Firefighters rescue several people from Hamilton house fire – Hamilton


Several tenants of a downtown Hamilton apartment building have been rescued by firefighters.

Fire crews were called to a two-and-a-half storey residence at 86 Wellington Street South just before midnight Friday where they encountered heavy smoke and fire on the first and second floor.

Investigation underway into cause of house fire in east Hamilton

Deputy Fire Chief John Verbeek says the tenants in the ground floor apartments had already evacuated the house by the time firefighters arrived on scene but he says there were still tenants on the upper floors.

The remaining tenants were rescued and five were treated at the scene by paramedics. One tenant was taken to hospital with smoke inhalation.

Verbeek says five dogs were also rescued from the building, however, one did not survive.

Damage is estimated at $295,000.

The Ontario Fire Marshall is investigating the cause.

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Halton police seek public’s help to find missing Burlington man – Hamilton


Police are asking for the public’s help to find a missing Burlington man.

Halton Regional Police say Ivan Eskit, 67, was last seen leaving his home in the area of Guelph Line and Mountainside Drive in Burlington at around 10:30 a.m. on Friday.

Police say he doesn’t have his medication with him, which he requires daily, and his family is concerned about his well-being.

Father, 11-month-old son missing in Burlington found safe near Ottawa: police

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Eskit is described as a five-foot-10 white man weighing 200 pounds who has slicked-back grey hair and a goatee. He was last seen wearing a brown shirt, jeans and a grey winter jacket.

Police add that he was last seen driving away in a dark blue 2008 Jeep Patriot four-door SUV with Ontario licence plate BCXV 073.

Eskit also had his two German shepherd dogs with him.

UPDATE — Police locate missing elderly man in Burlington

Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Jared McLeod of the Burlington Criminal Investigations Bureau at 905-825-4747, ext. 2385, or the on-duty staff sergeant at ext. 2310.

Tips can also be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).

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Supporters rally in support of Hamilton family facing deportation to Hungary – Hamilton


Thirty people have rallied outside of the Bay Street Federal Building in support of a Hamilton family that faces deportation to Hungary.

The four members of the Almassy-Palfi family have spent more than seven years building their lives in Canada, but will have to leave this weekend without a last-minute suspension of their deportation order.

Elizabeth Almassy has a PhD and was a college professor in Budapest, but has been working in Hamilton alongside her husband as building superintendents.

Elizabeth says she fled domestic violence in Hungary, along with her now teenaged sons, claiming refugee status in September 2011 but their claim was rejected last Spring.

If the deportation order can be suspended, she is hoping to eventually get the right to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Otherwise, the deportation order will be enforced on Sunday.

Her sons, 18-year-old Adam and 16-year-old Marton Palfi, just started new semesters at Westmount Secondary School. Adam hopes to start his post-secondary education in the fall, noting that he was just accepted into Carleton University.

Hamilton-East/Stoney Creek Liberal MP Bob Bratina says he supports the family’s desire to stay in Canada and is still advocating for what he calls “the right decision” to their active file.

In the meantime, Elizabeth says they are “so nervous, so stressed,” and “wish to stay here forever if we can.”

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Barton Village hosting monthly events, including Winter Wonder festival – Hamilton


Barton Village is going to be hosting monthly events called Barton First Fridays.

Hamilton police respond to reports of gunshots on Barton St. East

The events kick off this Friday, Feb. 1, with the Winter Wonder festival.

It will take place from 3-9 p.m. between Victoria and Oak streets, where you can check out exhibits from local artists, live musical performances, an interactive hockey tournament, as well as an outdoor fire pit.

The monthly event is an effort to showcase Barton Village as an attractive place to work, play, live, shop and invest.

Police arrest wanted man after traffic stop in Hamilton

For more details, click here.

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Hamilton woman searched for 24 years for the daughter she was forced to give up. Then fate brought them together


HAMILTON—It was the saddest of happy endings.

