Yorkton, Sask. men fined, suspended for hunting under the influence

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Two Yorkton, Sask., men have been fined and handed suspensions for hunting while under the influence of marijuana.

Saskatchewan conservation officers said the men were found in a vehicle parked on Wildlife Development Funds lands near Calder, Sask., in September 2018.

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Signs in the area state the lands are “foot access only.”


READ MORE:
2 American hunters face Saskatchewan poaching charges

Officers said there was a strong smell of burning marijuana when they approached the vehicle.

An unspecified amount of marijuana and a loaded firearm were found in the vehicle during a hunter compliance check, Environment Ministry officials said.

Timothy Eashappie, 37, and Colby Barnhardt-Peepeetch, 20, were charged with hunting under the influence of a narcotic and possession of marijuana.

Both pleaded guilty recently in Yorkton provincial court.


READ MORE:
Five men from Quebec fined for illegally hunting in Sask.

Eashappie was also charged with driving with a suspended licence and operating a vehicle on wildlife lands. He was fined a total of $1,250.

Barnhardt-Peepeetch was also charged with having a loaded firearm in a vehicle and fined a total of $1,480.

They also received two-year hunting suspensions.

Officials said hunting under the influence of alcohol or narcotics is not only illegal, but extremely dangerous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Men killed in Winnipeg restaurant shot each other at the same time, police say

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Victims of a double homicide in downtown Winnipeg earlier this week were members of the same street gang, and shot and killed each other, police say.

Anthony Brian Cromastey, 30, and Rodney Albert Kirton, 25, died after opening fire on each other inside Johnny G’s, a popular late-night restaurant and pub on Main Street, around 1:30 a.m. CT Wednesday.

« The investigation has determined the deceased males died as a result of simultaneous gunshots to each other, » said a Winnipeg police spokesperson, Const. Rob Carver, on Friday.

Carver said both handguns have been recovered.

Investigators used surveillance video and witness accounts to conclude guns were fired at the same time, said Carver. 

« So the two individuals were basically in a gunfight in a public restaurant and shot each other fatally on the spot, » he said.

A simultaneous double homicide is « incredibly rare, » Carver said. The police spokesperson said he was unaware of one ever happening in Canada before. 

« We did a bit of research and it looks like it’s happened in the [United] States once or twice,  » he said. 

About a dozen people were in the restaurant at the time, with many running out and flagging down a police cruiser that happened to be passing nearby. 

A female server was hurt by a ricochet bullet and sent to hospital where she was treated for a non-life-threatening injury and released.

Carver said he’s surprised there weren’t more casualties because there were a lot of bullets flying.

Both men known to justice system: police

Cromastey and Kirton were members of the same street gang, but Carver wouldn’t say its name.

« I never announce the gang. I’m not going to give any gang the publicity. »

Criminal records show both men were familiar with the justice system.

Cromastey breached a bail order in 2013. At the time, he was not allowed to possess a cellphone. Kirton served time in jail twice for possessing drugs and was banned from possessing firearms. 

Immediately after the shooting Wednesday, another man at the scene assaulted Kirton, police said. An 18-year-old was charged with assault for that attack.

« Kirton was still alive when the assault took place, » Carver said, noting he and Cromastey were rushed to hospital in serious condition where they died shortly afterward.

Their deaths are the city’s fourth and fifth homicides of the year.

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Toronto shelter scores touchdown with Super Bowl dinner for homeless men

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Probably not so different from your Super Bowl knees-up on Sunday evening, except dry.

With the emphasis on dry – as in, out of the wet, the puddled sidewalks, the slushy snowbanks, the weeping concrete struts beneath the Gardiner Expressway.

A championship football extravaganza for the down and out, at the Good Shepherd shelter on Queen Street East, on the edge of Regent Park.

The good shepherd on this evening, as on most evenings, is Brother Tom Liss, director of shelter and hospitality for the past dozen years.

“After a week of miserable weather, we wanted to do something special to help lift their spirits.’’

A break in the frigid temperatures has also been a Godsend. For the month of January, the facility had been running at 99.9 per cent capacity.

Across the city, as of Friday when the “census was last updated”, there were 1,805 men, 789 women, 525 youth and 748 family units occupying shelter beds, according to the city’s shelter website, with another 2,153 staying at city-supported motels. It’s unknown the number who were “sleeping rough”, although the city pegs that figure at about 450 nightly.

