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›  Inclusivity energizes Toronto Pride parade


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led thousands of revellers under a rain of glitter and colour at the Toronto’s Pride parade Sunday. This year’s march, which had a theme of inclusivity, had two conspicuous absences through most of the afternoon: uniformed police and Black Lives Matter (BLM), the activist group that disrupted last year’s march.

BLM did show up toward the end of the parade, despite not being officially registered. Protesters chanted “Black Lives Matter” in all-black outfits as they raised their fists in the air near Yonge and College Sts., the same place where the group held up the parade last year.

“May we never again have to mourn another life like that of Andrew Loku,” read one of the signs, referring to the fatal shooting of a black man by Toronto police in 2015.

“Wherever they go, black folks will resist their presence,” activist Rodney Diverlus said of police.

Tweets from BLM organizers said this year’s Pride parade was more inclusive and accessible because of their activism.

Their protest did not bring a halt to the main parade, which had already passed.

First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who walked alongside Trudeau at the front of the parade with a group of Indigenous activists close behind, was the first in his post to march in the Toronto Pride parade.

“There were no closets in our teepees,” Bellegarde said earlier in the day, referring to the historic importance of two-spirited people to First Nations communities.

“I feel the energy in the air,” said Bellegarde, dressed in a sky-blue shirt with rainbow stripes running across his shoulders and chest. He said he was excited to be at his first Pride parade: “The caring. The compassion. The love. The acceptance.”

Trudeau was joined by his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, and their children Xavier and Ella-Grace. Grégoire Trudeau waved a rainbow flag, one of the symbols of the LGBTQ community.

“This is all about including people,” Trudeau — sporting a temporary rainbow maple leaf tattoo on his cheek — told media shortly before the parade began.

“It’s all about how we celebrate the multiple layers of identities that make Canada extraordinary and strong, and today we celebrate with the entire LGBTQ community.”

Trudeau also wished the crowd a happy “Pride Mubarak,” a play on words referring to the end-of-Ramadan celebrations happening in the Muslim community Sunday — celebrations Trudeau honoured with a pair of brightly coloured socks.

Trudeau last year became the first sitting prime minister to march in the parade.

Also joining this year’s march were Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor John Tory.

Many in the roaring, rainbow-clad crowd perched on rooftops and ledges, cheering as each float went by.

Jason and Daniel Northway-Frank, wearing blue T-shirts reading “dada” and “daddee,” have been coming to the parade since 1995. They said they come to honour friends and family.

“It’s supportive of diversity,” Jason said.

Pride organizers asked Toronto police not to march in uniform this year — one of BLM’s demands from the 2016 sit-in.

Instead, dozens marched in uniform with members of the New York Police Department at the New York Pride parade Sunday.

“It’s sad that we’re not able to actually march in the parade, but I understand the chief’s decision,” said acting superintendent Steve Molyneaux of the Toronto police’s 51 division. “We’re still here to police it and make sure it’s safe and make sure everyone has a good time.”

BLM has argued that allowing uniformed officers at the parade could discourage marginalized communities from attending.

“The police not in uniform is really significantly important, especially to people of colour,” said Tori Cress, an Anishinaabe activist who walked with the Indigenous march. “Those are things that we equate to violence historically.”

At the Faith and Pride service before the parade, Rev. Brent Hawkes, senior pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, asked people to come together to celebrate their differences. Fat raindrops briefly fell from the rumbling, lightning-filled skies, sending people scrambling and ending the service early.

“Inclusion is the core value in our community and as long as a group or a company supports LGBT equality, then in my opinion, welcome aboard,” he said.

“Because I probably wear a uniform that represents the group that has done the most damage to the LGBT community — the Christian church,” he said. “So I would say don’t ban what’s offensive to some, reform it to the benefit of everyone.”

Hawkes, who has led the service for more than 20 years, is due to retire at the end of the year.

Around the corner from the main festivities on Church St., a crowd of about 100 gathered for an Indigenous opening ceremony called “the Spirit Within,” which was also interrupted by the brief downpour.

The ceremony opened with a prayer by Ma-Nee Chacaby, a two-spirited person of the Beaver Clan from Thunder Bay.

“We’re here just to walk,” Chacaby said. “To be visible. To show we’re proud to be who we are, especially the two-spirited people.”

Bellegarde and Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, who was decked out in a red top hat and rainbow ribbon skirt, also spoke at the ceremony, each touching on similar themes.

It is important for First Nations to be represented at Pride because studies have shown that LGBTQ and two-spirited Indigenous people are subjected to more violence and oppression than others, Bellegarde said.

“It’s all about acceptance.”

Tory said he was excited to be at Pride, but touched on the controversies that hit the parade last year.

“It’s a bit bittersweet because we have a few issues to address,” he said.

More than 150 other groups, including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Canadian Armed Forces, Google Canada, Metrolinx and Sick Kids hospital, participated in the parade. The theme for this year’s pride was the plus sign, representing inclusivity.