Darcy Dee was slipping away, her body finally giving in to the breast cancer she’d been fighting for four years.

But Darcy had already won another battle — one that she’d waged for a quarter-century — the struggle to find the little girl she’d been forced to give up in 1991, the baby the system had taken away from her all those years ago after deeming her an unfit mother because of her disability.

At her bedside during those last few days was the 29-year-old woman who had been taken away from her mother as a toddler, fostered and soon adopted, the woman who had grown up and lived most of her life with a loving adoptive family just minutes from the birth mother she never knew. But miraculously, fate had brought them back together in 2015, allowing for three years that would have to make up for nearly three decades lost.

Darcy Dee, 59, died Jan. 20 in Hamilton’s St. Peter’s Hospital. Her funeral takes place Saturday.

She is survived by 10 siblings, and by her daughter — Veronica Ann — the daughter for whom she searched for 24 years.

“Knowing that my mother got her greatest wish, to heal the wound of losing me, has been a huge inspiration,” Veronica said after her mother’s passing. She marvels at how through all those years that they were apart, Darcy essentially built her life around the quest for her lost daughter.

“She formed habits throughout her city to be visible and available so that I might by chance find her,” Veronica said. “She never gave up and I’m so grateful I could be there to show her it was all worth it.”

I told the first chapter of Darcy’s story nearly 30 years ago in November 1990, in the Star, as Darcy was waging a losing battle with the Catholic Children’s Aid Society in Hamilton for the custody of Veronica.

I’d met Darcy by chance in the food court of a Hamilton mall that autumn while I was on assignment. Darcy had been left disabled by a brain injury after being hit by a truck while walking to school on a winter day, when she was 8. She was declared dead at the scene, but somehow survived.

That day in Hamilton, she rolled up beside my table in her scooter, which had a carrier basket full of loose-leaf papers. Once she discovered I was a reporter, Darcy wanted me to read the documents in her basket, notes she’d been typing over the months, the journal of her struggle to regain custody of her daughter. (Over the years, she would type thousands of pages.)

Darcy’s speech was slurred. She had difficulty controlling her movements and articulating her feelings. But her journal read like poetry. Page after page of fluid and heartbreaking detail about how she’d had Veronica with a guy she’d met, and then lost her. Estranged from her family, the fiercely independent Darcy had been living in an apartment in downtown Hamilton.

She contacted the children’s aid society during her pregnancy, and shortly after the baby’s birth, Darcy was deemed unfit as a parent.

“All my life people told me I couldn’t do anything,” Dee said during one of several interviews in her tiny subsidized apartment in 1990. “Well, now I did the thing that is supposed to be the most important of all — I created a life. Now they want to take that away from me.”

After a year of increasingly infrequent and restricted supervised visits, the courts ruled on Feb. 11, 1991, that Veronica would be placed for adoption and that Darcy would not be allowed to see her again.

The system was true to its word, for 24 years.

The story that Darcy shared with me in 1990, the story that continued to unfold in the intervening decades, reads like a screenplay.

She was born in Buffalo in 1959 to John and Rayme Dee, professional actors who immigrated to Canada for work and settled in Ancaster, Ont. Anyone who watched Canadian television in the 1970s and early ’80s would recognize Darcy’s dad, John, who played Al Waxman’s crusty neighbour Max on King of Kensington.

Darcy left home at 21 after getting a Grade 12 diploma from a vocational school. She eventually moved to Toronto, where she took some courses in English and history at Ryerson, without much success. Back in Hamilton in 1982, she sat in on courses at McMaster University and Mohawk College.

When I met her in the small, dingy apartment in 1990, I noticed how she made the best of the lack of space and narrow hallway: because of her limited mobility, she got around by practically bouncing off the walls, propelling herself from the table, to the chair, to the bed.

The journal entries I read in 1990 were heartbreaking and gave voice to the thoughtful, eloquent and angry young woman that the system had written off.

She wrote about when her daughter turned 1.

