Toronto human trafficking arrests shine spotlight on popular classifieds site. Sex worker advocates fear another crackdown


After a series of human trafficking arrests involving the same online classifieds site, a Toronto sex worker says she worries a crackdown on internet sex ads could make her more vulnerable.

Toronto police have charged eight GTA residents with dozens of charges in four separate cases this year involving the website In one, police say a 17-year-old schoolgirl was taken to a series of GTA motels by a man with a gun and forced to sell her body to strangers.

The latest bust was announced last week, after police say a man physically assaulted a 28-year-old woman several times, including one attack that left her with broken ribs.

In all four cases, alleged pimps forced women to place sex ads on and took all of their earnings.

In one, an alleged pimp even threatened a sex worker’s pet, police said.

“I can tell you stories that will fill your head,” Perry said.

But the Toronto sex worker, whom the Star is not naming because she fears for her safety, said she worries a sweeping crackdown against human trafficking on the internet could push independent adult sex workers underground.

The 30-year-old sex worker, whose real name is known by the Star, is a member of Butterfly, an Asian and migrant sex workers support network. She said she has been a sex worker in Toronto for two years.

She said sex workers use the internet to vet their potential clients and even ask for references.

“They can screen,” she said. “They can increase their safety.”

Toronto police declined to comment on The Star attempted to contact the website by email and at a toll-free phone number listed on the site’s contacts page, but received no response.’s terms of use ask users to immediately report suspected human trafficking to police and say the site will cooperate with law enforcement “to the fullest extent possible.”

There’s a major difference between sex trafficking, in which girls and women are coerced into prostitution, and the sex trade where adult women make independent decisions, said Karen Campbell of the Toronto-based Canadian Women’s Foundation.

The 2018 shutdown of the site, once a popular host for sex workers’ ads, was distressing for many, Campbell said in an interview.

“It pushed a lot of people back onto the streets,” she said.

Cracking down on online sex ads also won’t help undocumented women who are reluctant to go to police, she said.

“If they were to go to police, they would end up detained and deported,” she said.

Read more: shutdown puts sex workers’ livelihoods, safety at risk, GTA advocacy group says

Beaten. Branded. Bought. Sold: A Star investigation into the dark underbelly of sex trafficking in Ontario

Sex trafficking case turns on whether websites can be held liable for content created by users

Perry said the average Toronto sex worker when he was on the job entered the sex trade at age 14.

There seemed no end to men wanting to prey upon them, Perry said.

“We had a mandate to rescue these kids, get them help and go after the pimps,” Perry said. “Every time we arrested a pimp, there were two or three to take his place.”

Perry said fewer sex workers could be seen on the streets after pagers became popular a few decades ago, a change he said made it tough for police to monitor their safety.

“A lot of the girls that used to work the streets were suddenly carrying pagers,” Perry said. “At least when they were on the street we knew them.”

When sex work was more visible on downtown streets, it was easier for social workers to try to help women and for police to keep an eye on their customers, Perry said.

“They may be in a more vulnerable position now because they have no interaction with police,” Perry said. “Prostitutes don’t generally walk into a police station and report intimidation.”

Some Toronto sex workers were local residents while others came from abroad, smuggled into the city on the hopes of getting a job, Perry said.

There was some organized crime involvement, often connected with bikers and strip clubs, he said.

Perry said he fears pimps now use websites to fly under the police radar and exploit women. Some websites are out of the country, presenting jurisdictional challenges for police.

“We’re almost giving a license for pimps to be anonymous and control women,” Perry said., which bills itself as “Canada’s classified site,” automatically redirects to the address — using the internet country code of the Cocos Islands, a tiny Australian territory. The contact page refers to Unicorn House Ltd., a company based in Budapest, Hungary.

To post an ad, users are charged a cost ranging from free to more than €2.50 ($3.75 Canadian) — the site bills in euros — depending on region and category.

