Canada’s auditor general Michael Ferguson has died at 60

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Michael Ferguson, Canada’s auditor general, has died, his office confirmed to CBC News on Saturday. He was 60. 

« Mr. Ferguson had been undergoing treatment for cancer since last November, » the Office of the Auditor General of Canada said in a statement. « Unfortunately, the treatment was unsuccessful. He passed away surrounded by his family in Ottawa. »

« Much appreciated by his staff and respected by parliamentarians and government officials alike, Mr. Ferguson will be remembered by all those who had the pleasure of knowing him as a humble, compassionate and thoughtful man, » the statement continued. 

Ferguson had cancelled his media appearances for his 2018 fall reports due to health concerns. 

He was appointed as Auditor General of Canada in November 2011, and his term was set to end in 2021. 

Prior to his federal role, he served in various positions in the New Brunswick provincial government, including a stint as its auditor general. 

Ferguson was not shy about expressing his frustrations. In the summer, he told CBC Radio’s The House he was getting tired of filing annual reports recommending reforms to the way the government does business — only to see those recommendations disappear down the memory hole afterward.

Some of the issues he paid particular attention to were the Phoenix pay system, Indigenous services and sexual misconduct in the military.

« He cared deeply about conducting audits that brought value to the public service, always for the greater good of Canadians, » the Office of the Auditor General of Canada said. Ferguson is survived by his wife and sons.

The auditor general is an officer of Parliament appointed for a 10-year, non-renewable term. He or she is responsible for auditing and providing reports to Parliament on federal government departments and agencies, Crown corporations, and other national organizations.

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Auditor General of Canada Michael Ferguson has died

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Michael Ferguson, the auditor general who relentlessly pressed federal governments to improve services for Canadians, has died.

“Mr. Ferguson had been undergoing treatment for cancer since last November,” the Office of the Auditor General of Canada said in a statement Saturday. “Unfortunately, the treatment was unsuccessful. He passed away surrounded by his family in Ottawa.”

Auditor General Michael Ferguson in a file photo from May 2018.
Auditor General Michael Ferguson in a file photo from May 2018.  (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“Much appreciated by his staff and respected by parliamentarians and government officials alike, Mr. Ferguson will be remembered by all those who had the pleasure of knowing him as a humble, compassionate and thoughtful man,” the statement added. “He cared deeply about conducting audits that brought value to the public service, always for the greater good of Canadians.”

Ferguson was appointed Canada’s auditor general in November, 2011, after serving as New Brunswick’s auditor general and deputy finance minister.

During his tenure, he repeated slammed federal governments for being self-serving and blind to the needs of Canadians.

“Over the years, our audit work has revealed government’s lack of focus on end-users, Canadians, “ Ferguson noted in his 2016 report.

In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised Ferguson for a “lifetime of exemplary service to Canadians.”

“We will remember him for his tireless dedication to promote a transparent, open government that is accountable to Canadians,” Trudeau added. “His important work over the past seven years as Auditor General has helped strengthen our democracy and maintain the integrity that Canadians expect from our public institutions.

In his last report in the fall of 2018, Ferguson trashed the Liberal government’s handling of the Air Force’s aging CF-18 fighter jets. He described the government’s $3-billion plan to boost the jets as ineffective, noting a lack of technicians to service the planes and a lack of pilots to fly them.

Ferguson went out of his way to avoid the personal spotlight, but his reports on how well the government delivered services were sharp, critical and to the point, according to the Star’s Ottawa bureau chief, Susan Delacourt.

He wasn’t one to mince words. After releasing his report in November, 2017, he sharply criticized the Liberal government at a press conference for its poor performance in delivering services.

“I keep delivering the same message — that the government doesn’t understand the results from the citizens’ perspectives,” Ferguson said. “It’s possible that our message of citizen-centred service delivery has been heard at the individual program level. However, we see no signs of it being picked up government-wide.”

Ferguson had a shaky start to his tenure, when it was learned that he couldn’t speak French. The Conservative government at the time used its majority to approve his appointment after Liberal MPs walked out of the House of Commons en masse, insisting that the auditor general must be bilingual.

