Petition asks why Osgoode Hall’s cramped ‘Lady Barristers’ room has just 12 lockers, but the men get about 70

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At the Ontario Court of Appeal at Osgoode Hall, there are only 12 lockers for female lawyers who must change into their robes before appearing in court.

There are about 70 lockers over on the men’s side, which has a lot more space and was once described in a legal publication as “opulent.”

Osgoode Hall, seen here in a Sept. 18, 2018, file photo.
Osgoode Hall, seen here in a Sept. 18, 2018, file photo.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

“What it says is that ‘We think your numbers will continue to be limited,’” lawyer Lori Anne Thomas said of the cramped quarters in the women’s robing room. “It says ‘We don’t expect growth.’”

Yet numbers from the Law Society of Ontario, the province’s legal regulator, show that the profession is approaching a 50/50 split between male and female lawyers; about 57 per cent of lawyers are men and 43 per cent are women.

With that in mind, a Change.org petition that has already gathered more than 500 signatures is calling on the regulator to do something about the lack of space in the women’s robing room, which as recently as a few weeks ago was referred to as the “Lady Barristers” room on courthouse signs.

“Retire the Lady Barristers robing room in favour of a unisex space where the men’s robing room currently is located that can be accessed and used by all lawyers appearing at the 130 Queen St. W. courthouse.”

A spokesperson for the law society said the regulator is looking into it.

“We appreciate the concerns outlined in the petition about the women’s robing room at Osgoode Hall and we are looking into options,” said spokeswoman Sue Tonkin. “We’ll provide an update as soon as we are able.”

Canadian lawyers are required to wear black robes when appearing in superior courts and courts of appeal, such as at Osgoode Hall, which houses both the Court of Appeal and Divisional Court. The robes typically include a waistcoat and two white tabs worn at the neck.

In a 2018 piece in Canadian Lawyer magazine on the barriers faced by women working in criminal law, the changing room for men at Osgoode Hall is described as something out of an “old-money golf and country club.”

“The male change rooms are opulent and spacious with nearly 70 full-length lockers, benches, several mirrors and a spacious bathroom area. There is also a comfortable lounge section with a sofa and a large wooden table and chairs for writing any last-minute notes before appearing in court,” the piece said.

On the women’s side, there are some small benches and floral-print furniture near the lockers, as well as a sitting room with a small desk and a bathroom.

“When you compare (the men’s side) to the woman’s, the women’s literally looks like leftover furniture from someone’s grandmother,” Thomas said.

The inside the robing room for female lawyers at Osgoode Hall.
The inside the robing room for female lawyers at Osgoode Hall.  (Supplied)

Needham, who said she was encouraged by the law society’s response to her petition, told the Star she’s never had access to a locker due to lack of space.

“We are seeing more and more women in law, even all-female trial teams, so it’s becoming more and more of a problem to fit all of the women in there,” she said. “Although it’s not an intentional exclusion, it’s still a barrier.”

She said that ideally, there would be a communal space for networking and discussions at Osgoode Hall for all lawyers, in addition to private changing areas.

“It’s about more than just the space, it’s about access to informal mentoring, the conversations that go on in these robing rooms,” Needham said. “And our practice should be inclusive for non-binary individuals, LGBTQ lawyers, lawyers of all faiths and backgrounds, and these robing rooms — space issues aside — don’t address that.”

Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering legal affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant

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Toronto officer facing misconduct charges over 2016 McArthur choking arrest asks for independent judge

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A Toronto police officer facing professional misconduct charges in connection to the investigation into serial killer Bruce McArthur is requesting an independent judge hear the case.

In a brief hearing Tuesday morning at Toronto police headquarters, the disciplinary tribunal heard the case of Sgt. Paul Gauthier, who is charged with neglect of duty and insubordination in connection to the McArthur investigation.

Gauthier’s charge stems from a 2016 encounter between the serial killer and Toronto police that came after a man reported McArthur had attempted to strangle him during a sexual encounter. McArthur was arrested but let go with no charges.

Gauthier, a former member of the force’s sex crime unit, was not present at the tribunal. He was represented by Toronto lawyer Lawrence Gridin, who formally requested an independent adjudicator.

“You have no independence from the chief of police,” Gridin told the hearing officer, Toronto police Insp. Richard Hegedus.

Gridin had begun discussing how, in December 2017, police chief Mark Saunders held a press conference denying the existence of a serial killer at work in Toronto’s Gay Village.

“We now know, because this matter’s up in court, and there’s been an agreed statement of facts files, details have come out… that the information at the press conference was not correct.”

But Gridin was interrupted by Toronto police prosecutor Alexandra Ciobotaru, who said Gridin’s comments were not what she was expecting and that initial comments should only pertain to the behaviour of the officer in question.

Gridin replied that he was providing the information to show justification for an independent adjudicator, not a Toronto police hearing officer chosen by Saunders.

Outside the tribunal, the lawyer told reporters that he was confident the evidence will show that the work done by Gauthier contributed to the identification of McArthur as a serial killer, rather than detracted from it.

