This couple shares a 335-square-foot micro condo on Queen St. — and loves it


When Erwan Roux set out to work abroad in Canada, the native Parisian envisioned moving into a big North American house.

But when he and his partner, Mikael Martinez, arrived in Toronto this January, they instead opted to move into one of the city’s smallest condos — and they love it.

Erwan Roux (right) and partner Mikael Martinez recently moved to Toronto from France and are renting a 335-square-foot micro condo in the newly opened Smart House building.
Erwan Roux (right) and partner Mikael Martinez recently moved to Toronto from France and are renting a 335-square-foot micro condo in the newly opened Smart House building.  (Moe Doiron / Toronto Star)

“In Paris, there are a lot of very small apartments. It’s easy to find one that’s only eight square metres (87 square feet). We thought that living in Toronto, we’d have a big place. But when we saw this apartment, we fell in love and took it right away,” Roux said.

Roux moved into a “micro condo” in Smart House, a building that recently opened at Queen St. W. and University Ave. Their unit is technically a one bedroom, though it’s more of a studio because there’s only a sliding door that separates the bedroom from the rest of the living space.

It measures 335 square feet, and it’s not even the smallest unit in the building.

When Smart House, which bills itself as a place for people who love “small but well thought-out space,” was first announced in 2013, it garnered lots of press because its tiniest units, at 289 square feet, were to be the smallest condos ever built in Toronto. (Floor plans for current rental listings show a unit at only 276 square feet.)

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Critics called it a crazy consequence of the city’s red hot condo market and questioned who would ever live in such a small space. Urbanists countered that micro condos are the wave of the future because they’re cheaper, they have lower heating and cooling costs and they allow more people to live downtown.

“In the 1950s, the automobile and the creation of highways created this migration out to the suburbs. But there’s been a recent return of the population to the centre,” said Cherise Burda, executive director of Ryerson’s City Building Institute.

With more downtown jobs comes more people, and that in turn attracts more jobs, creating a “snowball effect” of people who want to move downtown, Burda explained. But this also creates affordability issues with skyrocketing demand for existing housing.

“Micro units offer affordability and an attractive lifestyle,” she said, adding that those who choose to live there trade long, stressful commutes for less personal space.

“Micro units shouldn’t be thought of as simply small, they’re better designed — a more efficient approach to managing space.”

Six years after it was first proposed, the Star decided to visit the newly opened Smart House to find out who ended up living there and why they chose the city’s smallest micro condos.

“Yes, it’s very small,” laughs Roux. “But we love the big windows and the view of the skyline. And you can’t beat the location.”

Living steps from Osgoode subway station and a short walk from numerous restaurants, bars, nightclubs and theatres means that you don’t actually spend that much time at home, he said.

“We are home to eat and sleep but the rest of the time we are out. It’s like this in Paris,” said Roux. “In the summer, it will be even better.”

Brian Persaud, real estate agent and author of Investing in Condominiums, said micro condos are the inevitable result of developers having higher land and construction costs, but wanting to keep the price of individual condos down.

“In Toronto, condos under $600,000 are more attractive and sell more easily than those priced at $700,000 and up,” he said.

But while development costs are rising across the city, micro condos will only fly in the heart of downtown.

“It’s OK for certain locations but you would not be able to get away with that outside the core,” Persaud said. “You will always get investors looking at them, but the question is whether end-users will want them.”

“If you’re on top of the subway in the core, you’ll always have people looking to buy or rent there.”

A floor plan for condo for a studio condo for rent in Smart House, with a floor to ceiling window in the washroom. It was listed on for $1,775 per month.
A floor plan for condo for a studio condo for rent in Smart House, with a floor to ceiling window in the washroom. It was listed on for $1,775 per month.  (Multiple Listing Service)

Mehrunisa Kadir has lived in a North York house and a downtown apartment tower. But when the York business student heard about Smart House, she knew she wanted to live there and put down a pre-construction deposit right away.

Three years later, she’s freshly moved into her two bedroom, 699-square-foot unit with her best friend as a roommate.

“It’s not that small,” she says. “They’ve distributed the space really well.”

In her previous lodgings, she had to buy shelves to store all her clothes and kitchen utensils. But at Smart House, the storage is so well designed that she doesn’t use all her closets and cupboards, even though she moved from a much bigger place.

“I’ve never had so much space — even in a house,” she said.

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Kadir says she has adapted her lifestyle to make more flexible use of her space. She uses the kitchen island as a dining room table, for example.

One bedroom is really small, she said, and fits a queen bed and not much else. But the other, bigger bedroom has a Murphy bed that converts into a couch, making it a living room when she’s not sleeping.

“We don’t need lots of room because we’re students,” she said. “It’s obviously too small for a family. But a young couple? It’s an ideal space for that.”

Like Roux, Kadir says the best thing about her apartment is the easy access to local restaurants.