Ferguson promised he would learn French, and he did.

In the meantime, his audits revealed how the Canada Revenue Agency treated wealthy tax cheats with kid gloves while bearing down on regular taxpayers, how the federal government is blind to the economic gaps between First Nations people on reserves and other Canadians, and how successive governments turned a new pay system for bureaucrats into a $1.2-billion mess.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Ferguson will be “sorely missed.”

“Michael Ferguson was a force to be reckoned with, helping to ensure that government worked in the best interest of Canadians,” Singh said in a statement.

With files from Ilya Banares

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Canada’s auditor general Michael Ferguson has died at 60

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Michael Ferguson, Canada’s auditor general, has died, his office confirmed to CBC News on Saturday. He was 60. 

« It is with profound sadness that we must inform you that Mike Ferguson, the Auditor General of Canada, has passed away, » the statement passed on to CBC News reads.

« Over the past seven years, Mike has led our organization with compassion for everyone, and he was convinced of the great value of this office’s work. »

The statement did not provide information on the cause of his death, but a spokesperson in his office later confirmed he died after battling cancer for the past few months.

Ferguson had cancelled his media appearances for his 2018 fall reports due to health concerns. 

He was appointed as Auditor General of Canada in November 2011, and his term was set to end in 2021. 

Prior to his federal role, he served in various positions in the New Brunswick provincial government, including a stint as its auditor general. 

Ferguson was not shy about expressing his frustrations. In the summer, he told CBC Radio’s The House he was getting tired of filing annual reports recommending reforms to the way the government does business — only to see those recommendations disappear down the memory hole afterward.

Some of the issues he paid particular attention to were the Phoenix pay system, Indigenous services and sexual misconduct in the military.

The auditor general is an officer of Parliament appointed for a 10-year, non-renewable term. He or she is responsible for auditing and providing reports to Parliament on federal government departments and agencies, Crown corporations, and other national organizations.

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Family of mentally ill man who died in Ontario jail launches $14.3-million lawsuit against province, guards

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The family of a mentally ill man who died following a three-hour confrontation at an Ontario jail is suing the province and guards at the facility, alleging correctional officers used excessive force leading to his death.

Soleiman Faqiri’s relatives claim an eye witness, who was housed in a cell near Faqiri, has new information that suggests correctional officers were allegedly responsible for his death.

“The Faqiri family has been waiting for years for someone to explain how this could have happened,” family lawyer Nader Hasan said in a news release Wednesday. “This is about truth and accountability.”

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Faqiri, who had schizophrenia, died in December 2016 after guards at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., pepper-sprayed and beat him after he refused to get out of the shower, according to a 2017 internal report by the Kawartha Lakes Police Service that refers to surveillance video.

The report, which was obtained by the Star in February 2018, described how officers forced handcuffs and leg shackles on the 30-year-old as they returned him to a segregation cell.

Faqiri was to be transferred to a mental health facility in Whitby.

A 2017 coroner’s report, which ruled Faqiri’s cause of death to be “unascertained,” found he suffered more than 50 injuries, including a bruised laceration on his forehead, and multiple bruises and abrasions on his face, torso and limbs.

Faqiri’s family on Wednesday filed a statement of claim seeking $14.3 million in damages, alleging cruel and unusual punishment, battery, negligence, and abuse of public office.

In a news release, Yusuf Faqiri said his family has been suffering since his brother’s death. “While in segregation, a place he never should have been, Soli’s mental health deteriorated significantly,” he said. “We are seeking accountability and justice for Soli.”

The Ontario Provincial Police recently reopened the investigation into Faqiri’s death, which had earlier been probed by the Kawartha Lakes Police Service with no charges laid.

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Burlington father whose three-year-old died in hot car gets absolute discharge from Milton judge

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MILTON—A Milton judge said the case of a father charged with accidentally leaving his three-year-old son in a hot car to die is one of the saddest cases she has dealt with.

