A pastry shop in Montreal is giving out free treats, but there’s a catch – Montreal

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A pastry shop in Montreal is making trekking in the snow a little sweeter — but with a catch.

CRémy Pâtisserie is giving out a free donut to those who show up in skis or snow shoes.

According to the shop, a couple of dozen people have braved the more than 40 centimetres of snow on the ground to claim their free treat.

“Storms are always seen in a negative light and we said, ‘we’ll change that’,” explained Alexandra Pesant-Tremblay who works at the shop.

Pesant-Tremblay says the owner, Rémy Couture, came up with the idea. “He wanted to put joy in people’s hearts, to have fun and sweeten people’s day.”

Watch below: Snow Day Conditions






Some of the  donut treats include bourbon-bacon, cheesecake and Boston creme flavors. “They’re the size of three Tim Horton’s donuts!” Pesant-Tremblay exclaimed proudly.

The shop is located at 2202 avenue Mont-Royal Est. It closes at 6:00 p.m.

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Crisis Group says it trusts Ottawa to help free detainees after McCallum firing

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The employer of a Canadian man detained in China is expressing confidence in the Trudeau government following the firing of John McCallum.

The support comes as the government is faced with containing and repairing the political damage in relations with its second largest trading partner as Canada copes with the fallout of being caught in a trade war between two global giants — the United States and China. The Liberals will also be facing the sharpened political knives of their Conservative and NDP opponents when the House of Commons resumes on Monday for its first sitting in a pivotal election year.

McCallum was replaced by his number two in Beijing, a career diplomat who is viewed in some quarters as everything the former Liberal cabinet minister turned out not to be — a circumspect, by-the-book envoy who knows to how to navigate Asian politics while keeping his mouth shut in public.

Jim Nickel, who was McCallum’s deputy at the Canadian embassy in Beijing, was put in charge of the mission in China as charge d’affaires. His first order of business will be to continue to push for the freedom of two high-profile Canadian detainees and trying to get a third imprisoned Canadian off death row.

A spokesman for the International Crisis Group, where Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig was working on a leave of absence, said it has confidence in the way in which the government is trying to win his release.

« We’re in close contact with the Canadian authorities. We trust them to pursue the best strategy to secure the release of Michael Kovrig, » Karim Lebhour, spokesman for the International Crisis Group, told The Canadian Press on Sunday.

The organization isn’t commenting further because it doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize Kovrig, who was arrested more than a month ago along with Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor on vague suspicions of violating Chinese national security.

Jim Nickel a ‘smart career diplomat’

The arrests came after Canada detained MengWanzhou, a top Huawei executive, on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States, which wants to extradite her on fraud charges.

McCallum opined twice last week on the Meng case, even though he apologized for misspeaking the first time, sowing further chaos in Canada’s relations with China, and raising concerns about the government’s efforts to win the release of Spavor and Kovrig.

McCallum was fired after he was quoted in a Vancouver newspaper as saying it would be « great for Canada » if the United States dropped its extradition request for Meng.

There were mixed assessments Sunday of the damage caused by McCallum’s remarks, but Nickel, who is now Canada’s interim representative in Beijing, was viewed as a solid bet to undertake the diplomatic repair job that must now take place.

Watch: The Sunday Scrum on PM firing John McCallum as ambassador to China

McCallum removed from post following backlash over comments he made about the extradition case of Meng Wanzhou. 13:09

Having a career diplomat at the helm in China instead of a former politician is a better bet, said Fen Hampson, the head of the global security program at the Centre for Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ont.

« The role of an ambassador is to convey messages from your government, not to write the script or go off script as McCallum did, » said Hampson, also a professor at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, where Nickel graduated in the late 1980s.

Hampson described Nickel as a « smart career diplomat who knows exactly what his brief is, and he will not vary from it one inch. He is rock solid in that sense. » He is also highly skilled in Asian diplomacy.

« Nickel has spent a lot of his professional life in postings in Asia and is keenly aware of the cross-cultural missteps you can easily make if you are not prudent. »

Nickel did not immediately respond to an interview request from The Canadian Press on Sunday.