“Yesterday was Veronica’s birthday. Her very first. I did not get to see her. Although I carried on with my own life, I had a pretty heavy heart, thinking of her. Remember last year at this time, I was in the hospital, in pain, having just had Veronica the night before?

“Yes, but the greatest pain of all is not being able to see my baby.”

Darcy Dee with her young daughter, who she had to give up to children's aid three decades ago.
Darcy Dee with her young daughter, who she had to give up to children’s aid three decades ago.

After losing Veronica, Darcy reconciled with her large family, and her sisters in particular became the champions of her efforts to locate her daughter. Her parents have long since died.

Darcy’s family and friends recall a spunky, unpredictable woman who could fly into a rage at those she felt were putting her down, and just as quickly flash a wide smile and howl with laughter.

“This is the story of a woman who grew up fighting — for her independence after a severe brain injury, for her life with a cancer diagnosis — and then, in the short time left to her, to find the daughter she was forced to give up,” her sister Betsy wrote in an account of Darcy’s struggle.

Darcy and I were in touch sporadically over the years.

In a journal entry on Veronica’s 10th birthday, June 10, 1999, Darcy wrote: “I will never stop praying for you, and loving you, even though I do not know where you are. You could be in the house in front or behind me for all I know.”

In 2007, when Veronica would have been turning 18, I contemplated trying to find her myself, or even publishing the baby photos of Veronica that I had taken at Darcy’s apartment in 1990. But I concluded that would be a violation of the girl’s privacy.

In late 2014, Betsy let me know that Darcy had been diagnosed with breast cancer and that the family was stepping up efforts to find Veronica.

By then they’d already been through years of paperwork, trying to make contact and obtain official records of the adoption. I went to see Darcy in Hamilton in November of 2014. She was very ill and was now confined to a wheelchair. And she still talked about finding her Veronica.

Little did anyone know that the clue to Veronica’s identity and whereabouts was already in Darcy’s possession. After my visit, Betsy sent a follow-up email to share some adoption-related documents that Darcy had received from Service Ontario in response to one of her requests. The key document was the 1992 record of Veronica’s adoption. While all of the adoptive family’s identifying information had been dutifully blacked out, for some reason the document showed Veronica’s legal name at the time of her adoption.

It took a minute on Google to find Veronica, a young web design and marketing consultant who was at that point living and working in Hamilton, blocks away from her birth mother.

Darcy’s sisters were in a quandary. How should they go about confirming Veronica’s identity and making contact? They didn’t share the finding with Darcy until they could get in touch with Veronica. After weeks of deliberating, they dropped off a letter at Veronica’s apartment, informing her of the identity of her birth mother and extending the invitation for a meeting.

Several weeks later, on Jan. 25, 2015, a Sunday afternoon, the family arranged for Veronica to make a surprise visit to her birth mother’s apartment.

Darcy was seated with her back to the door when Veronica entered and made her way into view.

“Do you know who this is?” the sister asked.

Darcy didn’t.

At that point, the striking young woman with blond hair and blue eyes knelt down in front of Darcy’s chair and took her hand.

“I’m Veronica.”

Veronica looks back now on that remarkable reunion and the months that followed.

“My reunion with Darcy was joyful, compassionate, all about doing things together as newly introduced people,” she said. “We went and did fun activities all through the summer. Darcy always pictured us in the sunshine together and she got her wish.”

Veronica was struck by her resemblance to Darcy, in physical appearance, and in attitude.

“She’s passed that focused, never-say-die spirit on to me.”

In the little time they had together, a lot was left unsaid, in part because it had become so difficult for Darcy to communicate.

“Most of what happened between Darcy and I was over coffees and in each other’s hearts,” Veronica recounted. “We couldn’t easily communicate but the wonder and surreal happiness of beating the odds together was our primary emotional story.”

In the days before Darcy’s death, Veronica spent hours at her birth mother’s bedside in Hamilton, still holding her hand. And while Darcy is gone, she has left her daughter a written legacy, thousands of pages of her writing.