He stressed that the voices of people giving their victim impact statements as part of McArthur’s sentencing hearings should be heard today, “not mine.”

Gauthier’s matter was scheduled to be heard again later this month.

McArthur went on to kill two other men after the 2016 incident: Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman, both murdered in 2017.

New details about the incident were revealed in Ontario Superior Court Monday during McArthur’s ongoing sentencing hearing. The killer had earlier pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder.

According to a summary of the facts read out in court, the encounter occurred on June 20, 2016, when a victim reported McArthur showed up at his place of work and asked him to meet that evening in his van in a parking lot.

The man did so and reported finding McArthur had removed the seat behind the driver’s seat so that there was room to lie down, revealing a plastic sheet on the floor of the van and a fur coat on top of that.

McArthur asked the victim to lie on the coat and instructed him to put an arm behind his back. Then, “with a look of determination on his face,” he “grabbed the victim’s throat and started strangling him,” Crown lawyer Michael Cantlon said in court Monday.

“What do you want from me,” the victim asked, according to the statement of facts. McArthur did not respond and “continued squeezing the larynx” of the victim, who was unable to swallow properly for a week, Cantlon said.

The victim managed to roll away and escaped the van. He later called 911.

McArthur went to the police station on his own and was arrested, but gave an exculpatory statement, court heard.

“An officer released Mr. McArthur without charges, believing his statement to be credible,” Cantlon said.

In a statement last week, Gauthier’s lawyer said the decision not to charge McArthur for the 2016 incident “was made in conjunction” with Gauthier’s supervisor “and based on the information available at the time.”

“Gauthier conducted a proper investigation and fully documented the arrest of McArthur so that the information was available to all other investigators,” said lawyer Lawrence Gridin.

“McArthur’s monstrous nature was difficult to uncover because he led a life of extreme deception, not because of anything to do with the 2016 arrest … Gauthier has great sympathy for the victims and the community.”

According to police tribunal documents, Gauthier was previously charged with two counts of professional misconduct while he was with the sex crimes unit.

Those charges, which are unrelated to the McArthur case, were ultimately dropped and the matter was dealt with internally.

The police document that outlined the earlier allegations against Gauthier stated that, beginning in July 2011, Gauthier was working with the sex crimes unit when he was investigating a case where he had reasonable and probable grounds to arrest the suspect. Specifically, Gauthier had DNA evidence identifying the alleged perpetrator through a positive link to an offender in the National DNA databank.

But the suspect was never arrested. Five years later, Peel Regional Police arrested the same man for unrelated sexual offences. During the Peel police investigation, it was determined that “the information originally received in 2011, by (Gauthier), was never acted on,” according to police documents.

According to the police document, Gauthier “failed to ensure that a thorough investigation was conducted”; “failed to ensure” the DNA link was acted upon; and “failed to ensure” that the measures were in place for the apprehension of the suspect.

“In so doing, you committed misconduct, in that you did, without lawful excuse, neglect or omit to promptly and diligently perform a duty, as a member of the police force of which you are a member.”

McArthur pleaded guilty earlier this week to eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Kinsman, Esen, Lisowick, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj (Skanda) Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam.

With Star files

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

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10-year-old Calgary boy asks Santa to free friends’ dad from Turkish prison

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A Calgary mom is forwarding her son’s heartbreaking letter to Santa along to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as they might have more sway than Saint Nick in fulfilling her child’s request.

Ten-year-old Douglas Hsu’s letter didn’t focus on the gifts he wants for Christmas. Instead, he asked that the father of two of his friends be released from a Turkish prison.

He used to be classmates with Vedat and Cemil Hanci. The Hanci boys moved to Ontario in 2016, after their father, Calgarian Imam Davud Hanci was detained in Turkey.

Douglas Hsu, 10, said all he wants for Christmas is for Davud Hanci to be reunited with his family. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

He has since been sentenced to 15 years in Turkish prison on allegations he was connected to an attempted coup. Relatives say he was visiting his sick father at the time and was not involved.

The two families have stayed close, and when Douglas started drafting his letter to Santa, his mom Lindsay Connick said he had only one thing on his mind and couldn’t be swayed.

‘I’d like him to free our friend’

« He just said ‘mom, you know what, Santa’s a super magical guy.’ And he said ‘since he’s magical, you know what I’d like to ask for, for Christmas this year?' » Connick said. « And I said, ‘what’s that Douglas?’ And he said ‘I’d like him to free our friend Davud.’ And I was just taken aback and didn’t know how to respond right away. »

Connick said she told him it was a big ask and very noble.

« Dear Santa, Thank you so much for caring for the world’s families, » Douglas wrote.

« This year, my friend’s dad was sentenced to 15 years in jail after the two years he’s been in this cold Turkish prison. I wondered if you could help me free him …That’s really all I want, I wouldn’t like anything else. »

Lindsay Connick and her son Douglas Hsu, pictured with Rumeysa Hanci and her sons this summer in Toronto. (Submitted by Lindsay Connick)

Douglas said it made him sad that his friends weren’t going to have their dad with them for the holidays.