With files from Star staff and The Canadian Press



›  So the LCBO may go on strike at midnight Sunday. Here?s where else you can buy alcohol in the GTA


The deadline for talks between the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and its workers is fast approaching, with the possibility the province’s liquor stores may go dry ahead of the Canada Day long weekend still looming as of Sunday evening.

The workers’ union has threatened to go on strike at one minute past midnight Sunday. That possibility could result in LCBO stores remaining closed through the week until a deal is reached.

As Pride weekend in Toronto drew to a close, there was no word on how the talks were going. A conciliator involved in the negotiations imposed a media blackout Saturday.

The blackout remained through the afternoon Sunday. Neither side will comment.

The LCBO extended store hours for its outlets the past couple of days to allow customers more time to stock up in the event of a strike.

A few stores in downtown Toronto are coincidentally open until 11 p.m. Sunday because of Pride festivities, with most stores closing at 6 p.m.

A potential strike would inconvenience celebrations for Canada’s 150th birthday and would limit access to spirits in the province.

“Everyone is kind of freaking out this weekend, (and) going to stock up,” shopper Danica Bennewies told the Star on Saturday, adding that her main concern was over access to hard liquor.

“I’m not concerned with beer or wine because of Loblaws, Wine Rack, the Wine Shop; it’s all covered,” she said.

Toronto residents worried their weekend will be dampened by the strike still have the weekend to stock up, as well as many other locations to buy alcohol other than the LCBO.

The Beer Store and Wine Rack stores will remain open in the event of a strike. And of course, Toronto has no shortage of craft breweries for those planning for the long weekend.

Here’s a partial list where else you can buy alcohol in the GTA.

Grocery stores:

As many as 130 Ontario grocery stores are authorized to sell beer, with up to 70 allowed to sell wine. Check here to see if your local grocery sells alcohol.

Where to buy wine:

• Wine Rack stores — At least 25 GTA locations

Website: https://www.winerack.com/www.winerack.comEND

• The Wine Shop — At least 20 GTA locations

www.thewineshops.com

Where to buy beer:

• The Beer Store — More than 450 Ontario locations, dozens in the GTA

Website: www.thebeerstore.ca

Amsterdam BrewHouse

Location: 245 Queens Quay

Hours: Sunday to Thursday (11 a.m. - Late) Friday and Saturday (11 a.m. - 2 a.m.)

Bandit Brewery

Location: 2125 Dundas St. W

Hours: Monday to Thursday (5 p.m. - 12 a.m.) Friday (5p.m. - 1 a.m.) Saturday (12 p.m. - 1 a.m.) Sunday (12p.m. – 12 a.m.)

Burdock Brewery

Hours: Sunday to Thursday (5 p.m. – 12 a.m.) Friday and Saturday (5 p.m. – 2 a.m.)

Bellwoods Brewery

Location: 124 Ossington Ave.

Hours: Monday to Wednesday (5 p.m. - 12 a.m.) Thursday (5 p.m. - 1 a.m.) Friday (2 p.m. - 1 a.m.) Saturday (12 p.m. - 1 a.m.) Sunday (12 p.m. – Midnight)

Liberty Commons at Big Rock Brewery

Location: 42 Liberty St.

Hours: Monday to Wednesday (11 a.m. - 1 a.m.) Thursday and Friday (11 a.m. - 2 a.m.) Saturday (10 a.m. - 2 a.m.) Sunday (10 a.m. - 1 a.m.)

Blood Brothers Brewing

Location: 165 Geary Ave.

Hours: Sunday to Saturday (12 p.m. to 9 p.m.)

Folly Brewpub

Location: 928 College St.

Hours: Tuesday to Friday (4 p.m. - late) Saturday (1 p.m. - late) Sunday (1 p.m. - 11 p.m.)

Granite Brewery

Location: 245 Eglinton Ave. E

Hours: Sunday (11 a.m. – Midnight) Monday to Thursday (11:30 a.m. to Midnight) Friday and Saturday (11:30 a.m. - 1 a.m.)

Indie Ale House

Location: 2876 Dundas St. W

Hours: Monday (5 p.m. – 11 p.m.) Tuesday to Saturday (12 p.m. – 11 p.m.) Sunday (12 p.m. – 11 p.m.)

Left Field Brewery

Location: 36 Wagstaff Drive

Hours: Monday to Saturday (11 a.m. - 9 p.m.)

Louis Cifer BrewWorks

Location: 417 Danforth Ave.

Hours: Monday to Wednesday (11:30 a.m. - 12 a.m.) Thursday and Friday (11:30 a.m. - 2 a.m.) Saturday (11 a.m. - 2 a.m.) Sunday (11 a.m. – 12 a.m.)

Mill Street Brewery

Location: 55 Mill St.

Hours: Sunday (10:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.) Monday (11 a.m. - 11 p.m.) Tuesday (11 a.m. – 12 a.m.) Wednesday(11 a.m. – 1 a.m.) Thursday (11 a.m. – 12 a.m.) Friday(11 a.m. – 2 a.m.) Saturday (10:30 a.m. – 2 a.m.)