In giving Shaun Pennell an absolute discharge, Justice Lesley Baldwin said Pennell’s family has suffered so much — and continues to suffer.

Pennell, 38, appeared in Milton court on Tuesday, where he pleaded guilty to the charge of failing to provide the necessities of life to his child, Wyatt Pennell. The Crown was asking for a suspended sentence and probation.

Wyatt died from hyperthermia after being left in a hot vehicle on May 23, 2018, by his dad, who was supposed to drop him off at daycare that morning.

According to the agreed statement of facts, Pennell forgot Wyatt was behind him in a car seat and instead drove to his workplace, NUVO Network, at the Burlington Crossroads Centre.

The court heard that Jennifer called her husband, who became hysterical when he realized what had happened. The parents called 911. Police and paramedics were unable to revive the little boy.

Pennell was charged with failing to provide the necessities of life and negligence causing death. The second charge was withdrawn.

Pennell, clad in a grey suit, could be seen occasionally wiping tears from his eyes during the proceedings. Jennifer attended court with him.

“It is difficult to contemplate something more devastating than losing one’s child. It is even more so when you are the cause of that loss,” said assistant Crown attorney Nick Chiera.

“Mr. Pennell did not mean to cause his son any harm. Quite to the contrary, he loved his son. He grieves for him along with everyone else who also cared for Wyatt. That’s what makes this a difficult case.”

Defence attorney Brian Greenspan said Pennell’s actions have already devastated him. In a statement to the court, Jennifer said Pennell cried constantly for months following Wyatt’s death.

She also said he has lost weight and has sleep issues and frequent disturbing flashbacks.

“He struggles to make it through the days, but he continues to go to work and provide for his family. He is haunted by what he has done. He knows why our son is no longer here and it is torture,” said Jennifer.

“My husband is a loving father who made a terrible mistake and that has forever changed us.”

Greenspan said Pennell is also undergoing psychological counselling and plans to use his experience in the tech industry to design and develop some kind of device or program, possibly a car seat alarm, to prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future.

Greenspan said no good would be served for Pennell to leave the court with a criminal record and called for him to be discharged. He also argued that if probation was imposed it should be no longer than six months. Pennell declined to address the court.

Justice Baldwin argued a harsh sentence for Pennell would have zero deterrent value given the nature of what happened and the fact that Pennell is now hypervigilant when it comes to the care of his two-year-old daughter.

As well, the justice said she was impressed that Pennell wants to develop technology to prevent similar tragedies.

“There is no reason for Mr. Pennell to leave this building with a criminal record given these tragic circumstances,” said Baldwin. “He has done everything he can to address this tragedy from the moment it happened.”

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Hang Vo died a ‘senseless death’ in a Toronto alleyway. Many wish they could have helped her

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George Szabo has had some sleepless nights since Jan. 15, the morning when Hang Vo was struck and killed by a garbage truck driver in a downtown alleyway.

He thinks he might have been the last person to speak to Vo before the tragic incident. And he can’t quite shake off the idea that maybe he could have done more to save her life.

Szabo, a retired photographer who has been manning the security desk at the building near Adelaide St. and University Ave. for more than 15 years, remembers the quiet woman. Prior to that fateful morning, she had been seen sleeping over a grate at the entrance of an alleyway for the past two weeks. Szabo, as well as building operator Daniel Gareau, had repeatedly tried to warn her of potential dangers.

“I said, ‘do you hear me ma’am?’” recalled Szabo of their interaction that last evening. “She nodded. Then I said, ‘do you understand me?’ and she said, ‘yes.’ That is the only word I ever heard from her.”

Several hours later, on a dark and chilly Tuesday morning, a truck driver from Green For Life (GFL) Environmental backed into the tight alleyway to collect garbage. He struck Vo, 58, who was pronounced dead at the scene a few minutes later.

He doesn’t see many homeless people on the corner, and certainly had never seen anyone sleeping either on the sidewalk or in the alleyway until Vo showed up — which is why he kept trying to warn her.