As of Wednesday, a personals ad for a female escort in the GTA costs the poster €2.65. That same ad in Hamilton costs €1.79; an ad for a male escort in Ottawa is free.

The personals section contains dozens of recently posted ads for male and female escorts across the GTA. Many of the site’s other classifieds categories — including for vehicles, housing and jobs — appear little used.

The site’s landing page boasts it has more than 150,000 registered users and millions of total ads. appears to have become more popular since was shut down by the FBI last year; before, classifieds site Craigslist was one of the most popular sites for advertising sexual services.

A study of sex ads on Craigslist released this year by researchers at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, supports the Toronto sex worker’s comments that the internet can make the sex trade safer.

The study suggests that the old Craigslist “erotic services” ads made sex work safer by helping sex workers screen out the most dangerous clients.

The internet allowed women to do background checks of clients, even seeking references, the Baylor team found. It also “may have caused outdoor street-based prostitution to transition to the safer, indoor channel,” researchers found.

Scott Cunningham, one of the study’s authors, said in an interview he suspects is absorbing a market once filled by

“The market is probably adjusting in Canada,” he said.

Cunningham said he wasn’t surprised the Toronto woman said internet ads make her feel safer and freer of pimps.

“Sex workers have been saying this for years,” he said.

Peter Edwards is a Toronto-based reporter primarily covering crime. Reach him by email at


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Former teacher facing 27 sex charges dating to 1970s and 1980s


A 66-year-old Halifax man who worked as both a teacher and a volunteer coach is facing 27 charges in relation to alleged sexual assaults against more than a dozen youths in the 1970s and 1980s in the Halifax area.

Police began an investigation in October 2016 after several people came forward and reported being sexually assaulted decades ago, Halifax Regional Police said in a news release.

Investigators arrested Michael Patrick McNutt without incident at a home in Halifax Wednesday morning. 

He’s facing 14 counts of gross indecency and 13 counts of indecent assault — the charge that was in effect in the Criminal Code at the time of the alleged offences.

Police said the 13 victims were youths at the time they were allegedly assaulted. They said McNutt, who worked as both a teacher and a volunteer coach, was in a position of trust. Police said they will not release any other details to protect the identity of the victims.

McNutt appeared in Dartmouth provincial court Thursday. He was released on $1,500 bail with the following conditions: no contact with males under the age of 18 and to maintain a distance of more than 10 metres from schools, parks, community centres or places where youths may be. 

His next court date is Feb. 27.

Police said they anticipate laying more charges against McNutt and encourage any other victims to come forward. 

« They want victims to know they will not be judged, and will be treated with compassion, dignity and respect throughout the entire investigative process, » Const. John MacLeod said in the news release.


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Former St. Mike’s students in court for sex assault case as police update media on investigation


The case of six former St. Michael’s College School students facing criminal charges in connection with a cellphone video shared on social media showing the sexual assault of another student in a locker room returned to a Toronto court Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, Toronto police say they will update the media on the police investigation into ongoing allegations of assault and sexual assault at the school at 11:30 a.m.

Police last week revealed they are investigating a total of eight incidents at the school.

The six boys are each charged with sexual assault with a weapon, gang sexual assault and assault. All were granted bail at a court hearing in November. Their identities are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The Crown in court Wednesday said she has not yet finished vetting the evidence that must be disclosed to the defence, including videos that require redaction. She noted some of the disclosure requires judicial authorization to release — likely in part because police have said the video connected to the charges is considered child pornography.

The court appearance comes as police investigate eight incidents at the prestigious, private all-boys school. Police have released limited information about the incidents, but they include two alleged sexual assaults, three alleged assaults and one incident related to threatening.

Last week, the school announced that members of a “respect and culture review” committee will examine the school’s culture and policies relayed to physical, verbal and sexual abuse, including hazing.

The school’s interim principal also announced the cancellation of the varsity basketball season for this school year and the junior and varsity football seasons for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Lawyers appeared in court on behalf of two of the boys on Wednesday.