Government-owned paper critical of McCallum’s dismissal 

On social media, Nickel comes across as a straight-laced career diplomat. His Twitter feed is peppered with photos from work events and hockey games. He praised Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe’s trade mission to China days after sharing a photo of himself with Wayne Gretzky for an event leading up to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Unlike McCallum, he has not tweeted about the diplomatic dispute between China and Canada, having been largely absent from the social media platform since late September.

In this Nov. 14, 2018 photo, John McCallum sits next to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, during a bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Singapore. A spokesperson for the prime minister confirmed Trudeau delivered the dismissal news to McCallum himself. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

News of McCallum’s firing was not well received in China, said Lynette Ong, an associate professor with the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

Ong said McCallum was viewed as a friend to China even before he came up with several arguments he thought could help Meng’s legal fight against extradition.

She’s not sure whether Nickel will be seen the same way.

She pointed to an editorial in the government-owned China Daily newspaper, which praised McCallum’s comments about the Meng file.

« Although what he said is 100 per cent true, his words seem to have fallen on deaf ears at home. Those who had attacked McCallum should feel ashamed of themselves, » the editorial reads.

« Trudeau’s firing of the ambassador shows how sensitive Ottawa is to the pickle it has got itself into at the behest of the U.S. »

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Vancouver city council to vote on backing free transit for youth, discounts for low-income riders – BC

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Vancouver city council will vote Tuesday on whether to throw its support behind a campaign for free transit for minors.

The All On Board campaign is also calling for reduced transit fares on a sliding scale for low-income riders.

The motion, proposed by COPE Coun. Jean Swanson, argues that inability to afford public transit is destroying some low-income people’s credit ratings.

READ MORE: Councillors support sliding-scale transit fares for low-income Calgarians

“Those living below the poverty line have brought forward that they cannot afford to pay the $173 fines received individually or the resulting accrued ‘TransLink debt’ from many unpaid fines,” states the motion.

If approved, the motion would see the City of Vancouver pen a letter to the TransLink Mayors’ Council as well as TransLink’s board of directors and the Ministries of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Social Development calling for TransLink and the province to develop a funding model to pay for the initiative.

WATCH: TransLink Mayors’ Council votes on Surrey SkyTrain extension






It also calls for a second letter to the mayors’ council asking TransLink to develop a poverty reduction mandate, to stop ticketing minors for fare evasion and to de-link ICBC from fare evasion.

The All On Board campaign also hopes to see adults assigned community service instead of fines for fare evasion.

If approved, the City of Vancouver would forward the resolution to this year’s Lower Mainland Government Association convention and the Union of BC Municipalities convention.


READ MORE:
Busload of options for low-income transit passes available across Canada

Vancouver would not be the first Lower Mainland municipality to endorse the campaign.

In early December, city councils in both New Westminster and Port Moody approved motions supporting All On Board.

In 2017, the City of Calgary implemented a sliding-scale transit fare program for low-income people that was wildly popular.

Edmonton also offers discounted monthly bus passes for low-income people, as does Saskatoon and Halifax. Ottawa offers both discounted monthly passes and single fares for eligible adults.

Winnipeg also approved a new low-income bus pass in November but has yet to work out the details and implement it.

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

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Free speech policies now in effect at Ontario’s colleges and universities

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Ontario’s post-secondary institutions have ushered in free-speech policies, meeting a provincially imposed Jan. 1 deadline to tackle an issue that has polarized students in this province and beyond.

“It strikes a balance … It will give people some guidance,” said Linda Franklin, president of Colleges Ontario, of the new standard policy adopted in mid-December by all publicly-funded colleges.

“It gives administrators the right to say ‘We have to think about safety on campus and hate speech’ ” — which remains prohibited — but also doesn’t silence those with opinions that are unpopular, she said.

Those on campus have to know there are “speakers that you may not like or who support your world view,” but open dialogue is essential, Franklin added.

“We’re committed to the open discussion of diverse ideas and respecting everyone’s rights to express their opinions.”

