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Ontario welfare reforms to be unveiled Nov. 22

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Almost 1 million Ontarians struggling to survive on social assistance will have to wait another two weeks to learn how the Ford government plans to revamp the system.

Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod announced the 100-day review on July 31 when she scrapped the previous Liberal government’s basic income pilot project, “paused” 19 regulatory reforms, and halved a planned 3-per-cent rate increase to 1.5 per cent.

Claude Wittmann, 54, who receives Ontario Disability Support Program, said delays to changes to social assistance are adding to the “alienation” he already feels. “I am really scared and exhausted from waiting and from not being heard,” he said
Claude Wittmann, 54, who receives Ontario Disability Support Program, said delays to changes to social assistance are adding to the “alienation” he already feels. “I am really scared and exhausted from waiting and from not being heard,” he said  (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star)

But instead of unveiling the reforms Nov. 8, as promised, MacLeod issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying she looks forward to “sharing our plan” on Nov. 22.

Claude Wittmann, 54, who receives Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits and works part-time as a bicycle mechanic, said the delay is just adding to the “alienation” he already feels on the system.

“I am really scared and exhausted from waiting and from not being heard,” he said in an interview. “I am afraid of workfare and more surveillance.”

Liberal MPP Marie-France Lalonde (Orléans) said people on social assistance “need answers.”

“We consulted for over two years on comprehensive reforms to social assistance, which MacLeod has scrapped,” Lalonde said. “She made a promise to come forward within 100 days, saying all the while that the best social program is a job, and now has delayed that announcement.”

“Social assistance cannot be taken lightly, and we need to know the plan now.”

The delay comes in the wake of news conferences, open letters and other public appeals urging the government to treat people who rely on social assistance with fairness, respect and dignity.

But despite MacLeod’s assurance her government is not planning to return to “workfare” programs like those implemented by the former Progressive Conservative government under premier Mike Harris in the late 1990s, people like Wittmann are worried.

Dr. Jonathon Herriot, co-chair of Health Providers Against Poverty, which submitted an open letter signed by more than 800 health-care providers, said he sees the worry in his patients.

“Just last week, I had a patient who suffers from mental health challenges, insomnia and anxiety who told me she hasn’t been sleeping because she was waiting for Nov. 8,” said Herriot a family doctor in Toronto. “Now it is going to be another two weeks of uncertainty, likely uncontrolled anxiety and poor sleep.”

MacLeod has criticized the previous Liberal government for perpetuating a system that traps people in a cycle of financial insecurity noting half of those who leave Ontario Works return, often within a year.

“Ontarians deserve a system where those with disabilities are treated with dignity and where hard work and commitment by recipients is met by empowerment and trust from their government,” she said in the statement Wednesday. “The best social circumstances are when those who are able, actively participate in the workforce.”

Laurie Monsebraaten is a Toronto-based reporter covering social justice. Follow her on Twitter: @lmonseb



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114th Santa Claus Parade marked largest parade in city’s history

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Zyana Mangubat didn’t care that she was about to witness the largest parade — of any kind — in the city’s history.

The antler-wearing Stouffville tot was there for the star of the show.

The Fernandes family takes a selfie.
The Fernandes family takes a selfie.  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star)

“Santa!” Zyana, 7, erupted when asked what she was most looking forward to Sunday from Toronto’s annual Santa Claus Parade.

But before she’d see the rotund elf — and bid him bring her a Hatchimal egg — some 32 floats, 21 marching bands and thousands of clowns, knights, skunks, fish, princesses and upside-down monkeys would pass by her University Ave. perch.

And those combined floats and players would make the 114th edition of the Christmas season kick off larger than any of its predecessors, says Clay Charters, the parade’s executive director.

“And if the Santa Claus parade has always been the largest in the city and this is our largest Santa Claus parade, then I’m inclined to agree with (the largest parade ever claim),” Charters says.

“The previous high mark was 30 floats, so we’re two floats longer than there’s ever been before.”

The parade’s fanciful new entrants included a float sponsored by Sunwing.ca and Autentica Cuba featuring sunning elves on a Caribbean beach as well as a Canada Protection Plan entrant called Sledding Fun.

There were also 19 returning sponsors who’d done complete rebuilds of previous floats, Charters says.

Celebrity clowns smile during the parade.
Celebrity clowns smile during the parade.  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

Charters says his not-for-profit organization relied on more than 3,000 staff and volunteers to build, march in, and marshal this year’s parade.

Kalayce Brown — a parade sticker on her 6-year-old face — also enjoyed Santa and was asking him for an L. O. L Surprise Doll.

Dinosaur-mad James Chong, 7, hoped to see a Jurassic World movie float, but would have to make do with a Toronto Raptors raptor dribbling a basketball across a Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment entrant.