Radical Road Brewing

Location: 1177 Queen St. E

Hours: Monday (closed) Tuesday to Thursday (3 p.m. - 11 p.m.) Friday and Saturday (12 p.m. – Midnight) Sunday (12 p.m. – 11 p.m.)

Steam Whistle Brewing

Location: 255 Bremner Blvd.

Hours: Sunday (11 a.m. - 5 p.m.) Monday to Satuday (11 a.m. - 6 p.m.)

Here are some GTA micro-distillers you can check out:

Yongehurst Distillery Company

Location: 346 Westmoreland Ave. N.

Hours: Friday (4 p.m. – 8 p.m.) Saturday (12 p.m. – 6 p.m.)

Location: 150 Bradwick Dr.

Hours: Monday to Friday (10 a.m. - 4 p.m.)

With files from Vjosa Isai and the Canadian Press



›  AirAsia plane ?shook like a washing machine? for 90 minutes of flight, terrifying passengers


Whatever went wrong in the air off Australia’s west coast on Sunday, it started quickly and violently, and it did not stop for far too long.

First, AirAsia X passengers told Perth Now and other outlets, there came a loud bang about 90 minutes into the flight to Kuala Lumpur. It woke some people up. Sophie Nicolas said it was an explosion on left wing, while Dave Parry remembered a strange smell wafting through the cabin.

Then the shaking. Endless shaking, up and down the jet. “Like you were sitting on top of a washing machine,” a passenger told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

It lasted another 90 minutes, passengers reported — minutes full of tears, prayers and gallows humour as the rattling jet limped back toward Australia.

Brenton Atkinson told the broadcasting station he looked out at the window and could see the engine rattling on the wing.

Inside, seat backs shook like jello blocks. A deafening thud-thud-thud-thud soundtracks every cellphone video from the aisles. Some passenger gritted their teeth. Others just folded their hands and endured.

A blade had sheared off an engine, the captain told passengers at one point, according to Perth Now.

But AirAsia, which did not respond to the Washington Post, told Nine News Australia it had no reason to to think the plane had engine troubles — blaming the incident vaguely on a “technical issue.”

A spokesperson for Perth airport said much the same to the Post: “There was a plane that discovered a technical issue and returned.”

In any event, an early report from the loudspeaker could not have done much to reassure passengers. “Please listen to everything,” a man said. “Our survival depends on your co-operating. Hopefully everything will turn out for the best.”

Those first minutes were among the worst, some passengers reported.

“I was crying a lot,” Sophie Nicolas told Australia’s ABC. “A lot of people were crying, trying to call their moms and stuff. But we couldn’t really do anything. Just wait and trust the captain.”

The captain asked everyone to pray, Nicolas told Perth Now. “I’ll be saying a prayer, too,” she recalled him saying.

Less than three years ago, another AirAsia flight crashed into the Java Sea and killed everyone on board, the result of a faulty rudder control system. But if any of the passengers on Sunday’s flight remembered that, they did not recall it in their interviews.

At the captain’s request, Perth Now reported, some passed the time keeping an eye on the left engine in case something else went wrong.

After a while, a sense of quasi-normalcy returned to the jittery flight.

In one video, a man casually walks down shaking aisles. In another, two Australian men grin for motion-blurred selfies.

“Not great, not amazing,” says one, his voice muffled by the thumping. “We’re having 50 million beers when we get back.”

As the plane rounded back on Australia, police stood by for a possible water landing, according to Nine News.

For two full minutes of descent, CNN reported, passengers held the brace position — heads forward, unable to see if the plane was going to make it.

When it did, a passenger told CNN, passengers erupted in applause and later shook the pilot’s hand.

“I still arrive!!!” someone posted on Instagram. “Thank you God!!!”

The shaking was over then. No one was reported injured. Now to wait for explanations.



›  Midwifery students irate at RBC after loan program nixed


Students about to enter their first year in Ryerson University’s midwifery program are scrambling to find alternate funding options after the Royal Bank of Canada cancelled a specialized loan program this month.

Previously, students could borrow up to $80,000 against their projected earnings as midwives.

Now, the bank won’t consider students’ future earning potential and requires them to have a co-signer.

“Midwifery students have known about the RBC funding and relied on it for many years I think for those that need some support to get them through their schooling,” said Nicole Bennett, the director of Ryerson’s Midwifery Education Program.

“It’s just one more barrier for people who don’t have a lot of financial means to enter into the profession and it saddens me,” she said.

Read more:

Midwives from 113 countries kick off convention with march through Toronto

Giving birth alone and far from home

In a statement RBC spokesperson AJ Goodman said the change was made “to help midwifery students ensure they are taking on manageable loans while pursuing their career.”

Goodman also explained that there is no set cap on the loans available under the bank’s standard student line of credit program.

