaths. Last year saw a record 490 shootings.

At his news conference, Saunders said he wants to keep working to reduce violence by addressing the root causes of crime — “I see a lot of young Black boys being killed by Black boys,” he said.

Waves of crime bring inevitable calls from the police union, and some commentators, that more officers are needed. Saunders resisted coming to council cap in hand — except as staffing fell over a wave of natural retirements, Pringle said.

“I think Mark has been thoughtful and courageous in how he has approached it, he has tried to approach it fairly and proactively targeting it through intelligence, he’s also tried to address it through the court system and making sure things change so the really bad people don’t get right back on the street,” Pringle said.

Some of Saunders’ law-and-order attempts to combat the violence were harshly criticized — and did not prove successful. Last summer, Toronto police launched the $4.5 million Project Community Space to give officers increased visibility in “high-risk areas.” The initiative led to higher solve rates for gun cases, but did not reduce the shootings; Toronto saw the most people killed or injured by guns in 15 years.

Despite Saunders’ talk about the root causes of crime, initiatives like “Project Community Space” undermine that approach, said Sam Tecle, a community leader with the youth organization Success Beyond Limits, based in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood.

“It’s a flawed concept, throwing more policing at these kinds of complex, community-based issues,” he said.

Asked about Saunders’ record on crime, Hart, the current board chair, said Toronto is “one of the safest cities in North America” despite its rapid growth.

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Hart added that Saunders if very interested in targeting the root causes of crime. “I think he’s done the best job he can possibly do on the policing side, I think he would like to do more on the community side.”

Burale said Saunders’ was “very much a cop’s cop” who saw “understood everything first and foremost from a police operations lens.” That meant something like carding could be useful for public safety because it helped solve crime — even though it further alienated people.

“I appreciate that he made progress in evolving his thinking on these topics in the last five years,” she said. “Sadly, to some this coming to terms might have been too slow and late.”

Louis March, founder of Toronto’s Zero Gun Violence Movement, said Saunders put in a “good effort,” but the reality is gun violence went up during his tenure. There’s only so much that can be achieved when investments are not going to the community but rather to policing, March said.

“We can’t arrest ourselves out of this,” he said, noting Saunders was “but one of the players on the bench.”

The result: Despite aims to address “root causes,” too many boots on the ground — to little effect

The goal: Increase public trust and improve race relations

When Saunders stepped into the role of chief, police already had a fractured relationship with Toronto’s Black community.

Just days into his tenure, Saunders expressed support for carding and drew blowback when he referred to the innocent people stopped by police as being “collatoral damage.” He admitted later it was a poor choice of words, saying the better way to put it was “social cost … in which members of the community do not feel that they are being treated with dignity and respect.”

Nonetheless, Saunders’ five years at the helm did little to improve relations with the Black community, former board chair Alok Mukherjee said in a recent interview — “it’s a spotty legacy.”

Saunders did not seize opportunities to connect with the Black community during flashpoint moments, said writer and educator Neil Price, who was previously hired by the police board to study the impact of carding. Key moments included the beating of Black teen Dafonte Miller — off duty Toronto police officer Michael Theriault is charged with aggravated assault, alongside his brother — and the reaction to the fatal shooting of Andrew Loku.

In the days after Loku’s death, members of Black Lives Matter Toronto camped out outside Toronto police headquarters, but Saunders never came down to speak with them — “I don’t think he ever recovered from that,” Price said.

Saunders has also faced criticism for the force’s handling of allegations of sexual harassment on the job; during his time, several female officers have filed complaints to Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal alleging discrimination based on sex, saying the workplace was toxic for women.

Public trust also took a hit following the investigation into Bruce McArthur, the serial killer who preyed on eight men from the city’s Gay Village. Saunders drew criticism for suggesting in an interview with the Globe and Mail that community members failed to come forward to police to help catch the killer.

