Deceased millionaire’s family sues after DNA test reveals heir isn’t related

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Elis Gosta Hjukstrom was born out of wedlock in a tiny hamlet in northern Sweden. He died in Vancouver a self-made millionaire, bequeathing most of his fortune to the man he called his son.

But a paternity test conducted after Hjukstrom’s death revealed he wasn’t biologically related to his heir.

Now, Hjukstrom’s extended family in Sweden is suing the heir in B.C. Supreme Court, claiming he and his now-deceased mother deceived Hjukstrom for decades in order to benefit financially. 

Hjukstrom, a lifelong bachelor known to many as Gus, moved to Canada from Sweden in his 20s. He died of cancer in 2017 at age 87, leaving behind a Vancouver-based import and distribution business and a family estate in Sweden worth a combined total of about $14 million, of which he bequeathed most to Swedish resident Kenth Lundback. 

In a notice of civil claim filed last May, the family alleges that Lundback and his mother intentionally defrauded Hjukstrom for over 50 years in a « calculated, callous and selfish way » by leading him to believe Lundback was the man’s biological son.

In or around 1994, Hjukstrom, centre, treated some of his Swedish family to a month-long trip to Vancouver. The family says he was very generous during this trip, and rented an apartment for them and paid for all their expenses. « Gosta was very proud to show us around Vancouver and to introduce us to his close friends and staff, » the family said. (Onyx Law)

The family — Hjukstrom’s surviving siblings, nieces and nephews — wants Lundback to be removed from Hjukstrom’s will and the trust.

In his response to the family’s claim, filed in the B.C. court, Lundback denies the allegations and argues instead that Hjukstrom knew it was possible that he wasn’t his biological son. Lundback says he and Hjukstrom enjoyed a « warm, happy and encouraging » rapport in recent years that was « akin to a father/son relationship. »

The case reveals family secrets kept quiet for decades, now exposed as Hjukstrom’s relatives and his heir argue over who should rightfully benefit from the fortune he left behind. 

Impoverished background

According to court documents, Hjukstrom grew up in a small parish in northern Sweden, born to an unwed mother and the eldest of seven children.

Hjukstrom never knew his biological father, and two of his siblings were adopted out because his mother couldn’t afford to care for them. In 1957, he moved to Canada and began what is now a successful business in Vancouver currently worth about $7 million. 

While visiting Sweden in 1960, Hjukstrom had a brief romantic relationship with Ingrid Jonsson, a childhood friend. The family claims that, soon after, Jonsson began a relationship with Nils Joel — listed as Lundback’s father on his birth certificate, and to whom he « always bore a striking physical resemblance. »

The couple split up sometime after 1962. In 1964, Hjukstrom wrote to Jonsson and told her of his entrepreneurial success.

Hjukstrom, centre right, in the black vest, sometimes travelled with his family to northern Sweden, where he had a cabin. (Mikael Nordgren)

In her reply, Jonsson told him she had a young son born a few months after they had been together. 

‘I will of course take responsibility’

« If I am in fact Kenth’s father, I will of course take responsibility, » Hjukstrom wrote in a letter filed as part of an affidavit. 

« Yes, that is the case, » Jonsson later replied. « I don’t think you need to tell anyone about it. » 

Hjukstrom trusted Jonsson, the family says, because they were childhood friends. And he was a stubborn man who wouldn’t be told what to do, despite the family’s concerns that he was being taken advantage of. 

The family says Hjukstrom soon started sending Jonsson money, and he first included her and her son in his will in 1966. Jonsson died in 2008. By 2014, Hjukstrom left the bulk of his estate to Lundback. 

After Hjukstrom died in 2017, the family questioned Lundback’s relationship to him. The executor of Hjukstrom’s estate ordered a DNA test. The results showed there was no probability of paternity.

In his response filed with the court, Lundback says Hjukstrom always knew it was possible he wasn’t the father.

Established a special bond

Lundback says Hjukstrom wanted him to be his heir, regardless of whether he was his biological son, because the two had established a special bond over the years.

Lundback also claims that he didn’t know Hjukstrom was his father until 2002, when he got a letter from him stating as much. Soon after that, Hjukstrom visited Lundback in Sweden on a few occasions, and the pair exchanged phone calls and letters. 