“If a student can support themselves at a higher threshold, then we will evaluate their application accordingly,” he said.

Incoming student Monique Dupuy said she’s concerned some students now won’t be able to cover the costs of the program.

“I think it’s suspect that it happens during this time of year when people are sort of scrambling to secure funding for the fall,” she added.

RBC told both Dupuy and Linnea Rudachyk, another student who is relocating from Whitehorse, Yukon for the program, that they could still apply for the bank’s regular student line of credit, which is available to all undergraduate students, to help cover the cost of school.

For some midwifery students, though, that might not be enough.

Tuition alone can cost between $6,000 and $8,000 a year. Add in living costs, medical supplies, the cost of a possible relocation for clinical placements in the latter half of the four-year program and Rudachyk estimated it could cost her $100,000 to complete the program.

Students are also not allowed to work while they’re completing unpaid clinical placements and they must have 24-hour access to a reliable car, adding to the costs.

“I may be able to start the program, but I may not be able to complete it, it’s a huge barrier,” said Rudachyk, who was told she could borrow up to $30,000 under a standard student line of credit.

It seems “very unfair” that specialized professional loans are available to students in chiropractic, physiotherapy, law and medical programs, but not midwifery, she said.

RBC offers loans of up to $275,000 for medical students and up to $125,000 for law students without co-signors.

Midwifery students are very likely to secure employment after graduation and have the potential to be earning $80,000 with a full care load, Bennett said.

“My understanding was that this was a program for professional degrees and midwifery is absolutely a professional degree,” she said.

While a number of banks offer larger loans for professional programs, Dupuy, Rudachyk, and Bennett said as far as they’re aware RBC was one of the only to offer something similar for midwifery students.

CIBC, for instance, offers a Professional Edge line of credit for students in some programs, including medical, law, chiropractic, and nursing schools, but a spokesperson for the bank said midwifery students are eligible to apply for their Education Line of Credit.

The limits available under the Education Line of Credit vary depending on the institution students will attend and offers different repayment options from the professional version.

A spokesperson for TD said their bank offers “Student Lines of Credit for Bachelor of Health Sciences programs, which sometimes can include midwifery programs.” Midwifery is not listed on their website as one of the programs eligible for their professional student lines of credit.

Elizabeth Brandeis, the president of the Association of Ontario Midwives, said losing access to RBC’s health sciences line of credit program feels like yet “another barrier,” for midwives, a profession that’s seeing increasing demand in Ontario.

When the province regulated midwifery in 1994 there were just 60 midwives in the province, who attended fewer than 2 per cent of births.

Today there are close to 900, who in 2015 provided care to more than 22,000 women and attended more than 15 per cent of the births in the province. Each year the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care also provides funding for an additional 90 midwives in Ontario.

But midwives still can’t accommodate between one-third and one-quarter of requests for their services.

Despite the new challenges presented by the loan cancellation, both Rudachyk and Dupuy plan to pursue their studies. The program is highly competitive, admitting only 30 students a year from between 250 and 280 eligible applicants.

Dupuy said her dad has offered to co-sign a regular student loan if the professional loan program isn’t reinstated, but she doesn’t plan on letting this fight go.

Rudachyk shares her passion. She’s already filed a formal complaint with RBC, written to Ryerson’s program director, her member of Parliament, Larry Bagnell, and has spoken with the Community Midwifery Association of Yukon.



›  Alley cats rule the road in Toronto?s first-ever W.T.F. bicycle race


Sitting in circles in Trinity-Bellwoods Park with their bikes splayed out on the grass around them, the cyclists seemed excited and a little nervous. Some knew each other, some didn’t. For the vast majority, Saturday’s race was a first.

Even the race’s organizers, Kiki Knox and Ashley Hurrle, were keyed up. It was a first for them, too — and for the city. Toronto has never had an alley cat race for women, transgender, femme, and gender nonconforming riders only, as far as they knew.

Alley cats are DIY bike races that require cyclists to hit a certain number of checkpoints throughout the city before speeding to the finish — checkpoints that remain a secret until the race starts. The races are unsanctioned, meaning the streets are open to traffic. Alley cats are a test of urban navigation and street-riding savvy as well as speed, with a bit of scavenger hunt mixed in.

“Races are dominated by fast guys,” said Knox. Professional bike couriers often compete in them, and the vibe can be intense, even aggressive, others say. “It’s male-dominated, and it looks closed off from the outside . . . (we) wanted to make it a much more open experience.”

Knox and Hurrle began organizing the W.T.F. Alley Cat — Women, Trans, Femme-identifying — in March. Similar races have been organized in U.S. cities, but not in Toronto.

“I talked to a lot of older couriers in the scene, and they said they’ve never heard of anything like this,” added Knox. “Ashley and I were so stoked. We were like, let’s do it. Let’s organize the first one. Especially one in time for Pride weekend.”

As riders cycled up on Saturday evening, they exchanged a $10 registration fee for a spoke card, a laminated square with the race’s logo that would be tucked into the wheel and serve as a racing bib.