You’ve seen them, with their bundles and bags, even king-size mattresses spread across the sidewalk, over heating grates, beneath the overpasses.

“There’s quite a few who just won’t come inside,’’ says Brother Tom. “They’re determined to survive on their own. I’ve never been able to understand it myself. Maybe they’ve had a bad experience in a shelter. Some are just dyed in the wool anti-government, don’t want anything to do with any organization. But most of them are pretty tough.’’

They drifted in, most of them alone. A few sit at the trestle tables with friends made but most are like little islands of solitude. A person comes to respect private space, when so much is so often a cluster.

“Can I sit on the stairs,’’ one young fellow asks a staffer. “That TV camera is scaring the s- – – out of me. My family can’t know I’m here.’’

“I’m here for the food, not the game,’’ says another bloke, hunkered over his plate.

“I’m a soccer fan, don’t know anything about football,’’ admits yet another.

Dressed in hoodies and toques, stripping off layers of clothes because many go about the streets wearing everything they own. Those who are actually staying at the premises are recognizable by their short sleeves and socked feet slipped into flip-flops. They just come down from upstairs, gathering in front a large-screen TV that, with speakers, has been donated by Rich Rabba, president of Rabba Fine Foods. The provisions have been sent over by vendors at the company’s 35 stores across the GTA.

The Rabba story is an immigrant-made-good story, founded by Rich’s father, who arrived in Canada in 1966 from the Middle East.

“To be honest, the idea of helping our fellow man is what motivated us to do this,’’ says Rabba. “There’s nothing that makes me any different from them, other than maybe luck.’’

Richard Zirgha is a refugee from Uganda. He arrived in Toronto a year ago. Actually, he landed in Vancouver where a good Samaritan gifted him $200. Put that together with the $250 in his pockets, travelled cross-country on the train, and headed straight for the Good Shepherd.

“Uganda is a beautiful country,’’ says the 35-year-old who trained as a mechanic back home, even ran his own garage. “But I’m gay. In Uganda, if they find out you’re gay, your life is over. You’ll end up dead. They found out, the police. I had to run, leave everything I owned behind.’’

Watching the wide-screen TV at the front of the dining hall, he tries hard to understand what’s going on. “This game, I’d never seen it before. I grew up playing hockey.’’

Vincent Cripps, 45, declares his loyalty to the CFL, not the NFL. He’s been drifting, from couch-surfing with friends to homeless, since 2014, when his wife died. “I’m a jack of all trades, always had a job before, a home. But the depression, you know? Everything just spiralled out of control.’’

This is his second night at Good Shepherd. “If I wasn’t here, I’d be on the street, love.”

Ken Harris, 54, from the Maritimes: Had his own place until recently, a unit in an Oshawa apartment building where he was employed as superintendent. “It didn’t work out.’’

Jeff Allen, 61: “I’m a hockey guy. Don’t even know who’s playing, to tell you the truth.’’

Homeless as of Feb. 1, when the rent money ran out.

So many sad stories, subsisting in the shadows, hard-scrabble.

And of course, a great many homeless are mentally ill – either because they started out that way, and ended up on the street, or the street got inside their head.

“Mental illness is prevalent,’’ says Brother Tom. “Sometimes I look around here and wonder if I’m at the emergency department of CAMH or Good Shepherd.’’

The facility has 95 beds – for men only – 25 of them designated for clients who are registered in the drug and alcoholic rehabilitation enhancement program. While alcohol is forbidden on the premises, the drunken aren’t turned away. “They don’t need to be sober,’’ says Brother Tom. “As long as they’re not disruptive.’’

Many are wait-listed for social housing. Between 50 and 60 per cent of residents are biding their time, waiting for permanent resettlement.

What they can’t do – as with all shelters, apart from drop-in centres – is while away the hours indoors, on-site. They’re turned out every morning at 8 a.m., so the building can be cleaned and prepared for the next wave of users. That’s why you see so many idle homeless shuffling around the area, congregating at nearby Moss Park.

The shelter operators aren’t being unkind but their resources only extend so far, while the need is ever-expanding. To convert the space into a 24/7 venue would require an extensive structural overhaul. “Which would mean less space for beds,’’ points out Brother Tom.

Originally, Good Shepherd, an undertaking of the St. John of God Brothers, ministered to men who were looking for housing and looking for jobs, often getting plucked for day labour. There’s not much of that anymore and their transience, the attendant inertia, has become deep-rooted.

