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‘It felt like a movie’: Single father of twin girls returns to Canada after surrogacy ordeal

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A Canadian man who was shocked to learn that twin girls born to him overseas didn’t automatically qualify as citizens has finally been able to bring the newborns home after being stranded in Kenya for over a month.

Joseph Tito arrived back in Toronto on Wednesday after a weeks-long ordeal and 36-hour flight that left him « exhausted » but relieved to finally be home.

Tito says he’s ready to take on the challenge of fatherhood.

« Being a first-time parent is overwhelming for everybody, but being away from the comfort of your home caring for two newborns has been tough, » Tito wrote in an Instagram post earlier this week announcing he had been granted the visas to bring the girls, Stella and Mia, home.

« What a ride this has been but at the end, like I said a million times, I would go through hell and back for these two precious beings. »

‘I didn’t think it was real’

Tito chronicled his surrogacy process in a blog after noticing there were few online resources about it for men or same-sex couples.

He says he’d taken every precaution to make sure the process was completely above board and chose Kenya in part because the cost of finding a surrogate to bear his children was least prohibitive in the east African country.

His children don’t qualify as citizens because of an amendment to Canada’s Citizenship Act in 2015 that limited automatic citizenship for babies born to Canadians outside of Canada to one generation. For Tito, who was born in Italy and automatically received Canadian citizenship, that meant he couldn’t transfer citizenship to children born abroad. 

« Even before I started this journey, I looked into it. I contacted the embassy, I contacted the clinic, I contacted lawyers, » he told reporters when he landed in Toronto on Wednesday.

That’s why when he learned his children weren’t automatically Canadian citizens, he was « floored, » he said.

« It felt like a movie, » Tito said. « I didn’t think it was real, especially for a country like Canada. »

‘Incredibly arbitrary’ 

It’s a change that immigration lawyer Joel Sandaluk has long felt was « problematic. »

« What it essentially does is it creates two separate classes of Canadian citizenship — one which is inherently more valuable than the other, » Sandaluk said.

« Certain Canadian citizens are able to pass along their citizenship to their children even if they’re born outside of Canada whereas other Canadian citizens are not, » he added, noting the legislation applies only to people born after Feb. 14, 1977.

« It’s also incredibly arbitrary. I know of a number of individuals [who] have more than one child, one of whom may have been born outside of Canada and it is maddening for the parents to realize that even within their own family there are different classes of citizenship. »

For his part, Tito says he understands why the law was put into place, but would like to see it changed.

Sandaluk echoes that sentiment. 

« I believe the intention of the government at the time was to make sure that people couldn’t constantly be having more Canadian citizens and the number of Canadian citizens and citizens couldn’t be constantly expanding outside of Canada to a group of people who had no connection with Canada whatsoever, » he said.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not respond to CBC Toronto’s request for comment. 

The girls’ exact status in Canada isn’t known, but they aren’t yet permanent residents, says Tito. Tito says he’s sent in sponsorship papers for the girls and plans to take the necessary steps to secure their citizenship after he settles in.

For now, though, he says he’s just looking forward to spending quality time with the tiny new additions to his family.

His first order of business: « Feed them, bathe them in fresh water and put them in their nursery. »

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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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Anglais

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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