The boys are scheduled to return to court Jan. 28.


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Ex-Canadian gymnastics coach’s sex assault trial shows sport still in flux


For David Brubaker, it must have felt like a million kilometres from his moment of Olympic glory.

It was only a few years ago that he had reached the top of his profession, leading Canada’s gymnastics team at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

This week, the decorated coach was in a Sarnia courtroom, facing two sexual assault charges levelled by a former student.

Brubaker’s trial comes at a time when the sport of gymnastics is in a seismic flux. In the U.S., Larry Nassar, the former U.S. gymnastics national team doctor who was convicted of assaulting hundreds of young gymnasts under the guise of treatment, has brought the sport to its knees. Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in jail for his crimes. And just this week, U.S. Gymnastics declared bankruptcy as it desperately tries to make a fresh start.

Here in Canada, Brubaker is one of a number of high-profile coaches currently before the courts.

Brubaker has pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual exploitation The charges relate to alleged incidents between 2000 and 2007. The trial concluded Friday.

Justice Deborah Austin will determine whether or not Brubaker is guilty on Feb. 13. 

But this case offers another portrait of a sport we are assured has changed: scenarios that breed allegations like the kind seen in the Brubaker case are no longer tolerated.

But listening to the testimony in this case, you might wonder if that’s possible. The world of elite gymnastics requires the perfect union of athletic prowess and rigid discipline. It often takes an intensive partnership with a coach that can become dependent. Former Canadian Olympic gymnast Kyle Shewfelt, who captured gold at the 2004 Athens Games, has watched this case closely. He currently runs his own gymnastics club in Calgary.

« These young women who are looking just to be validated, telling them, ‘That was a good one’ makes them stand up a little taller and makes their chest puff out a little bit more, » Shewfelt says. « They feel like getting a compliment from the coach is like the best thing in the world. And I think that’s a groomed behaviour and that’s not right. »

WATCH: Ex-coach defends massage techniques:

CBC Sports’ Jamie Strashin has the latest from Sarnia on the sexual assault case against former Canadian gymnastics coach Dave Brubaker. 1:21

Kiss on the lips

In the case involving Brubaker, the complainant told the court, from the time she was 12, he would commonly greet her with a kiss on the lips.

He doesn’t deny this.

« I think it was just out of habit … that she started to kiss me, » Brubaker said, insisting the kisses were innocent. « I don’t come from a kissy family, so to me it’s just part of the gymnast culture. It’s not something I need as a man. »

One wonders if that culture still exists.

Brubaker told the court the complainant initiated the kisses after a competition in Europe.

Brubaker’s wife Liz, who worked alongside her husband, testified she found nothing odd about the kisses, but acknowledged her husband kissed other students only on the cheek.

The complainant also alleged that Brubaker touched her inappropriately while treating her for persistent pain and soreness.

Brubaker also vehemently denied this. But at the same time, an expert witness told the court that treatment, often in sensitive areas, is an integral and necessary part of maintaining the body of an elite gymnast.

« It’s required, » said sports physiologist Ronald Weese, who also worked extensively training elite coaches, including the Brubakers.

Weese told the court that maintaining the muscles required for nuanced splits and manoeuvres is extremely important.

Is this kind of treatment any less important today?

« You can’t get [to an elite level] from here without an emphasis on the small, finer details. » Weese told the court.

Brubaker denies touching a former student inappropriately while treating her for persistent pain and soreness. (Geoff Robins/Canadian Press)

Complainant lived with Brubakers

During their lengthy time as coach and student, the complainant also lived with the Brubakers. The court heard that David Brubaker took special care of her, picking her up almost daily at school before driving her home and then to practice.

On a number of occasions, it’s alleged, Brubaker invited the complainant into his bedroom to join him for a nap. She alleges Brubaker would « spoon » her and tickle her belly.