Charters is not surprised that the parade is still growing and beckoning hundreds of thousands of kids and their parents to Toronto’s downtown sidewalks in this video-game age.

“I think that even if kids are attracted to video games and their screens, inevitably everyone wants to be able to share experiences with people they love,” he says.

“And that’s what the Santa Claus Parade offers is a chance to get outside, to share something with your friends and family and to build traditions with them.”

The three-hour parade travelled from Christie Pits, wending along Bloor St., University Ave, and Wellington, Yonge and Front Sts. before breaking up at the St. Lawrence Market.

The North Toronto Marching band. The 114th Santa Claus Parade starts at Christie Pits and ends at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.
The North Toronto Marching band. The 114th Santa Claus Parade starts at Christie Pits and ends at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star)



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Puppies saved from Korean meat trade up for adoption in Calgary

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Two puppies rescued from a meat farm in South Korea are looking for forever homes in Calgary.

The dogs were born and raised for meat but with the help of an Alberta animal rescue group, the two canines are getting a second chance at life.

After a 16-hour flight, puppies Alison and Liz arrived in Calgary over the weekend met by members of Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue (RMAR).


READ MORE:
110 pooches rescued from dog meat festival arrive in Canada

In partnership with Go Rescue Korea, RMAR was able to carry out the rescue — the first of its kind for the Canadian group.

Both dogs were found on an illegal dog meat farm in South Korea where the conditions were described as horrific by RMAR volunteer Krishneel Prasad.

“[The dogs] were living under a bridge in cages with 10 to 15 dogs and drinking out of muddy rainwater,” said Prasad. “They were just waiting for their time to be slaughtered.”

Alison arrived in Calgary over the weekend after being saved from a South Korean dog meat farm.

Global News

Because of the abuse Alison and Liz endured, they have been reluctant to leave their kennel since landing in Calgary. Amanda Lo, operations manager of RMAR, is optimistic the dogs’ demeanors will change.

“When they came [to Calgary], they were extremely fearful, which is understandable for their history,” Lo said. “But I think they’ll do really great.”

Officials estimate there are still more than 17,000 dog meat farms in South Korea.

Despite a decline in demand over the past decade, millions of dogs are slaughtered every year for their meat, RAMR said.


READ MORE:
Terrified dogs rescued from Korean dog meat farm recovering in Montreal shelter

Both Alison and Liz are Jindo Cross, a breed described by the American Kennel Club as being “alert, bold and intelligent.” Prasad said these pups just need a second chance.

“They’re our best friends and they don’t know what it’s like [to be pets],” said Prasad. “They just need to have that opportunity.”

Liz arrived in Calgary over the weekend after being saved from a South Korean dog meat farm.

Global News

The next step is to find homes for Alison and Liz in Alberta or British Columbia. Lo said the families who adopt the dogs will need to be patient as the animals transition from being livestock to family pets.

“I need to wonder what their personalities will be like and what sort of family I should be matching them up with,” said Lo.

RMAR said it will continue to try to save more dogs from meat farms across the world in order to give them the same opportunities as Alison and Liz.

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



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‘Just something you do’: Bystanders save man from burning vehicle

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Four bystanders used a muffler to break the windows of a burning vehicle to save the driver inside on Saturday morning in Upper Rawdon, N.S.

Ronnie Densmore was working behind his home at around 11:20 a.m. when he heard a vehicle’s tires spinning out of control on Highway 14.

He looked over, saw a vehicle off the road that was on fire. He hopped on his all-terrain vehicle and headed over.

Densmore joined three other people there to carry out the rescue. He grabbed the muffler that had broken off the vehicle and used it to break some windows.

« It’s just something you do, » Densmore said Sunday. « You can’t see whether there’s someone in there or not. I thought I saw a glimmer of something moving, so I thought, ‘We got to get that smoke out to see if there’s someone in there.’ It turns out there was. »

The other three bystanders then pulled the 30-year-old man from the vehicle.

The driver of the vehicle was airlifted to hospital in Halifax. (Submitted by Beth Densmore)

Densmore said first responders arrived in what seemed like no time and he was back home by about 11:50 a.m.

RCMP said the driver was airlifted to hospital in Halifax with serious injuries.

One of the bystanders who helped with the rescue was Richard Dorey-Robinson, of nearby Rawdon Gold Mines. He’s a volunteer firefighter and got a page about the fire.

Rather than head to the fire station, he went straight to the scene, which was about two kilometres away. His brother, James, was also involved in the rescue.

It’s not clear who the fourth person is who helped with the rescue.

‘The right place at the right time’

This wasn’t Densmore’s first time rescuing someone from a burning vehicle. He was a volunteer firefighter for 31 years, but only stopped when he retired and moved from Noel to Upper Rawdon.

He said the experience brought back the feeling of adrenaline he encountered on so many other rescues.

« It feels good you were able to help somebody, being in the right place at the right time, » he said.



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