“I used to use Uber Eats. But now I just walk out the front door to get my food.”

Three people who opted for micro living

"Essentially here you have to choose between price and space," says Larissa Costa, a resident of Smart House.
« Essentially here you have to choose between price and space, » says Larissa Costa, a resident of Smart House.  (Katie Daubs/Toronto Star)

Larissa Costa — ‘After I wake up I just close the bed’

Costa has been living in her compact studio apartment in Smart House less than a week. There is a Murphy bed that folds up into the wall. “After I wake up I just close the bed,” she says. The high ceilings also help to create space.

She wanted to live close to work and her office is a five-minute walk away. She moved to Toronto from Montreal. She had been staying in an Airbnb while she searched for an apartment.

“Essentially here you have to choose between price and space,” she says of Toronto. There were bigger apartments for the same price further out of the core, but she preferred location.

There is always something going on. She would be bothered “being in a place where there is nothing to do. Here and I can just go for a walk.”

Vanessa Hojda says her unit in the Smart House condo was more reasonable than other one bedroom and studio units downtown, but she does miss having a couch.
Vanessa Hojda says her unit in the Smart House condo was more reasonable than other one bedroom and studio units downtown, but she does miss having a couch.  (Katie Daubs/Toronto Star)

Vanessa Hojda — ‘When I start making more money I’ll get a bigger place’

The micro-unit is a small slice of freedom for Hojda. She lived with a few roommates at St. Clair Ave. and Avenue Rd. before moving into Smart House, and she likes the independence of her own place. Her commute to work used to take two streetcars and a subway ride, and now it’s a 10-minute walk.

Her unit is around 400 square feet and she found the price was more reasonable than other one-bedroom and studio units downtown, which were in the $2,000 a month range when she was searching in December. She pays $1,750 here.

When she walks in the unit there is a kitchen on the left, all tucked away in sleek cabinetry, with a washer/dryer combination machine (“I didn’t know they existed until I saw it in there,” she says.)

The bathroom is on the right, and then straight ahead down a small hallway is her bed, next to a computer desk, a storage shelf and the balcony (she’d trade the outdoor space for extra room in the unit.)

She does miss having a couch and a proper living room.

“When I start making more money I’ll get a bigger place,” she says.

Gulrez Khan and two of his friends are sharing a three-bedroom corner unit in Smart House.
Gulrez Khan and two of his friends are sharing a three-bedroom corner unit in Smart House.  (Gulrez Khan)

Gulrez Khan ‘Because we are new here … we don’t have a credit score’

Khan and two of his friends are sharing a three-bedroom corner unit at Smart House. He says the biggest room fits a queen-sized bed, but the other rooms are smaller.

Khan recently moved to Toronto from Bhopal, India. Because he and his friends are new to Canada, he said an agent helped them find this unit.

“We have visited quite a few houses, most of the times because we are new here we don’t get it. We don’t have a credit score.”

When he first moved to Toronto, he was living in a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate he met on Kijiji, but now he is living with two friends.

“I feel like it’s one of the smallest houses that I’ve seen,” he says.

He hopes the building’s construction finishes soon. He says certain features and amenities, like the gym, are not ready for use.

— Katie Daubs/Staff Reporter

Marco Chown Oved is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @marcooved


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Winterruption shares snow and multiculturalism in Saskatoon


The two-day Winterruption Saskatoon event allows people the chance to get outside and enjoy the prairies’ winter weather.

This is the second year the event has been held outdoors as a way to get people out of hibernation and take part in traditional outdoor activities.

A community fire is bringing people together to warm up at Winterruption.

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Along with spending time outside in the snow, Winterruption organizer Laura Hale said the event is about meeting new people and sharing different cultures.

“[We] use the teepee to come together,” she said.  “In a non-traditional way through a variety of different storytellers.”

A First Nations elder opened the event on Saturday. Throughout the course of the day, many people from different cultures shared stories inside the teepee to bring the community together.

Yonnes Tesfayhaiae is from Eritrea in East Africa. He moved to Canada two months ago and is one of the storytellers sharing his culture’s folktales within the teepee.

“The main message is wisdom and education,” he said. “The main source of wisdom and education are the elders.”

Nordic Skiing, snowshoeing and sledding were all available for people to take part in.

Ice guardians: volunteers crucial for managing Saskatoon outdoor rinks

Tesfayhaiae said he is hoping events like Winterruption help him meet more people in Saskatoon.

“I think Canada is special accepting many people from all over the world,” he said.  “To meet people from all over is somewhat equal to reaching other places.”

Winterruption runs until 10 p.m. on Saturday and is a family-friendly event with activities for all ages.

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


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Cannabis producer Aphria’s shares seesaw on 3rd day since short seller’s attack


Shares in battered Canadian cannabis company Aphria seesawed Wednesday after the company that sold them assets a short seller says are worthless defended the transaction.