“They can’t come and stay here forever though,” Brother Tom explains.

Fourteen consecutive nights is what’s allowed, before they’re “encouraged’’ to move on. At which point they’re shifted to the bottom of the priority list, with a minimum of 60 days before qualifying for the beds herein again.

Still, Good Shepherd does its best: a hot meal provided at 2 p.m. for everyone who drops by, registration for the night starting at 5:30 p.m., a substantial snack offered at 7 p.m..

It was estimated that Americans, who worship at the church of the NFL, would bet around $6 billion on Super Bowl LIII.

Who won? Who cares.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno

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Hate crimes unit consulted for investigation after Edmonton mosque visited by men known to police

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Edmonton police said their hate crimes unit was called in to help investigate after a prominent and well-attended mosque in the northwest part of the city was visited by a group whose activities are known to police.

A police spokesperson told Global News they could not identify the group being monitored because “groups change names and alliances frequently, so there’s no consistent name they go by.”

The communications director of Al Rashid Mosque said people she works with were very concerned when the men visited.

“There were two suspicious men that came into the mosque [and] we were not sure what they were doing,” Noor Al-Henedy told Global News. “One of them was wearing a toque with the word ‘infidel’ on it in Arabic. We didn’t pay attention at first until our executive director went upstairs.

“They toured the mosque, came upstairs to the women’s section… they were just looking like they were scouting the place and then he (one of the men she called suspicious) went downstairs and went to the bathroom.”

Al-Henedy said the men left when approached by the mosque’s executive director. She said the men joined other members of their group outside and a confrontation unfolded with members of the community. She said one of the people who was part of the group she didn’t know and who was involved in the confrontation streamed the encounter live online.

“The security and safety of everyone that was coming to pray in the mosque was our priority,” she said. “So we called the cops right away to get them to come and evaluate the situation and eliminate any threats that may have happened because we were not really sure what was happening.

“We are entrusted by our community as an organization to make sure that we have the freedom to practise our religion and we wanted to make sure that everybody was in a safe place and nobody was getting harassed.”

Ty Hunt told Global News he was one of a group of five men that went to the mosque so that he could use the bathroom and they could ask questions about Islam. He said it’s hard for him to ask questions of Muslims because “there’s no Muslims at the Yellow Vest rallies” and “it’s hard to run into a Muslim on the street.”

Hunt is the bearded man seen entering the building to use the bathroom, and who was wearing the toque that says “infidel” in Arabic.

“I’ve got a tattoo on my neck that says ‘infidel’ as well… it just means non-believer… in anything,” Hunt said.

“The Christians don’t get offended by it…I’ve gotten more feedback by the Muslims than I have anybody else…. I put it on my neck because it’s time for them to get over it. You’re in Canada, now it’s [time to] integrate into Canada.”

In a phone interview, Hunt told Global News he is a former member of the Soldiers of Odin, a far-right group that has members that “adhere to extreme right-wing ideology and are not afraid to use violence,” according to a declassified Canada Border Services Agency intelligence report obtained by Global News

READ MORE: Edmonton protesters confront far-right group that CBSA report suggests is ‘not afraid to use violence’

Watch below: (From September 2018) A few blocks away from where thousands of people gathered for an annual Labour Day barbecue in Edmonton, a protest was held against a group known for its far-right views. Kim Smith reports.






Hunt said he left the group and joined another one known as The Clann. He said he is involved in a movement that is opposed to the United Nations because of a threat he said it poses to Canadian sovereignty. He said he supports the Yellow Vest movement and has “questions about Islam.”

READ MORE: UCP nomination candidate turfed in pub night controversy: ‘Polite racist is still racist’

Police said officers showed up at the mosque at around noon but there were no arrests.

Noor Al-Henedy said police also went to the Edmonton Islamic Academy to make sure everyone was safe there.

“We are working with them (police) to make sure such incidents do not happen again,” she said.

READ MORE: Fire at mosque in Edson Saturday night leaves community shaken: RCMP investigating

Premier Rachel Notley took to Twitter to denounce hate on Friday night without directly referencing the mosque incident.

“Hearing that a hate group is openly harassing and terrorizing people in #yeg with racist and homophobic attacks and posters is beyond upsetting,” her tweet read. “This is not who we are.

“There is no room for this kind of hate in the strong, open and optimistic Alberta that inspires me and is our home.”

