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Toronto police chief must explain why he debunked fears of a serial killer in the Gay Village

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Mark Saunders needs to explain himself to this city.

He is not only Toronto’s police chief, top of the investigative and administrative chain. He’s also a crucial community leader.

We look to him for reassurance and forthrightness in times of trouble. Sometimes even pre-emptively, when the trouble is not widely known or suspected.

Except there were strong suspicions — at least in the Gay Village community — that a serial killer had for years been preying on homosexuals who had vanished from their usual haunts, from their homes, from their families.

And there were clearly some common denominators identified by detectives investigating what was then believed to be five missing men. That was evident in documents unsealed by the courts this week — heavily redacted applications to support search warrants indicating police had already zeroed in on Bruce McArthur as a suspect.

In the information to obtain, filed by Det.-Const. Joel Manherz in an October 2017 affidavit, he wrote: “Clearly there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that McArthur could have been involved in the disappearance of (Andrew) Kinsman and possibly four other men, too.”

Over subsequent months, police tailed McArthur, a self-employed landscaper, hither and yon. They watched him as he worked at various properties across the GTA. They tracked his meanderings to coffee shops and restaurants. They had eyes on his vehicle. They covertly entered and searched his apartment, accessing and cloning his computer digital files.

The missing men had specific commonalities: All middle-aged with facial hair; most of South Asian or Middle Eastern ethnicity; each self-identified as “bears” in the gay community, an insider term for a “larger, hairier man who projects an image of rugged masculinity,” according to the documents.

Every one of them — ultimately the missing extended to eight males — had frequented the Black Eagle Bar on Church St. and every one of the five had disappeared on a holiday: Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Labour Day, Pride Weekend.

The police chief would have known all of this when, on Dec. 8, 2017, during an hour-long news conference, he dispelled escalating rumours of a serial killer at work. “We follow evidence,” Saunders said in response to a direct question about the serial scenario. “The evidence is telling us that is not the case right now.”

That was the day after investigators had surreptitiously entered, for the second time in a week, McArthur’s apartment.

Parsing Saunder’s language, he told the literal truth. Investigators did not have actionable evidence to support the belief that anyone had been murdered. No bodies, no forensics. But they damn well had their suspicions. And they had a distinct suspect.

Police are not obliged to publicize their suspicions; indeed, they often bend over backwards to avoid doing so. There may be investigative reasons for that, although police departments long ago dropped the posture of withholding information for the purpose of protecting an ongoing investigation lest a suspect be tipped off.

Putting the public at risk is no longer tolerated. That was one of the lessons learned from the fiasco of the “balcony rapist” investigation in the mid-’80s when women who matched the description of the rapist’s preferred victim — he operated in a particular downtown area — had not been warned. They were essentially used as bait.

The woman known as Jane Doe — his last victim, raped at knifepoint in her apartment — subsequently and successfully sued Toronto police, although it took a full decade after she secured the legal right to sue the department for her case to be resolved. In a scathing indictment of the police force and its officers, Justice Jean McFarland slammed Toronto police for being “utterly negligent” in the way they handled the balcony rapist probe. McFarland condemned police for failing to warn women about a serial rapist who’d already been identified, ruling it was a violation of Jane Doe’s charter rights, fuelled by systemic sexist discrimination and a complete failure to understand how the crime of rape affects women.

Toronto police were ordered to pay Jane Doe $220,000 in damages and $2,000 a year for the next 15 years.

An investigator involved with Project Prism told the Star on Thursday that the two cases — the balcony rapist, the serial murderer of gay men — have little in common. With the rapist, there were victims who’d been interviewed and a suspect who’d been identified. With alleged serial killer McArthur — arrested on Jan. 18, 2018, ultimately charged with eight counts of first-degree murder — the 66-year-old was very much on the police radar but there were no victims to interview, no solid case to be made for murder and, allegedly, no links among the victims. No concrete evidence.

Yet, as more information surfaces, it becomes harder to take Saunders on his word — the words that came out of his mouth some 10 months ago. At the very least, the police chief was withholding; at the very worst, he gave false assurance to the gay community about a suspect serial offender still at large. McArthur was clearly a “person of interest” even if, as the police affidavit states, “no evidence currently exists to suggest culpability in the commission of the offense.”

Saunders was unavailable for comment on Thursday. But police spokesperson Meaghan Gray earlier told the Star that the documents detailed officers’ “theories” about what may have happened, with no evidence to support them in a way that would have justified Saunders going public with suspicions. This, despite Manherz having noted of the five missing men, in the December affidavit: “At this point, I believe they may all be related.”

It may be true that Saunders was being circumspect. However, the chief went significantly beyond that. He expressly debunked.

I cannot call the chief a liar. But I will say he deliberately misled because investigators were following the evidence and they did have reasonable cause to suspect a worst case scenario.

For that the chief owes the gay community, the entire city, an explanation. If not an apology.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno

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Anglais

Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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