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Death of Clark Sissons highlights vulnerability of older men on the streets

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Clark Sissons was known as a quiet and tidy man who kept to himself and loved poetry and literature.

A four-year resident of a transitional housing program run out of the former New Edwin Hotel, he was also described as thoughtful and a hard-worker, who treated people with respect and had been employed as a teacher.

Last week, Sissons, 67, was counted as the 84th homicide in Toronto in 2018. He was found behind a community centre in the east end in the morning hours of Oct. 5. Allan Alexander MacDonald, 57, was arrested on Tuesday. He has been charged with second-degree murder.

A spokesperson for Haven Toronto said Sissons and MacDonald were both clients of the daytime drop-in on Jarvis St. that provides meals and social supports to older men. The Star has not confirmed if or how well the men knew each other.

What made Sissons uniquely vulnerable, or at increased risk of violence, was the combined factors of his age and struggles with alcohol and experiences with homelessness, or being precariously housed. While the bulk of people who use emergency shelters are men, between the ages of 25 and 49, the number of people at age 65 and above who use shelters is rising, according to 2016 research published through the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.

The place where Sissons lived and was working to rebuild his life is the site of the First Step to Home transitional housing program, run by WoodGreen Community Services, at 650 Queen St. E. The former hotel holds 28 self-contained bachelor units with full kitchens and the program serves men ages 55 and older.

“So many of these folks are so vulnerable, particularly when they are out on the street and programs like ours really give them a place to call home — even if it is on a transitional basis,” said program manager Thomas Krause, who knew Sissons for about a year and a half.

Their clients have all been street involved and have struggled with addiction or mental health issues, said Krause, who explained that as part of the transitional housing program the men can also see in-house social workers. There are also regular visits from a registered nurse.

Krause said Sissons was very pleasant and polite and had told him that he had worked as an English teacher. During most days he was away from the property, often finding work as a day labourer, he said.

“For the most part, throughout the program, he kept to himself,” Krause said. “He was really fond of reading books and poetry and different literature.”

Online records from the Ontario College of Teachers show that a Clark Franklin Sissons completed the professional education program offered through the Faculty of Education at the University of Toronto in 1982.

Krause said during the time he knew him, Sissons struggled with alcohol use, but was working towards getting his life back together. He said his death has shocked fellow residents.

“There were ups and downs for sure, but overall he was doing quite well,” said Krause, who would not say if MacDonald had used the program.

They will be holding a private memorial, something they do each time anybody who is part of the program dies, to give people a chance to share memories and debrief. The date has not been set.

Haven Toronto, the drop-in where Sissons and MacDonald may have crossed paths, provides services for older men, up to their late 80s. The drop-in runs from 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., 365 days a year and they serve 250 to 400 men every day.

Executive director Lauro Monteiro said Sissons became a client at Haven in June. MacDonald started using services in 2010.

Monteiro said extreme violence is an all too common reality for the people they serve. There have been at least four men lost to homicide since he joined the agency in 2010 and assaults are extremely common, he said.

“Older men particularly are extremely vulnerable and are usually victims of assault and a number of other crimes. They are frail, they are older and they are quite frankly targets for younger people looking to victimize the community,” Monteiro said.

Monteiro said men who experience chronic homelessness can be as many as 15 years older than their chronological age because of the compounded stresses caused by addiction, mental health issues, illness, violence, exposure and neglect.

Haven staff will be speaking with clients and checking if they need help finding additional support services, he said. The men are part of a tight community and this news, he said, will hurt and likely cause anger.

“The last time this happened a lot of the guys were really upset. It forces them to confront their own mortality. They really do look out for each other.”

The last time Monteiro was referring to was 2016, when a fight between several men near the St. Lawrence market resulted in the death of 50-year-old Paul Crombie, who was described as having no fixed address.

Levon Jolen Gammon, also of no fixed address, was charged with manslaughter.

Monteiro said older men who come to experience homelessness later in life usually do so because of trauma or financial losses. Once inside the system they often also stay longer than younger men, he said.

“Increasingly what we are seeing is economic reasons for people being homeless. Often people don’t come to us with mental health issues, but it grinds on them,” and struggles with mental health are often the result, he said.

“It really weighs on these guys and that is unique to this population.”