READ MORE: Edmontonians gather to honour victims of Pittsburgh massacre, support Jewish community

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

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Former ambassadors and academics urge China’s president to release Canadian men

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OTTAWA—More than 100 former ambassadors and prominent academics specializing in China and Asian affairs are appealing directly to Chinese President Xi Jinping for the release of two Canadian men who the Trudeau government says are being “arbitrarily” held by Chinese state security forces.

In an open letter published Monday, a copy of which was sent to the Star, 26 former ambassadors to China and 115 scholars from around the world say they are “deeply concerned” about the detentions and say it sends a chilling message to all who want to build bridges with China.

The letter comes as Beijing moved to soften its tone a week after its ambassador to Canada warned the Trudeau government it would face “repercussions” if it banned Huawei, the Chinese corporate giant that wants to play a key role in developing Canada’s 5G networks, the next generation of high-speed wireless networks.

Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokesperson, told reporters Monday that Ambassador Lu Shaye “did not mean that China intends to interfere in the decision-making of the Canadian government.”

She said Huawei “is a leading supplier in the 5G technology, so losses are inevitable if Huawei is not chosen as a co-operation partner,” later adding “We have been reasoning with the Canadian side, not threatening it.”

Nevertheless, the Chinese spokeswoman talked tough and accused Canada of “irresponsible” remarks and “microphone diplomacy” in its efforts to rally international allies to protest the men’s detention.

She disputed Canada’s claims that the leaders of Germany and Singapore have publicly supported Canada’s position, saying neither made public comments.

Canada’s allies have made varied statements of support.

But the letter published Monday by former diplomats, including five past Canadian envoys, and many others shows more than 140 Western experts on China speaking with one voice. Hua dismissed it Monday, according to a transcript posted on the foreign ministry website.

“I wonder who these western scholars and officials are and how much do they know about the real situation regarding the cases of the two Canadian citizens,” she said, adding foreign citizens are welcome in China. “As long as they abide by Chinese laws and regulations, there is nothing to worry about.”

Chinese state security officials arrested the two separately after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, wanted by the U.S. for allegedly lying to skirt American sanctions on Iran.

The Chinese government is rebuffing Canada’s calls for the men’s release. Beijing says the Canadians are being held on suspicion of “activities endangering China’s national security” but they have not been charged.

“Many of us know Michael Kovrig through his work as a diplomat in Beijing and as the senior expert for northeast Asia at the International Crisis Group, an organization whose mission is to ‘build a more peaceful world’,” the letter reads.

“In both roles, Kovrig regularly and openly met with Chinese officials, researchers, and scholars to better understand China’s positions on a range of important international issues.”

“Michael Spavor has devoted his time to the task of building relationships between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and China, Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere.”

Spavor had co-ordinated sporting and cultural trips into North Korea through his China-based business and made headlines when he worked as a fixer for former NBA superstar Dennis Rodham’s trip to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Read more:

China’s ambassador accuses Canada of ‘backstabbing’ in arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou

Chinese police prevent Canadian woman from returning home on connecting flight through Beijing

Trudeau enlists Trump to seek release of Canadians detained by China

The one-page appeal, in English and Chinese, says that kind of on-the-ground engagement is the foundation of serious research and diplomacy.

It says their detentions “send a message that this kind of constructive work is unwelcome and even risky in China.”

It cautions that people who share “Kovrig and Spavor’s enthusiasm for building genuine, productive, and lasting relationships must now be more cautious about traveling and working in China and engaging our Chinese counterparts.” That leads to less dialogue and greater distrust “and undermine(s) efforts to manage disagreements and identify common ground.”

“Both China and the rest of the world will be worse off as a result,” the signatories wrote.

Among the group are six former ambassadors to China from Canada — Fred Bild, Joseph Caron, David Mulroney, Earl Drake, Guy Saint-Jacques and Rob Wright. It is also signed by former envoys from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Sweden, and Mexico, two former U.S. deputy assistant secretaries of state, and former foreign ministers from the U.K. and Australia.

The letter “respectfully” asks the Chinese president for the “immediate” release of the two Canadian citizens “so that they may be reunited with their families.”

One Canadian signatory, Joseph Caron, ambassador to China from 2001 to 2005, said he signed the letter “because it was the moral thing to do,” but declined further comment.