In Ontario, protests — and even arrests — have followed controversial speakers such as University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson and Lindsay Shepherd, a Wilfrid Laurier graduate student and teaching assistant.

Shepherd was disciplined after showing her students a video of Peterson, who has gained notoriety for his public fight against the use of gender-neutral pronouns.

Institutions will be monitored and have been told they could face funding cuts for failing to comply with principles outlined by the province.

These include ensuring that universities and colleges are “places for open discussion and free inquiry,” that they “should not attempt to shield students from ideas or opinions that (those students) disagree with or find offensive;” and that “members of the university/college … may not obstruct or interfere with the freedom of others to express their views.”

Before the holiday break, Fullerton told reporters she was pleased colleges met the deadline, and was expecting universities would as well.

“I think what (the free speech policy) will do is create some certainly around expectations, and we want to make sure that there’s an environment of respect, of open debate, respectful dialogue and that’s really the foundation,” said Fullerton.

“We don’t want to see hate speech — we will not tolerate hate speech — that is not permitted. Anything that is against the law already, there will be repercussions.”

However, Fullerton added, the government was “constantly” hearing that free speech was being stifled on Ontario campuses.

“We heard that from students, we heard that from faculty — it was a message that we heard consistently during the campaign and after. So we know (it was an issue),” she added.

The Ontario colleges’ policy — modelled on a well-regarded one developed by the University of Chicago — aims to strike a balance between promoting free speech while protecting against hate speech.

Colleges Ontario has come under fire from the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which said more input was needed and claimed no faculty members were included.

“This so-called free-speech policy is anything but. In fact, a better name would be ‘gag-order policy,’” OPSEU president Warren “Smokey” Thomas said in a release.

It accuses the Ford government of “trampling the democratic rights of the people of Ontario” because the policies are more aimed at avoiding protests than protecting freedom of speech.

But Franklin said a group of college leaders, as well as a representative from the College Student Alliance and legal experts, all took part in its creation, and that it will be reviewed in a year.

She said campuses around the world have dealt with protests and disruptions over speakers who students have objected to for various reasons.

The Ontario colleges’ policy states, in part, “Freedom of expression, which means the right to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn, must be protected as it is essential to discovery, critical assessment and the effective dissemination of knowledge and ideas and leads to social and economic advancement.”

Colleges, it adds, “must be places that allow for open discussion and free inquiry where diverse voices can be heard and ideas and viewpoints can be explored and discussed freely and debated openly without fear of reprisal, even if these are considered to be controversial or conflict with the views of some members of the college community … it is not the role of colleges to shield members of the college community from ideas and opinions that they may find disagreeable or offensive.”

The University of Toronto has a free-speech policy that has been in place for more than 25 years.

Among those universities approving new policies, Queen’s in Kingston did so Dec. 18, stating that the “failure to explore or confront ideas with which we disagree through disciplined and respectful dialogue, debate, and argument, does society a disservice, weakens our intellectual integrity, and threatens the very core of the university.”

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

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Free prescriptions for many children and young adults in Ontario set to end in March

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Free taxpayer-funded prescriptions to children and young adults under 25 will end in March if they have private insurance coverage.

The looming change in the OHIP+ pharmacare program, expected to save $250 million a year, was first announced in late June as Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives took power but the time frame for implementation remained a mystery until now.

Changes to Ontario’s OHIP+ pharmacare program will impact children and young adults covered under private insurance plans. Drugs will still be free for those without insurance.
Changes to Ontario’s OHIP+ pharmacare program will impact children and young adults covered under private insurance plans. Drugs will still be free for those without insurance.  (NICOLE CRAINE / NYT)

“The government is fixing OHIP+ by focusing benefits on those who need them the most,” said a notice posted online on a government website this week putting the proposal out for public comment until the end of January.

Sources said the government hopes to have the necessary systems in place with insurers and pharmacies by late March.

Under the new plan, children and young adults will continue to get free prescriptions if they or their parents do not have private health insurance coverage.

Otherwise, private insurance plans become the “first payer” for prescription medicines.