The stock has been in free fall ever since a prominent short seller said on Monday that the company’s recent series of acquisitions in Latin America and the Caribbean are essentially worthless.

SOL Global Investments Corp., the company that sold Aphria various cannabis holdings in Jamaica, Argentina and Colombia, issued a statement on Wednesday saying it was « satisfied with the outcome of the transaction, » and touted the quality of the assets in question.

« These emerging market licenses represent some of the most significant growth opportunities in the global cannabis and CBD [cannabidiol] marketplaces, » chief executive officer Brady Cobb said.

At a short seller’s conference in New York on Monday, Gabriel Grego of Quintessential Capital Management called Aphria « a black hole » for investors’ money and insinuated the assets Aphria bought did nothing but enrich insiders.

Watch Grego’s video presentation here:

Cobb said the short sellers « are financially invested in destroying the stock prices of SOL Global and other cannabis companies by publicizing false and/or purposely misleading information to apply negative pressure to stock prices. »

Short sellers make money by betting against certain stocks. They do so by borrowing shares in the companies from other investors, selling them, pocketing the profits and then replacing the shares they borrowed at a lower price later on.

« Our company will not engage in a back-and-forth with these bad-faith actors at this time, » Cobb said, encouraging investors to take a close look at the company’s financial statements for themselves.

Investment analysts who cover the company have been digesting the story as it unfolds, and so far most have maintained confidence in the company — even if it is waning a little.

« The report also alleges that Aphria insiders held undisclosed economic interests in financing vehicles prior to being acquired, » Canaccord analyst Matt Bottomley said of the story on Tuesday.

« The company has categorically denied these allegations to us. While we have no way to assess the validity of the claims, even after discounting our valuation to reflect higher risk, we still see good value at current levels. »

Bottomley has a target price of $18 on the shares — meaning that’s what he thinks the stock will be trading at in the next 12 months. That’s three times its current level.

Aphria shares were falling again in premarket trading on Wednesday, before rallying when the SOL statement came out at 9:30 a.m. Later on in the morning, the shares were essentially flat compared with Tuesday’s close, changing hands at $5.95 a share.

« We believe that management’s credibility may have been impacted by the allegations raised in this report, » GMP analyst Martin Landry said. « It is unclear at this point how the company will re-establish trust with investors. »

Landry had a $22 target on the shares prior to the short seller’s report, but has now put that target « under review. »


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Son of man killed in Leduc workplace accident shares grief: ‘Things they don’t tell you when your parent dies’


There are few things more difficult, both emotionally and practically, than dealing with the death of a parent. But a young Edmonton man is sharing his grief and frustration in a series of raw, honest tweets.

Daryn Bondarchuk was one of the men killed in a workplace accident at Millennium Cryogenic Technologies, an industrial company in the Leduc Business Park on Nov. 15.

READ MORE: ‘Tight-knit community’ of Leduc reeling after 3 die in workplace incident

The 52-year-old was a father of three. His son Cody described him as a handyman.

“He was just very much a fixer with a lot of different things,” Cody told Global News on Thursday. “He had little bits of knowledge in all kinds of industries. We never bought bookshelves for our rooms when we were kids –electrical work, woodworking, plumbing — anything else that we needed to do.

“I think that shows who he was, above everything else. [He] was someone who said, ‘If you had a skill, it’s your responsibility to help others with it.’”

Cody said his dad worked at Millennium Cryogenic Technologies for about two years, after a long friendship with the company’s owner, Russell MacKay. He said he believes his dad worked on machinery at the shop.

Cody said he received a call from an RCMP officer one week ago, explaining that his dad had died.

“It’s just been such a strange blur,” he said. “All the cliches that people say when someone passes — I always just rolled my eyes at them, but now, I really believe them.

“Even though it sounds corny — it is very shocking. You don’t know if it’s real. You just feel kind of trapped in time.”

The last time he saw his father, Daryn was dropping off some food.

“He would always bring over food, at least one a month. He’d call me up and say, ‘Hey I have smoked cheese or ribs or something.’”

Not knowing what happened to his father has been frustrating at times, according to Cody, but he says he knows his dad took safety seriously.

“He was someone who always payed a lot of attention to safety standards, so that’s really what makes me feel a bit more confident that it was just such a fluke. It couldn’t have happened any other way,” he said.

“He’s a very careful person.”

View photos of Daryn Bondarchuk in the gallery below:

The day after his father’s death, Cody took to Twitter, sharing his heartwrenching thoughts and experiences: the sheer physical exhaustion of mourning, the frustration of trying to get practical matters in order and the unexpected little things that prompt a fresh wave of grief.

READ MORE: Building up resilience to grief helps prepare for life’s losses, says author

As of Thursday morning, the essay stretched across 37 tweets, whose text is listed below.