Still, Szabo says he was saddened by this “senseless death” and continues to wonder if he could have changed anything about what happened.

“The only way for me to save her would have been to physically drag her inside the building. But I can’t do that,” he said, recalling that he specifically told her she could get killed if she kept sleeping at that corner. “How terribly ironic.”

Vo was the second woman to die on Toronto’s streets this year, and her death sparked more conversation about the issue of homelessness and how the city is responding to it.

Much of her identity and the circumstances that may have led to her ending up on the streets of Toronto have remained mysterious. Advocates believe she may have a brother who lives in Toronto. Toronto police, who initially appealed to the public for any information about Vo, confirmed Thursday they had found and notified her next of kin.

A spokesperson from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said they cannot share any details about specific cases due to privacy considerations.

But some available information reveal Vo had a complicated past that includes the loss of her immigration status.

According to documents tracked by various social workers and copies of which the Star has seen, Vo (full name Bich Hang Thi Vo) was born in Vietnam on Oct. 10, 1960. She immigrated to Canada and landed at Vancouver International Airport as a permanent resident on April 20, 1977. She was using a travel document issued in the Philippines, according to official documents.

What happened after that is unclear. So unclear, in fact, there’s a void of more than 30 years until Vo’s name surfaces again, this time in Hamilton, Ont.

A document signed by Hamilton CBSA on Oct. 27, 2009, indicates that Vo, until then a permanent resident, was convicted of two counts of fraud. The convictions took place on June 4, 2009, and the sentence details included 208 days of pre-sentence custody plus one day in jail, with a free-standing restitution of $45,068.65, according to the document.

Anna Pape, a spokesperson from the Immigration and Refugee Board, confirmed they have a record showing that Vo filed an appeal of a removal order issued against her on May 10, 2010.

“However, she failed to appear for her hearing and then again failed to attend at a date scheduled for her to explain why she did not appear for her hearing,” wrote Pape in an email to the Star. “Consequently, the Immigration Appeal Division determined that her appeal was abandoned.”

Multiple fraud-related criminal convictions would have been enough for Vo’s permanent resident status to be stripped, said Macdonald Scott, a Toronto immigration consultant and advocate with No One Is Illegal — a Toronto group advocating for the rights of migrants regardless of their status.

Some countries, including Vietnam in the past, do not want to take back their deportees, he said, adding this includes particularly people who fled Vietnam in the 1970s or those who have criminal convictions and/or mental health issues.

“So she was caught between a rock and a hard place with that,” he said.

Scott said Vo wouldn’t have been eligible to stay in subsidized housing after that, as the Ontario Housing Services Act requires an immigration status.

He said “sometimes people fall into bad and criminal behaviour,” but he doesn’t think that should mean we take away their rights and put their life in jeopardy.

Longtime activist with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty Gaetan Heroux agreed that Vo’s loss of her permanent residency might have been a turning point.

“It would have caused her havoc,” he said, noting he has come across many cases of people whose lives are turned upside down after going through such experiences.

“So she winds up in Toronto,” he said, noting she may have been trying to apply for housing or welfare, and becoming frustrated. “There’s a lot of pressure for someone who doesn’t have papers.”

But Vo did receive some help. One document shows she stayed at the Salvation Army’s Evangeline Residence in Toronto’s west end, starting Oct. 19, 2016. There’s no information as to when she left. No one at the Evangeline Residence responded to the Star’s repeated requests for a comment.

Nasrin Safary, an outreach worker with Neighbourhood Link Support Services, said she met with Vo in early 2017. Vo was looking for help filling out an application for status verification or replacement of an immigration document.

“She was really quiet,” she said, describing Vo as someone who wanted to just talk about her case and nothing else. “Her accent was heavy but I could understand her very well.”

She said Vo only had a copy of her landing document, and there was no record of working anywhere, even though original documents show she came to Canada on a work visa. She said Vo may have dealt with mental health issues during her time in Canada, and appeared confused about the loss of her immigration status.