At 6:30 p.m., Knox and Hurrle called everyone together. Thirty racers had signed up.

Despite alley cats’ reputation for lawlessness, the duo began with an exhortation. “We don’t want anyone to have a bad time, or get hurt. Please ride safely, ride considerately.”

The pair start passing out a printed sheet with a list of the eight checkpoints. Some hopped on their bikes immediately. Others huddled around maps, plotting out the ideal route. The checkpoints spanned the city, from Wychwood Barns to Corktown Common and the West Toronto Railpath to Liberty Village. The race would be about 30 kilometres depending on the route.

.

The final checkpoint — the finish line — was Bike Pirates, the volunteer-run, DIY workspace in Parkdale. At 7:30, cheers went up as three riders came into view, but they passed by shaking their heads. They still had another checkpoint to hit.

Minutes later, three riders coasted to the door of the shop, flushed and sweaty. They dumped their manifests, shredded and soaked with sweat.

“And you did it in a dress?!” one volunteer said to Amber Urbshas, who finished in first place. “So good.”

Most of the riders worked in groups, helping each other out with routing and strategy. But this wasn’t a Little League game where everyone gets a trophy.

“I was planning on going a little softer, but I’m too competitive,” said Urbshas.

“It’s so nice to bike with a bunch of girls who are going super quickly. It feels really good,” said Lily Hansen-Gillis, a first-time racer who came in second.

Close to 10 p.m., Knox and Hurrle handed out awards inside Bike Pirates. After the top three spots, prizes were handed out for the first single-speed bike, first geared bike, and first out-of-towner. There were awards for first first-timer, first mullet, and DFL — a colourful expression for dead last. The winners got prize bags filled with gear donated by the race’s more than 30 sponsors: bike shops, sex shops, pie stores, more.

After a raffle dispensed with more donated loot, the night morphed into a general party.



›  Six hurt, woman arrested after car hits pedestrians outside Newcastle sports centre


LONDON—Six people, including three children, were injured Sunday after a car ran into a large crowd gathered to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr in the northern English city of Newcastle. Police said there was no information suggesting the incident was terror-related.

Police believe a woman who had been celebrating Eid with her family was driving the car that struck the crowd outside the Westgate Sports Center, Assistant Chief Constable Darren Best said. Northumbria Police arrested the woman, 42, who remained in custody. The force said it was not looking for other suspects.

“We have no information to suggest this is terror-related, however, this is a serious collision with multiple casualties and extensive inquiries are ongoing to establish the circumstances around this tragic incident,” Best said.

The collision took place outside the sports centre when many were just leaving a prayer gathering marking the end of Ramadan, according to the nearby Newcastle Central Mosque, which organized the Sunday morning family event called “Eid in the Open.”

“Immediately after the Eid prayers when the people were starting to leave the venue, a car collided with pedestrians. The injured were immediately attended to by the emergency medical services and the police,” it said.

Video on social media, apparently taken minutes after the crash, showed a field where dozens of people in Muslim dress, including children, screamed and rushed forward to see what happened.

The ambulance service said three children and three adults were being treated at a local hospital for injuries sustained in the crash. Two of the children were in pediatric intensive care and one adult was in the trauma unit, officials said.

Newcastle lawmaker Chi Onwurah said on Twitter that she was one of thousands celebrating Eid in the city. “I was at the prayers earlier and there was so much joy and unity. Thinking of those affected by what I am told was terrible accident,” Onwurah tweeted.

Extra officers were put on patrol to reassure people in the area. The incident came at the time when Britain is on high alert for terror-related incidents involving vehicles after a string of recent attacks.

A man drove a van into Muslim worshippers leaving two London mosques on June 19, killing one and injuring others. Police said that was a terror attack directed at Muslims.



›  At least 153 killed after Pakistan oil tanker fire


BAHAWALPUR, PAKISTAN—Alerted by an announcement over a mosque’s loudspeaker that an overturned tanker truck had sprung a leak, scores of villagers raced to the scene with fuel containers Sunday to gather the oil. Then the wreck exploded, engulfing people in flames as they screamed in terror.

At least 153 men, women and children were killed, with dozens more in critical condition, hospital and rescue officials said.

“I have never seen anything like it in my life. Victims trapped in the fireball. They were screaming for help,” said Abdul Malik, a police officer who was among the first to arrive on the scene of horror in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

When the flames subsided, he said, “we saw bodies everywhere. So many were just skeletons. The people who were alive were in really bad shape.”

About 30 motorcycles that villagers had used to rush to the site of the highway accident lay charred nearby along with cars, witnesses said. Local news channels showed black smoke billowing skyward and army helicopters taking away the injured.

As victims cried out for help, residents wandered through the area, looking for loved ones.

Zulkha Bibi searched for her two sons.

“Someone should tell me about my beloved sons. Where are they? Are they alive or are they no longer in this world? Please tell me,” she pleaded.

