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Hostile reaction to Amber Alert for missing girl is unreal

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As police hunted late last Thursday night and into the morning for an 11-year-old Mississauga girl gone missing and later found dead, many people expressed shock. They said the Amber Alert for missing children, first sent out on phones at 11:30 p.m. was scary, too loud, not useful, annoying, broke their phone, woke the kids, woke the dog, and would make them tired for work.

The child, Riya Rajkumar, was a happy girl with a huge grin. In the police-issued photo of her with her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, she is proudly wearing Minnie Mouse ears and a pink purse with the letter R. She was in Grade 5. She was four feet tall.

Peel Regional Police sent out an Amber Alert to cellphones on Thursday night as they searched for Riya Rajkumar, 11, who was believed to be in the company of Roopesh Rajkumar. Riya was later found dead.
Peel Regional Police sent out an Amber Alert to cellphones on Thursday night as they searched for Riya Rajkumar, 11, who was believed to be in the company of Roopesh Rajkumar. Riya was later found dead.  (INSTAGRAM)

Her mother had called the police, saying she had left the girl with her father for her birthday and was frantic about her safety after she didn’t return. The alert, normally sent out on mobile screens, TV, and radio, described her and the car she might be in, asking everyone to be on the lookout.

The alert named the father, found in Orillia and later charged with first-degree murder, and said the car was last seen eastbound on Highway 401. Peel Region police say a 911 tipoff led them to it and the Brampton house where Riya was found. They said they were distressed by the number of angry 911 complaints they received about the Amber Alert itself.

This is new to me, although perhaps not to police across Canada. 911 is reserved for emergencies. For complaints about noise, Torontonians are asked to call 311. The idea that people would clog 911 to harangue operators, possibly as the child herself was crying or even dying, seems unreal. Many tweets were foul, and not anonymous either.

Read more:

Man charged in daughter’s death in hospital with self-inflicted gunshot wound, say police

‘Riya is an angel’ — Mississauga community gathers to mourn slain 11-year-old Riya Rajkumar

Late-night Amber Alert about missing girl, found dead, prompts complaints to 911: Peel police

“How many houses were disrupted every two hours all night long for a BS Amber Alert?” is an unacceptable tweet, but it appears to have been deleted so it’s forgivable (as are almost all tweets). What’s less forgivable is that the question was prefaced by “I am very sorry that a little girl is dead but on the night the rest of the world has to work …”

One would have thought that the final alert announcing that Riya had been found dead would have silenced the complaints. It did not.

Canadians talk about the Ottawa bubble, but it’s real. Imagine people there complaining that the child was missing in Peel Region, “which is hours away” from Ottawa, to which no human being could possibly drive in the middle of the night.

This is a test — and the nation-wide Canadian emergency alert system will be tested again and again — and the challenge is understanding the thinking behind the complaints. Calling 911 is like signing your name.

Were they drunk? Tone-deaf? Racist? Caught in an era of rage?

It may turn out that the alert was not handled perfectly but it was sincere. Yes, the digital buzzing siren sound is alarming but it’s supposed to be. It will tell you about approaching terror like hurricanes, huge fires, floods or all three.

As weather grows more extreme, you may hear it again. The practical answer is to turn off your phone or lower the volume.

By the way, it was an excellent alert, its words fresh, concise and to the point. Such alerts are by definition a shared experience, something we Canadians don’t have often. They’re directed at everyone who might help by looking out the bedroom window in the dark, checking the licence plate of the car ahead, and studying the faces of strangers.

They’re a collective effort to find an individual. In 1985, little Nicole Morin, 8, left her family apartment to meet a friend for swimming. She was never seen again. Neither her killer nor her body were ever found.

If memory serves, police asked everyone in Toronto to check their surroundings, every car trunk, every inch of yards and garages, behind sealed doors, under objects and inside bins. Nicole was so small that she could have been hidden almost anywhere and no one would have noticed. That was 34 years ago and I still think of her.

Heather Mallick is a columnist based in Toronto covering current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @HeatherMallick



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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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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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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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