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‘He was crying, sweating’: A boxer’s daughter stares down his killer

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Jessica Melo didn’t wear any makeup and wore her hair pulled back tightly from her face.

She wanted Charles Gagne, the underworld hitman who murdered her father, to see the family resemblance — the rounded cheeks, buttonish nose, and sharp, often sad, eyes.

“I never stared at somebody so long and so hard as I did that day,” she said, recalling she made a point to not look away that August day in Muskoka, at Beaver Creek minimum-security prison.

Gagne, 45, murdered Eddie “Hurricane” Melo, a middleweight boxing champ and feared underworld figure, on April 6, 2001.

Jessica was 19.

Gagne was on a day pass for an armed robbery conviction when he killed Eddie and Pavao. He drove down to the GTA from a halfway house near Ottawa, shot them dead outside the café, then drove back in time for curfew.

The Crown first charged him with two counts of first-degree murder, but he cut a deal and pleaded guilty to second.

The first-degree charge would have given him a life sentence.

Instead, he was eligible for parole after 12 years.

Melo said she needed to talk to Gagne to help her understand how that was possible.

No one was ever convicted for ordering the hit on her father, who was linked by police to the late Santos (Frank) Cotroni, a Montreal mob boss.

Melo said she also needed Gagne to explain his plea deal. She said she has unsuccessfully tried for answers from the retired prosecutor who tried his case, court records officers and several others she thought might help her.

She said she has even recently written Premier Doug Ford in an effort to get answers about why the killing of her father wasn’t considered first-degree, premeditated murder.

She noted that Gagne had a long criminal record before he was hired to kill her dad, with 11 criminal convictions between 1991 and 2003, including multiple armed robberies.

“Charles should have been designated as a dangerous offender,” she said, noting that may have kept him off the streets for life.

Her curiosity about Gagne’s plea deal meant she sat for six hours at minimum security Beaver Creek prison in Muskoka with the man whom she says has put her family through hell since 2001.

Melo is 36 and a mother of two now. Her two-year-old and five-year-old children never met their grandfather, and yet the murder still haunts them all.

“There are nights that my babies cry for a man that they never met,” she said. “My aunts and uncles have never been the same since their big brother’s murder.”

“My grandmother can never feel the warmth of her first born, or smell his cologne, or watch him smile as he speaks with her, or hear his voice as he calls for her when opening her door for a visit.”

She said it disgusted her to ask her father’s killer for answers, but she wasn’t going to back down either.

She said she wanted the hitman to see up close that Eddie Melo’s daughter has grown up unafraid of him; that she’s angry, disgusted and deeply sad.

But not afraid.

It was just how her father must have felt before a big fight, she said.

Gagne had repeatedly asked her for a meeting over the past decade, she said.

Before she agreed to sit down with him, Melo said she had several conversations with his wife, Melissa, whom he married behind bars after his murder convictions.

She said Melissa said something she found particularly bizarre: “His crime doesn’t define him.”

Melo said she can’t get those words out of her mind.

“I don’t know Charles other than from the horrific crime he committed,” she said.

They sat down together in an office room at Beaver Creek, with only a prison official present. She said his back was towards the window and he looked down a lot.

“He was crying, sweating,” Melo recalled in a series of phone conversations after the meeting. “Couldn’t get his words straight at first.”

Gagne quickly made it clear that he craves forgiveness, she said, adding she wasn’t ready to offer him that.

Instead, she said she gave him blunt advice: “Do your time like a man.”

Between tears, Gagne said he wanted to be a better man. Melo told him he has no right to call himself a man. Her father was a man.

Their meeting lasted six hours. Gagne said he was sorry, over and over, she said.

Between tears, Gagne said he has often thought of killing himself, but changed his mind because he thinks he still has something to offer the world.

Gagne told her that he once was ready to end his own life when a squirrel ran by his cell window, stopped, and began vigorously scratching itself. Somehow, Gagne took this as a message to go on living.

“So he talks to squirrels,” Melo said later, sounding amused.

He cried more when she pulled out her family scrapbooks. They included a photo of her dad at age 18 when he beat Fernand Marcotte to win the Canadian pro middleweight boxing title in Montreal.

There were also plenty of family photos, several of them taken at her birthdays — one of her giving her dad a cake on Father’s Day. “Happy Knock-out FATHER’S DAY,” the icing read.

“He (Gagne) was crying when I went through the photo album of my dad,” she said.

In particular, she remembers the photo of her and her dad at Mont Tremblant outside Montreal when she was 14 and they went on a skiing adventure.

“He was terrible at it,” she recalled, laughing at the memory. “Wiped everyone out …. He felt bad because he did knock a few people down.”

When their meeting finally ended, Melo said Gagne made promises to help her in her quest for information on the plea deal.

So far, she hasn’t received anything, she said.

Meanwhile, she shudders at the thought that Gagne has already been out in the community on day passes, performing community service near his prison. She hasn’t heard yet if he was successful in an application he filed this October for a family visit to see his teenaged daughter in Mississauga, who was born shortly after his arrest in 2003.

Melo said she is generally proud of how she handled the meeting with Gagne, even though she didn’t get the information she sought.

She cried a little too. Even so, she loves the thought that her dad would have been proud of her.

“I wasn’t bawling like (Gagne) was,” she said.

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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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