Many of the dead were burned beyond recognition, said Dr. Mohammad Baqar, a senior rescue official in the area. They will have to be identified through DNA.

The disaster came on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. While Saudi Arabia and most other Muslim countries celebrated the holiday Sunday, Pakistanis will mark it on Monday.

The fuel truck was travelling from the southern port city of Karachi to Lahore, the Punjab provincial capital, when the driver lost control and crashed on a highway outside Bahawalpur.

A loudspeaker atop a mosque alerted villagers to the leaking fuel, and many rushed to the scene with fuel containers, said Rana Mohammad Salim, deputy commissioner of Bahawalpur.

Highway police moved quickly to redirect traffic but couldn’t stop the scores of villagers, spokesman Imran Shah told a local TV channel.

When the fire erupted, the same mosque loudspeaker called on the remaining villagers to help put it out.

Mohammed Salim said he ran toward the smoke with buckets of water and sand, but the heat was too intense for him to reach the victims.

“I could hear people screaming, but I couldn’t get to them,” he said.

Dr. Javed Iqbal at Bahawalpur’s Victoria Hospital said most of the patients suffered burns to upward of 80 per cent of their bodies. Many were evacuated by plane or helicopter to hospitals in the Punjab cities of Lahore and Multan.



›  Toronto faces Catch-22 with impending Seaton House closure


Frank Coburn says Seaton House saved his life.

The 71-year-old former Humber College professor lived at the shelter on and off for nearly a decade after a series of personal crises — he lost his job, his wife left and a family member died — sent him spiralling into crack cocaine addiction, homelessness and eventually prison.

Coburn used to teach community services courses, educating the next generation of social workers and police officers. Some of them ended up helping him once he entered the system.

“It’s kind of ironic in many ways,” he said with a chuckle.

Though he still uses drugs, Coburn now has a home and helps in various areas of harm reduction work. He’s OK. Stable.

“If you have the proper supports in place, good things can happen,” Coburn said. “(Without that support) I would’ve still been down there, festering and fighting with my own thoughts and going crazy.”

About 2,800 men stayed at Seaton House from June 1, 2016 until June 1, 2017, according to the City of Toronto. The shelter’s capacity has fluctuated over the years, but now has 539 beds and 42 cots that are used as needed.

But for all the people it has helped and all the front line workers trying their best in a situation they largely inherited, Seaton House also presents a vexing dilemma.

On the one hand, the aging structure — one that was never intended to be used as a shelter, let alone a long-term care facility — is in desperate need of replacement. That started to become clear about a decade ago, said Dr. Stephen Hwang, a physician based at St. Michael’s Hospital who’s been treating patients inside Seaton House for about two decades.

“Over time the building has gradually deteriorated, and it’s not feasible to keep patching it up simply because its design is not really suitable,” said Hwang.

On the other hand, Seaton House is a de facto home for many, one that’s proven difficult to replace.

Though the shelter was originally scheduled to be closed this year, the process has been delayed as the City of Toronto struggles to house displaced residents and fund the rest of the George Street Revitalization project.

The city is aiming to have Seaton House vacant by 2019. Council originally approved the project in 2013, citing the need for a better facility and a safer surrounding area.

“For someone who’s lived in a shelter for a long time as many of the men at Seaton House have, there’s not a housing environment or shelter environment elsewhere that really meets their needs,” Hwang said. “The majority of the men at the shelter have at least one physical illness and often multiple.”

In other words, Seaton House can’t continue as it is, but for now, no one has a reasonable alternative.

The shelter itself is an austere grey structure that dominates its block of George St., just south of Gerrard St. E. A stained black fence winds around it, putting a barrier between the building and a grimy stretch of sidewalk where groups of people can often be seen hanging about.

“On any given night, most beds at Seaton House are occupied, putting typical occupancy at 97 per cent or so,” City of Toronto spokesperson Patricia Anderson said via email.

The facility was built in 1959 as an office building and was never meant for long-term residents, according to a 2013 staff report to city council. However, in a city struggling with an overflowing shelter system and rapidly rising housing costs, many residents like Coburn have had few other options.

“Shelters were never meant to be health-care facilities,” Hwang said. “The city does not consider itself to be a health-care provider, but we have a situation in which a large number of individuals with serious physical and mental illnesses are living in a city-run facility, and that raises all kinds of challenges for the redevelopment.”

Neighbours have long been unhappy about scuffles and drug activity on the street. A long-running strep outbreak, which began last March, has also presented an extra layer of complication, along with ventilation systems that aren’t up to modern standards.

Clients have complaints as well. Though Coburn said he loves the love and empathy between the residents in his former home, it’s not necessarily a happy place: “You walk into Seaton House and you think you’re in prison.”

Though the issues are well-identified, the solutions are harder.

Anti-poverty advocates have long opposed the city’s plans to relocate Seaton House residents to the suburbs, where they’ll be far the social services concentrated in the downtown core.