Things They Don’t Tell You When Your Parent Dies Suddenly, a Thread:

1. A lot of the first few days is just a lot of driving. To different family members’ houses, to an airport, to the house you’re going to have to start cleaning out.

2. Grief and sadness is physically and mentally EXHAUSTING. I would give anything for just a few hours of not having to feel it to get a break and prepare for the next wave of grief.

3. You have to relive the moment you found out every time you phone someone else to tell them, even if it’s your parent’s landlord, insurance broker, etc.

4. I’m just so sad.

5. You don’t realize you’re hungry until it’s hours past the time you normally eat and you’re suddenly starving, but even then, you buy food and can’t finish it.

6. You see a photo of your dad from when he was your current age and he’s holding you as a baby and you realize how you really thought there was a lot more time to build new memories and have new adventures.

7. You alternate between feeling guilty that you’re just sitting around and feeling guilty that you’re doing things and not sitting around.

8. Your eyes are sore from crying but you still can’t stop. You want to sleep but can’t fall asleep.

9. You get some downtime to process things on your own but just spiral into memories and what-ifs and loneliness.

10. Nothing you had planned for the weekend happens or matters.

11. He doesn’t have Facebook because he’s your dad, so you start to worry that you won’t have any recent photos of him. But then you get access to his phone and computer and find photos you’ve never seen, where he looks so happy and alive.

Daryn Bondarchuk was one of the men killed in a workplace accident at Millennium Cryogenic Technologies, an industrial company in the Leduc Business Park on Nov. 15. (Supplied by family)

12. You then realize that he, and everyone else in the world, never plans for someone to root through their phone without them there.

13. Everyone in the family just wanders around like zombies from place to place and no one else minds. You constantly police your own behaviour and emotional displays for the first few hours and then you completely let go and don’t care about how anyone sees you.

14. You start to hear about everyone who was better off for knowing your dad. All the people he coached, worked with, helped out, and showed kindness to.

15. And then you realize that to you he was Dad, but he had other names: brother, uncle, son, partner, friend. And the community that is grieving gets a bit bigger.

16. You see your Christmas tree from the corner of your eye and remember that you’re only six weeks until Christmas and it’s going to be such a bad one.

17. Even in the saddest moments of looking through photos, you still can’t help but think about how much he looked like Mac DeMarco when he was younger, and it’s kind of weird.

Daryn Bondarchuk was one of the men killed in a workplace accident at Millennium Cryogenic Technologies, an industrial company in the Leduc Business Park on Nov. 15. (Supplied by family)

18. You hear from people you haven’t talked to in years, and almost feel bad that THEY are wishing YOU condolences because they also knew my dad and have their own right to feel grief too.

19. You scroll to your most recent non-death post from yesterday and are shocked at how far away it seems. Time moves so slowly.

20. You start looking into paperwork for death certificates and bank accounts and get immediately frustrated, put it to the side until you’re ready for the headache it will bring.

21. You realize that because he died at work, you also have to deal with WCB, which just feels like extra punishment.

22. Every cliche you hear about sudden deaths comes true. You always think you have more time. You question that last encounter, those calls you chose to miss, what you wanted to say that you never can now.

23. You stand at Arrivals in the airport with everyone waiting for a family member and when he gets in you feel a bit more unified as a family but there is still something missing that will never come back.

24. Even though it’s past 2 a.m., you’ll still be a while from being able to sleep, and it won’t be for more than a few hours.

25. You start to catch yourself unconsciously using past tense to refer to him, and it makes you sad that your brain understood so quickly that he isn’t coming back.

26. Trying to figure out the code to their safe is really, really frustrating.

27. You meet friends of friends of your parent, people you haven’t seen since you were a baby (it at all), and they show you so much love and kindness and tell you how much you look like them.

28. You spend an evening with your siblings and their partners and for the first time in two days you start talking about things other than your parent’s death. Video games, friends, current events, etc. You start to feel the massive hole in your heart stitch up just a little bit.

29. I don’t know how long this lasts for, but the last two days have felt like that episode of BoJack Horseman that’s completely underwater. It’s surreal.

30. You feel guilty taking food from your parent’s fridge home to eat even though you know that’s an irrational feeling because it needs to be cleaned out somehow and why throw it out?

31. It’s the first business day after, so you are able to start filing paperwork. Some staff are very patient and understanding that you don’t know which documents to ask for, but many are not.

32. You pick up his truck to drive back into the city, and you didn’t realize how viscerally the smell of his clothes and stuff in the truck would hit you.

33. Paperwork is exhausting. Bureaucracy is exhausting. I feel like I worked two eight-hour shifts today.

34. You spent the last five days constantly phoning different people at all hours so when you finally check up on your phone plan use, you see more than $60 in overage charges because you didn’t even think about how not having unlimited calls would matter this week.