He denied this ever happened.

« She required a lot of attention, » Brubaker told the court during his testimony. « I did everything I could to give her what she needed to achieve her goals. »

WATCH: Kyle Shewfelt reacts to allegations against Brubaker:

As a gymnastics coach, Olympic champion Kyle Shewfelt describes his shocked reaction to the allegations against former national team coach, as well as how these developments could spark change in the sport’s culture. 4:03

Gymnastics officials on both sides of the border say steps have been taken to eliminate scenarios where potential allegations like these could arise from. There is a rule in place to ensure two adults are present when a child is alone. Organizations are working harder than ever to define and enforce boundaries coaches should never cross, like communicating with athletes on social media. Children are more empowered and there are more avenues to report wrongdoing, according to officials.

But we know that in sports like gymnastics, the road to the podium is achieved in solitude, often driven by a coach the athlete is willing to do anything for.

Shewfelt hopes this is all changing. He hopes the drive to be the best won’t have to come with the pain we have seen recently played out in courtrooms.

« My hope is that the sport can evolve to a place where young women are given the ability to make decisions for themselves in the sport. And I think that there are a lot of clubs in this country that do provide that opportunity, » Shewfelt says.

« And so I encourage parents to look for a place that allows their daughter to have a voice and allow others [to] allow their daughter to be the one driving the bus. »


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St. Michael’s cancels basketball, football seasons amid sex assault scandal


A prestigious Toronto private school rocked by allegations of assault and sexual assault by students has cancelled several sports programs.

In a note to parents Wednesday afternoon, St. Michael’s College School says that in light of the recent scandal, it made « the difficult but necessary decision » to cancel the basketball program this year and two football programs next year.

Last month, six students were charged with sex assault in connection with an attack that allegedly involved several members of a sports team and was captured on video.

Police say they are investigating a total of six cases involving students at the school, including one that police sources say involved members of a different team.

The all-boys Catholic school says students involved in competitive sports will participate in workshops about bullying, harassment and abuse.

St. Michael’s says students, faculty and staff have been participating in workshops throughout December that focus on the healing and well-being of all students.


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St. Michael’s College School principal and president resign amid student sex assault scandal


The principal and president of St. Michael’s College School have both resigned amid allegations of assault and sexual assault between students, according to a statement issued by the private, all-boys’ school Thursday afternoon. 

Principal Greg Reeves and Father Jefferson Thompson, school president, stepped down to allow the Roman Catholic school to move « forward without distractions and allow it to focus on healing and change after the horrific events, » the board of directors of St. Michael’s said in the statement.

« Greg Reeves and Fr. Thompson have always put the welfare, education and formation of our students first — and they do so once again today, » board chair Michael Forsayeth said.

« This courageous decision allows us to move forward with our goals: understanding how these events could have occurred, regaining the trust of our community and bringing cultural change to our school. »

I’m not at all surprised to see it ending this way.– Jean-Paul Bedard, St. Michael’s alumnus

Bill Dunphy, who graduated from St. Michael’s 50 years ago, told CBC News the decision is a « symbolic action » and shows that the board of the prestigious school « really wants to send a signal that they’re looking for decisive action. »

Other alumni, who accused the school of having a culture of « toxic masculinity » and called for reform, say the resignations give the school time to address underlying issues in its classrooms. 

« I’m not at all surprised to see it ending this way, or at least moving along in this direction, » said alumnus Jean-Paul Bedard, a former member of the football team who said he experienced sexual violence during hazing incidents at St. Michael’s 35 years ago. 

« This definitely doesn’t fix the problem, but this allows a potential solution to come through. » 

Alumnus Adam Boni, who graduated in 1987, echoed this and noted it’s an important step in transparency.

« That change allows the school to move on with fresh blood at the helm: new vision and purpose, » he said. 