Lundback also claims he asked Hjukstrom, twice, if they could do a DNA test, but he says Hjukstrom replied it was unnecessary. Lundback says he didn’t know how much Hjukstrom’s estate was worth.

A photo of Hjukstrom, his sister Asta, and his nephew Mikael Nordgren at their house in the 1980s. (Mikael Nordgren)

Hjukstrom’s family in Sweden are the ones trying to take advantage of the millionaire, Lundback says, claiming they only contacted him when they wanted money and gifts. Lundback says the entrepreneur never intended to leave them his fortune.

The family disputes Lundback’s assertions. As evidence, they have submitted photos of family visits over the years, many of which they say Hjukstrom paid for. 

They say Hjukstrom was mindful of family legacies and never would have left his estate to Lundback knowing that he wasn’t his biological son.

One thing both parties do agree on is that Hjukstrom was a generous man who gave freely to family and those he was close to. 

It will be up to a judge to decide whether Hjukstrom left his estate freely to Lundback because he was deceived or because he considered them to be close. 

The court recently ruled that it will hear the suits against both the trust and the estate at the same time. The case is expected to go to trial in 2020. 

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#MeToo won’t last if it isn’t fair

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What is the future of #MeToo?

As we mothball 2018, the social movement remains a cultural force, one that has reshaped attitudes, fortified HR policies and placed bullhorns in the hands of sexual-abuse victims. Many men who once traipsed the corridors of power are now living ghosts, stripped of their careers and reputations, banished to purgatory.

In the last three months of 2017, as allegations of sexual misconduct gripped the news cycle almost daily, #MeToo was hailed as a seismic event, a watershed, a reckoning, a point from which there was no return.

Those last three months of 2017 felt like a mass exorcism.

We were purging demons.

By contrast, the movement is now a hot-air balloon in a pewter sky: it is moving slower and basked in grey. This is not necessarily bad. It might even be good. The speed of #MeToo in 2017 was unsustainable. But if the ultimate goal is to stop harassment and abuse, this year’s loss in momentum is a blessing in disguise: we can now exhale and poke holes into #MeToo to make it stronger.

The first problem, which emerged with allegations against comedian Aziz Ansari in January, is that we probably need to have a conversation about what constitutes mistreatment and what is just a bad date.

In the marketplace of human sexuality, what is a toxic hard sell and what is buyer’s remorse? What is transactional and what is stolen? Where do we draw the line between criminality and clumsy attempts at courtship?

Published on babe.net, the effort to put Ansari in the #MeToo rogue’s gallery came from a feature that recounted in graphic detail a pseudonymous 22-year-old’s date with the celebrity that “turned into the worst night of my life.”

But if you read the piece, waiting for the gotcha sins, you’re still waiting.

There was something about this story — the Atlantic would later dismiss it as “3,000 words of revenge porn” — that did not dovetail with the spirit and exhaustive reportage of so many 2017 investigations.

This seemed less like abuse and more like character assassination.

The same might be said of bizarre allegations against TVO’s Steve Paikin the following month. Former Toronto mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson claimed Paikin propositioned her during a lunch meeting. TVO launched a probe. The charge was “not substantiated.” In the words of Paikin, it was “complete fiction.”

Instead of lifting the #MeToo tide, the Ansari blip muddied the waters. But with Paikin we had tumbled into a treacherous riptide: the possibility an accuser was lying. And as the year rumbled on, this became a refrain from many who denied misconduct allegations while notably still championing #MeToo: David Copperfield, Michael Douglas, Ryan Seacrest, Jamie Foxx and others.

As James Franco told Stephen Colbert in response to allegations against him in January: “The things that I heard that were on Twitter are not accurate, but I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice because they didn’t have a voice for so long.”

Around the same time, 100 female writers, academics, producers and actors in France — including Catherine Deneuve — signed an open letter arguing that the movement was going too far and now posed a danger to society: “In fact, #MeToo has led to a campaign, in the press and on social media, of public accusations and indictments against individuals who, without being given a chance to respond or defend themselves, are put in the exact same category as sex offenders.”

The “pendulum effect,” discovered by Galileo more than 400 years ago, was underway in Europe. And the #MeToo backlash would build throughout the year, steamrolling to other corners of the world where, as the Washington Post recently noted, the movement “either fizzled or never took flight.”