At issue is how pharmacists will be able to verify whether customers under 25 have private coverage, or deductibles or co-payments.

The Ontario Pharmacists Association said it supports the initiative and is eager to have a smooth, streamlined process to make sure children and young adults get the medicines they need without snags.

“There’s still some technical issues and IT system issues to work out,” Allen Malek, the association’s executive vice-president and chief pharmacy officer, told the Star on Friday.

At drug stores, pharmacists will ask customers if they have insurance and check their coverage online. But pharmacists are concerned about the complications of performing a “policing” function on behalf of the government.

“It puts us at a risk we cannot necessarily protect against,” said Malek, concerned some customers, whose insurance plans require them to cover some of their drug costs through co-pays or deductibles, may say they do not have insurance to avoid paying anything.

The association is concerned the government will make pharmacies liable for the costs if it’s later discovered the customer had private insurance.

Health Minister Christine Elliott’s office would not specify how the system would be made fail-safe, other than to say “our government is broadly engaging with employers, pharmacies and insurance companies as part of our efforts to ensure a smooth transition and implementation.”

New Democrat MPP and health critic France Gelinas (Nickel Belt) said the change will be more costly to administer and prone to complications.

“This patchwork system is the most likely to have big cracks for people to fall through, especially since, right now, the government has no sure way to figure out which children have or have not been put back on their parent’s private insurance plans.”

The Green party questioned the promised cost savings, saying Finance Minister Vic Fedeli has put them as low as $100 million and as high as $300 million at different times.

“They have been playing fast and loose with the numbers,” said a statement from the office of Green Leader Mike Schreiner, MPP for Guelph.

About 4,400 medications are eligible under the pharmacare plan launched a year ago by the previous Liberal government.

In his fall economic statement, Fedeli estimated the move will save “at least” $250 million.

“The government promised that it would find efficiencies while ensuring that vital public services are affordable and sustainable, now and in the years to come,” he wrote.

Ford has promised to find $6 billion in annual spending cuts in a bid to eliminate a provincial deficit the government pegs at $14.5 billion.

Drugs covered under OHIP+ are the same ones used in the Ontario Drug Benefit Program for seniors and people on social assistance.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

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Free hugs warm up a cold, snowy Boxing Day in Kelowna – Okanagan

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Sometimes what you receive during the holiday season doesn’t fit into a nice, neat package under the Christmas tree.

Case in point: A hug from a loved one. Or a hug from Kelowna’s Free Hugs Team.

On Boxing Day, the Free Hugs Team gathered at The Sails downtown and gave out warm hugs on a cold, snowy day.

Angie Clowry of the Free Hugs Team said “not everyone receives presents at Christmas. Nor does everyone love Christmas. But we all deserve a hug.”

Clowry added “we hug everyone from retirees, athletes, children, dogs, doctors to our communities most vulnerable. All we ask is that you bring your own free hug sign and take it with you when you leave for next year.”


READ MORE:
UBCO students give out free hugs to combat loneliness

“This is our eighth year doing this,” said Monique Saebels, who was also out on Boxing Day, giving free hugs. “We have done it in memory of a friend of ours, Wayne Cobbs, who passed away and he was a big hugger. And so we come out every year and hug as many people as we can.”

Saebels is one of many huggers that has been doing this since the first year. Her favourite memory? A homeless man who was started off a bit apprehensive about getting touched.

“He said that he hadn’t been hugged most of his life and that it felt so wonderful to have someone who didn’t even know him,” said Saebels. “He hugged me for about five minutes. It felt amazing. That’s why I’m here.”

Meanwhile, Ayla Cooper, a first-year hugger, said “I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since I got here.”

“I think it makes them feel wanted and around the holidays not everyone feels wanted,” she added. “So I think it’s nice after Christmas to just have this.”


READ MORE:
Free hugs in Kelowna now a Boxing Day tradition

So, what’s the best way to hug?

According to these huggers, it includes a positive approach, friendliness, lean in and make it genuine.

Why do they do this?

“Because I love hugging,” said one person. “It makes me feel good and it makes other people feel good.”

