Police seek public’s help in ID’ing woman in video that shows her tossing chair off condo balcony

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Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a young woman who threw chairs off the upper floor of a downtown Toronto condo building.  

A video posted on the weekend on Facebook with the caption « good morning » shows the woman taking a peek over the balcony, and then throwing a folding chair onto the Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Boulevard below.

As of mid-morning Monday, police said they believe the incident took place in the last few days and that two chairs were thrown, not one as originally thought. 

Sgt. Ron Boyce told Radio-Canada that police believe the condo is at 55 Bremner Blvd., and said condo management is working with them. 

The video cuts out before the chair she’s seen tossing lands on the highway, so it’s not possible to determine if it hits a car or causes an accident.  

The chair is seen spinning in the wind as it falls down towards the highway. (Lisa Calderon/Facebook )

​Last week, the CBC reported on residents of a downtown condo tower who were infuriating their neighbours in a nearby building by throwing trash and liquor bottles, and vomiting from their balconies.

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Ontario health care ‘super agency’ would allow more privatization, confidential draft bill shows

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A confidential draft bill from Premier Doug Ford’s government would establish a health “super agency” to create “efficiencies” in the system and empower cabinet to privatize more services and sell medical data, according to a leaked copy.

The new “super agency” to oversee health care was first revealed by the Star on Jan. 17.

The leaked version of the Health System Efficiency Act 2019, obtained by the New Democrats and revealed Thursday, states the super agency — yet to be named — would implement the new Progressive Conservative government’s health system strategies, hinted at in a new report released Thursday from Ford’s health care czar Dr. Rueben Devlin.

Devlin said the complex health-care system is too “difficult” for patients to navigate, pointing to the need to make treatment paths more efficient and, for example, take better care of people with chronic diseases like diabetes.

Under the draft bill, the super agency would have the powers to “designate” providers of integrated care providing a mix of at least two of the following: hospital care, primary care, mental health, addictions, home care, long-term care, and palliative care.

The bill would also give Health Minister Christine Elliott the power to “consider whether to adjust the funding (of the super agency) to take into account a portion of the savings from efficiencies that the super agency generated in the previous fiscal year and that the super agency proposes to spend on patient care in subsequent fiscal years.”

A source told the Star an official announcement on the super agency, which the legislation says will have a 15-member board of directors, is expected in late February.

More to come

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Video from Toronto shelters shows ‘inhumane’ conditions, indicates shelter system is broken, advocate says

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Inside one of Toronto’s warming centres, dozens of small beds are placed alongside the walls, with homeless people covering themselves in Red Cross-issued blankets.

At a 24-hour respite centre that’s supposed to host 100 people, many rows of small beds are lined up in a dimly lit hallway. Some people are curled up in their beds, others are milling around. There’s indistinctive noise from all around, and at some point someone somewhere seems to be banging on the door.

A video taken from inside the city’s respite centres and shelters shows conditions in which homeless people are living on a particularly cold evening in January 2019. This clip has been shortened from the original 6-minute version.

“Someone in there?” a voice asks later, as a note indicates one of four washroom stalls is out of order.

That’s part of what is contained in a six-minute video secretly filmed this past weekend offering a glimpse inside various drop-in centres and respite and warming locations as the city grapples with housing the homeless population amid extreme cold weather.

Street nurse and longtime homeless advocate Cathy Crowe said the “inhumane” conditions observed at the sites indicate how the shelter system is broken.

“We are now in a position where we are housing people in places that are not shelters,” she said of the city’s overnight drop-in, respite and warming centres, where more than 1,000 people — young and old, male and female — are currently being housed.

“That’s the only place they can go, and they are going to be there for weeks and months on end.”

In addition to existing shelters, the city has opened a number of 24-hour respite sites and drop-in centres to help homeless people who need shelter during the extreme cold weather period.

Crowe described the “shame” of living in a “dismal-looking” and crowded hallway with not enough space for people to securely store their belongings. Bathrooms and showers are scarce, and a number of them are out of order.

Some of the occupants are in wheelchairs, use walkers or have others medical issues, making it difficult for them and the rest of occupants to feel properly cared for, she said.

A secretly filmed video shows conditions inside various Toronto drop-in, respite centres.
A secretly filmed video shows conditions inside various Toronto drop-in, respite centres.  (YouTube)

“There’s a lot of coughing, a lot of tension,” said Crowe, noting the city’s response to the homeless issue has created “a second-tier of shelter that’s not really proper shelter.”

She said it is important for the public to see videos and images from inside the centres to understand the magnitude of the issue.

“I think they’re used to seeing pictures like that after a catastrophic thing like hurricane Katrina or in other countries a tsunami or a mass of fire or power outage,” she said.