35. You text Telus to change your plan to unlimited, accidentally tell the employee that your dad passed away because that’s how you’ve started every interaction with a company this week and it’s habit, and now you feel deeply embarrassed. The employee is very nice about it.

36. You finish the fruit you grabbed from his fridge. You throw the tupperware in the sink and make a mental note to wash it so you can return it to Dad. Then you remember. Then you cry.

37. You’re getting dressed in the morning to see him one last time before he is cremated, but you’re scared because you don’t know if you’ll be able to let him go.

Cody said he’s going to remember his dad for his belief in hard work.

“He always cared about the effort you put in, more than the output. He would always look at the comments in a report card more than the grade itself… That’s something that I thought about a lot in the last week. Again, it’s really corny but if you always just try your best — then results will come. Knowing that you gave it your all is something I think he wanted to pass down and that I want to live by now.”

–With files from Global News’ Sarah Kraus

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


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‘I’ve seen things that humans shouldn’t see’: 99-year-old Calgary veteran shares WWII memories flying over Europe


Jack Hilton is well aware he has beat the odds.

As a Typhoon fighter pilot, Hilton did more than 100 operations flights across Europe during the Second World War, including D-Day.

“In 28 days, I flew 28 times and 28 times you take off and land, you’re pushing your luck,” Hilton recalled on Sunday.

He said every time he took to the air, a quarter of men who went up, didn’t return.

“I went over to France with 28 pilots,” Hilton said of the mission overall. “Eight of us came home to Canada. I’ve seen things that humans shouldn’t see.”

As a Typhoon fighter pilot, Jack Hilton did more than 100 operations flights across Europe during the Second World War.

Global News

Hilton was a guest at the Hangar Flight Museum’s Remembrance Day ceremony, sharing his personal stories despite the painful details. During the war, he survived being shot down, only to be sent up the next day. He said it became normal to see roommates drop from the sky.

“It’s upsetting,” Hilton said. “You can’t let it stop you because you’ve got a job to do. You get a new guy and he flies along with you and he disappears in flames and smoke but you can’t do anything about it.”

Calgarians remember sacrifices a century after WWI ended

To help deal with the horrors he witnessed, Hilton wrote a book about his experiences called “The Saga of a Canadian Typhoon Fighter Pilot.”

In it, he recalls being offered his last rites by a priest who witnessed his plane crash.

Jack Hilton wrote a book about his experiences called “The Saga of a Canadian Typhoon Fighter Pilot.”

Global News

Despite being surrounded by thankful admirers at the Remembrance Day ceremony, Hilton remains humble.

“It’s very touching and they treat me so well,” he said. “They say you’re a hero but I said, ‘No, I’m not a hero, I’m just a survivor.’ Other people are heroes who died.

“You are flying with a man beside you who is your roommate probably and all of a sudden, one man will explode and he would disappear. You go back and you pack up his gear and send it home.”

As a Typhoon fighter pilot, Jack Hilton did more than 100 operations flights across Europe during the Second World War.

Global News

He contemplated the different world young people are living in now compared to when he joined the air force.

“Twenty-year-olds now are living with mom and dad, and playing video games. We were flying the stupid airplanes,” Hilton said.

Calgary grandson of Victoria Cross recipient remembers grandfather 100 years after WWI

Above all else, he hopes today’s youth will never have to experience what he and fellow veterans did.

“I’ve seen enough and don’t want to see anymore. War is horrible.”

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


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Holocaust survivor shares story with Toronto students, reacts to deadly synagogue massacre – Toronto


More than 700 students pack the auditorium at Upper Canada College to listen to Holocaust survivor 92-year old Dr. Vera Schiff tell her story in a calm, quiet voice.

“Hate and intolerance only brings disaster,” said Schiff, her family’s lone survivor.

“The only way to survive is to get along and respect one another.”

In 1942, Schiff’s family was deported to Theresienstadt, a ghetto and concentration camp, where she was assigned to work in the hospital. Her parents, sister and grandmother died there.

During history’s darkest chapter, she tells the packed auditorium, she found love. Schiff met her future husband Arthur. The days were long, but Schiff kept going for her mother.

“If everybody and everything let her down, I will live up to what she expected, what she hoped I would become,” she said.

Decades have passed since the Holocaust, but still the memories for Schiff and for the other survivors who take part in Holocaust Education Week are difficult and traumatic.

READ MORE: Jewish people, community allies answer call to #ShowUpForShabbat

But as Schiff explains, “If [the students] create a better world, then our efforts were invested.”

Jordan Weiss is among the students.

“We have to keep pushing even though we’ve had setbacks, such as the Pittsburgh shooting, we have to keep pushing keep fighting keep learning,” he said.

Another student, Phillip Kong, attended a trip UCC offers to students who want to further their Holocaust education.

READ MORE: Pittsburgh mom, children thank first responders following synagogue shooting

“We went to many death camps such as Majdanek, Auschwitz-Birkenau… when you’re actually there, it’s a whole other experience,” he said.