But while the French letter was condemned in woke parts of North America, the cautionary subtext — the need for due process — became obvious in 2018. An internal investigation cleared Seacrest. An internal investigation doomed Les Moonves. An internal investigation is now underway over Neil deGrasse Tyson.

In all three cases — exoneration, guilt and to be determined — the lesson is clear: if #MeToo is to remain a powerful force it must navigate a bedrock of the West: innocent until proven guilty. To allow that principle to be inverted in the court of public opinion is to do grave injustice to actual victims of abuse.

Any lessening in the burden of proof will also worsen gender relations and create a chilling effect in workplaces if people begin to believe, as actor Liam Neeson told a late-night TV show in Ireland this year, #MeToo is “a bit of a witch hunt.”

Throughout 2018, there were stories of male managers confiding they no longer felt comfortable mentoring young females or even getting into elevators with them. This anxiety over being alone with a woman — something Chris Rock jokes about and Mike Pence lives by — is not an antidote to sexual misconduct.

It is an affront to true equality.

But this fear of being wrongly accused — which in part triggered the #HimToo movement this fall and unleashed a polarized debate around Brett Kavanaugh — became an inextricable part of #MeToo in 2018.

There can be no doubt the movement has changed the way we think. It has achieved more in 15 months than was accomplished this century. It is an undertaking that is long overdue. Sexual harassment and abuse is repugnant.

But if #MeToo is to charge full speed ahead next year it must also accept that not everything is black-and-white. Some points of no return are actually forks in the road. And, ultimately, there can be no justice without due process.

Vinay Menon is the Star’s pop culture columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @vinaymenon

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Ontario wants to speed the sale of more than 200 surplus properties. But the process isn’t always easy

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Maybe you’re wondering if, with a few strategic renovations, an abandoned OPP detachment could be made over into the perfect summer getaway. Perhaps you envision a block of condos on the site of a decommissioned hospital.

Those are the type of publicly owned properties the Ontario government says it wants to sell. There are 243 on a list of buildings and land owned by Ontario taxpayers that are on a provincial surplus list.

The province says it wants to sell off 243 surplus properties to monetize public assets. One of those properties is a house at 567 Arlington Ave. However it’s not on the open market yet.
The province says it wants to sell off 243 surplus properties to monetize public assets. One of those properties is a house at 567 Arlington Ave. However it’s not on the open market yet.  (MOE DOIRON FOR THE TORONTO STAR)

The Progressive Conservative government announced this month that, as part of its mission to cut red tape, it was speeding up the sale of those properties to raise between $105 million and $135 million for the public purse over four years. The divestiture would also save about $9.5 million annually in maintaining unused property, said Government and Consumer Services Minister Bill Walker.

Toronto Star readers wanted to know which public assets were being sold and the asking prices. But getting that information has proved a lot more complicated than looking for a home on a website like Realtor.ca.

While Walker’s office provided the Star with a list of the 243 properties being readied for sale, that information wasn’t posted online. A spokesperson for the minister said the list was being translated and prepared for posting. That list includes properties that are in various stages of the sales process — some have been recently sold, others are under contract, others are undergoing due diligence and targeted for future sale, according to the minister’s office.

In many cases it is impossible to determine from the list what is actually on the property, if anything. One line is listed simply as, “Toronto — Tapscott Rd. and Passmore Ave.”

Read more:

Province wants to speed sale of 243 surplus properties

Toronto council approves using 11 surplus properties for affordable housing

For properties actually being marketed for sale, the government referred us to the Infrastructure Ontario website. As of Monday, it included 16 properties that had cleared the bureaucratic process to be marketed publicly.

Twelve of those listings included sale prices ranging from $5,000 for a quarter-acre in Hornepayne, Ont., north of Sault Ste. Marie, to $14.7 million for 43 acres of employment-zoned land near Burnhamthorpe Rd. and Hwy. 403 in Oakville — described as an “excellent opportunity for future development or investment.”

There were 30 surplus properties sold between April 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018, and 17 of them were listed on the open market through a real estate broker. The average selling time: 100 days.

The remaining 13 were sold directly by Infrastructure Ontario to other government entities and arm’s-length agencies, or they were “non-viable parcels” sold to the owners of abutting properties.

