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‘A child is so innocent’: Candlelight vigil held for 11-year-old girl in Ontario Amber Alert

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Community members left grief-stricken by the death of an 11-year-old Brampton, Ont., girl gathered at a park near the child’s school to light candles, lay flowers and show support for the girl’s family at a vigil Saturday evening.

About 200 people gathered at Meadowvale Village Green park in neighbouring Mississauga at 6 p.m., most of them holding candles to place at a growing memorial for Riya Rajkumar, who was found dead in her father’s basement apartment on her birthday this week. 

Some of Riya’s family members attended the vigil, but did not address the crowd.

The group held a moment of silence and, as more people arrived and the sky grew darker, the display of candles grew in front of a pile of flowers and teddy bears.

A woman who knows Riya’s mother planned the candlelight vigil. Amrita Naipaul posted details about the event on her social media accounts.

Members of the community gather at a candlelight vigil in Mississauga on Saturday night for Riya Rajkumar. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)

« Many people have messaged asking how you can help Riya’s family during this tragic time. As a community, this loss has been felt by all, » she wrote on Instagram and Facebook.

« There are so many people who have been hurting from this angel’s loss, and no one needs our prayer and love more than Riya’s family at this time, » she continued. 

In an interview on Saturday before the vigil, Naipaul said she spoke briefly with Riya’s mother on the phone on Friday evening. 

« I just wanted to make sure out of respect that she was aware of what we were trying to do before we made any arrangements or made any plans, » she told CBC News Network.

« She’s actually the one who suggested that we do it nearby the school, » Naipaul explained, referring to Meadowvale Village Public School, where Riya was a Grade 5 student. 

Naipaul said she has heard from people across Canada, and even from some who live outside the country. 

« There have been many strangers who’ve reached out to me and said, ‘If you get a chance to talk to [Riya’s mother] just let her know that she’s very loved, and she has so much support,' » she continued. 

Naipaul planned to collect donations at the vigil that will be used to help pay for Riya’s funeral. A separate online fund established by the group Neighbourhood Watch Brampton has already raised some $21,000 for Riya’s family.

« I think everybody kind of shares the same sentiment that a child is so innocent and so pure, and a parent is supposed to — especially a father — is supposed to be protective of their child. And to think about what that child went through is just hard for everyone, » she said.

‘Honour a young life’

Rajkumar will also be remembered at a formal memorial on Tuesday night in Brampton, the city about 30 kilometres northwest of Toronto. 

Brampton Coun. Rowena Santos is helping to organize the vigil, which is set to take place at Garden Square from 5:45 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET. 

« Our community is grieving the tragic death of Riya Rajkumar and this is a time to come together in solidarity and remember and honour a young life, » said a notice posted to the city’s website.

« All members of the public are welcome to attend. »

Riya’s father, Roopesh Rajkumar, is facing a charge of first-degree murder in her death. Rajkumar, 41, picked his daughter up at a Mississauga gas station on Thursday afternoon to take her out for her birthday. When he did not return the young girl to her mother at an agreed upon time later that evening, she went to Peel Regional Police for help. 

An Amber Alert was eventually issued around 11 p.m. that night, and was cancelled about an hour later after officers found Riya’s body at an address in Brampton where her father resided.

Rajkumar was arrested by provincial police around the same time while driving north on Highway 11 in Orillia, about 130 kilometres north of Brampton.

Riya was remembered by her classmates and friends as having a vibrant personality and infectious smile.

On Saturday, people continued to stop by the address where Riya was found. The residence is still taped off by police, and officers were going door to door in the area speaking with neighbours.

‘No child deserves this’

A small memorial of flowers and notes of condolences grew in a snowbank outside the home. Family members brought those flowers to Saturday night’s vigil.

« It’s just so sad to hear — an 11-year-old. It could have been my daughter, » said Alexandra Casanova, who brought her children with her so that they could « understand what happened. »

Michael Bettencourt brought his adolescent son with him to pay his respects.

« We are mourning her loss. She was such a young child, and we feel for the family and the community, » he said.

« No child deserves this. »

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Anglais

‘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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Anglais

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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