When a response for her application came back three months later, it indicated that Citizenship and Immigration Canada listed Vo’s status as a foreign national. Her permanent resident status had been relinquished on May 12, 2010, according to the document.

“She was in shock when she found out. She got very upset and very angry,” said Safary, noting that people dealing with homelessness and/or mental health problems are often living on the streets or going from shelter to shelter without realizing their immigration status has changed.

As a social worker often helping homeless people who sometimes don’t have immigration status, Safary said Vo’s death has increased her worry about their fate.

“It’s very sad. It makes you wonder when it’s going to happen to the next person,” she said.

Gilbert Ngabo is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo

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Chef Fatima Ali Has Died of Cancer at Age 29

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We are saddened to share that Fatima Ali, a former Top Chef contestant, has died of cancer at age 29. A version of this essay is slated to run in our March print magazine. We are running it early online to share her perspective and honor her memory. Three months ago, Ali wrote for us about how she was spending her remaining months, following her terminal diagnosis. This version expands on her earlier piece.

I grew up in Pakistan, where food is a really integral part of the culture. I started cooking with my grandmother when I was six or seven, and she would teach me how to make little bread bears. They had peppercorn eyes and cloves for buttons, and I remember thinking it was such an amazing thing, that I could actually make something with my own hands.

After I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 2011, my mom wanted me to come home, but I said “Just give me one year in New York City. There’s no place better for me to learn.” Every time I’d go back to visit my family in Pakistan, I would cook. Watching me evolve gave my mom comfort, and helped her understand that this was absolutely my calling. So she finally let go, and said, “Look, just promise me that you’ll do your absolute best. And I’ll be happy with that.” And I said, “Okay. That’s a promise.”

My first job was at an Indian-Latin restaurant in New York. I was a floor manager and the sous chef at the same time, weirdly enough. So I spent three days in the front, and four days in the back. I was doing seven-day weeks, 14-hour days. I did that for nine months. Later, at another job, my executive chef quit suddenly, as they often do. I was just a 21-year-old junior sous chef, but suddenly in charge of the whole place. I worked breakfast, lunch, dinner, catered all these super-VIP holiday parties. I’d get home at 1 a.m then have to wake up at 4 a.m. for a private breakfast party. One time several cooks called out and then the person who was transporting the catering trays dropped them all onto the pedestrian walk at 45th St. and Lexington Ave. In the middle of lunch rush. We had to remake everything, with all the cooks missing. There were plenty of days like that. But you know what? It was amazing. Managing to get through a day like that—and not only living to tell about it, but doing it again and again—I think it really makes you understand what a human is capable of. We’re so resilient. If I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t change anything.

When I got diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Ewings Sarcoma, I had just finished filming Top Chef in Colorado. It was 2017 and I was working at the U.S. Open with my friend Joe Flamm, who was the winner and had opened up a pop-up restaurant there. I’d had this weird ache in my shoulder for the past couple of months that I’d been ignoring. You know, popping a couple of Advils, going to sleep. But one day, in the middle of lunch, my shoulder swelled up and the pain was mounting literally by the minute. I had to go to the emergency room.

They gave me an MRI literally within 20 minutes of seeing me, because I was in so much pain. I remember the doctor was exceptionally handsome. I remember standing over there crying my eyes out and this guy could be on a runway. He calls me on my cell phone and I’m thinking, “Ooh, this hot doctor’s asking me out.” But instead he says, “I want to refer you to an oncologist.” That was just the beginning. They didn’t discharge me from my first hospital admission for three weeks.

Honestly, until your first chemo cycle, I don’t think it really hits you. Then your hair starts falling out, and finally you’re like, “This is actually happening. This is the rest of my life.” I did eight rounds of chemo. It was horrible, but at the end, my scans were all clear. I thought I’d beaten it. Then it came back. Worse than before. It was metastatic. It had spread to my lungs. The doctors told me I had a year to live.

The first thing I did when I found out was dye my hair. Platinum blonde. I thought, “I’m dying, so why not?” I felt like I had to reclaim the hair thing. So I called this guy to my hospital room. Then I did one more round of chemo and all my frickin’ hair fell out again.