Even before a property is considered surplus, the government is continually monitoring its real estate portfolio “to identify highest and best use,” said John Cimino, senior vice-president of portfolio planning, development and transactions.

If it is declared surplus, the property is circulated through the provincial government. If no other ministry wants it, the real estate goes to the federal and municipal governments and other public-sector agencies for consideration. Each party gets 30 days — down from 180 — to consider whether they want the site.

If nobody is interested, the real estate is appraised and Infrastructure Ontario comes up with a marketing and listing strategy through its broker of record, CBRE. That’s when it shows up on the Infrastructure Ontario website.

“The true test of market value is allowing the property to be on the market for an exposure period,” Cimino said. Typically that is 30 days but it can be extended.

“We leave them on the market as long as is reasonable and then, like any other prudent owner would do, remove them from the market because they’ve become stale,” he said.

There are relatively few properties on the Infrastructure Ontario site because most are in still being circulated in the government and undergoing due diligence including an appraised value, Cimino said.

Not every listing gets snapped up. Some are challenging.

“There are properties we’ve had listed in some cases for a year or two years. They don’t sell. They are in remote areas of northern Ontario, they are landlocked, there’s some issue with them,” he said.

Sometimes remnants of land from a public project are just taken over by the municipality.

In other cases, some of the plots are large and might be attractive to a developer but often those locations also attract municipal interest.

“We need to be very cognizant of government priorities and initiatives like affordable housing, like long-term care,” Cimino said.

To get an idea of what is on the provincial list of 243 surplus properties, the Star asked about a handful of the 20 Toronto listings. None of them, as it turns out, is listed on the Infrastructure Ontario website for sale.

305 Bremner Ave.

One and a half acres of vacant land serving as a surface bus parking lot for Rogers Centre events under a parking management agreement. Infrastructure Ontario is currently conducting due diligence with the expectation it will be listed on the market in 2019.

George Appleton Way

A treelined area on the northeast corner of Keele St. and the off-ramp from Highway 401.
A treelined area on the northeast corner of Keele St. and the off-ramp from Highway 401.  (MOE DOIRON FOR THE TORONTO STAR)

Less than an acre of vacant, treed land on the northeast corner of Keele St. and Hwy. 401, north of the off-ramp. It is undevelopable land no longer needed by the Ministry of Transportation.

567 Arlington Ave. and 203 Ava Rd.

These houses sit south of Eglinton Ave., east of Oakwood Ave., and are part of land set aside for the former proposed Spadina Expressway Corridor. “They are high-demand residential lots with development potential in a desirable area,” according to the government. They will be listed on the open market.

Spadina Corridor Rear Residential Lands

Like Arlington and Ava, these 24 landlocked “remnants” were also reserved for the Spadina Expressway and make up less than an acre in total. They are owned by the province but under long-term lease to the city. The province says it is working with the city of Toronto to develop an approach by which the property can be sold.

West Donlands

A parking lot at 26 Eastern Ave., just one of the several blocks listed in the West Donlands by the province.
A parking lot at 26 Eastern Ave., just one of the several blocks listed in the West Donlands by the province.  (MOE DOIRON FOR THE TORONTO STAR)

There are several blocks listed in the West Donlands. The remaining provincially owned parcels in Corktown include a former warehouse on Trinity St. that was used as a paper mill; an irregularly shaped three-acre parcel being leased on Front St.; an acre at Front and Cherry Sts. that has been designated for long-term care and road widening; and 17 and 26 Eastern Ave., part of a strip of commercial and industrial buildings. Infrastructure Ontario says these properties are still being circulated in government to determine if there is interest in continued public use.

27 Grosvenor and 26 Grenville Sts.

A parking garage at 27 Grosvenor St.
A parking garage at 27 Grosvenor St.  (MOE DOIRON FOR THE TORONTO STAR)

The adjoining properties — a parking structure and a vacant, two-storey office — are sold conditionally to developers, Canadian Real Estate Investment Trust and Greenwin Inc., under a provincial affordable housing lands program. Infrastructure Ontario is still doing due diligence on the property.