« I feel kinda sad that he’s in there ’cause he wouldn’t be with his family for Christmas, and then their family wouldn’t be together for a long time, » he told CBC News.

Connick sent her son’s letter to Freeland, Trudeau and local MP Len Webber, along with a letter of her own last week. She said she hasn’t heard back yet.

« My initial response was this was a big ask and Santa’s going to need some help, » Connick said.

It was so touching for me and I couldn’t hold my tears, and we cried on the phone for a long time.– Rumeysa Hanci , Davud Hanci’s wife

She said she’s hoping government officials take the 10-year-old’s request to heart.

« One of the most important life lessons I feel we can all strive for is to be good to others, » she said.

Connick called Davud’s wife, Rumeysa, to tell her about Douglas’ letter.

« When she told me about Douglas’ letter to Santa, it was so touching for me and I couldn’t hold my tears and we cried on the phone for a long time, » Rumeysa said.

« He has such a warm heart and he has compassion. »

Rumeysa said it has been nearly two-and-a-half years since she and her sons have been separated from Davud.

« I try to be strong for my kids, you know, I am a mom, » she said, her voice breaking.

« We miss him so much. »

She said her husband is being held in solitary confinement. She asked her fellow Canadians to think of him and put themselves in his shoes.

Rumeysa Hanci, wife of Calgary imam Davud Hanci, who is imprisoned in Turkey, said her husband is being kept in solitary confinement. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

In July 2016, more than 75,000 people were arrested in Turkey in a crackdown following an attempted coup against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A state of emergency was instituted in the country that ended this July.

Hanci and many of those arrested were accused of having ties to Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric who was blamed for the attempted government overthrow. Family members have said Hanci has no connections to Gulen.

Before his arrest, he had been living with his wife and children in Calgary, working as an imam for Correctional Service Canada and the Alberta correctional services.

‘I try to keep my hope alive’

Rumeysa said she’s allowed to talk to her husband on the phone for 10 minutes each week at midnight because of the time difference.

« I am losing my hope of course … nothing has changed. But I try to keep my hope alive, » she said.

« I wish for the Canadian government to do something for him to be released. »

Calgarian Davud Hanci was sentenced to 15 years in a Turkish prison on what his family says are false charges. (Selman Durmus)

Brendan Sutton, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said consular officials are providing assistance to Hanci and his family and remain in contact with local authorities, but due to the Privacy Act further details cannot be released.

« We know how hard it is for family and friends when a Canadian is detained outside of the country, » Sutton said.

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Family asks OIPRD to investigate officer recorded making racist statements after arrest

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An Ontario police watchdog has been asked to look into a Peel police officer who accidentally recorded himself making racist statements to a Mississauga, Ont., man in his cruiser.

The family of Masood Masad filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) after they say he was the victim of a needless arrest.

The incident stems from a mid-November verbal altercation in a restaurant where Masad claims it was 20 minutes late with an order he was delivering for DoorDash.

Soon after the incident, Peel police Const. Bernard Trlaja called his house. Masad’s mother, who was skeptical of the call and thought it was from a scammer, told the officer to come to the house.

« That is what started the whole thing in a sense of his anger, » Masad said. « He was very upset that she would in his mind not co-operate with him on the phone. But he has to understand that had she known that he was a police officer 100 per cent, she would have answered all his questions. »

When Trlaja showed up in person, things soon escalated.​ Masad told the officer he was recording the interaction on his phone, and shortly after he was arrested.

Bashar Masad, left, and his son Masood Masad, right, are asking Ontario’s police watchdog to look into a Peel police officer who accidentally recorded himself making racist comments. (CBC)

Recording accidentally restarted

The officer placed the phone beside him in the front seat of the police car, unaware he was recording a video.

In it, Trlaja claimed Masad’s mother was « arrogant » and began to make racist comments. 

« This kid obviously doesn’t understand the rule or nature or culture of Canada, » he said. 

« OK, he wants to be violent and bring that violence with him, then he’s going to have to learn the way. » 

Masad’s father, Bashar, said he was shocked when he listened to the recording and added that his son has lived most of his life in Canada.

« My son came to Canada when he was six years old. He’s 25 now. He’s spent 19 years of his life in this country, » he said.

Masad says security camera footage shows the officer accidentally starting the recording. (Submitted by Masad family)

« He went to school, to college, to work in this country. So if you’re talking about any culture, he’s a Canadian. »

The family is demanding that the 18-year police veteran get extra training and deliver an apology.

Masad said when he listened to the recording, it seemed like the officer was trying to get a reaction out of him.

« When I heard it, even I’m surprised I managed to keep my cool because this guy’s going off. He’s being so disrespectful to my mother for no reason, » he said.

« Maybe because it was my first time being actually arrested, taken down, I was thinking to myself, ‘OK, stay calm. Don’t talk back.' »

All the charges against Masad have been dropped. And while his family has filed a complaint with the OIPRD, Peel police are also conducting their own internal investigation through professional standards. The family was told the investigation may take up to six months. 