That was definitely true. All types of people from all walks of life strolled away with a big smile and just a little more pep to their step.

“It was warm and not cold,” another person said after getting a free hug.

Saebels added “there’s so many people who come to us and they haven’t been hugged in years and it’s that close contact they don’t get, so they love it. They come out here. Give us big hugs and we just love everybody.”

One thing’s for sure: Hugging and making people feel great is highly addictive, so get out there and give someone a hug.

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

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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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As government prepares response to calls to bring ISIS members to justice, some walk free – National

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On Facebook, the Pakistani-Canadian described himself in a recent post as a “Mujahid residing in Dar al Kufr” — a jihadist fighter in the land of disbelief.

But more than two years after flying back to Toronto and telling reporters he had served in the brutal ISIS police in Syria, he has not been arrested.

“No kafir can touch me,” he said in a recent text message to a former friend, who shared it with Global News. Kafir is an Arabic term for nonbeliever.

The government was to respond Tuesday to a House of Commons motion that called for “a plan to immediately bring to justice anyone who has fought as an ISIS terrorist or participated in any terrorist activity.”

WATCH: A motion tabled by the Tories calling for a government strategy for returning ISIS members passes 280-1.






Although introduced by the Conservative opposition, the Liberals and NDP supported the Oct. 22 motion, which specifically urged action against those “who are in Canada or have Canadian citizenship.”

It’s unclear what the government will put forward to address an issue that set off fiery parliamentary debate: Several Canadians who have joined, or tried to join, ISIS and other jihadist groups have not been charged with terrorism.

According to terrorism researcher Prof. Amarnath Amarasingam, only four of the at least 19 Canadians he has identified as having returned from Syria and Iraq have been charged. Five others were subjected to terrorism peace bonds that have now expired.

At least a half-dozen Canadians allegedly affiliated with ISIS, meanwhile, have been captured by U.S.-backed forces in Syria and want to return to Canada, including women from Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Another Canadian is being held in Turkey.

WATCH: Mike Armstrong looks at why Kurdish officials are worried about foreign fighters and what Canada is prepared to do about it






One of the captives, Muhammad Ali, told Global News in an exclusive interview he had been a member of an ISIS sniper unit. But neither he nor the others detained abroad face charges in Canada.

“Why are some people charged with terrorism-related offences while others are not?” asked an internal government document obtained by Global News under the Access to Information Act.

“Terrorism investigations are complex and resource intensive, and are some of the most challenging investigations the RCMP conducts,” the document disclosed by the RCMP continued.

“Often, they require evidence of an individual’s activity in foreign conflict zones, or rely on information provided by partners that we are not authorized to disclose in court. The RCMP also faces challenges in collecting digital evidence, including access to encrypted online communications.”


READ MORE:
‘I just want to go back’: Canadian ISIS fighter captured in northern Syria speaks out

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service director, David Vigneault, said in a speech last week that few of the roughly 100 extremists who left Canada to fight in Syria and Iraq had returned.

“Despite the collapse of Daesh [ISIS] in Syria and Iraq, we have not seen a surge in foreign fighters attempting to return to Canada,” Vigneault told the Economic Club of Canada.

That is partly because so many have died. Almost two dozen have been killed in combat and airstrikes, including four ISIS fighters wanted by the RCMP, Amarasingam said.

Ten of the 19 identified by Amarasingam as having returned never actually made it to Syria or Iraq; they were turned back before crossing the border. Two of them, Pamir Hakimzadah and Rehab Dughmosh, are awaiting trial on terrorism charges.

Ahmad Waseem, an ISIS fighter from Windsor, Ont., with Mohamed El Shaer, who travelled with him to Syria but has since returned.

But jihadist fighter Ahmad Waseem was able to come home to Windsor, Ont., receive hospital treatment for a gunshot wound and then return to fight with ISIS until he was shot again, this time fatally.

The friend who signed his passport application and travelled with him to Syria, Mohammed El Shaer, was subjected to a terrorism peace bond upon returning to Windsor but was not charged with terrorism offences.