David Mulroney, who was Ottawa’s envoy from 2009-2012, said the letter is signed by a list of people “who have spent decades learning about China and trying to understand and interpret it. China has an interest in being better understood.”

He said it should remind people that “this is more than a Canada-China dispute.”

“Many people, from many places, are worried about the extent to which China is closing itself off, and punishing those who have struggled to understand it and explain it to others.

“China typically succeeds by isolating countries and punishing them, while others look on in silence. Sweden has just experienced this, and now we are, too. By broadening the discussion about what’s happening, we make it harder for China to bully smaller states.”

Last week, Beijing’s ambassador in Ottawa Lu Shaye signalled the Chinese government has no intention of intervening in what is now an investigation led by state security forces. He said that as the investigation “deepens and advances” the charges would be made “clear” and “specific.”

Lu insisted China is taking “compulsory measures” under law against the men. He contrasted that with Canada’s detention of Meng which he called “groundless” because she has broken no Canadian law. Meng is out on bail, restricted to remaining in Vancouver where she lives at one of her two mansions pending her extradition hearing. China wants her set free immediately.

On Sunday, newly appointed federal Justice Minister David Lametti said officials in his department, not him, will decide the next step, which is whether to issue the “authority to proceed” to put the U.S. case against Meng before a Canadian judge.

Under a bilateral treaty, the U.S. has until Jan. 30 to produce its documents or “record” of the case to Canada’s justice department’s international assistance group, which then has 30 days to review the package.

If all is in order, the justice department officials would grant the authority to proceed and its lawyers would argue on behalf of the U.S. before a Canadian judge that the U.S. has produced documents that meet the legal threshold to have Meng extradited to face fraud charges. A Canadian court judge will decide if indeed the U.S. has produced enough evidence that would have been sufficient to send Meng to trial if the conduct had occurred here, but doesn’t pronounce on guilt or innocence. Then it’s up to the justice minister to decide whether to surrender Meng to be extradited, taking account of legal and political factors.

“I will only intervene after a court decision to extradite with respect to the execution of that decision,” said Lametti.

“So in terms of the process I will stay away from the process in order to not be tainted if I do have to make a decision one way or the other,” Lametti told reporters Sunday.

The ex-diplomats’ and academics’ letter comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues his efforts to speak to other national leaders about Canada’s concerns in the affair.

Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc

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Two men charged in Ivory Coast for trying to blackmail MP Tony Clement

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Two men in Africa’s Ivory Coast have been charged for attempting to blackmail Canadian MP Tony Clement by posing as a woman online and demanding money after Clement shared explicit sexual images with them.

RCMP have confirmed the two men arrested by the Ivory Coast’s cyber-crimes unit recently were charged in connection with Clement’s case.

In November, Clement asked the RCMP to investigate after he admitted to sending sexually explicit images to what he believed was a « consenting female, » but later learned was an online account being run by « foreign actors » trying to extort him for 50,000 euros.

Clement was booted from the Conservative caucus in November after admitting to having had inappropriate online relationships with more than one woman.

The suspects in the extortion case against Clement and one other alleged victim are being identified by Ivory Coast officials only by the initials CH and DML.

Information published by the African police agency says the two suspects have been questioned, and the RCMP says it continues to work with international partners on the case.

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Two Ivory Coast men arrested in Clement sexting scandal: report

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OTTAWA—Two Ivory Coast men have been reportedly been arrested in relation to the sexting and extortion attempts that brought down former Conservative MP Tony Clement.

An Ivory Coast police report said two men, identified only as CH and DML, have been charged with attempted fraud and threatening to publish sexual images of a Canadian national.

Then-Conservative MP Tony Clement asks a question in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in 2017.
Then-Conservative MP Tony Clement asks a question in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in 2017.  (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

While Clement is not named in the report, the descriptions of the alleged crime match his description of the sexting and extortion scandal that cost the longtime MP his place in the Conservative Party.

CTV, citing sources, reported Friday night that the two men in question attempted to blackmail Clement after he sent them sexually explicit images, believing them to be a young woman. The Star has not independently confirmed the connection.

“We have no comment,” wrote Clement’s lawyer, Joseph Neuberger, in an email to the Star Saturday morning.

Clement shocked Ottawa watchers in November by revealing he had sent sexually explicit images to a person he believed was a consenting adult. Clement said the person or people behind that account then demanded the married MP hand over 50,000 Euros ($75,000).

Clement announced he would step back from his committee duties, and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer stood by the longtime MP and former leadership rival.