That sucked, but I was like, “You know what? Stop feeling sorry for yourself.” I‘ve been to hospitals in New York and I‘ve been to hospitals in LA, and when you‘re around that much sickness, and you see people from all sorts of backgrounds, all sorts of ages, in all stages of disease—it really gives you perspective. Because even now, it could be so much worse than it is. I‘m still very lucky to be able to do a lot of the things that I love.

I decided not to spend whatever time I had left (whether it’s a year, a month, another ten years—you don’t know until you’re gone) lamenting all the things that weren’t right. Instead, I’d make the most of it. I’m using cancer as the excuse I needed to actually go and get things done, and the more people I share those thoughts with, the more I hold myself to them. If I write this intention down, if I have it printed somewhere like I do here, I have to hold myself responsible, because I have people counting on me.

What is my intention? To live my life. To fulfill all those genuine dreams I have. It’s easy to spend weeks in my pajamas, curled up in my bed, watching Gossip Girl on Netflix. I could totally do that. And don’t get me wrong, I still watch Gossip Girl. But now I’m doing things. I’m going out to eat. I’m making plans for vacations. I’m finding experimental treatments. I’m cooking. I’m writing.

My brother and I have challenged ourselves to write a recipe a day—spaghetti; braised lamb with Pakistani spices and root vegetables; comfort food. Things I like to eat. Things people will actually make. Every day I come up with a recipe I’ve never made before, write it down in a notebook, make a little drawing of it, go shopping for those ingredients, and cook it. My brother wants to compile them all. He’ll turn them into something one day.

I’ve also been eating at a lot of restaurants. Vespertine, Sushi Masa, Broken Spanish, Kismet. I went to Eleven Madison Park with my family and the manager, a friend of mine, made a replica of my food stall, VanPakistan, in the kitchen. Down to the tablecloth. Down to the kind of napkin dispenser I had. The chef made the most delicious, melt-in-your-mouth Seekh kebabs I’ve ever had, with flatbread and pickled onions and green chutney they had made just for me. My mom was in tears, bawling. My older brother was crying. Everyone was hugging each other. We were blown away.

We’re planning a trip to Europe: Austria, Italy. I want to eat really phenomenal Parmesan and balsamic and fresh buffalo mozzarella and real Italian tomatoes and basil and fresh pasta with good olive oil and great cheese. That’s all I fucking want. Oh, and I DM’d Noma. I was like, “I’m coming to town. I hope even if there aren’t spots, you could make a spot for me.” I received a reply from chef Rene Redzepi himself. Turns out people respond when you tell them you’re dying of cancer.

My brother and I were talking the other day and he made an interesting point. He was like, « As chefs, you guys deal with death every day. » And he’s right. When you’re a chef, you understand the circle of life. We’re butchering rabbits, whole hogs, and baby lambs; we’re filleting fish and cleaning shrimp. All these things have died for us. I suppose you have to see it as the natural progress of life. Perhaps I’ve had to face it a little bit sooner than expected, but it’s not an unfamiliar feeling.

There are days that I’m exceptionally afraid. There are days I sit alone and cry, because I don’t want to do it in front of my family. And there are other days that we all sit down and cry together, because it is such a scary thing. But at the same time, you can’t let that fear cripple you. It’s harder being miserable than it is to be happy.

As told to Hilary Cadigan on November 28, 2018

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‘She was wonderful’: Friends hold vigil for Toronto woman who died in donation bin – Toronto

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Dozens of people gathered with candles, flowers and picture collages Thursday night in the back alley of Toronto’s Bloorcourt Village neighbourhood, where a clothing donation bin used to sit.

Crystal Papineau, 35, is being remembered by friends in the same place she died just two days ago.

Papineau died Tuesday morning when she became trapped inside the clothing donation bin located behind a building near Bloor Street W and Dovercourt Road. Police say half of her body was still sticking out of the bin when emergency crews tried to save her.