Hwang said the process would be less worrisome if it were easier to find appropriate shelter buildings downtown. The key word is appropriate — after all, an ill-suited facility is part of what made Seaton House so problematic in the first place.

“I’m not someone who’s against the redevelopment,” Hwang said. “If done well, I believe it will lead to an overall better situation. But it’s going to be a very challenging transition.”

Coburn, however, said he wants the city to know it isn’t as simple as transplanting people from one shelter to another. If officials ask the Seaton House residents what they want and ensure they have access to the supports they need, there’s a higher chance the project will be successful, he said.

“Putting them in a nice apartment somewhere isn’t going to solve the problem,” Coburn said, adding that without proper help, Seaton House’s residents might return to the streets. “They’re probably going to end up back at Sherbourne and Dundas, sleeping in Moss Park.”



›  Obama made ?serious mistake? letting Russia off hook, says key Democrat


WASHINGTON—Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff and President Donald Trump don’t agree on much about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, but they agree on this: President Barack Obama should have done more to stop Moscow from interfering.

Obama made a “very serious mistake” in not doing more about Russia’s intervention in the presidential election campaign, Schiff, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday.

“The administration needed to call out Russia earlier, and needed to act to deter and punish Russia earlier,” Schiff said on CNN’s State of the Union. “I think the Obama administration should have done more when it became clear that not only was Russia intervening, but it was being directed at the highest levels of the Kremlin.”

Obama did announce in December a series of sanctions against Russia for its attempts to influence the November election, including the expulsion from the U.S. of 35 suspected intelligence operatives.

Schiff said the sanctions should have come sooner and been stronger. Obama also should have let the voters know about Russia’s actions while the campaign was still going on, he said. “What I urged at the time was he should have spoken out to the American people and said, ‘This is what Russia is doing,’” Schiff said.

Trump also questioned why Obama administration officials took no action on Russia before the election. “Since the Obama administration was told way before the 2016 Election that the Russians were meddling, why no action? Focus on them, not T!” he said in a Twitter posting to his 32.8 million followers.

Trump said on Fox News Sunday that if Obama had the information about Russian meddling, “why didn’t he do something about it? He should have done something about it. But you don’t read that. It’s quite sad.”

Appearing on ABC’s This Week on Sunday morning, Kellyanne Conway, counsellor to the president, struck a combative tone, saying: “It’s the Obama administration that was responsible for doing absolutely nothing from August to January with the knowledge that Russia was hacking into our election.”

Then, referring to a Washington Post story last week, she said: “I have a hacking question for the Obama administration: Why did you, quote, choke, in the name of one of their senior administration officials? Why did you do nothing? Why didn’t you inform candidate Trump?”

Conway was referring to a quotation in the article by a former senior Obama administration official involved in the Russia discussions who said the Obama White House’s handling of the Russia hacking was “the hardest thing” for him to defend from his time in government, and added, “I feel like we sort of choked.”

With files form The Washington Post



›  Woman found dead in North York swimming pool


A woman was found in a North York swimming pool without vital signs early Sunday morning.

Police received a call around 6 a.m. about the woman who was found in a pool behind a private residence.

She was taken to hospital from the home on Ridgefield Rd. and pronounced dead there, police from 53 division confirm.

A non-criminal investigation is ongoing. Police say foul play is not suspected.

It is not known if the woman was known to the owners of the pool.



›  Canadian Armed Forces aims to fix its recruitment system to foster diversity


OTTAWA—Canada’s military is going all out to erase its reputation for intolerance and misogyny, aiming to recast itself instead as welcoming to Canadians of all races, religions and sexual orientations.

The effort — driven by several factors, including a need to bolster its dwindling numbers — includes a comprehensive effort to connect with and recruit women, new citizens and even members of the LGBT community.

The Trudeau government’s plan to invest an extra $62 billion in the military over the next 20 years includes hiring 3,500 more full-time personnel and 1,500 part-time reservists, numbers that would bring the ranks of the armed forces to their highest level since the end of the Cold War.

First, though, comes a significant and persistent challenge: getting more Canadians to join.

The forces have struggled for years to hit recruiting numbers, resulting in thousands of unfilled positions such as pilots and technicians.

That’s why fixing the recruiting system is a top priority, said Lt.-Gen. Charles Lamarre, the chief of military personnel, whose role is to oversee all aspects of human resources in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Central to that goal is making the military more inclusive, diverse and attractive to all Canadians, regardless of their backgrounds.

“Our population doesn’t look like all white guys,” Lamarre said.

“If you want to get the very best people — the very smartest, most capable, most committed and most ingenious — then you need to look broadly and not exclude groups that would be very useful to you.”

Read more:Canadian military seeks to improve its transgender policy

There is more to the push toward increased diversity and inclusiveness than simply recruiting, though that part of the equation is vitally important.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, recently announced a diversity strategy in which he noted that Canada was becoming more diverse — and the military needed to follow suit.

Doing so would be necessary to attract and retain people, Vance wrote, as well as to ensure the military continued to reflect the society it is sworn to protect, and to increase its effectiveness on missions abroad.