Years before, on Nov. 11, 2007, Darcy typed this poem in her journal. After her death, it seems almost prophetic:

I can only hope and pray

That maybe, just maybe some day

That in heaven, or on earth

It will be like a rebirth

We will meet face to face

I will hug Veronica

And hold her

And she? She will touch my shoulder

Never to let go of each other

Allan Thompson was a reporter with the Toronto Star from 1987 to 2003, when he became a journalism professor at Carleton University.


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Halton police investigating 2 reported ATM thefts in Oakville – Hamilton


Halton police are investigating two ATM thefts in Oakville.

Halton police looking for suspects after armed robbery in Oakville

Police say in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 18, three suspects in an older model pickup truck pulled up to the front doors of the Sobeys on Lakeshore Road West and pried open the sliding door.

A chain connected to the truck was tied around the ATM machine, and the driver then accelerated, hauling the ATM through the doors of the store, before it was loaded onto the vehicle.

Police say the second incident, involving three suspects and a pickup truck, happened early Thursday morning at the ‘Film.Ca Cinemas’ movie theatre on Speers Road, where the same technique was used to remove the ATM.

Hamilton police charge teacher with first-degree murder in house fire death of Dundas couple

However, the suspects were caught on surveillance video.

To view their descriptions and suspect vehicle, please click here.

Anyone with information about these ATM thefts is asked to contact Det.-Const. Ross Amore at the 2 District Criminal Investigations Bureau at 905-825-4747 ext. 2246.

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


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Despite Hamilton Police raids, Georgia Peach says it’s ‘open for business’ – Hamilton


Georgia Peach says it’s still open for business, despite police raids at all four of its Hamilton locations.

Break-in at Hamilton mountain dispensary

Hamilton police arrested 25 people and laid 50 charges on Thursday after raiding and seizing all four Georgia Peach marijuana dispensary locations: George Street, Dundurn Street South and two on Upper James.

However, at around 10:30 a.m. Friday, the cannabis dispensary company wrote on Twitter that its George Street location is currently open for business.

Police also executed a search warrant earlier this month at HaZe dispensary on King Street East.

Hamilton police continue crackdown on illegal cannabis dispensaries

Under new powers that came into effect earlier this month, police can now change the locks and install an alarm at the dispensaries, making sure they cannot reopen.

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Hamilton teacher Richard Taylor charged in Rutherford double homicide


The son of Carla Rutherford, killed with her husband, Alan Rutherford, in a horrific fire intentionally set in their bedroom, has been charged in their murders.

Richard Taylor is charged with two counts of first degree murder. He is expected to appear in court later Thursday.

We believe the fire was intentionally set,” Staff Sgt. Steve Bereziuk told the Spectator in September. “And it was done with the intention of killing them.

“Right now, we are focusing on one individual and that person is aware. And they have been co-operative.”

Richard Taylor is the oldest of Carla’s children, and grew up in the Greening Court rancher with his parents and younger brother. Property records show Carla and her first husband, whom her son Richard was named after, bought the home in 1981.

Taylor is a teacher, listed as the library, physical education and health teacher at Hess Street School in Hamilton. Last year he was listed as teaching Grades 2/3.

His profile on the Ontario College of Teachers shows he was in good standing and earned a bachelor of arts from McMaster University in 1998 before getting a bachelor of science in education from Medaille College in New York.

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board spokesperson Shawn McKillop said Taylor has been “reassigned effective immediately.” Any other questions were referred to Hamilton police.

Property records show he owns a home in Oakville with his wife, whose social media profile shows two children.

Carla and her first husband divorced and she remarried Alan Rutherford, who has two adult daughters from a prior marriage. The couple met while working at a Hamilton Health Science lab and married 11 years ago.

Bereziuk previously said the blended family got along well.

Richard Taylor and his younger brother started a custom Muskoka chair company using baseball bats in the design in 2015. They made the chairs out of Taylor’s Oakville home. The brother is a chiropractor in Toronto.