Principal criticized for handling of incidents

On Wednesday, the school reaffirmed its support for Reeves and Thompson after some alumni had called for senior administrators to resign and for teachers who knew about the assaults to step down. 

Reeves, who has been criticized for not going to police sooner, defended his actions in an interview with CBC’s The National host Adrienne Arsenault earlier this week. 

He said he held off contacting authorities because the alleged victim hadn’t told his family about the incident.

On Tuesday night, Reeves said if presented with the same situation he « would do exactly the same thing. »

Adrienne Arsenault speaks to Greg Reeves, principal at St. Michael’s College School, following the announcement the school is launching an investigation to examine « unacceptable behaviours. » 3:16

Reeves said he notified police Nov. 12 when the administration received a video of an alleged assault, which took place in a washroom. By that evening, school officials said they had received a second video of an alleged sexual assault in a locker room.

Toronto police told reporters Reeves did not report the alleged sexual assault until officers, who had been contacted by media, showed up at the school on Nov 15. 

Insp. Dominic Sinopoli, who heads Toronto police’s sex crimes unit, has said the school should have reported the incident immediately.

St. Michael’s College School in Toronto is at the centre of an unfolding scandal. (Paul Smith/CBC)

In Ontario, the Ministry of Education requires public school boards to develop protocols with the police, that include incidents in which school principals have a mandatory obligation to contact police. Suspected sexual assault is among those incidents.

​However, many of the standards that govern public schools do not apply to private schools, including the duty to report suspected sexual assault to police, said John Schuman, a St. Michael’s alumnus and Toronto-based lawyer who specializes in children’s rights and education law.

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders wouldn’t say whether Reeves will be investigated for not alerting police before he did.

« For me to speculate is unfair, » Saunders told reporters Thursday following a meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board.

Andrew Leung, a former science and physics teacher at St. Michael’s, was appointed interim president by the school’s board of directors. He has served as the pastor and rector of Edmonton parishes, St. Alphonsus and St. Clare, for the past two years. 

Three St. Michael’s College School students, left, made a brief court appearance on Monday in Toronto and were released on bail. They will be back in court on Dec. 19. (Pam Davies/CBC)

Earlier this week, police laid criminal charges against six students in connection with a gang sexual assault investigation. 

Police are investigating six cases that involve students of the school, which teaches Grades 7 to 12. Some of the incidents were captured on video and shared online. Police and the school have said two of the six cases involve sexual assault.

St. Michael’s also expelled eight students in connection with the allegations. It’s unclear if any of the eight are among those who have been charged.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, speaking following a meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board on Thursday, said he hopes the resignations will lead to a new chapter at the prestigious school and that new leadership will address the serious issues the allegations have brought to light.

Tory called what’s happening at the school « a real tragedy for everyone concerned. »

St. Michael’s, which is known for its athletic programs, launched a third-party investigation into the present situation and past incidents. School officials hope a preliminary examination will be done by spring with a more in-depth investigation to wrap up next summer. 


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Prestigious Toronto school sinks deeper into hellish sex assault scandal


St. Michael is not really a saint. He’s an angel, archangel.

According to scripture, Michael led the army of angels who cast Satan into Hell. He stood guard at the gates of paradise after Adam and Eve were banished from Eden.

A warrior-angel, usually depicted wielding the sword of justice, to separate the righteous from the evil (Revelations) on Judgment Day.

Michael’s duties include escorting the faithful to Heaven at the hour of death.

He is the protector, especially from lethal enemies. Patron “saint” of soldiers and police officers and doctors.

First they huddled, then they investigated internally, and only belatedly did police learn of the allegations.

On Tuesday, 24 hours after six boys were charged with assault, gang sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon, police revealed they are investigating “two additional occurrences” related to videos at the core of the sordid case, footage documented by participants and/or witnesses and posted to social media.

Two more videos rising to the surface of the internet muck pit.

One of the videos had been out there, making the online rounds, for at least two weeks, seen by untold numbers of voyeurs.