Peel police say they have no update on the internal review other than to say during the investigation, Trlaja is suspended with pay. 

CBC News has seen a copy of the Masad family’s complaint to the OIPRD​, but the watchdog said it doesn’t comment about filed complaints.

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Acting OPP chief asks court to examine ombudsman’s decision not to review Ron Taverner appointment

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The acting head of the Ontario Provincial Police has asked a court to rule whether the provincial ombudsman can review the hiring process that saw Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner named as the next OPP commissioner.

The move came Friday, after Ontario ombudsman Paul Dubé turned down a request earlier in the week from Interim Commissioner Brad Blair to probe “potential political interference” in the appointment.

Taverner, a close friend of Premier Doug Ford, is expected to be sworn in as commissioner on Monday. In his original request to the ombudsman on Tuesday, Blair asked that Taverner’s installation to be delayed pending his requested review of the appointment.

According to a statement from Blair’s lawyer late Friday afternoon, Dubé “refused to exercise his jurisdiction to review Commissioner Blair’s request.”

In response, and in one of his final acts as interim commissioner, Blair filed an application to a divisional court “to determine and enforce the jurisdiction” of the ombudsman to review the OPP commissioner hiring process.

“If the Ombudsman does not review the complaint, the independence of the OPP will continue to operate under a cloud of suspicion,” reads the application.

“This is a serious matter as the independence of the OPP — a body that can be called in to investigate provincial politicians — must be seen as legitimate in the eyes of the citizenry.”

The application is relying on a section of Ontario’s Ombudsman Act, which states that when there is a question about whether the ombudsman has the jurisdiction to investigate any case, a directly affected person — in this case Blair — “may apply to the divisional court for a declaration.”

A spokesperson for the ombudsman’s office could not be immediately reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Earlier Friday, the NDP made a personal appeal to Taverner, urging him to delay the appointment until an investigation has wrapped up — and, in a separate letter, called on the province’s attorney general to “stop his swearing in” if he doesn’t.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says Taverner’s appointment is too fraught with controversy, given his close connection to Ford, and said “officers and leadership of the OPP, as well as the people of Ontario must have absolute confidence there has been no political interference … and that there will be no political interference in policing matters going forward.”

In a letter to Taverner, she said he should “do the right thing.

“That is why I am asking you to delay your installation and assuming command of the OPP until a full investigation … has been completed,” Horwath wrote.

She also accused Ford of demonstrating “poor judgment and a lack of transparency.”

In a second letter sent to Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, Deputy NDP Leader Sara Singh said “this appointment cannot go ahead under this growing cloud of suspicion … as Ontario’s attorney general and the chief prosecutor your first duty is to uphold the law … it is incumbent upon you to use your influence and authority as attorney general to intervene in this process and stop the swearing in of Supt. Taverner” for now.

Taverner’s appointment, announced Nov. 29, has dogged by speculation that Ford interfered in the hiring process.

The Star’s Kevin Donovan has revealed that Taverner was previously offered to lead the Ontario Cannabis Store, as well as a deputy minister position in the ministry of community safety with a source saying: “Doug wanted to do something for Taverner. That is what we are hearing.”

Both Ford and Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones have accused critics of slinging mud at the 72-year-old Toronto police superintendent, who has headed divisions in Etobicoke.

Taverner officially resigned from the Toronto police Friday and is set to begin his new job Monday.

Ford recently told reporters he did not recuse himself and signed off on the appointment.

Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones has said she supports Taverner, and that the appointment to the $275,000 position was made by an independent panel.

The NDP is personally appealing to Ron Taverner, urging him to delay taking the top OPP job until an investigation into his appointment has wrapped up — and if he doesn’t, Ontario’s attorney general is being asked to step in to stop his swearing in.

In two letters released Friday afternoon by the NDP, Leader Andrea Horwath says Taverner’s appointment as commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police is too fraught with controversy given his close connection to Premier Doug Ford, and said “officers and leadership of the OPP, as well as the people of Ontario must have absolute confidence there has been no political interference … and that there will be no political interference in policing matters going forward.”

She says Taverner should “do the right thing. That is why I am asking you to delay your installation and assuming command of the OPP until a full investigation … has been completed.”

In a second letter sent to Mulroney, Deputy NDP Leader Sara Singh says “this appointment cannot go ahead under this growing cloud of suspicion … as Ontario’s attorney general and the chief prosecutor your first duty is to uphold the law … it is incumbent upon you to use your influence and authority as attorney general to intervene in this process and stop the swearing in of Supt. Taverner” for now.

Taverner’s appointment, announced Nov. 29, has been lauded by some but heavily criticized by others who alleged Ford interfered in the hiring process.

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

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

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OPP interim commissioner asks ombudsman to review Taverner’s appointment over ‘potential political interference’

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The interim commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police is seeking a review of “potential political interference” in the appointment of Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner, on Tuesday filing a formal letter of complaint requesting that Ontario’s ombudsman conduct a review.