Emily Mathieu is a Toronto-based reporter covering affordable and precarious housing. Follow her on Twitter: @emathieustar



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EXCLUSIVE: China, Meng Wanzhou and Canada — how Huawei CFO’s arrest is playing out behind the scenes

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Ever since Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou landed at Vancouver’s YVR airport at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 1 to catch a connecting flight to Mexico, Canada has been placed in the middle of a battle between the world’s two greatest powers.

Meng, 46, is at the centre of allegations that Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications giant linked to China’s People’s Liberation Army, has used a Hong Kong shell company known as Skycom to do business with Iran, defying U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Huawei denies the allegations.

The United States alleges Meng has been avoiding travel to the country ever since she learned of investigations into her business dealings. But when Meng landed in Vancouver and tried to pass Canadian customs on Dec. 1, she was flagged for detention and arrested by the RCMP, as the U.S. had filed proceedings for an extradition request with Canada.

Now, a high-stakes game of politics, espionage and covert surveillance operations is playing out in Vancouver, where Meng, one of China’s most powerful executives, was released on bail after a three-day hearing that was followed by media outlets worldwide.

READ MORE: Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou granted bail, will live in Vancouver under electronic surveillance

Sources in law enforcement and government provided accounts of the unfolding events in British Columbia, a case that experts say has triggered a serious international crisis for Canada.

Already, China has apparently retaliated for Meng’s arrest by detaining two Canadians on national security charges, former Canadian ambassadors to China and CSIS employees say. And China has promised further revenge.

However, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland told reporters Friday that China has drawn no connection between the arrests and the extradition of Meng.

WATCH: Who is Michael Spavor, the second Canadian to go missing in China?






Sources in this story could not be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information they provided.

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, while media outlets from around the world prepared to attend a Vancouver court hearing that would decide where Meng should stay during the pending extradition hearing — in one of her two luxurious homes in Vancouver or in jail — some elite RCMP officers already believed they had the answer.

A source told Global News the officers were saying Meng would be released later that day. They were right: Tuesday afternoon, Justice William Ehrcke released Meng on a $10-million security. Later that night, as media cameras crowded around, Meng was escorted in a protective embrace to a black Cadillac Escalade SUV by Scot Filer, a respected former RCMP geographic profiler with business experience in China, and the CEO of Lions Gate Risk Management, the private firm handling Meng’s security while she’s out on bail.

A vehicle is seen outside of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s home in Vancouver on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A source said that while some of Canada’s business leaders have suggested the country was wrong to arrest Meng because of the political and economic consequences as well as the damage China has promised to inflict, it was never an option to let her continue on her travels to Mexico, where she reportedly planned to conduct business for Huawei.


READ MORE:
‘China will take revenge’ if Canada doesn’t free Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou: Global Times editor

Extradition requests from the United States are a standard, daily occurrence to be handled by Department of Justice Canada officials, a law enforcement source familiar with the Meng case and the general process said. As long as the evidence and allegations filed by an extradition treaty partner are in order, a suspect will be detained and enter the hearing process, and there will never be political interference, the source said.


Meng has two Vancouver homes worth $22 million in total. Now that she is living in one of the homes, RCMP officers are conducting covert surveillance operations in the area at night, a source said. This is to make sure that Meng doesn’t attempt to flee Canada and to monitor whether Chinese state agents attempt to contact her, according to a source.

At this time, since Meng has few friends in Vancouver; it is only neighbours attending her home, a source said.

Agents of China’s powerful Ministry of State Security, which protects China’s national interests and conducts intelligence operations in foreign lands, are also believed to be covertly monitoring Meng, a source said. And while crowds of Meng’s supporters protested for her release this week outside a downtown Vancouver court, MSS agents were also believed to be monitoring the events.

“Absolutely, the MSS are here (watching Meng) in Vancouver,” one source said.

Supporters hold signs and a Chinese flag outside B.C. Supreme Court during the third day of a bail hearing for Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The RCMP did not directly answer questions for this story nor deny information provided to Global News.

In a statement, the RCMP said: “Under the terms of a consular agreement between Canada and the People’s Republic of China, the RCMP contacted Chinese consulates in Vancouver and Ottawa within hours of the arrest.”