The lack of charges against some of those who have come back has meant they faced no legal consequences for having participated in terrorist groups responsible for horrendous atrocities.

It is also a potential security risk.

A photo on the Facebook page of the Pakistani-Canadian showed rows of shoes. “Other guy goals,” the caption read. Below it was a photo of a cache of military-style firearms. “My goals,” read the post by the man, who identified himself in his profile as “Abu Huzayfa.” He has since deleted the post.

A new-deleted post on the Facebook page of a Toronto-area man who says he was a member of the ISIS religious police.

The “right to enter” Canada is guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights. “Therefore, even if a Canadian engaged in terrorist activity abroad, the government of Canada must facilitate their return to Canada,” said a briefing note prepared for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

The RCMP works with Canadian officials posted overseas to identify high-risk travellers, who may approach diplomatic posts for new passports. Their return is managed by a High-Risk Returnee Interdepartmental Taskforce and the RCMP’s National Security Joint Operation Centre.

“Once RCMP is made aware of a possible returnee, they exchange what information they have through the NSJOC and existing mechanisms and make an assessment of what risk they may pose,” the briefing note said.

“Following that, the Taskforce will meet to discuss as a community, what measures can be taken to control the return of the individual. There are standard operating procedures in place for this process, including what measures can be put in place to address returnees.”

“For instance, RCMP may use undercover officers to engage with the HRT to collect evidence, or to monitor them during their flight home. They could also be subjected to secondary customs screening and in some cases, or detention by police, when they reach Canada.”


READ MORE:
‘I’m going to die here’: Wives of ISIS fighters want to return home to Canada

WATCH: ISIS fighters’ Canadian wives want to return home






Depending on the risk, police have several options: criminal charges; peace bonds to “mitigate the threat”; or having an “intervention team work with the returnee’s family to open up dialogue with the individual and to help support the returnee’s disengagement from their radical ideology and past behaviour.”

Professor Stephanie Carvin, a national security and terrorism expert at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, said the approach outlined in the documents was “good on paper.”

“But we do not really have a good idea of how it is working in practice. The government must respect privacy concerns, but we really don’t have any concrete data to say whether or not the RCMP’s approach is being implemented well.”

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca

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

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Ontario Auditor General Report finds Wynne’s ‘free’ tuition scheme far more expensive than promised

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Former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne’s signature “free” college and university tuition plan could soon cost $2 billion annually, a staggering 50 per cent higher than previous estimates, the provincial auditor general has found.

Although the program, which will soon cost taxpayers $650 million more a year than the old grant-and-loan system, was designed to help students from low-income families, there is little evidence that that is happening.

Former Premier Kathleen Wynne’s “free” college and university tuition plan could soon cost $2 billion annually, a staggering 50 per cent higher than previous estimates, the provincial auditor general has found.
Former Premier Kathleen Wynne’s “free” college and university tuition plan could soon cost $2 billion annually, a staggering 50 per cent higher than previous estimates, the provincial auditor general has found.  (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star file photo)

“We concluded that a large portion of the new OSAP recipients were already attending college of university — and paying for it by themselves or with loans — even before they qualified for the new aid,” auditor general Bonnie Lysyk said Wednesday.

In her two-volume 1,128-page annual report to the legislature, Lysyk examined a slew of programs, finding cost overruns and political meddling at transportation agency Metrolinx, problems for patients without private insurance paying for health services when traveling even within Canada, and ineffective development of Toronto’s waterfront.

The watchdog also found “most” elevators in Ontario do not meet safety standards and there are few penalties for scofflaw operators.

She said the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA), which oversees everything from elevators to ski lifts to amusement park rides, “seldom takes the initiative to protect public safety.”

Her conclusions from 15 “value-for-money” audits are aimed more at the transgressions of Wynne’s government than those of Premier Doug Ford’s administration, which was only sworn in on June 29.

“A central finding in almost all of our audits this year this year was that spending of public monies did not consistently result in the cost-effective achievement of anticipated program benefits or the the proactive addressing of program risks,” she said.