The move comes less than a week before incoming commissioner Taverner is scheduled to be sworn in as the head of one of the largest police services in North America.

In a lengthy letter to Ontario ombudsman Paul Dubé, interim OPP commissioner Brad Blair asks for Taverner’s installation to be delayed until a review of the application can be completed.

“Citing the objective of protecting the credibility and perceived independence of the OPP, Commissioner Blair, in his capacity as Commissioner of the OPP and in his personal capacity, is seeking a review so that the current level of public anxiety and concern may be addressed,” according to a press release sent on behalf of Blair late Tuesday night.

Blair was named interim commissioner by the Progressive Conservative government, via an October order in council.

In the letter, Blair says OPP members “have shared with me their concerns that the process was unfair and their feeling that the independence of the OPP is now called into question.”

“The officers know the consequences to come: if the police are to command public confidence and active co-operation, they must have unfettered confidence of the people of Ontario. That is, the concern of political interference runs counter not only to the principles of a democratic society but also to fully effective policing,” Blair writes in his letter.

The Progressive Conservative government’s appointment of Taverner has proven controversial, as Taverner, 72, is a close friend of Ontario Premier Doug Ford. Ford has admitted he did not recuse himself from cabinet when Taverner was approved, but said he “had zero influence and no matter who it was I would have accepted.”

Taverner, who has 51 years with the Toronto Police Service, is a long-time unit commander in charge of Etobicoke divisions. Taverner was also close to the premier’s late brother, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, and was often at Ford family barbecues and had informal breakfast meetings with both Rob and Doug Ford.

Critics within government have raised concerns about the Ford family relationship with Taverner, chief among them the fact that it is the OPP that is often tasked with investigations involving the government.

He succeeds Vince Hawkes, 56, who retired earlier this year.

Taverner was unanimously selected by a panel that included Steve Orsini, head of the Ontario Public Service, and newly appointed deputy minister Mario Di Tommaso, who is a former Toronto police officer and Taverner’s former boss.

In a recent TV interview, Taverner said he had never before sought an OPP job before he applied to be commissioner.

Blair’s concerns come after another former OPP commissioner, Chris Lewis, voiced his concerns about Taverner’s hiring, telling CP24 that “the fix was in.”

“There’s old relationships there, we all know it, and I think it was a travesty that this occurred … I don’t think it’s good for the OPP — and I don’t think it was a good decision on the part of government whatsoever.”

Blair’s complaint is not the first formal concern to be raised about Taverner’s hiring. At Queen’s Park, Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake’s office said a formal request for a probe into the Taverner appointment has been filed.

“I can confirm that a request has been made by MPP Kevin Yarde … and it is under review by this office. The office will have no further comment on the matter,” said Wake’s spokesperson Michelle Renaud, referring to the Brampton North NDP MPP’s letter to the office.

Renaud could not say whether the premier’s office had been in contact with Wake prior to Taverner’s hiring to ensure there was no conflict of interest.

“Under the Members’ Integrity Act … communication between the integrity commissioner and a member of the legislative assembly is confidential,” she said.

The controversial appointment dominated the legislature’s daily question period last week before MPPs rose Thursday for the Christmas break.

Ford has insisted there “was no better choice” than his family friend, but he maintained that he “didn’t know that decision until the day it was made.”

“A transparent choice, by the way, that I wasn’t involved in whatsoever,” the premier said last Wednesday, stressing that morale is low at the OPP and Taverner will boost the force’s esprit de corps.

“We need someone in there who connects with front-line people,” he said.

As iPolitics revealed earlier this month, the job posting for the OPP commissioner job was quietly modified in October, changing the criteria to allow applications from the superintendent level — two ranks below the initial qualification of deputy chief or assistant commissioner.

Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Sylvia Jones said the three-person hiring panel was independent.

“I have no concerns about the hiring process,” Jones said last week.

“I think the independent process did what it was supposed to do. We have an excellent candidate and I think when Mr. Taverner is in place Dec. 17 we will find a revitalized OPP.”

Di Tommaso, her deputy, was Taverner’s former boss at Toronto police, but in the new position reports to Secretary of Cabinet Steve Orsini, the head of the Ontario Public Service.

“So I don’t think there’s any conflict there,” the minister said.

Last week, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, interim Liberal Leader John Fraser, and Democracy Watch asked integrity commissioner Wake to probe any potential conflict of interest in the appointment, with Horwath saying “people deserve to know exactly what the premier’s role is.”

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and it really looks like this process was put together to favour Mr. Taverner and I think that’s inappropriate,” she said.

“It’s very reasonable to suspect that there was political interference. I think reasonable people would say ‘something’s fishy,’ ” said Fraser.

Democracy Watch also wrote to the integrity commissioner.

“If Premier Ford participated in any step of the process that led to his friend Mr. Taverner being appointed OPP commissioner, then he violated the province’s government ethics law, and that’s why the integrity commissioner needs to investigate,” said the group’s co-founder Duff Conacher.

Taverner made $178,968 last year while the OPP commissioner made $275,907 — representing an annual raise of almost $100,000.