But two days later, the Star revealed that Clement had carried on relationships with two other women — one online, one in person — and had known about the extortion attempts for months while serving on Parliament’s sensitive national security committee.

Scheer requested Clement resign from caucus.

The Ivory Coast police report said the two men posed as a young woman named “Brianna Dounia,” chatting with a Canadian and a French national.

“Like any relationship that lives behind a screen, erotic photos and videos are exchanged for the happiness of lovebirds,” a translation of the Ivorian police report read.

“Except that, in fact, (a cyber criminal) hid behind the pseudonym Brianna Dounia who will require shortly after their interactions a ransom of 50,000 Euro from (the Canadian).”

Clement, who now sits as an independent MP, has not responded to multiple interview requests. The RCMP, who had been investigating Clement’s allegations of blackmail, did not immediately respond to the Star’s request for information.

Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutilier

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Remembering the missing men allegedly killed by Bruce McArthur a year after his arrest

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Karen Fraser remembers the exact moment police told her she had to vacate her home on a calm Leaside crescent. It fixed her house as ground zero in an expansive police investigation and the focal point of a horrifying international story.

On the morning of January 18, 2018, police arrested Bruce McArthur, the man who landscaped the yard of her home on Mallory Crescent and is now charged with killing eight men with ties to Toronto’s Gay Village. At the same time, police launched a massive investigation that saw officers fan out across the GTA and sent Fraser and her partner Ron Smith from their home for 22 days.

It was just the first of the difficult days — for the victims’ families, for the LGBTQ community, for Fraser and Smith, for investigators, for the city.

In the coming weeks, police would find human remains on the property Fraser and Smith owned, and yet more remains during a summertime excavation.

As questions arose about past investigations into the disappearance of the missing men — and whether a killer could have been stopped sooner — an external review was launched to probe how police handle missing persons investigations.

“On the day when everyone’s thinking: ‘It’s been a year?’ — and then they wouldn’t quite know what to do with their reaction — we thought we need something to mark the day,” Fraser said in an interview this week.

And so, at 10:25 a.m. Friday, which is the same time Fraser was ordered out of her home and when McArthur was arrested, a lone bag piper will play a lament for the victims on her driveway.

It will be a simple, wordless acknowledgment that a year has passed — “for crimes that are beyond words, there will be no words from us,” Fraser said.

McArthur, 67, is charged with eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of men spanning from 2010-2017. He appeared briefly in court Wednesday, as pre-trial discussions continue between his lawyers, Crown prosecutors and Ontario Superior Court judge John McMahon.

His trial is scheduled for January 2020.

McArthur’s return to court in the week of the anniversary prompted the organization of a healing circle for anyone affected by the case to offer a space to for them to share their feelings and experiences.

Haran Vijayanathan, executive director at the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP), said the timing was not so much to mark the anniversary of McArthur’s arrest as it was to acknowledge the feelings of those affected by the case.

“When you start thinking about what happened a year ago and when you have him appearing in the same month in court, and that becomes news, it triggers people,” said Vijayanathan.

Held Wednesday evening, the event brought out a small, diverse group of people, including some who knew the victims, or McArthur, and also police officers. “It was a really nice balance,” Vijayanathan said.

“We wanted to encourage people to actively seek support and that they don’t have to sit alone with their thoughts,” he said.

McArthur is scheduled to be back in court January 29.

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

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Has #MeToo sparked an era of women falsely accusing men? No, and that’s why we still take elevators

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What is the future of #MeToo?

If you want to stop reading right there, I won’t blame you. It is hard to find another recent story that has garnered so many words, such debate, angst and politicking. I apologize for adding more.

But when asked by the Toronto Star to write a companion #MeToo column, the temptation was too great. Full disclosure: the Star’s Vinay Menon, who wrote the other column, is a good friend of mine. We once had a lively debate about Jordan Peterson. We agreed to disagree.

Thing is, this just doesn’t seem, as Vinay opines, #MoreComplicated.

There is a familiar pattern to how both men and women warn about the dangerous fallout of #MeToo. The columns usually start with a couple caveats: Of course this movement was needed to give voice to sexual abuse victims; Harvey Weinstein was obviously a predator, and, thank heavens, he has been stopped.

Good. Now, let’s move on to the “buts.”

But … what about men who say they now have to worry about being on elevators with women?