READ MORE:
Trudeau’s justice minister will make final call on Meng Wanzhou extradition — if court approves it

Stephanie Carvin, a Carleton University professor and former strategic analyst for CSIS who was not involved in tactical operations, said China has “robust” global spy networks, and it would make sense for MSS agents in British Columbia to be conducting operations to protect China’s national interests.

“Huawei is not a normal company in any sense,” Carvin said. “It is wrapped up in Chinese nationality and represents (Chinese President) Xi Jinping’s interests as a national champion company. It doesn’t surprise me the Chinese state is taking a huge interest (in Meng’s case in British Columbia) and retaliating with these two kidnappings of Canadians in China.”

Carvin said that while the RCMP is not usually the lead agency in Canada’s counter-intelligence operations, it would make sense that the RCMP “wants to keep track of who is coming and going from Meng’s residence.”

WATCH: Supporters of Huawei and Meng Wanzhou protest for her release outside a Vancouver court house.






Meanwhile, according to B.C. political sources, there was high-level interest within the provincial government about Meng’s detention conditions.

State media in China have charged that Meng’s arrest was an affront to her dignity and human rights. In an editorial titled “Canada’s treatment of Meng Wanzhou in violation of human rights,” the Global Times claimed that Meng was “immediately handcuffed at the airport and taken to a detention facility…subjected to rude and degrading treatment…put into restraining devices used on felons.”

A source claimed that while Meng’s initial detention and bail proceedings played out, B.C. Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff Geoff Meggs allegedly took an interest in where and how Meng was detained. The source said Meggs reportedly had a call made to the office of B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth “expressing concern that they could not hold Meng in a Canada Border Services facility…(and saying Farnworth) needs to make sure she is extended courtesies.”

Meng was detained before her release at B.C.’s Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge. The CBSA did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the case.

The reported contact from the premier’s office to Farnworth was seen as “odd,” according to a source with knowledge of the case.

WATCH : Ralph Goodale says rumoured ban on Huawei is ‘speculation’






Meggs was not available for an interview. However, in response to requests for comment from Global News, a spokeswoman from the premier’s office said it was “our communications director (that) made an informational request about what had been reported in media about Ms. Meng.”

In an emailed response, a spokeswoman for Farnworth said: “The premier’s communications director contacted the solicitor general’s office to simply gain clarity on what was being reported on this investigation. This is standard procedure. This was a request for information only — there was no request for any change in circumstances.”

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of China’s detention of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, a source with knowledge of Canadian relations with China said that Canada should expect China to carry out threats of revenge. It has been reported that China’s MSS is handling the cases of both Kovrig and Spavor.

“The Chinese don’t just say threats,” a source said. “This would be all planned out from Beijing beforehand. If they say they will do something, they are going to do it.”

Canada is currently considering whether to take further action, such as issuing travel advisories for China, a source said. A B.C. trade mission to China has already been cancelled, and on Friday, federal Tourism Minister Melanie Joly reversed her position from Thursday, deciding to postpone a trip to China.

The situation is so volatile, a source said, that the RCMP is also considering cancelling an international police training mission to China’s mainland that is scheduled for early 2019.

sam.cooper@globalnews.ca

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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GM working to retrain employees affected by Oshawa plant closure

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General Motors of Canada is working with other employers to identify jobs and targeted training programs for GM employees affected by plans to close the Oshawa Assembly plant next year, the truck and auto maker said Friday.

It says several employers have identified about 2,000 jobs that will become open in Durham region in 2019 and 2020 — many of them related to the refurbishment of the Darlington nuclear power plant southeast of Oshawa.

General Motors has also identified 300 openings for auto technicians at GM dealerships in Ontario and 100 jobs that will be open at other GM facilities in Ontario.

In addition, GM estimates about half of the 3,000 unionized and salaried employees are eligible to retire under the company’s defined benefit pension plan — leaving about 1,500 who will want to transition to new occupations.

GM Canada vice-president David Paterson said the company is committed to spend « millions » to ensure its employees get the retraining they require, but the exact amount will depend on what other employers provide.

« What we want to do is to assure employees that their training will be taken care of. We’ll make sure that there’s enough money to do that, » he said in an interview.

OPG wants to hire Oshawa workers, GM says

GM Canada says Durham College will also establish a confidential internet portal in the new year to help auto workers identify job openings and begin plans to take retraining courses offered by a consortium of colleges.