In 2016, Taverner accompanied Doug Ford and Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders on a private plane to Chicago to take in a Blackhawks game, part of a prize package purchased at a charity auction.

Sal Badali of Odgers Berndtson, the head-hunting agency that “supported” the OPP commissioner’s hiring selection process, told iPolitics that “eliminating the rank requirement was done to broaden the potential pool of applicants.”

“It turned out that over half the pool of applicants were not at the deputy chief level.”

The OPP is one of the largest police services in North America, with more than 6,000 uniformed officers and 2,400 civilian employees.

With Star Files

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Federal minister Sohi asks NEB for pipeline inventory in order to find more capacity

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Federal Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi told a business audience Friday morning that he has asked the National Energy Board to report back on how much oil is flowing through Canada’s pipelines. He wants to find out if they can handle more capacity.

“That’s a question that I’m raising with the NEB and I’m hoping that they’ll be able to provide me with an answer as quickly as possible,” Sohi later told reporters.

READ MORE: Study says lack of pipeline capacity costing Canada billions in lost revenue

“Is there room for us to ship more oil through pipelines that already exist? And is there a way to optimize that capacity?”

The potential increase in pipeline capacity would coincide with the ability to send more oil by rail. Sohi reported that moving oil by rail has increased this year to where 270,000 barrels per day are being transported. His hope is to gain more capacity through both means.

READ MORE: Alberta to purchase rail cars to move oil without feds: Notley

He made the remarks inside the World Trade Centre to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, while outside on Jasper Avenue, protesters were chanting: “Pipelines now” and “Build that pipe,” as they urged for completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. They were also protesting against Bill C-69, which looks at how projects are regulated.

Sohi said he sympathizes with those who are out of work.

“What I would say to the people out there, showing their support for the energy sector is, we agree with them.

“We share the frustration. I have family members who have been laid off. I have family members who worry for the future. We’re in this together and we will pull together out of this.”

Sohi took pointed questions from the audience, who didn’t agree with the government’s actions that include a tanker ban in Northern B.C. waters, the importation of Saudi oil to the Irving refinery in New Brunswick, and the cancellation of the Northern Gateway and Energy East pipelines. They see over-regulation hampering the industry.

READ MORE: Premier Notley disappointed with Ottawa’s response to Alberta oil bottleneck

Sohi pointed out that the Enbridge Line-3 pipeline will be up and running next year, originating in Hardisty, Alta.

He also said he’s met with more than 40 First Nation leaders, listening to their concerns on the environment. Sohi insists rushing through the process is the mistake that started this mess, and that mistake won’t be made again.

Chamber President Janet Riopel said there is clear frustration that we’re seeing a lot of talk and no action.

“We need to understand keenly why we don’t see more movement in this pipeline construction. I mean Canadians are losing out.”

Sohi told reporters the review of the NEB on the impact of tanker traffic will be concluded by the end of February.

Answers to his question on pipeline capacity he hopes will be back to him as soon as possible.


© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Stop sending mail and parcels, Canada Post asks foreign services

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government gave one final push Friday to bring the Canada Post labour dispute to a close, suggesting it will act quickly if rotating strikes continue beyond a Saturday midnight deadline for the latest contract offers from the Crown corporation.

Trudeau said last week that « all options will be on the table » to end postal disruptions if there was no progress in bargaining for new contracts.

Decisions on how to end job actions by postal workers could come as early as Sunday, said a government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding that « ‘all the options’ does include legislating. »

The prospect of bridging the impasse all but collapsed Friday when the Canadian Union of Postal Workers said it would not bring the latest offers to a vote of its members, although it said both sides remained at the bargaining table.

« CUPW members voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking strike action if necessary to achieve our demands at the bargaining table, » the union’s national president Mike Palecek said in a statement. « We are fulfilling the mandate given to us by our members. A vote will take place when Canada Post presents offers that meet our demands for health and safety, gender equality and more full-time jobs. »

Large backlogs

At the same time, Canada Post has asked its international partners to halt mail and parcel shipments to Canada as it reels under a 30-day delivery backlog resulting from a labour dispute with its employees.

The Crown corporation said Friday that its domestic customers are also backed up with packages waiting for delivery as rotating strikes that began Oct. 22 continue across the country.

« The backlogs are also extending to international mail and parcels entering the country, » Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton said in an email.

« As a result, we have been forced to request that international posts, including the United States Postal Service, refrain from shipping items until we can clear the backlog. »

The request covers all 190 countries in the Universal Postal Union (UPU), the United Nations agency that represents global postal services and oversees co-operation among them. 

In an interview with CBC News, Hamilton said the backlog is a record for Canada Post with 600 trailers filling distribution centre yards, each containing an average of 2,500 parcels.

Normally about one million parcels arrive in Canada each day, and the next three weeks are the busiest of the year.

The halt doesn’t affect mail leaving Canada, but like domestic mail, it will be subject to delays resulting from the rotating strikes, a spokesperson for Canada Post said in an email to CBC News.