Ontario’s revamped student aid system, which provides low-income students with non-repayable grants to cover tuition and often more, was intended to increase access to college and university for under-represented groups. It reformed the old system which provided a combination of grants and loans.

The Ministry of Education had estimated that axing post-secondary tax credits “was expected to more than offset any increased costs” of the changes, but the auditor found that the “uptake to financial aid to date … has exceeded expectations” and will, in fact, cost many millions more each year.

Worse, because the ministry only “tracks limited data about (student aid) recipients …, (it) cannot determine whether the latest changes actually helped improve access to post-secondary education,” says the report, noting overall enrollment has remained roughly the same.

Lysyk also found that one-third of mature students — those who have been out of high school for four years or more — qualified for grants, but the ministry “did not know whether the students actually needed OSAP support.”

Unlike students who attend university straight out of high school, the income of the parents of mature students isn’t taken into consideration, even if they still live at home and their family earns more than $200,000 a year.

On Waterfront Toronto, Lysyk blasted the joint federal-provincial-municipal agency for failing to deliver on its mandate to transform the city’s 2,840-acre lakefront.

“Waterfront Toronto has directly developed only about 55 acres, or five percent of the total publicly owned developable land in the waterfront area, and provided development funding to other organizations for revitalization projects for just 151 acres, or about 14 per cent, since its inception (in 2002),” she said.

The auditor also questioned the wisdom of the agency’s agreement with Google-run Sidewalk Labs to developed a wired “smart city” on waterfront lands, including privacy concerns over the use of residents’ data.

“In order to protect the public interest, this situation does deserve government study before any long-term commitment is reached with Sidewalks Labs,” advised Lysyk.

As well, she expressed concern about the earmarking of $453 million toward port lands flood-protection at the mouth of the Don River.

On Metrolinx, Lysyk maintained that the agency’s 2016 decision to locate GO Transit stations at Kirby and Lawrence East was influenced by the then Liberal government and by city hall.

“Metrolinx’s initial business cases concluded that the costs and disadvantages of the two stations significantly outweighed their benefits,” said Lysyk, noting elected officials “made it clear they wanted these stations.”

Lysyk expressed concern about OHIP coverage for Ontarians when they travel abroad and even to other provinces.

“Ontario patients who may require emergency health services while in other countries … (are) reimbursed just five cents for every dollar that they were billed by a foreign physician or hospital under the out-of-country travellers program,” she said.

More surprisingly, she found that even travelling within Canada could be costly in the event of a health emergency, because the full cost of services in other provinces or territories is not always covered.

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

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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Edmontonians in need get free portraits – Edmonton

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Hundreds of Edmontonians took home a professional-quality portrait this weekend — free of charge — thanks to a number of volunteer photographers.

The event, known as Help-Portrait, is hosted each year in cities around the world, providing portraits to clients who would otherwise have difficulty affording them.


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Over the past 10 years in Edmonton, it has produced more than 3,800 portraits for clients, according to Javier Salazar, who leads Help-Portrait Edmonton.

“People have to focus on food and shelter and clothing — all that kind of stuff — and sometimes they don’t have enough for that extra layer of support. They don’t have the change to get the professional photo or the extra nice jacket or that kind of thing,” Salazar said.


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Morgan Shultz has been attending Help-Portrait with her daughters for four years. Without this event, she said she would have to settle for taking family photographs on her phone.

“I’d probably have to save up money just to get photos done,” Shultz said. “The poses are more professional. The photos themselves are more professional.”

The event brings together local hairdressers, makeup artists and photographers, all volunteering to help attendees look and feel their best.


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It’s Terry Lusty’s second time attending the gathering. He plans to give his portrait to his children and grandchildren.

“I feel more so for the other people that come here, because otherwise they wouldn’t have the opportunity to get their photos taken,” Lusty said.

Railene Hooper has volunteered her photography skills for the past five years. She said helping and interacting with her clients keeps her coming back.

“We’ve spent all this time with them and now they’re your friends, right?” Hooper said. “They become your friends within five minutes of meeting them, doing their portrait and then giving it to them — the whole process.”

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

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