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Family honours Selim Esen at memorial service




Inside St. Stephen’s-in-the-Fields church, Ferhat Cinar rose from his front-row seat and accepted a gift. It was the handiwork of his youngest brother, Selim Esen — a painting he would never complete.

Esen’s plan for the piece is sketched out in faint pencil strokes of abstract shapes, each fitting inside the other like a puzzle. He had begun carefully filling each one with vibrant red, green and yellow — a kaleidoscope of colour meant to fill the canvas.

Ferhat Cinar, brother of Selim Esen, allegedly murdered by Bruce McArthur, stands outside St. Stephen’s-in-the-Fields church on Friday. Ferhat and brother Omer were on hand at a memorial in their slain brother’s honour.
Ferhat Cinar, brother of Selim Esen, allegedly murdered by Bruce McArthur, stands outside St. Stephen’s-in-the-Fields church on Friday. Ferhat and brother Omer were on hand at a memorial in their slain brother’s honour.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

Esen started the painting in the peer support program at St. Stephen’s, a group for adults recovering from trauma and substance abuse. There, Esen was known for his intensity — a curious, exacting mind. Early on, when asked to bring in a single meaningful quote for group discussion, he’d arrived with two handwritten pages of his own thoughts. His usual meticulous approach can be seen in the painting, said program leader Richard Kikot — “he had big ideas, very intricate plans, because he was a masterful thinker.”

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Cinar held the painting, then turned to face the small group gathered at his brother’s intimate memorial Friday evening.

“This is so meaningful,” he told them.

For nine months, Cinar and his family have been waiting to mark Esen’s death. In January, Cinar and his brother, Omer Esen, were informed that their brother was among the alleged victims of accused serial killer Bruce McArthur. Police believe Esen, 44, was killed in April 2017, the seventh of McArthur’s alleged eight victims.

Their brother’s remains finally released to them this week, Cinar and Omer Esen travelled from their homes in London, England, for the funeral.

The service was both a ceremony and a fact-finding mission. Since they’ve arrived, the brothers have been determined to colour in the last parts of Esen’s life, a final period he’d spent away from his family and native Turkey.

“Any small thought, any small story,” Cinar told the group gathered in the church, “please come and share, because we want to hear.”

One of seven siblings, Esen was the youngest of six brothers, closest with his sister, the baby. Growing up, he’d had interminable energy. It fuelled him through an undergraduate, then a Master’s, degree in sociology at Ankara’s Haceteppe University, all while working to help support his family.

Selim Esen, alleged to be among the victims of accused serial killer Bruce McArthur, was honoured at a memorial on Friday.
Selim Esen, alleged to be among the victims of accused serial killer Bruce McArthur, was honoured at a memorial on Friday.  (Family photo)

His early adult life saw the bond of family and the pull of adventure. Handsome, with a strong jaw and dark eyes, he looks out from photos played in the memorial slide show. He cuddles his young nieces and nephews, he stands in the sun in the Australian countryside, where he moved with a former boyfriend.

His move to Canada had been in pursuit of love, too, but the relationship didn’t last. He’d struggled with substance abuse. Those he met at St. Stephen’s saw Esen’s recent graduation from the peer program as a sign he was dedicated to recovery.

A similar path meant Kikot and Esen spoke freely about life outside the margins. Kikot grew to look forward to Esen’s contributions to group discussions, which he shared through a “philosophical lens — he loved to unpack things.”

“He was soft, in a dignified, strong way,” Kikot said.

A book of condolences for the family told a similar story, filled by the end of the night with messages. Virtually every one used the same descriptor: gentle.

Gab Laurence, a manager at St. Stephen’s, was struck by Esen’s authenticity — that he was himself, no matter who he was with.

Selim Esen's brother, Ferhat Cinar, holds a painting his brother began but never finished, at a memorial held for Esen on Friday. Esen is alleged to be the 7th victim of accused serial killer Bruce McArthur.
Selim Esen’s brother, Ferhat Cinar, holds a painting his brother began but never finished, at a memorial held for Esen on Friday. Esen is alleged to be the 7th victim of accused serial killer Bruce McArthur.  (Wendy Gillis/Toronto Star)

“It’s very hard to be yourself in this world,” she said during the service.

After the memorial, as attendees cried and reminisced, Cinar and Omer mingled, speaking to each person and taking a group photo. Esen’s remaining siblings back in Turkey had made impassioned requests for pictures, unable to afford to attend.

The funeral will bring only partial closure. Cinar says that won’t fully come until he, and everyone else, understands the scope of the tragedy that claimed his brother.

He will watch McArthur’s trial, and the ongoing independent review of Toronto police handling of missing persons cases, commissioned amid outrage over past police probes of the disappearances of men now alleged to be McArthur’s victims. Saying he feels police should have done more to find the missing men earlier, Cinar says there must also be a public inquiry to expose what happened.

“The public can’t feel in the dark,” he said.

This weekend, Cinar and Omer will collect their brother’s ashes and scatter them, something they see as honouring Esen’s lifelong quest for freedom.

They will bring Esen’s painting back home, but Cinar doesn’t know what he’ll do with it. He is considering painting the rest himself, but may leave it as it is.

“It’s an unfinished story,” he said. “Just like him.”

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


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




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




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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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




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.


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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