Tess Kalinowski is a Toronto-based reporter covering real estate. Follow her on Twitter: @tesskalinowski

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First Saudi Arabia, now China — Canada has a new foe, and its southern ally isn’t helping – National

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First U.S. President Donald Trump attacked Canada on trade. Then Saudi Arabia punished it for speaking up for human rights. Now China has the country in its cross-hairs, detaining two Canadians in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a top Chinese tech executive on behalf of the United States.

Canada is caught between two super powers and taking the punishment — and its ally to the south has been conspicuously absent in coming to its aid.

WATCH: Tim Kaine: Trump has alienated Canada on USMCA, Huawei arrest






“We’ve never been this alone,” historian Robert Bothwell said. “We don’t have any serious allies. And I think that’s another factor in what the Chinese are doing. … Our means of retaliation are very few. China is a hostile power.”

The two Canadians, Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat in China, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who lived in northeastern China near the North Korean border, were taken into custody Monday on suspicion of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of China, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said. Canadian consular officials have had no access to them.

WATCH: Morneau calls detained Canadians in China a “challenge,” but sticks to trade relations rhetoric






Their detentions ratchet up pressure on Canada, which arrested Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of telecommunications giant Huawei, on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States. The U.S. wants her extradited to face charges that she and her company misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran. A Canadian judge released Meng on bail Tuesday.

The case has set off a diplomatic furor among the three nations in which Canada has been stuck in the middle.

Until now, Canada had a largely good relationship with China, forged by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s father, late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who helped establish the one-China formula that enabled many other countries to recognize China in the 1970s. Canada acknowledged there is one government of China and does not officially recognize Taiwan.


READ MORE:
Why China is trying to bully Canada (and not the U.S.) into releasing Huawei CFO

China has since become Canada’s second-largest trading partner, after the United States. Chinese investment has powered real estate booms in Vancouver and Toronto. And one-third of foreign students in Canada are Chinese. Justin Trudeau has even talked about a possible free-trade agreement with China in a bid to diversify Canada’s trade, which relies on the U.S. for 75 percent of its exports.

But the Canadian prime minister has said little since news of this week’s arrests became public. Opposition Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said Trudeau isn’t being forceful enough with the Chinese.

“This situation demonstrates that Justin Trudeau’s naive approach to relations with China isn’t working,” Scheer said.

It’s Canada’s second dispute with a major power this year. In June, Trump vowed to make Canada pay after Trudeau said he wouldn’t be pushed around in talks to hammer out a new North American trade agreement, an unprecedented attack on America’s closest ally. Trump called Trudeau weak and dishonest, words that shocked Canadians.


READ MORE:
‘China will take revenge’ if Canada doesn’t free Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou: Global Times editor

Then Trump said this week that he might intervene in the Huawei case if it would help clinch a trade agreement with China, upending U.S. efforts to separate the court proceeding from U.S.-China trade talks and contradicting Canadian officials who said the arrest was not political.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland took a swipe at Trump, saying it was “quite obvious” any foreign country requesting extradition should ensure “the process is not politicized.”

“Normally, Canada can count on the United States to back them up on such an issue,” said Laura Dawson, a former economic adviser at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa and director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington. Dawson said it’s unusual for Washington to “leave Canada hanging high and dry.”

“President Trump has made it clear that old alliances don’t matter so much anymore,” she said. “He has made no secret of his preference for a go-it-alone approach and his lack of regard for traditional alliances.”

WATCH: Trade minister continues to endorse commerce with China in wake of Huawei, diplomat arrest






In years past the U.S. might have defended Canada when came it under attack and other countries would know the U.S. had Canada’s back. Not now. In August, the Saudi government expelled Canada’s ambassador to the kingdom and withdrew its own ambassador after Canada’s foreign ministry tweeted support for an arrested Saudi activist. The Saudis also sold Canadian investments and ordered their citizens studying in Canada to leave. No country, including the U.S., spoke out publicly in support of Canada.

And now the stakes are much higher. Canada is one of the few countries in the world unabashedly speaking out in defense of human rights and the international rule of law. And Chinese trade with Canada is increasingly key as Canada looks to boost its exports in Asia as its trade with the U.S. is threatened by Trump’s tariffs on Canadian goods.