This past June, weeks before the arson homicides, the Huntsville Forester published an interview with the brothers where they spoke about starting the business after their mom threatened to toss their collection of old baseball bats collecting dust in their childhood home.

The article says Richard goes by “Rich” and is a “respected elementary school teacher in Hamilton.” They were on summer vacation in Haliburton when they hashed out their custom Muskoka chair business plan — Taylor Bros. Chair Co. The company has been successful, including donating four custom stools for a Toronto Blue Jays’ Jays Care Foundation auction. They had their picture taken on the field at Rogers Centre.

But in that interview Richard said the best part of the business was spending time with his brother.

“That was part of the attraction for starting this company,” says Rich. “At the very least, we could get together more often and chat, have a beer. It also gives us an excuse to get the families together and hang out. It’s great.”

Alan and Carla Rutherford were a well-like retired couple known in the neighbourhood for being out walking their two chocolate brown labradors — the dogs escaped the blaze.

Alan was a runner and Carla a talented quiltmaker who donated her quilts for fundraising. They were both longtime members and volunteers with the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club.

After their deaths there was an outpouring from the community sharing memories of the couple.

In September, Bereziuk said police were exploring the possibility that the arson was contracted out.

The Rutherfords had “no apparent enemies” beyond perhaps “that inner circle,” he said at the time.

Hamilton police are expected to provide an update on the case at 2 p.m.


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More passengers choosing Hamilton International Airport – Hamilton


The Hamilton International Airport says that it continues to see positive gains.

In a news release Tuesday, Hamilton International reports that 725,630 passengers travelled through John C. Munro Airport last year, a 21 per cent increase over 2017 and 118 per cent rise since 2016.

Officials say they are expecting passenger traffic to continue to grow in 2019 and beyond, thanks to new daily direct service from Hamilton to Dublin, Ireland, with Norwegian beginning in March and increased domestic flights from Swoop this summer.

Swoop airline starts flying between Hamilton and Puerto Vallarta

“Within the last two years the Airport has seen a tremendous amount of growth as passengers continue to choose Hamilton as their airport of choice for convenient, low-cost travel,” said Cathie Puckering, President & CEO, John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport.

Suspicious package leads to evacuation near Hamilton International Airport

“Additionally, Ontario is home to a strong and rapidly growing e-commerce industry and Hamilton International is well positioned to support this thriving industry with large cargo facilities that operate 24/7,” said Puckering. “This enables companies to meet the tight deadlines that the e-commerce sector demands and spurred the continued growth evident in our cargo activity in 2018.”

Hamilton International continues to be Canada’s largest overnight express cargo airport.

In 2018, officials say cargo volume increased by five per cent compared to 2017.

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


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Hamilton senior in unbearable pain wants assisted dying to save her from nursing home


At 75, Arleen Reinsborough’s fear of nursing homes has her more determined than ever to seek assisted suicide.

Of course, fear of long-term care doesn’t qualify her for medical assistance in dying.

But Reinsborough is confident her unbearable pain will.

Reinsborough has severe osteoarthritis, asthma, psoriasis so bad that her feet bleed whenever she stands up, and a damaged back and neck that linger from two past car accidents.

But it’s her future that makes her despair the most.

“It isn’t depression that makes me want to die, it’s the fear of living with inhumane, overcrowded conditions, loneliness and lack of hope,” she says, referring to life in a nursing home.

“I’m trying to do all I can to prevent going to long-term care. I believe in quality of life, not quantity of life.”

The homes she says she can afford “are worse than living on the street or living at all.”

Hamilton has 1,717 people on a wait list for a room in a long-term care (LTC) facility, most of them for the cheapest, basic room which costs about $1,848 a month. A private room is $2,640 a month and semi-private runs about $2,228.

The facilities are mandated to provide 24-hour nursing and personal care.

Reinsborough accepts that, as a member of the baby boom generation (born 1945-1965), there will never be enough services because of the size of the aging demographic.