“She was wonderful, she was funny, she was generous, she was kind,” said Patricia O’Connell with Sistering, a not-for-profit agency serving Toronto’s most vulnerable women.

“She was compassionate and she was a great friend to the other women.”

Friends at her vigil said she was homeless and frequently depended on the city’s women’s shelters.

“She was very outgoing and had a lot of love other people and always saw the optimistic side of things,” said Victoria James, who calls herself Papineau’s best friend.

She adds that Papineau used to frequently take clothing items out of the bins and shared them with other homeless or vulnerable women.

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty says that all women’s shelters were full the night Papineau died and are using her death as a rallying cry to increase the number of resources for the city’s homeless population.

“Our group is going to be asking the mayor and the city to declare a state of emergency around homelessness so they can access other resources,” said Cathy Crowe with the Shelter Housing and Justice Network.

“The system is a mess. There are over a thousand people sleeping in overflow spaces right now.”

In response, Mayor John Tory’s staff said, “The mayor is committed to addressing homelessness in our city and its underlying causes.

“Mayor Tory and city council are already taking action to help residents in need,” said Tory’s spokesperson, Don Peat. “That is why he supported the expansion of the city’s winter respite program from one site in 2014 to nine sites this winter and adding 1,000 beds to the shelter system as soon as possible.”

The vigil ran from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Taquisha McKitty, woman at centre of life-support battle, has died

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A woman at the centre of a legal battle in Ontario over how to define death died Monday morning of natural causes while she was on life-support.

Taquisha McKitty died of « natural causes » at 3 a.m. ET, according to Hugh R. Scher, a lawyer who had been representing her family during their court battle to keep her on life-support.

McKitty, who had a young daughter, had been on life-support since September 2017, when she went into cardiac arrest following a drug overdose in Brampton, Ont. She was declared neurologically dead by doctors shortly thereafter.

Since then, her family had fought to keep McKitty on a mechanical ventilator, arguing she had shown signs of life and her Christian fundamentalist beliefs said she was alive as long as her heart was beating.

But in June, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled McKitty could be considered dead and be removed from life-support.

Unlike four other provinces, including Manitoba and Nova Scotia, Ontario does not have a statutory definition of death, the court decision noted. Instead, death in Canada is determined by physicians in accordance with accepted medical practice.

« There is no legislation that requires physicians to consider an individual’s views, wishes or religious beliefs as factors to be considered in the determination of death, » Judge Lucille Shaw wrote in her decision.

Earlier this month, McKitty’s parents argued their case at the Ontario Court of Appeal.

At that time, Scher argued that Shaw erred in not recognizing McKitty’s charter rights, and not taking into account her religious beliefs. A decision was expected in the new year.

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Mike ‘Beard Guy’ Taylor from Canadian band Walk Off the Earth has died – National

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Mike Taylor, keyboardist and vocalist of Canadian band Walk Off the Earth, known as the “Beard Guy,” has died, the band confirmed Sunday.


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“It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved brother and band member, Mike ‘Beard Guy’ Taylor,” the band said in a statement on Twitter. “Mike had a love for life that was unmatched and a willingness to give that went beyond ordinary means.”

The band said that he passed away peacefully from natural causes last night while in his sleep. He has left two children.

Walk Off the Earth, from Burlington, Ont., became famous in 2012 after posting a cover of Australian artist Gotye’s Somebody that I Use to Know, with all five bandmates playing the song on a single guitar.

WATCH: Walk Off The Earth On New Christmas Album






It became one of the most-watched clips on YouTube in 2012 and has since gained over 185 million views since being posted January 6, 2012, with viewers especially taking notice of Taylor on the far right and his stoic appearance.

“6 years later, I still want to become as majestic as the beard guy,” one viewer commented eight months ago.

The band had planned on kicking off a world tour with a set at CBC’s New Year’s Eve celebration in Niagara Falls Monday, but a representative for the band said they will no longer be performing tomorrow. The show, which also features The Sheepdogs and Burton Cummings, will still go on.

-With a file from The Canadian Press

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

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