The teacher who leads the trip, and interviewed Vera Schiff on Monday, is Rachel Metalin. She has completed extensive Holocaust education training in Poland.

“For students to learn about a tragedy that, is of course a Jewish tragedy, but it’s also a human tragedy, and when we can connect to the humanity of that it’s really the catalyst for change,” said Metalin.

She recalled a trip overseas and a moment with one particular student.

“He looked up at me with just a look of shock and sadness and innocence and said, ‘It all really happened didn’t it? They really did that to those people?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, yeah it did,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Metalin noted if she can open just one student’s eyes to the dangers of anti-Semitism, then it is all worth it.

Just over a week ago, 11 Jews were killed while worshipping at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Law enforcement officials reported the gunman said he wanted to “kill all the Jews.” The suspect, Robert Bowers, has been indicted on 44 charges, including 11 counts of obstruction of the free exercise of religious belief and use of a firearm to commit murder during a crime of violence.

Montreal Holocaust survivors tell their story on Holocaust Remembrance Day

“It is very disappointing, it is frustrating and it is also a certain degree of fear that no matter what you do you don’t seem to be able to get the message across that violence breeds violence,” said Schiff.

Yet, she insisted, it is because of the Holocaust and because of the Pittsburgh massacre that she must keep sharing her story with future generations.

“To take the kids step by step and teach them that hate (and) intolerance is a non-viable option,” she said.

There are events across the GTA this week as part of the Neuberger’s annual signature program, Holocaust Education Week, which has recognized as a “best practice” in the field by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. A big part of the program is first hand testimony by the remaining Holocaust survivors.

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


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‘Connectedness is so important’: Wildlife photographer shares stunning images, life lessons


When it comes to socializing, wolves, chimpanzees and bears aren’t that different from humans.

Ronan Donovan has captured images and studied the lives of these animals, from Yellowstone National Park to Uganda to the Canadian Arctic.

The biologist turned photographer brings his research and pictures to Jack Singer Concert Hall this Sunday and Monday.

It’s called Social by Nature and it’s part of Arts Commons’ National Geographic Live series. Donovan shared some of his thoughts with The Homestretch ahead of the event.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. You can listen to the complete interview here.

Ronan Donovan is photographer with National Geographic. (Submitted by Ronan Donovan)

Q: What kind of images are you sharing?

A: I am going to share a mix of social mammals, ranging from chimpanzees in Uganda, mountain gorillas in Rwanda and some wolves in Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic.

Q: You lived in Yellowstone National Park for a year documenting the lives of wolves. What was that like?

A: That was an incredible experience, my first assignment with National Geographic.

It was a long time to be in the field which allows you to have an access and intimacy with subjects that you can’t get on shorter assignments.

It’s a place that’s very hard to get images of wolves, because they are so shy to humans. It was a challenging assignment.

Q: Was it like that in Ellesmere Island?

A: No, it was the complete opposite.

Ellesmere has wolves that have basically neutral interactions with humans, so not negative. They are curious about us. They approach and allow you this proximity.

You can follow them all day, 24 hours a day, because the sun never goes down in the summer.

They would steal stuff of mine, pull up tent stakes, they would try and steal a camera and now and then. It was a very different interaction.

Q: What did you observe in their social behaviour?

A: Anybody who has a dog is aware of how sweet, kind, generous and intelligent dogs and canines are. Wolves are the same.

Everything is about the family, the pups and teaching them life lessons. They hunt everything from mice to small rabbits all the way up to bison. They have to learn that so it’s all about family teaching and close interactions.

It’s amazing to hear all the vocalization that goes on, the high-pitched whining, the excited squeals.

To see them in the wild is something totally special for me.

Q: Did you see any similarities to humans?

A: Absolutely. There are nuclear families, mom, dad and multi-generational offspring. Elderly humans and elderly wolves are the most respected. They carry the knowledge reservoir for that society.

There are also cultural differences, the way they hunt and interact, how they play, all those things are standards of all social mammals. The play is one of the things that we can relate to the most as humans, because of how much fun it is to watch but we also know how much fun it is to play.

It feels good to play.

Q: You also studied bears in Yellowstone, what stood out to you about their behaviour?

A: They are social for part of their lives. When they are with their mom, they are social for a couple of years. They go in the den together. You can imagine the giant bear pile for four or five months in the den.

As adults, they are kind of on their own. They communicate by scent. I documented this behaviour at a place called the ‘bear bathtub,’ is what we named it. Bears would come, sometimes four or five a day, have a drink and soak in the pool, but also leaving their scent for the other bears.

Socializing, but not in person.

Q: You have studied chimpanzees in Uganda, how do they compare?

A: Chimps are just pure emotion and reaction.

When they see something they get excited, they don’t think about it. They just full on do things.