At Toronto police headquarters, Insp. Domenic Sinopoli, commander of the sex crimes unit, said he wasn’t astounded that further incidents have been discovered — one described as “threatening,” the other as an assault with a belt.

“I don’t think anyone is surprised by this. I don’t really want to alarm anybody (but) but it did not surprise when I learned that we had an additional two videos. I expect that we’ll get more people coming forward and I encourage that. I don’t want them to assume that someone else has talked.”

Six videos. At least four victims. It’s unclear if the individuals on the most recently obtained videos are the same boys being mistreated in the earlier footage. Police are still trying to identify these youths. “We believe they’re related but we haven’t been able to identify them at this stage.” Sinopoli wouldn’t say how police came in possession of the new evidence. But police believe the videos were also made at the school.

To be clear: The activities depicted aren’t the stuff of mild hazing, which is a common form of bonding on sports teams — like then-Blue Jays rookie pitchers Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman being made to wear women’s corsets and fishnet stockings as they boarded the team bus on the way to catch a charter flight.

These, as described, are criminal acts which have resulted, thus far, in 18 criminal charges. In one video, a boy appears to be sexually assaulted with a broom handle in a locker room. According to the school, members of the junior football team and its coaches met with school authorities after the videos became known to them but before police were summoned.

So of course St. Michael’s, renowned for both its athletic and scholarly achievements, is under the microscope, with questions asked about just what kind of vile culture is being incubated at the institution, however unfair that might be to the more than 1,000 students who had nothing to do with the alleged assaults.

“I have no information to suggest a ‘fight club’ or any culture of hazing,” Sinopoli stressed.

St. Mike’s has already expelled eight students and suspended another in connection with at least two of the videos. Five boys subsequently turned themselves into police and one was arrested on his way to school. All were released on bail after making court appearances on Monday.

It’s also unclear if that sixth student arrested is among the expelled. “It is my understanding that the school was not aware of his involvement,” said Sinopoli.

“In fairness to the principal, they’re not privy to everything that we know.”

While minor physical contact can be consensual, “once you engage a weapon or you cause bodily harm, that’s different,” Sinopoli noted.

The timeline of events — who knew what when — appears more a concern of the media, which brought to police early this week the locker room video and another showing a boy, in his underwear, sitting in a sink, getting slapped as water is splashed on him.

“I appreciate there’s a lot of media interest with respect to the timeline of all this,” said Sinopoli. “That ship has sailed. The timelines are not at the forefront of this investigation.”

Nor, apparently, is the Roman Catholic school’s principal, Greg Reeves over the lag in getting police involved.

“I don’t know,” said Sinopoli when asked directly whether Reeves might be charged. “That is not the focus of this investigation.”

The school is looking into opening an app where students can provide information anonymously. Although police will be given that information, the school is obviously conducting a parallel investigation, which might not be wise.

“Sometimes students may be a little reluctant to come to police. We prefer that students would come to us with information.”

Repeatedly, as if learning nothing from their bumbling, the school has wrong-footed this scandal.

“I think this is a teaching moment, particularly for the school principal,” said Sinopoli. “ I think if he could walk this back he’d likely do things differently.”

The Basilian Fathers, an order devoted to education, opened the Toronto school in 1852, originally in a basement, and still runs it as a private, independent institution.

But St. Michael is a ubiquitous presence around Toronto. There’s St. Michael’s Cathedral, St. Michael’s College at U of T. And a mural of the saint covers the outer western wall of St. Michael’s Hospital, which bills itself as the city’s “Urban Angel.”

And St. Michael’s College School, a-roil now in ghastly events, the traumatizing of boys by boys.

The soldier-angel would weep.

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


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London Police Services Board releases draft sex assault policy, requests public feedback – London


Roughly nine months after first launching consultations, the London Police Services Board is out with a new draft sexual assault policy (below).

The overhaul was launched in the wake of media reports outlining the number of complaints that police deemed unfounded.

