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Former judge unveils panel tapped to review Toronto police missing-persons probes in wake of McArthur case

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The retired Ontario judge leading an independent examination of Toronto police missing persons investigations has announced an advisory panel to help conduct the wide-ranging review that was struck in the wake of deaths linked to alleged killer Bruce McArthur.

The tasks of the eight-member team — which includes experts in LGBTQ issues, law, policing and more — include outreach, particularly to members of vulnerable and marginalized groups, and generating community feedback on recommendations that will arise from the review.

“They will also assist me in ensuring that everyone who wants to be heard is indeed heard,” said retired Ontario Court of Appeal justice Gloria Epstein in a statement Tuesday.

Epstein was last year tapped by the Toronto police board to perform an external review of how Toronto police conduct missing persons probes — an independent examination struck amidst mounting criticism over police handling of the disappearances of men now alleged to be victims of McArthur.

The 67-year-old landscaper is charged in the deaths of eight men between 2010 to 2017, most of whom had ties to the city’s Gay Village and were from South Asian or Middle Eastern communities.

Three of McArthur’s alleged victims were previously the subjects of a missing person’s probe dubbed Project Houston, an investigation that examined the disappearances of Skandaraj (Skanda) Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, and Majeed Kayhan, who went missing from 2010-2012.

But the probe ended after 18 months, when police could find “no evidence to suggest criminal activity.” It is alleged that McArthur went on to kill five more men after Project Houston wound down.

The review will not examine the police probe into McArthur, in order to not compromise the ongoing criminal trial set for January 2020. But it is looking into how Toronto police investigated the men’s disappearances before McArthur came onto police radar, as well as other disappearances where community concerns have arisen.

Specifically, it will review whether the missing persons investigations could have been impacted by systemic bias or discrimination and whether the policies and procedures currently in place within Toronto police provide sufficient protection for members of the LGBTQ community or marginalized groups.

The advisory committee includes: Ron Rosenes, a health researcher and consultant working in the HIV and the LGTBQ community; Haran Vijayanathan, the executive director of the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP); Christa Big Canoe, an Indigenous lawyer with Aboriginal Legal Services; Monica Forrester, program co-ordinator at Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project and a transgender woman of colour; Brian Lennox, former Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice; Michele Lent, a former New York police officer, member of the Gay Officers Action League who has trained of officers on investigative techniques; Andrew Pinto, a lawyer specializing in workplace human rights; and Angela Robertson, the executive director of Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre.

Epstein told the Toronto police board last year that she would launch a “broad consultative process” to include public and private meetings. She and her team have also begun collecting and analyzing documents, according to an update posted on the review’s website.

“In my opinion, the work of the review is of critical importance to our diverse communities within Toronto and specifically to how missing persons investigations are done, and should be done, particularly as affecting marginalized or vulnerable communities,” Epstein told the Toronto police board this summer.

McArthur is due back in court next week.

Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at wgillis@thestar.ca or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis



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Anglais

A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Anglais

Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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Anglais

9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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