It’s aggression, it’s play, all the things that humans do.

Q: What can we learn from these animals?

A: Connectedness is so important.

The idea of family and friendly ties are required to make it through life. Humans are the same. We can’t get by on our own.

It reminds us the importance of working together, teamwork, bonding, socializing and play.

All of those things that some people forget about or take for granted but those social aspects are so important.

Q: What goes into capturing that one special image?

A: People think I am patient but I am actually just super driven and stubborn.

Most of the time when I am in a waiting situation, it’s not like a zen, relaxed moment. It’s more like an internal spaz out, anxiety-ridden time, trying to figure out if I made the right decision being here as opposed to being over there?

Is it ever going to come? Is this project a total failure? All of that is churning in the back of my mind.

It can take weeks and even months to get the images I want. I was in Yellowstone for a year and got all the photos that were published in two weeks.

When it comes to socializing – wolves, chimpanzees and bears aren’t that different from humans. Ronan Donovan has captured images and studied the lives of these animals – from Yellowstone to Uganda. The biologist turned photographer brings his research and pictures to Jack Singer Concert Hall this Sunday and Monday as part of Arts Commons National Geographic Live series. 8:02

With files from The Homestretch


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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for ban on “bearer shares” that hide stock ownership


OTTAWA—With the Toronto Stock Exchange as his backdrop, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will trumpet a suite of proposals Friday to crack down on tax dodgers and stop the rich from hiding their money.

In an interview with the Star, Singh said an NDP government would do what the Liberal government hasn’t: ban the controversial “bearer shares” singled out in the massive Panama Papers leak as a way to hide stock ownership and obscure the movement of wealth.

Jagmeet Singh says said an NDP government would ban the controversial “bearer shares” singled out in the massive Panama Papers leak as a way to hide stock ownership and obscure the movement of wealth.
Jagmeet Singh says said an NDP government would ban the controversial “bearer shares” singled out in the massive Panama Papers leak as a way to hide stock ownership and obscure the movement of wealth.  (DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO)

Singh also underscored his commitment to close the stock option “loophole,” which allows corporate executives to avoid income taxes by receiving portions of their compensation in company shares instead of through their regular paycheques. The NDP is also promoting a bill in Parliament, sponsored by Victoria MP Murray Rankin, that strives to prevent companies from transferring money to other countries to avoid paying corporate taxes in Canada.

“Why is it that the ultra wealthy and the rich have access all these loopholes that mean they’re not actually paying their fair share? That’s a problem,” Singh said.

“Liberals maybe don’t have the conviction to follow through on these ideas because they might upset their friends,” he added, suggesting the Trudeau government is “too closely aligned with those folks who are the elite” to take action after three years in power.

“It’s definitely past due that we do something about it,” he said.

Singh’s proposal to ban bearer shares comes after years of international pressure to restrict their use as a shadowy instrument of global finance. Bearer shares are anonymous certificates of ownership. Just like cash, whoever holds the physical certificate owns the stock or share of a company it represents.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has pressured governments around the world to eliminate bearer shares, arguing the anonymity they afford “makes them vulnerable to misuse.”

In May, the Trudeau government passed Bill C-25, a new law that banned the issuance of new bearer shares. That followed a statement from Finance Minister Bill Morneau in December 2017, in which Morneau and his provincial counterparts agreed “to pursue” amendments to laws and regulations that would eliminate bearer shares in Canada and replace them with more transparent alternatives. This is part of an effort to crack down on “money laundering, corruption and the financing of terrorist activities,” the joint statement said.

Morneau’s office directed queries about bearer shares to Industry Minister Navdeep Bains, whose spokespeople did not answer questions about the 2017 commitment on Thursday.

Singh, meanwhile, pointed to other countries like the Netherlands, where a deadline was imposed to switch bearer shares into more transparent forms of ownership. According to the OECD, dozens tax havens have done away with bearer shares since 2009, while financial accountability advocates like Publish What You Pay Canada and Transparency International have also called on Ottawa to restrict their use.

The NDP leader said Canada needs to eliminate them because of their attractiveness to criminals, as well as their potential as a means to hide money from the taxman.

“These are untraceable, they are unregistered. They are a massive problem, because we can’t actually then ensure there is proper taxation that applies from their use,” he said.

“(They’re) something that criminals will find useful, money launderers will find useful, and folks like the bad guys from action movies. You might recall Die Hard, where it was used — the bearer bonds. But it’s certainly not in the best interests of people, so we’re asking that to end once and for all.”

The use of bearer shares was also highlighted in the Panama Papers, a trove of leaked documents that cast a spotlight on tools used by the super-wealthy to dodge taxes and hide money. Former British prime minister David Cameron’s father, for example, started a fund for investors that kept 2 million bearer shares in a bank safe, with no record of who owned them. The papers also showed a Panamanian company owned by anonymous holders of bearer shares bought a condo from a Donald Trump-branded skyscraper in 1991.