In this photo provided by Canada Post, trucks full of undelivered parcels stand at a distribution hub in Mississauga, Ont., on Friday. (Canada Post)

Britain’s Royal Mail, in a bulletin to its corporate customers, said it would hold any shipments bound for Canada within the last couple of days in its distribution centres « awaiting further updates. »

« As a result of ongoing industrial action, we have now been requested to suspend the dispatching of international traffic destined for Canada, from today until further notice, » it said.

« This applies not only to us, but all international postal operators, » the Royal Mail added.

A similar bulletin was issued by Hongkong Post, and online sales giant eBay said it received a notification from China Post that it was halting deliveries.

Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers have been in contract negotiations for nearly a year, with no success.

CUPW began rotating strikes across the country that have shut down postal operations in over 200 communities, hoping to pressure Canada Post into agreeing to contract demands, including better job security, reduced workloads and stronger health and safety measures.

Walkouts at main sorting plants

The walkouts have resulted in backlogs at the agency’s main sorting plants, particularly in Toronto where Hamilton said the number of mail-filled tractor-trailers awaiting processing had reached 407 as of Friday. Dozens of trailers were also sitting idle in Montreal and Vancouver.

The Crown corporation issued new contract offers this week aimed at reaching agreements with its approximately 42,000 urban employees and 8,000 rural and suburban carriers.

CUPW said the latest proposals made positive steps, but not enough to put an end to walkouts, which rotated Friday through most of Manitoba, as well as communities in Ontario, B.C., Alberta and New Brunswick.

The offers were time-sensitive, with Canada Post imposing a deadline of Saturday at one minute before midnight for acceptance.

CUPW wouldn’t say whether tentative deals could be reached by then, but said the union would not be held to an arbitrary deadline.

There is no reason to halt international shipments. Let us solve our issues at the bargaining table.— Mike Palecek, CUPW president

Palecek was also critical of Canada Post for halting shipments from outside Canada.

« There is no reason to halt international shipments, » he said in a statement. « Let us solve our issues at the bargaining table. »

The union said it wants concrete proposals for dealing with an escalating number of work injuries at Canada Post.

Hamilton said the corporation has proposed a way for the company and union to work together to identify ways to make the workplace safer, and offered to fast-track a review of workloads to reduce overburdening of carriers, who have seen a rapid increase in the number of parcels they have to deliver while letter volumes have declined.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned last week his government will act to end the rotating strikes if there is no significant progress in the negotiations. Trudeau did not specify what type of action might be taken, nor did he provide a timeline.

Earlier this week, eBay called on Trudeau to legislate an end to the dispute in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales events tied to American Thanksgiving that begin Nov. 23.

With files from the CBC’s Jeannie Lee.

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Catholic archbishop asks forgiveness from Mi’kmaq for Shubenacadie Indian Residential School

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The leader of a Roman Catholic archdiocese in Nova Scotia knelt in front of a congregation including residential school survivors Monday and personally apologized for the church’s conduct at the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School. 

The apology was offered during a special mass held at St. Mary’s Basilica in Halifax on Treaty Day, which marks the signing of the Peace and Friendship Treaties between the British Crown and Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik and Peskotomuhkati in 1752 and 1760.

Archbishop Anthony Mancini of the Halifax-Yarmouth Archdiocese read a homily that recognized the Mi’kmaq’s autonomy and unceded territory, and touched on the « failures of the past » during the residential school era. 

He and Bishop Brian Dunn from the Diocese of Antigonish then knelt in front of the congregation to read a « Rite of Forgiveness. » 

Halifax-Yarmouth Archbishop Anthony Mancini says ‘We failed miserably in this whole thing.’ (CBC News)

« On this day, we personally and in our roles as leaders of the Catholic Church in Nova Scotia, kneel before the representatives of the Mi’kmaq nation to express our regret, sorrow and apology for the hurts, violence and abuse experienced in the residential school of Shubenacadie, for the participation of the Church in the promotion of misguided policies of assimilation and for our involvement in undermining aboriginal culture, language and spirituality, » the bishops said. 

The Rite’s text went on to address the church’s support of racist practices, and the involvement of church members in maintaining « inhuman and inadequate life conditions » for the Mi’kmaq and « indifference » to their plight.

They then requested the forgiveness needed « if reconciliation is to take place. »

‘I felt so emotional’

« When I talk about it, my eyes fill up now, » said Margaret Poulette of We’koqma’q First Nation, who was at the Treaty Day service. 

She attended the Shubenacadie residential school from 1940 to 1945. Though she’s hard of hearing and couldn’t see the front of the church, Poulette said she still felt the importance of the moment. 

As the archbishop spoke, she said, her thoughts were of her sister, brother and friends who also attended the school. 

« I felt so emotional when they were walking out after [the service], » she said.

« It was positive for me, anyway. My two daughters were there … After church they came and hugged me. They were crying. »

Mi’kmaq girls in sewing class at the Roman Catholic-run Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in Shubenacadie, N.S. (Library and Archives Canada)

Poulette said she thought the service was emotional for survivors in attendance, some of whom she said are steadfast against the Roman Catholic religion as a result of their time at the schools, and attended only as part of Treaty Day celebrations. She said no one expected an apology.