Victim featured in ‘unfounded’ report responds to London Police apology

Dr. AnnaLise Trudell with Anova, a shelter and support centre for survivors of abuse and sexual violence, believes the policy is a step in the right direction.

“It kind of brings a few different pieces together, so one is the advocate review, which we’re already doing, which is where every sexual assault case reported to the police gets reviewed by community members, and there’s lots of learning that’s been happening in that space within the last year,” said Trudell.

“The other is sort of empowering the survivor a lot more around guiding the process, so he or she can disclose the name of the accused, and the chief will sort of work as much as possible to make that be something that they can do.”

New draft policy for sex-assault investigations expected by end of 2018: London police board

The policy also calls for increased training for police.

Trudell notes that the policy has some blind spots.

“Stats Canada came out with a report a few months ago that said that reports to the police declined since 2004 by 20 per cent,” she said.

“We know that people are actually going to the police less and a lot of reasons as to why that is, and some of that might be around confidence and knowing that the system is not going to be great for them, so this type of policy helps get at that.”

The public is asked to provide feedback on the draft policy by Dec. 10 via email to or the board says arrangements can also be made to speak directly to members of the board’s sub-committee on community relations.

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


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Doug Ford parts ways with another top aide as sex scandals continue to roil premier’s office


Doug Ford has parted ways with another top aide as the fallout from two sex scandals continues to roil the premier’s office.

John Sinclair, who was executive director of the Progressive Conservative caucus bureau, left Thursday night.

John Sinclair, former executive director of the Progressive Conservative’s caucus bureau has left his post on Nov. 8, 2018. Sinclair left after Premier Doug Ford indicated he did not speak up soon enough about the conduct of Andrew Kimber, who had been the premier’s executive director of issues management.
John Sinclair, former executive director of the Progressive Conservative’s caucus bureau has left his post on Nov. 8, 2018. Sinclair left after Premier Doug Ford indicated he did not speak up soon enough about the conduct of Andrew Kimber, who had been the premier’s executive director of issues management.  (John Sinclair (Twitter))

Sources told the Star Friday that the well-regarded Sinclair exited after an irate Ford felt he did not speak up soon enough about the misbehaviour of Andrew Kimber, who had been the premier’s executive director of issues management.

Kimber departed Nov. 2 after it was revealed he sent unsolicited and sexually charged texts to at least five female Tory staffers.

Included in the texts were photographs of Kimber, who was married in September, in his underwear. He has since apologized for the “unacceptable” conduct and vowed to “seek the help I need going forward.”

Wilson has not been available for comment since Ford asked for his resignation from cabinet and the PC caucus a week ago.

Sinclair, described by associates as “a good guy,” appears to be collateral damage in an ongoing internal probe of Conservative activities.

He did not immediately reply to a Star query seeking comment Friday morning.

His alleged transgression was that he did not flag Kimber’s inappropriate actions online as soon as he became aware of them.

Conservative insiders, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the internal machinations, said other Ford aides were surprised when Sinclair provided them with additional information on Kimber’s after-hours conduct.

But with an already erratic premier’s office further crippled by a mood of recrimination, Sinclair’s friends say it is unfair that he was singled out.

One source noted there is always gossip in political offices where the mix of long hours in close quarters can lead to questionable conduct.

Former minister Jim Wilson (pictured) was ousted from caucus along with Andrew Kimber, Premier Doug Ford's executive director of issues management and legislative affairs, due to inappropriate behaviour.
Former minister Jim Wilson (pictured) was ousted from caucus along with Andrew Kimber, Premier Doug Ford’s executive director of issues management and legislative affairs, due to inappropriate behaviour.  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

Ford, however, was furious with Kimber, whom he had grown to trust and whose wedding he attended in September.

“Doug feels a sense of betrayal,” said one Ford friend.

That has led to a hunt to root out anyone and everyone who may have been aware of what was happening.