The Canada Revenue Agency estimates Canadians with hidden offshore accounts evade up to $3 billion per year in taxes by hiding between $75.9 billion and $240.5 billion in tax havens.

With files from Marco Chown Oved

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


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Shares of most pot companies sell off on 1st day of legalization


Shares in most Canadian marijuana companies were lower on Wednesday, a sign that the volatility that has characterized the space as an investment isn’t going to go away now that the drug has been made legal for recreational use.

Cash registers are ringing up sales, in person and online, but the reaction from investors in Canadian cannabis companies was soundly underwhelming on the first day of legal weed.

Shares in Canopy Growth Corp. fell out of the gate before see-sawing through the day. By the time the Toronto Stock Exchange closed on Wednesday, Canopy’s shares were off by more than four per cent at $65.60.

Edmonton-based Aurora Cannabis was off by as much as 10 per cent at one point before rebounding to close down almost three per cent at $13.55.

Leamington, Ont.-based Aphria Inc. also slumped at market open before closing up almost four per cent at $19.34.

High-flying Tilray Inc., which at one point was briefly the most valuable pot company in the world at $300 a share, was off by more than 10 per cent at just over $148.25 on the Nasdaq on Wednesday.

Most of the smaller names were also down on Tuesday, marking a counter-intuitive two-day slide for pot companies just as their product became legal in Canada.

Lots of volatility

To analyst David Kideckel, managing director at investment firm AltaCorp., the selling off makes perfect sense in the short term.

« The cannabis stocks have been highly volatile over the last little bit so this isn’t really taking me by surprise that we’re trending down today and facing some downward pressure, » he said.

He’s still a big believer in the sector over the long term, but after a meteoric rise over the past year he says it’s to be expected for the market to take a breather.

« It’s really going to take time for the markets to see who the winners and losers are, » he said.

He suspects investors will give all the companies « a pass » on turning their hype into actual profits for the rest of 2018, but by 2019 they will demand results and anyone who falls short of sky-high expectations will be punished for it. « We haven’t really been through a full cycle yet or a full quarter to see if there are companies going to actually meet their their forecasts. »

Others are a little gloomier on the sector.

Chris Damas, editor of investment newsletter the BCMI Cannabis Report, was laying out the bearish case to his subscribers on Tuesday, and that was before Wednesday’s selloff.

« Some of the simplistic justifications for a half-trillion dollar market for cannabis worldwide are just that — simplistic, » he said.

Market leader Canopy Growth showing weakness is « a signal that we are at or near a market top in the sector, » Damas said.

In recent months, big alcohol companies have moved to link up with many of the big cannabis names, in particular Constellation Brands’ $5-billion investment in Canopy, and rumoured interest from companies like Coca-Cola and Molson Coors in other pot names. But Damas thinks those deals won’t prove particularly lucrative in the long run.

« I would continue to bet on medical cannabis being a successful program in Canada, with export potential, » Damas said. « But not at these stock prices. »

Analyst Stuart Rolfe at Veritas Investment Research Corp. is the only analyst to have a « sell » rating on all the major companies, which means he thinks their stocks are way too high and due for a fall.

In a recent note to clients, Rolfe said he thinks the industry is over-estimating demand for its product, and making the flawed assumption that the black market the legal companies want to compete with will simply disappear. « All of these factors lead us to conclude that Canadian cannabis valuations are at risk of falling precipitously, » he said.

« The tail end of the cannabis rainbow may be approaching much faster than investors realize. »


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SNC-Lavalin shares fall 10% on news that foreign bribery case will proceed


Shares in Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin fell 10 per cent on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday after the company revealed the federal government has decided it won’t let the company settle allegations of foreign bribery out of court.

The company has had the legal cloud hanging over its head since 2015, stemming from allegations that some of its former employees paid bribes to officials in Libya to influence government decisions and win contracts prior to 2012.

The RCMP alleges that between 2001 and 2012, the company paid almost $48 million in bribes and defrauded various other entities of almost $130 million.

SNC-Lavalin had hoped to negotiate a remediation agreement to settle the matter, an outcome that would have seen the company pay fines and other forms of punishment in exchange for setting aside the legal charges.

But the government has apparently decided not to let the company do that.

« SNC-Lavalin strongly disagrees with the [government’s] current position, » the company said in a release, « and remains open and committed to negotiating such an agreement in the interest of its employees, partners, clients, investors, pensioners and other stakeholders, all innocent parties that have been affected during the last six years, and now face an unnecessary extended period of uncertainty. »

The management and board of directors has seen extensive turnover since the events in question, and has set up a « world-class ethics & compliance framework, » SNC said.

Shares in the company were halted shortly after the TSX opened on Wednesday, and when trading resumed about an hour later they fell precipitously.


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