Saunders’ defenders point to initiatives spearheaded or supported by the chief — including the service’s recent move to begin the collection of race-based statistics.

Following Loku’s death, Saunders and the board established an anti-racism advisory panel; the committee is examining disparities in police service to racialized people and the intersection of race and mental health. Tory has previously pointed to the committee as aiming to restore and rebuild trust.

That’s also the aim of the neighbourhood officer program, rejuvenated under Saunders’ watch. Although some community members have expressed concerns about more officer presence, early research out of Humber’s Criminal Justice Degree Program has shown many others feel safer and more connected to police.

“I’ve seen with my own eyes, the kind of relationship they are building up as part of building trust back up in the police,” Tory said.

Overall, Tory said, trust is not lost overnight and it’s not restored with a new chief or a single policy change. “It takes a long time to earn it back and I think we’re on that track.”

Hart also pointed to Saunders’ renewed commitment to outfitting front-line officers with body cameras, calling it a “huge piece to build public trust and accountability.”

Overall, though, Price said it wasn’t enough. Saunders was “affable, decent and well-intentioned,” but it was a “disappointing tenure… He was not the right guy for the times.”

The result: Some gains, many losses and a “spotty” legacy

Saunders’ last day is July 31.

With files from Jim Rankin and Star staff

Wendy Gillis
Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing for the Star. Reach her by email at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis
Betsy Powell





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Justin Trudeau ‘shocked’ by video of indigenous chief being punched by police in Canada



Justin Trudeau has called for an independent investigation after a “shocking” video showing the arrest of an indigenous chief by federal police in Canada.

The video, filmed and released by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, shows an officer rushing at Chief Allan Adam on March 10 during an encounter over an expired licence plate. The officer tackles Mr Adam and punches him in the face.

“We’ve all now seen the shocking video of Chief Adam’s arrest and we must get to the bottom of this,” the Canadian Prime Minister told a daily briefing.

“Like many people I have serious questions about what happened,” Mr Trudeau said. “The independent investigation must be transparent and be carried out so that we get answers.”

In the dashcam video (below) broadcast by several Canadian media, Mr Adam has a heated exchange with a police officer outside a casino in the province of Alberta.



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Winnipeg police, street groups see spike in drug use during pandemic


TORONTO —
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, another crisis continues to harm vulnerable community members, although it’s largely hidden from view.

Winnipeg’s drug epidemic appears to have flourished, according to some advocates and local police. 

Police have also reported a significant amount of seizures within the past two months caused by meth, fentanyl and cocaine. Officers told CTV News that since the start of lockdown measures, there hasn’t been a decrease in drug trafficking or use. 

Outreach groups, such as the St. Boniface Street Links, are advocating for more treatment options and recovery resources for addicts in the city. 

The advocacy group has also reported a surge in not only drugs, such as meth and fentanyl, but new users as well. 

A representative with the St. Boniface Street Links told CTV News that there isn’t enough space within the current treatment centres in the city for physical distancing. Even their own housing facility, the Moberg House, has added three extra detox beds, but claim it isn’t enough to support those in need during the pandemic. 

In Regina, reports also indicate that overdoses are on the rise. In the first weekend of May alone there were 29 overdoses, three of which were fatal. 

While in Vancouver, there is concern that the ongoing pandemic is not allowing addicts to find safe supervised injection sites. 

Dr. Jane Buxton, harm reduction lead at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) said one of the reasons why few addicts search for help during the pandemic is because they are also practicing physical distancing. 

However, other advocates say the pandemic has given addicts and homeless residents a more stable environment. 

The Main Street Project in Winnipeg has been providing isolation housing for homeless COVID-19 patients or those who are showing symptoms of the virus. 

“To be honest in the sheltering the manner we have, we have seen a more controlled use of substance,” said executive director Rick Lees. 

While the pandemic continues, concern only grows as some advocates worry that the approaching warm weather will keep addicts on the street, rather than seek help at facilities. 



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