Read more:

Opinion | Vinay Menon: #MeToo won’t last if it isn’t fair

That was the breaking news this summer in a flurry of gender-Armageddon articles. These men are “genuinely worried,” according to a National Post story, that a woman could “ride the elevator with you for 20 seconds or so, then accuse you on Twitter the next day of groping them.”

Gentlemen, the fear is real. Just yesterday, one of my editors gave me a Tim Hortons with cream and sugar. I asked for milk. What a rapist. I took to social media to denounce that caffeine pervert, saying he grabbed my breast. #DoubleDoubleDick.

I’m kidding, obviously. I don’t drink Tim Hortons.

But the idea that #MeToo has ushered in a terrifying new era of women falsely accusing men of sexual abuse, is based on the underlying principle that women belong to a hysterical, vindictive tribe, hell bent on destroying lives, while a chorus of sisters belt out “You go, girl!” That just hasn’t happened.

Which brings us to Aziz Ansari, who was skewered in a controversial 3,000-word online column penned by an unidentified 23-year-old who characterized their date as “the worst night of my life.” As Vinay writes, the piece “did not dovetail with the spirit and exhaustive reportage of so many 2017 investigations.” Exactly. This is why it was published on babe.net, not the New York Times or the New Yorker, whose brilliant journalism was the kindle for the #MeToo fire.

Was Aziz Ansari ruined? I’m sure he is happy to see 2018 behind him, but he recently announced a 28-show North American theatre run. In February, he will headline Vancouver’s Just For Laughs.

Closer to home, Vinay raises the case of TVO’s Steve Paikin, accused by former Toronto mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson of sexually propositioning her over a lunch meeting. I know Steve through journalism circles. The allegations were hard to believe and when I saw him at an event, I gave him a hug. It was evident just how difficult the experience had been.

But Steve was cleared by an independent investigation, is back hosting the show he loves, and it is Thomson’s reputation that took a hit.

In defending himself, Steve wrote: “the #MeToo movement is too important to be undermined by spurious allegations.” He’s right and that is exactly why a handful of false allegations should not derail the movement, throwing us back into the dark after we’ve seen the light.

#MeToo didn’t invent false accusations, and it certainly is not the first time that the court of public opinion has acted as judge, jury and executioner. For women, especially those with public careers, ignoring spurious attacks on their character has just become part of the job. Take a swim in the cesspool of social media and risk being pulled under by the riptides of ignorance.

When I was reporting at the Toronto Star, readers who disagreed with my articles (which were about terrorism, not feminism) would regularly denounce me with sexual or demeaning comments, allege conspiracies on my “fake news” reporting, and a precious few even said they hoped I would get raped or killed on my next foreign assignment.

This wasn’t abuse by men, but by dangerous misogynists, who are hopefully among those now most bothered by #MeToo.

But looking back over this year, it was the Supreme Court hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, and the ensuing #HimToo “movement,” which really embodied where we are today and why it is so important to not “exhale and poke holes” into #MeToo, as Vinay suggests, but to push forward.

Like many women I know, I surprised myself by crying while listening to Christine Blasey Ford testify. It wasn’t so much her allegations — as devastating as they were — but the way she comported herself, her obvious discomfort, her deep respect for the proceedings, and most heart-breaking, her seeming need to please those gathered in that Capitol Hill room.

Contrast that with Kavanaugh’s disrespectful, feverish and bullying demeanour. Forget the allegations, his performance should have disqualified him to sit in the highest court of the land. If he were a woman, it may have.

Those hearings made all of us look inward and re-examine our past and present relationships. No one likes to be cornered, and, perhaps even subconsciously, to feel defensive about what we once believed was an acceptable norm.

Comedian Louis CK may not have said sorry in his apology letter, but he did say something that resonates for women: “When you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them.”

Thankfully, just as there is not a vengeful tribe of women armed with false accusations, men are not rampantly whipping out their willies for show-and-don’t-tell. But he’s right, in the sense that women are often left to second-guess their actions: rebuff a boss’s advance, and wonder how it may affect your job or reputation; have a relationship, and face accusations of sleeping your way to the top.

But we haven’t stopped riding elevators.

For those anxious men, it is not the #MeToo movement that they need to question, but their own relationships with women.

If you’re still afraid guys, take the stairs please.

Michelle Shephard is a journalist, author and filmmaker and the Toronto Star’s former National Security Reporter. Follow her @shephardm.

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