Poulette, who goes to mass every Sunday, said her daughters have questioned why she remains a practising Catholic despite the history of the schools. 

« I told them, it wasn’t God that did it. It was individual people that did it, » she said.

‘A gesture of respect’

Archbishop Mancini told CBC News the apology was « intended to be a gesture of respect, a gesture of acknowledgement — humility for our weak humanity. »

« We failed miserably in this whole thing. »

Pope Francis has yet to apologize for the church’s role in residential schools, but Archbishop Anthony Mancini said he believes it could still happen. (Andrew Medichini/Associated Press)

Mancini said he understands the impact that an apology from Pope Francis could have, and said he believes it will come, eventually. But in the meantime, he said work to rebuild the relationship between the church and Indigenous Peoples in Canada will take place in each individual community.

Mancini said his apology stemmed from listening sessions the church has been holding with Mi’kmaq leaders and Elders since April. 

He said kneeling before the Mi’kmaq in the congregation was important, given the gesture’s meaning in Catholicism — to be less than perfect or dependent on God’s support, as sinners. 

« I thought that this situation with the Mi’kmaq was such that the failings of our past were sufficiently serious that it needed something powerful like the gesture of kneeling to indicate that we, or I am, really sorry for what took place. »

More discussions to come

The archbishop said that further to the apology, he hopes to implement some « concrete actions » like having a Mi’kmaq flag in every parish and acknowledging Mi’kmaq burial grounds around the province and « honouring them » in an appropriate way. But he said before any of that happens, more discussions with Mi’kmaq leaders and Elders will take place, as well as internal discussions with his colleagues.

Rose Marie Prosper, also of We’koqma’q First Nation, wasn’t able to attend the church service, but saw social media posts of the Rite of Forgiveness. She said she hasn’t stopped thinking about it. 

« I would’ve been shocked myself, if I was there, » she said. « It’s something I would not have expected, especially on Treaty Day. » 

Prosper attended Shubenacadie residential school from 1960 to 1967, when the school closed. She said that her time there has left her with flashbacks and painful memories of isolation.

She said she’s strayed from Catholicism for most of her life as a result of its practice being forced on her but that she’s recently begun to pray again. While she said it will take time for her to accept the apology and what it means to her, she said it may help her to heal. 

« It’s given me more time to pray, and a reason: forgiveness, healing, » she said. 

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Ontario health minister asks Ottawa for extension on safe injection sites as review continues

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Ontario is asking the federal government for an extension as it continues to look at the future of safe injection sites.

“We continue to take the ongoing opioid crisis very seriously. I have reviewed the latest data, evidence and current site models, visited various sites and held consultations,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott in a written release Friday. “I am now in the process of finalizing my recommendations.

“This is an important determination that we need to get right; and one that must not be rushed. To that end, we are officially asking the federal government for an extension of Ontario’s Class Exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act while we conclude our review.”

Earlier in the day in Etobicoke, Premier Doug Ford said he expected to announce a final decision “next week.”

The province has been funding a number of sites that hire nurses who supervise users as they inject themselves and then monitor them for signs of overdose or other health issues.

The Health Ministry has since been holding consultations over the past few months with community leaders and those who visit and use such sites.

About one-quarter of the 4,000 people who die each year in Canada from opioid overdose are from Ontario, or an average of about three people each day.

New Democrat MPP Bhutila Karpoche, her party’s mental health and addictions critic, accused the government of unnecessary delay.

“As the Ford government dithers, lives are shattered, families are destroyed, and people die,” said Karpoche, who represents Parkdale—High Park.

“… It’s time for the Ford government to stop standing in the way of health care professionals trying to save lives.”

In the past, Ford has said he does not support such sites, and prefers rehabilitation. Numerous studies have indicated that safe injection sites can save lives in the midst of an opioid epidemic.

Elliott, however, has said they are “not as effective as some people think they are.”

Residents near the Moss Park site, which opened last year, have complained about frequent drug deals, discarded needles and passersby feeling unsafe.

“Our government’s overriding priority is to ensure that all efforts to combat opioid addiction are designed to introduce people into rehabilitation and that those struggling with addiction get the help they need,” Elliott also said.

“That’s why our government has committed to investing $3.8 billion in mental health, addictions and housing supports over 10 years.”

An open letter to Elliott from community health centres across the province said the delay will only give the sites another month, and “as providers of these services we need to know as soon as possible when your government expects to conclude its review of supervised consumption services and overdose prevention sites.”

It says since the additional sites were paused — in St. Catharines, Toronto and Thunder Bay — “at least 28 people have died from overdose in those communities … (the sites) need to open as soon as possible to prevent further deaths.”

They say the “evidence is abundantly clear from international research and our experience on the front lines in Ontario: supervised consumption and overdose prevention play vital roles in helping people get the help they need before a catastrophe takes place.”

With files from Robert Benzie

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

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