Ford was asked earlier this week about the screening of potential cabinet ministers and political staff to make sure their backgrounds are clean.

“We have a pretty good vetting process, but there can always be improvements anywhere,” the premier replied during a news conference Wednesday at an air force museum next door to CFB Trenton.

“I would say we can always improve, which we’re doing,” he added, urging any staff who have allegations to come forward as an independent firm conducts an investigation into the accusations against Wilson and Kimber.

Regarding Wilson, Ford told reporters he had no idea that the Queen’s Park veteran,who was first elected in 1990 and served as a cabinet minister in the previous Harris and Eves governments, had problems.

“I didn’t know. But when that happened, I don’t care who it was. I don’t care if he was there for 40 years. We acted decisively.”

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

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


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So you’re having an open house. Remember to tell your realtor sex is not OK


Real estate lawyers get asked all kinds of oddball questions.

Last week, one of my colleagues asked me how to respond to his client’s query about returning after an Open House at her home to find one of the neatly-made upstairs beds in complete disarray.

If you find a dishevelled bed in your home staged for Open House viewing, find out why from your sales rep and be in touch with your real estate lawyer.
If you find a dishevelled bed in your home staged for Open House viewing, find out why from your sales rep and be in touch with your real estate lawyer.  (Dreamstime)

Obviously, the bed and the bedroom were used either by the real estate agent or some visitors for a purpose which had nothing to do with marketing the house.

How does a lawyer advise the client in this situation? I may have missed this day in law school, but my initial reaction was to suggest confronting the agent to find out what happened. If the agent knew about the incident — or was a participant in it — it might be time to get a new agent and consider a complaint to the brokerage or RECO, the industry regulator.

If the agent did not know, it might be a good time to investigate how the event could have taken place and take steps to prevent a recurrence.

To my surprise, I discovered that the internet is full of apparently real stories of people having sex at Open Houses.

In March, 2006, when the real estate bubble was at its peak, GQ magazine ran a story entitled “Does Real Estate Make You Horny?” It reported on a trend called “house humping,” in which thrill-seeking couples secretively have sex in a closet or bathroom — or other quiet corner of the house — without anyone noticing.

But in his 2016 book The Cheerful Subversive’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking, author Dan Mirvish claims that the GQ story, and the “trend” of house humping, were the fruit of a viral stealth campaign unleashed to promote a Weinstein Co. real estate musical called Open House.

Having sex at Open Houses has even gone mainstream.

Curb Your Enthusiasm is an HBO comedy TV series created by Larry David, who also stars in it as a fictionalized version of himself. In a Season 9 episode last year, the character played by actor Jeff Garlin confides about his antics at an Open House.

Garlin: “Remember the realtor from the art gallery?”

David: “Ya.”

Garlin: “Well, she had an open house. And let’s just say it stayed open a little longer for me. Oh ya. Oh ya.”

David: You had sex with her at an Open House?

Garlin: At an Open House.

David: That’s unbelievable.

Garlin: Unbelievable. And you know they have cookies at the open house. I brought the cookies up with me. We had sex, I had some cookies, took a nap …

David: On what?

Garlin: Well, they have the staging furniture.

David: Wow.

Marjorie Garber is an English professor at Harvard University. In her 2000 book Sex and Real Estate: Why We Love Houses she says that the real estate Open House is a socially sanctioned licence to daydream about what goes on behind other people’s closed doors.

“The idea of illicit sex in illicit places,” she writes, “has its own allure in the world of sex and real estate.”

Take the kitchen, she muses, and consider the meaning of the words in the folk song “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”: “Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, strummin’ on the old banjo.”

I’ll never think of the song — or Open Houses — the same way again.

All of this serves as a reminder to home sellers who have agreed to Open Houses that they should establish clear terms with their realtors about monitoring visitors and their activities.

Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer. He can be reached at or on Twitter: @bobaaron2


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