WATCH: Amid Huawei CFO arrest, B.C. trade mission to end trip early, foregoing China visit






“At the beginning of Trump there was this idea that maybe the Chinese would replace the Americans” as Canada’s pre-eminent trade partner “but that’s just nuts,” said historian Bothwell, a University of Toronto professor. “Relations for any smaller country with China are really grave.”

Derek Scissors, a China specialist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, called China’s actions toward Canada “thuggish.”

“You detain a Canadian because the Canadians can’t do anything. It’s bullying behavior,” he said.

WATCH: Huawei CFO’s arrest triggers questions about Canadians in China






Noting Canada was just following a routine extradition process with the United States, Scissors said America should be saying:  ‴Why are you picking up Canadians? You have a problem with us.’”

David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said not only the U.S. but other Western nations should be standing up for Canada.

“It would be nice if publicly and also behind the scenes if countries like the United States, the U.K., Australia and France would put in a word on our behalf and let the Chinese know how damaging this is to their reputation and to the notion that China is a safe place to work and pursue a career,” Mulroney said.

“I think a lot of foreigners in China are looking over their shoulder right now,” he added.

Christopher Sands of the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington said the world took note of how Trump treated Canada during trade negotiations and how the U.S. stayed silent when Saudi Arabia overreacted to Canada’s expression of human rights concerns over treatment of the Saudi dissident.

“In normal times, the U.S. sends a signal, usually discreetly, to allies to cut it out and play nice,” Sands said.

“What makes this worse is that China is lashing out at Canada not for Canada’s initiative, but for Canada’s honoring of a U.S. warrant. The damage done by our silence in terms of alliance relations is truly awful,” he said.

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This Sicilian Cannoli Recipe Isn’t What You’ll Find In Little Italy

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The car was filled with boxes of cannoli. But you can’t have that. Cannoli get soggy; they can’t sit around, waiting. So Victoria Granof stopped the car on a street in Sicily, in a tiny mountain town famous for cannoli. An old widow in a black cloak crossing the street with her rickety cane caught her eye. Victoria got out of the car and offered the woman some of her cannoli. It just made sense. But then the widow began slashing the air in front of her with her cane, flashed her gums and shouted, “Can’t you see I have no teeth?!” She smacked Victoria’s hands with her cane adding, “Pero, m’arrangio, signorina.” She’ll make it work. Then she took those cannoli.

That story, and many others just as wonderful, are in Granof’s 2001 cookbook Sweet Sicily. When we decided to develop a cannoli recipe for Bon Appétit—and not that Little Italy tourist stuff packed with powdered sugar—she was the first person we called. The renowned food stylist and Le Cordon Bleu trained chef and pastry chef shared with us her cannoli knowledge, gleaned from on-the-street and in the kitchen research. Like, did you know one cannoli is a cannolo? That cannoli means “pipes”? That, as the theories go, cannoli were first made by nuns to celebrate lent? That the shape is believed to be an imitation of ancient stone columns, a symbol of fertility in ancient Greece? How about that.

cannoli 2

Photo by Chelsie Craig, Food Styling by Kate Buckens

d i v i n e

What sets this cannoli recipe apart is that it replicates the cannoli in that mountain town, south of Palermo. They’re made with fresh sheep’s-milk ricotta, which has a hint of funk, and a tang that balances the rich creaminess of the cheese. “It has a greener flavor,” Granof told me. “It gives your palate more things to experience besides just sweet.” But since sheep’s-milk ricotta is not so easy to find over here in the States, we developed a work around: We add a bit of plain goat cheese to the cow’s-milk version to get that tang back in. In comparison, most bakeries in the U.S. add powdered sugar to stabilize the watery ricotta, Granof told me. You’re left with a grainy, super sweet, one-note pastry cream, which is fiiine, in a certain time and place. Not here, not today, though.

These cannoli de Victoria Granof have a light and airy, bubbly shell, with a tangy creamy filling dotted with chopped chocolate. You can sprinkle the edges with bright green Sicilian pistachios or slivers of candied orange (a variation on the candied cucuzza squash they used in the convents way back when, Granof told me), or even more chocolate. There are some details in the process, however, that cannot budge.