That’s why the forces appear to be turning a page: leaders are recognizing the real importance of diversity, said Alan Okros, an expert on diversity in the military at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto.

“This idea that people with different views, different experiences, different skill sets are going to make the military stronger has been kind of coalescing and coming together for about a year and a half,” Okros said.

“This isn’t a luxury, this isn’t social engineering, this isn’t political manoeuvring or political correctness. This is now an operational requirement.”

Vance has since taken the unprecedented step of ordering the military to increase the percentage of female personnel to 25 per cent in the next decade, up from 15 per cent. Recruiters are now launching targeted advertising campaigns and reaching out to women who previously expressed an interest in a military career but didn’t join.

Senior commanders, meanwhile, are reviewing everything from uniforms and ceremonies to food and religious accommodations to see whether they meet the requirements of a more diverse force.

Lamarre plans to speak Monday at a citizenship ceremony in Ottawa in hopes of explaining to new Canadians what he describes as “a tangible way in which they can serve their nation.”

And he hopes to sit down with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde and other Indigenous leaders to talk about ways to reach out and attract people from those communities.

Others within the military are getting in on the action, too, with the head of the navy, Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd, issuing a directive last week encouraging his sailors to attend Pride parades in uniform.

Vance is expected to issue a similar directive to the rest of the military in the coming days.

Not everyone agrees with what the military is doing, Lloyd acknowledged, including some of those who are already in uniform. But changing the face of the armed forces isn’t just some feel-good exercise, he said.

“In order to be successful in the future, we need to be able to recruit from the entire population.”

There are other challenges to overcome besides convincing some current personnel of the importance of diversity.

The military is still trying to overcome years of bad headlines about the treatment of women and members of the LGBT community by adopting a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct.

There has also been a historic lack of interest in the forces by many ethnic communities, particularly those that trace their origins to countries where the military has a bad reputation.

And then there are the problems identified by auditor general Michael Ferguson last year, namely that the recruiting system is struggling with red tape and the effects of Conservative budget cuts.

“We’re definitely still at the planning stage,” Lamarre acknowledged. “We’re in the process of actually saying: ‘What is it we must do?’ ”



›  Transmission of harm reduction info a point of contention in anticipated vaping bill


When it comes to the cloudy territory of vaping regulations, smoking experts and industry advocates agree that a federal bill can’t arrive to clear the air quickly enough.

Vaping products have been available in Canada for more than half a dozen years — comprising of a variety of devices, such as e-cigarettes, that produce vapour for the purpose of inhalation, come in many flavours and formats and may or may not contain nicotine.

Consensus exists in the scientific community that vaping products are less harmful than cigarettes, says Dr. Robert Schwartz, executive director of the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit.

He is quick to add, however, that vaping products are “not benign.”

“Even those who think they’re far less harmful than cigarettes will agree that they are sufficiently harmful such that if you are not a smoker of regular cigarettes you ought not to be using e-cigarettes,” Schwartz said.

Bill S-5, which passed first reading in the House of Commons on June 15, creates a wide-ranging regulatory framework for vape products including quality control provisions and banning the sale of the products to minors.

While advocates openly embrace the bill overall, one clause — which restricts promotion of vaping products that compares their health effects to those of tobacco products — continues to draw concern.

“We don’t believe that we’re in a position to make health claims because we’re not clinicians, we’re not doctors, we’re not scientists,” said Darryl Tempest, executive director of the Canadian Vaping Association. “But we do believe in the harm reduction properties of vaping.”

Industry advocates such as Tempest, and Mississauga-based Moshi Vapor company owner Beju Lakhani, believe that consumers benefit from being given this type of comparative information at the point of sale.

“When consumers reach out, one of the things we often do is try to point them in the right direction so that they can make their own decisions,” Lakhani said.

Tammy Jarbeau, spokesperson for Health Canada, said that eventual regulations under the bill, if it passes, may allow for a limited list of comparative phrases to be used.

There also may be room under the legislation for the dissemination of educational information about the relative risks of vaping and smoking, as long as it is not done for the purpose of promotion.

Schwartz says that the government should be wary of any kind of communication that would constitute marketing of vaping products because for-profit enterprises will always be motivated to attract a bigger customer base.

But he, too, is concerned about the difficulty of conveying to smokers — and only smokers — that there is an alternative option available to them. One way, he said, might be to require vendors or manufacturers of tobacco products to include information about vaping where their products are sold.

Both Tempest and Lakhani praised Bill S-5 overall, saying that regulation of the vaping industry will be necessary for its success as a replacement for tobacco.

“For the industry to survive and thrive and to truly be a viable alternative to smoking for smokers in Canada then the product has to be safe, it has to be regulated and manufacturers have to ensure that they’re abiding by common best practices,” Lakhani said.

If and when Bill S-5 receives Royal Assent, Health Canada will still need to develop specific vaping regulations.


 

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