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Pride Toronto embarks on cross-country federally funded examination of policing problems

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Pride Toronto is embarking on a federally funded, cross-country examination of the often tumultuous relationship between police and “marginalized” members of the LGBTQ community.

“We want to change the nature of the interaction of our community and police,” said Olivia Nuamah, executive director of Pride Toronto. When the report is done, it will be given to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police along with recommendations. She also wants police “at the table” during this Canada-wide consultation.

Pride Toronto executive director Olivia Nuamah and Finance Minister Bill Morneau were at 519 Church Saturday to announce federal funding for cross-country examination of how police interact with LGBTQ2 community.
Pride Toronto executive director Olivia Nuamah and Finance Minister Bill Morneau were at 519 Church Saturday to announce federal funding for cross-country examination of how police interact with LGBTQ2 community.  (KEVIN DONOVAN / TORONTO STAR)

Finance Minister Bill Morneau was in Toronto Saturday alongside Nuamah to announce an “initial investment” of $450,000 for Pride Toronto. Nuamah said her understanding, following talks with government officials, is that the funds will form part of an eventual $1.2-million commitment over the next five years.

“We know that there is a long and turbulent history between the criminal justice system and LGBTQ2 Canadians,” said Morneau, referencing the recent experience in Toronto of “investigating and discovering violent murders in our community.”

Toronto police have been criticized for failing to solve numerous cases where men went missing in Toronto’s Gay Village. Community members believed there was a serial killer on the loose for many years. Landscaper Bruce McArthur now faces murder charges in the deaths of eight men, all with ties to the city’s Gay Village.

Pride Toronto’s Nuamah said the federal funding will be put toward hiring consultants who will facilitate surveys and public meetings in at least 10 cities across Canada, beginning with Toronto. She said it is important to hear from people who have experienced first-hand the sometimes difficult initial interactions between lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited (LGBTQ2) Canadians and police. Among the cities her team will visit are Vancouver, Winnipeg, Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax. There are 122 Pride organizations across Canada and she hopes that, in some way, they can hear from them all.

“We want to be able to provide police with advice from these consultations on what is the best way for police to have that initial interaction with our community,” Nuamah said.

Morneau’s federal riding of Toronto Centre includes the areas affected by the alleged serial killings. He made the funding announcement at the 519 Church St. community centre. He said Saturday that despite efforts by the community to fix the problems, they continue.

“For too long, the LGBTQ2 community has encountered injustice from various institutions in our society, in ways that have prevented people from living their own lives most fully and contributing your strengths to this country,” Morneau said. “Our government understands fully the injustices that have occurred, and the need for them to be rectified.”

He said he hopes the federal funding will help break down the barriers that “lead to negative outcomes” when the LGBTQ2 communities engage with the criminal justice system.

Nuamah said it is important that police be involved in the examination her group will begin next summer. She said the decision by Pride Toronto to welcome uniformed Toronto police back to the 2019 parade (they had been banned for the last two years due to simmering tensions between police and the LGBTQ2 community) is part of what she hopes will be a more collaborative relationship.

But she knows that on this Pride Toronto road trip there will be difficult stories. Asked if she could relate a story of a positive interaction between police and her community recently, she said she could not.

“Our hope is that the stories of abuse we will hear will lead to change, or at least change the nature of the advocacy that our group does,” said Nuamah.

Kevin Donovan is the Star’s chief investigative reporter based in Toronto. Reach him by email at kdonovan@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @_kevindonovan

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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