Behold, Victoria Granof’s Cannoli Manifesto, “mostly non-negotiable”:

USE LARD for lighter shells that come out completely dry. Don’t blame me if you use oil and they turn out hard and greasy. (You can use the leftover lard to confit a batch of duck legs later.) Knead the dough by hand until it’s completely smooth and small blisters begin to appear below the surface. Too little kneading will result in large air bubbles that explode and make the shells come unfurled.

DO NOT wrap the dough too tightly around the tubes. You want the fat to be able to circulate around the frying shells—and that includes the inner side too.

DO let the dough and the filling each rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour but not more than 12. The dough needs to relax so the shells aren’t tough and the filling needs its R&R to allow the sugar to dissolve without having to beat the shit out of it.

DO NOT use a food processor for the filling. It will break down the ricotta, making the filling watery. Don’t even use an electric mixer; you want the cheese aerated and fluffy.

DO NOT—I don’t care what anybody in the Italian diaspora tells you—use powdered sugar in the filling. Just don’t.

DO fill the cannoli as close to serving time as possible, so the shells stay crisp.

DO NOT be tempted by other recipes that call for instant coffee or cocoa in the dough for the shells. It makes the dough too dark, and it’s easy to be tricked by the color to think the shells are properly done when they may be undercooked.

There you have it folks. The Cannoli Queen hath spoketh! Now get out there and track down some high quality lard, sheep’s-milk ricotta, cannoli tubes, and some friends to help you eat them all.

Get the recipe:

cannoli-1.jpg

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GM shows Doug Ford’s Ontario isn’t so ‘Open for Business’

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Doug Ford’s attempt at damage control for doomed GM workers consisted of handing out his mobile phone number, and hinting at extra benefits for the jobless. But the damage is done.

No matter the premier’s political spin, the economic spinoff from car assembly plants is a powerful force multiplier — or vaporizer, in this case. Oshawa’s loss is Ontario’s disaster.

GM workers gather at UNIFOR Local 222 offices in Oshawa as employees of GM wait to hear the official news of the apparent closure of operations in Oshawa on Nov. 26, 2018. Union President Jerry Diaz addressed about 400 assembled workers.
GM workers gather at UNIFOR Local 222 offices in Oshawa as employees of GM wait to hear the official news of the apparent closure of operations in Oshawa on Nov. 26, 2018. Union President Jerry Diaz addressed about 400 assembled workers.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

In fairness, this was GM’s decision. But the premier now owns it, after repeatedly promising to make Ontario “open for business” again — not closed until further notice.

No premier can force GM to cry uncle. But for reasons understood only by Ford, he has given up on the Oshawa decision, deferring to GM’s claim that it is final and irrevocable.

The politician who prides himself on disruption has revealed his own defeatism. GM hasn’t ruled out reopening plants in the U.S., and Ottawa is still trying, so why is Ford so quick to concede Canadian jobs?

Ontario is not without long-term options. The problem is that our premier is more enamored of short-term slogans that befit bumper stickers but offer no protection from an economic crash.

GM is not rolling up its Oshawa operations because it’s bankrupt — the company still earns billions in profits. No, this multinational is strategically re-engineering its own rebirth by wisely reinvesting in low-emissions vehicles that are the next consumer wave.

Where does Ford’s Ontario fit into that investment horizon? Consider the anti-business antics of Ontario’s supposedly pro-business Progressive Conservative government. And then ponder how that factors into big business decision-making by a company like GM:

  • Ford’s first act as premier was to rip up signed private sector contracts, notably the White Pines wind turbine project that had previously been approved. To guard against litigation and compensation, he relied on legislation and confiscation.
  • In the aftermath, Ford spectacularly snubbed his visiting German counterpart last summer by refusing to sign a friendship agreement with the powerhouse state of Baden-Wurttemberg, home of renewable energy companies but also big carmakers. Open for business? Tell that to the Germans.
  • Ford recklessly dismantled the cap-and-trade framework that business had relied upon to price carbon pollution, laying the groundwork for a default federal carbon tax that created needless disruption.
  • Zapping renewable energy, the PC government unplugged its electric car supports — and lost a foolish court battle with Tesla after trying to cut out the California carmaker from sales incentives available to others.
  • The premier picked a public fight with Hydro One’s (admittedly overpaid) CEO. But instead of persuading him to reduce his salary, Ford sidelined Mayo Schmidt and the entire corporate board. Relying on the government’s partial ownership position, Ford chief of staff Dean French shut down any compromise talks, sources say. French later intervened in government-owned Ontario Power Generation to undo the hiring of another corporate executive he wanted out, Alykhan Velshi. Such is the PC government’s approach to corporate governance.
  • Ford cancelled a planned hike in the minimum wage to $14 an hour, clawed back two paid annual sick days, and cut corporate taxes further.
  • The culmination of Ford’s strategic vision was the unveiling of new road signs declaring Ontario “Open for Business” — recycling the same tired slogan previously adopted by fledgling American states with decidedly mixed results.