She has a “small, wonderful” family with two adult children who are “stretched to the limit” trying to help care for her, all while working and caring for their own children — two of whom have medical issues, and another has a learning disability.

“How could I ask more of them?”

Reinsborough’s decision to apply for assisted dying was difficult.

“I have chronic illnesses. The only way that ends is very badly,” she says.

“I’m like a prisoner of a war camp I can never escape from, and every day I get a level of pain from four to 10 — every day.

“In other words, it’s torture.”

Her husband of 52 years, John, 82, is not keen on her wish for assisted dying, but he respects it; he understands her suffering.

“The medical profession doesn’t seem to offer too many solutions,” he says. “Either you sit by and watch your wife suffer, or you watch her pass away.”

Their son and daughter, however, are noncommittal, according to John. It is hard for them, because they are younger, to truly know their mother’s pain, he says.

Reinsborough says her children did not want to comment because they wish to remain anonymous.

“This is not an easy route to take but I cannot see any other options and there is a time for all of us,” she said.

Last fall, Reinsborough, fed up with the “torture” she felt, went to the hospital ER and told staff that without more help, she was going to the Jolley Cut to “jump off.”

“I meant it, too … I had even thought to call 911 before I do, so (police) could clear the Jolley Cut and no one else would get hurt,” she says. “I could see no hope in sight.”

She ended up getting three hours of home care per week in order to take a bath and make her bed.

Now, she’s awaiting a referral to a doctor willing to help her die.

“We’ve lost our compassion for seniors,” she says. “We’re not cute. Some people say we also smell. Well, so did they when they were babies.”

Margaret Denton, a gerontologist with the Hamilton Council on Aging, says many seniors feel the way Reinsborough does about long-term care.

“The thought of a nursing home, where they don’t have much control on their life, is threatening …”

Part of the answer lies in more supports for older adults at home, and ensuring quality care in nursing homes, she says.

But Reinsborough feels people no longer see value in seniors, adding, “It’s hard to be human to someone seen as valueless.”

For example, she gives a recent Spectator story about the cancellation of the Seniors Isolation Impact Plan due to a lack of government funding. The program identified seniors “falling through the cracks” and would guide them to community services.

She would like, when there is no other option to a nursing home, to be able to invoke her assisted dying wish.

That could be difficult though because an advance request for assisted death is invalid if she is incapable of making her own decision when the time comes.

“I can’t see myself lying there in a fetal position waiting to die,” she says however.

“There is such a lack of places to die in peace, dignity, and pain-free with gentle care,” she recently wrote the prime minister in a plea to expand assisted dying rules. “All I see ahead of me is poverty, suffering and a lack of caregivers.”

“If assisted suicide is not available to seniors like me, there will be a lot of botched attempts,” which she says will put a strain on hospitals.

Reinsborough cites other serious senior problems — aside from pain and fear of nursing homes — that spur her desire for assisted dying. They include small pensions, medical services that OHIP won’t pay for, and prescriptions not covered by the Ontario Drug Benefit program.

She also says it is impossible to get into senior housing. Reinsborough and her husband live in a small home they can barely afford to rent on the Mountain.

None of those problems will make her eligible for assisted dying, says Dying with Dignity Canada.

CEO Shanaaz Gokool says qualifying is not that simple and that “only a tiny percentage of people will have an assisted death.”

But her organization sees Reinsborough’s type of situation all the time. “Anxiety is amplified by the lack of dignity and the lack of finances,” she says.

People developing dementia, for example, don’t want to end up in a care facility, she says.

But doctors must ensure people meet the eligibility criteria and that their wish for assisted dying “is enduring,” Gokool says.

“At our end of the spectrum (at Dying with Dignity) … our focus is on ensuring the most frail and vulnerable have access to all of their end-of-life options.”

cfragomeni@thespec.com905-526-3392 | @CarmatTheSpec

Photograph by Barry Gray, The Hamilton Spectator


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