The city of Oshawa and surrounding areas east of Toronto were shocked last month when the highly rated Oshawa Assembly plant was included as one of five North American GM plants identified to close next year.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias has said the union would fight against the Oshawa closure.

« They are not closing our damn plant without one hell of a fight, » Dias said Nov. 26.

Paterson said GM recognizes that the union has voiced « some strong opinions » but thinks it would be good for employees if they have time to plan for their future.

« We have an obligation and duty to work with our union to determine — in addition to our pensions and the income supplements our employees will get — what things we can provide, » Paterson said.

He said two of the prospective employers that came to GM after the closure announcement are Ontario Power Generation and Aecon, a construction company, working on the nuclear plant’s refurbishment.

« They have huge needs in terms of millwrights, boiler makers, electricians and a number of areas where our employees are especially suited to that type of work and have great experience, » Paterson said.



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Justin Trudeau links China’s detention of two Canadians to U.S. extradition request for Huawei executive

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OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau admits he is worried about the “unintended consequences” of an escalating trade fight between China and the United States, but will give no ground to demands he get involved in an extradition case.

With two Canadians now detained in China after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the behest of the U.S., Trudeau says he will “stand up for” the rule of law and the independence of Canada’s judiciary, which is now handling the American extradition request.

And the prime minister took a more direct shot at both China and the U.S. President Donald Trump, who has suggested Meng’s case could be used as a bargaining chip in his larger security and trade dispute with China.

“Other countries can politicize their judicial system or make arbitrary actions,” Trudeau told Citytv in Toronto. “We are going to demonstrate that the best way not just to protect our citizens but to support the jobs the future the stability that Canadians expect is by standing up for our values in a clear unequivocal way that protects our interests.”

While China has not publicly drawn a direct link between Meng’s arrest and the detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, Trudeau did appear to tie the cases together when asked about strained relations.

Justin Trudeau links China’s detention of 2 Canadians to U.S. extradition request for Huawei executive

On Friday, five days after he was detained, China had finally granted consular access to Kovrig, a former diplomat on leave to work with a Hong Kong-based non-governmental organization.

John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met with Kovrig in Beijing, Global Affairs Canada said in a news release.

“Canadian consular officials continue to provide consular services to him and his family and will continue to seek further access to Mr. Kovrig. Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed.”

The government is still pressing for consular access to Michael Spavor, the China-based entrepreneur who was arrested on Dec. 10.

The purpose of consular access is to determine a Canadian citizen’s well-being, clarify the reasons for detention with the Chinese, see if he requires medical attention and be able to act as a communications link for the family.

Both men were arrested after China threatened “grave consequences” if Canada didn’t release Meng, but a day before Meng was allowed to leave prison to await her extradition hearing in Vancouver, on strict bail conditions issued by a judge.

Her arrest has infuriated the Chinese government.

And for all Trudeau’s insistence that he will continue to engage with China, it is no longer business as usual.

Canada and China on Friday agreed to cancel or postpone a trip Tourism Minister Melanie Joly was to take to China next week, one day after she said that she still planned to travel there to further Canada-China tourism.

Canada Goose, the luxury outdoor wear brand, has delayed an opening of its new store in Beijing, citing construction reasons, even as its stock took a hit.

And the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a veiled threat against Ottawa, warning it against pursuing a foreign investment protection agreement with Taiwan, which China considers part of the People’s Republic of China, not an independent state.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Chang said Friday in Beijing when it comes to China’s position on “the Taiwan issue, I believe that all the countries in the world are very clear about that.

“If … the Canadian side did try to play the ‘Taiwan card,’ then it has miscalculated the situation so much that it will only end up hurting itself.”

Trudeau, who appeared on Citytv’s Breakfast Television show, was asked if he was worried about Canada’s relations with China and with the U.S.

“This is one of the situations you get in when the two largest economies in the world, China and the United States, start picking a fight with each other. The escalating trade war between them is going to have all sorts of unintended consequences on Canada, and potentially on the entire global economy. So we’re very worried about that,” he said.

“We are doing what Canada will always do, standing up for the rules, obeying our laws, standing up for Canadian principles, standing up for Canadian values and you know not, not reacting the way some other countries are reacting.”

Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc



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