Is Ontario truly open for business? Or is it increasingly closed-minded?

Imagine yourself an auto executive sizing up the track record of a new government that rips up contracts on a whim, shreds corporate boards on a caprice, claws back paid sick days out of spite, promotes a minimum wage economy out of fright, and fights an electric carmaker out of misplaced hostility.

A forward-looking provincial government creates the conditions for strategic investment with stable policies that foster education and job training in growth industries — not least the clean energy sector that GM is focussing on. That means promoting the value-added workforce of tomorrow, rather than retrofitting Ontario for yesterday’s minimum wage economy.

No premier can control events. But the wise politician tries to get out in front of them.

Martin Regg Cohn is a columnist based in Toronto covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @reggcohn

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Crucifix represents Christian values but isn’t a religious symbol, Quebec’s incoming premier says

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The crucifix hanging in Quebec’s National Assembly is a historical symbol, not a religious one, even though it represents the Christian values of the province’s two colonial ancestors, premier-designate François Legault said Thursday.

Legault made the comments as he defended his decision to keep the crucifix in the legislature while moving forward with plans to ban certain civil servants from wearing religious symbols.

« We have to understand our past, » Legault told reporters in Yerevan, Armenia, where he is attending the summit of the Francophonie.

The crucifix, he said, invokes the role of French Catholics and British Protestants in Quebec’s history. He made no mention of Indigenous people.

The crucifix has hung above the Speaker’s chair in the National Assembly since it was installed there in 1936. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)  

« In our past we had Protestants and Catholics. They built the values we have in Quebec. We have to recognize that and not mix that with religious signs. » 

The crucifix was installed above the speaker’s chair in the National Assembly in 1936. A government-commissioned report into secularism and identity issues recommended in 2008 that it be removed, but no government has done so.  

A delicate issue

Since his Coalition Avenir Québec won a majority in last week’s provincial election, Legault has said one of his priorities will be preventing civil servants in « positions of authority » from wearing religious symbols, such as hijabs and kippas.

Among those to be affected are police officers, provincial judges, prison guards and teachers. The move is necessary, according to Legault, in order to protect Quebec’s secular society. 

He raised his plans in a meeting earlier Thursday with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is also in Yerevan attending the Francophonie summit and who has publicly opposed Legault’s proposal. 

« This is a … delicate issue with Mr. Trudeau, » Legault said in an interview with Radio-Canada.

« I told him I want to do this quickly. It’s an issue that has lingered for 10 years, and now there is a consensus in Quebec. »

Asked whether he feared a confrontation with Ottawa over the issue, Legault added: « Quebec is a nation. It is a distinct society. We have support. We just received a clear mandate in the election. I think all that has to be taken into account. »

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Quebec’s incoming premier, François Legault, in Armenia on Thursday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Quebec’s new immigration model

Along with religious symbols, Legault also raised his immigration polices with Trudeau.  

The incoming premier informed the prime minister that Quebec intends to accept 20 per cent fewer immigrants next year.

Legault also told Trudeau that Quebec will add language and value requirements for immigrants seeking to settle in the province.

Though immigration falls under federal jurisdiction, Quebec has an agreement with Ottawa that allows it to select its own economic immigrants.

According to Legault’s account of the meeting, Trudeau raised the possibility that Quebec would be able alter how it selects immigrants without reopening that agreement.

« He wasn’t certain that we would need to modify the agreement between Quebec and Ottawa, » Legault said in the Radio-Canada interview.

He added that representatives from the province would meet federal officials in the coming weeks to detail the « new immigration model that my government will put in place. »  

Legault is scheduled to appoint a cabinet next week.

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