Cathy Crowe stands beside a homeless memorial at The Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto on January 12, 2016. Crowe, a street nurse and longtime homeless advocate, says the “inhumane” conditions observed at the city's  drop-in centres indicate that the shelter system is broken.
Cathy Crowe stands beside a homeless memorial at The Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto on January 12, 2016. Crowe, a street nurse and longtime homeless advocate, says the “inhumane” conditions observed at the city’s drop-in centres indicate that the shelter system is broken.  (Randy Risling/Toronto Star)

Crowe and other advocates will join some city councillors on Tuesday to lobby for the ongoing homelessness issue to be declared an emergency, and seek for more help from all levels of government and other organizations. Four homeless people have died on the streets so far this year, including Hang Von, 58, who was struck by a garbage truck driver last week.

Mayor John Tory has been reluctant to officially declare an emergency situation over the homeless issue, something Crowe called “upsetting.”

“He used the word ‘urgent’ but refuses to use ‘emergency’ or ‘crisis’ or ‘disaster,’” she said. “I think he is extremely out of touch with the overall situation and continues to stigmatize the issue by blaming it on either mental health issues or refugees, and it’s just so wrong.”

Tory’s spokesperson Don Peat said the city’s own report on street needs assessment last year showed 32 per cent of respondents had a mental health issue and 27 per cent had an addiction issue, while 40 per cent were refugees or asylum claimants.

“The Mayor is being honest with the public about the underlying issues putting additional pressure on our shelter system and his commitment to working with city council, city staff, community organizations, and the other governments to tackle homelessness and the issues that contribute to homelessness,” he wrote in a statement.

Gilbert Ngabo is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo

Read more:

Opinion | Rosie DiManno: It’s tough to be homeless in Toronto — and it’s getting tougher

Under the Gardiner: ‘We check in on each other, that’s kind of the reason to be here’

Edmonton winter warming bus helps city’s homeless chart a route to survival

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Detention video shows another purported ISIS fighter saying he’s from Canada

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A recently released video featuring an English-speaking man who says he travelled from Canada to fight with ISIS in Syria has prompted one expert to take a closer look at whether the man is the voice of several chilling ISIS propaganda videos.

In a video released by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a man who identifies himself as Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed says in English that he is originally Ethiopian and came from Canada.

« I came to Syria in 2013, » the man says in the video, adding that he was captured after a gun battle. Mohammed’s detention, first reported by Stewart Bell of Global News, happened in the eastern Syrian city of Deir el-Zour.

Amarnath Amarasingam — a senior research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and a postdoctoral fellow who co-directs a study of Western foreign fighters based at the University of Waterloo  — believes the voice of the man in the video could be a match for the voice heard in a series of English-narrated ISIS videos.

They include Flames of War, a propaganda video released in 2014, and videos from claiming responsibility for the 2015 attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead.

« If you compare the voice of that to Flames of War, I’d say it’s pretty identical, » Amarasingam said.

Amarasingam said a friend who knew Mohammed from Toronto saw the video and recognized him right away. The friend told him that Mohammed adopted the nom de guerre Abu Ridwan as his religious convictions deepened.

CBC News has not spoken to the friend.

Other fighters he’s spoken with as recently as last fall claim that a man named Abu Ridwan is the voice behind some of ISIS videos, Amarasingam said.

Taken together, the name, the voice and the statement from the friend who recognized him suggest Mohammed could be the faceless fighter featured in the ISIS propaganda, the researcher said.

Amarasingam also said that the location of Mohammed’s capture in one of the last remaining pockets of ISIS fighters in Syria is notable, suggesting that he is « not just a regular fighter who is being used as cannon fodder. »

The issue of Canadians fighting with ISIS abroad isn’t a new one.

Global Affairs Canada did not provide specific details about the case, but at the moment CBC News is not aware of Mohammed facing any criminal charges.

The government has in the past struggled to do much about returning foreign fighters because of the challenge of prosecuting people here without evidence of illegal actions abroad.

This case could be different, CBC’s senior investigative reporter Diana Swain noted, as the fighter featured in the recently released video expressly says he was captured while participating in a gun battle. 

In late 2018, a report suggested the number of extremists abroad with Canadian ties was around 190.

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Video shows Toronto police altercation that left mentally ill man with serious shoulder injury. SIU investigating

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The province’s police watchdog is appealing for witnesses into an altercation between Toronto police and a 35-year-old man with schizophrenia who suffered a serious shoulder injury his mother said will require surgery on Christmas Day.

“He’s not a criminal,” she said at her home in Toronto’s Weston neighbourhood on Sunday. “He’s just a guy with a sickness.”

A series of stills from a pair of cellphone videos show a police interaction with a mentally ill man at a Toronto apartment building on Dec. 12. The videos show two Toronto police officers talking to the distraught man on the floor of an elevator, left. Two more officers then enter the elevator, centre, before another officer tells the bystander to “get out of the way.”
A series of stills from a pair of cellphone videos show a police interaction with a mentally ill man at a Toronto apartment building on Dec. 12. The videos show two Toronto police officers talking to the distraught man on the floor of an elevator, left. Two more officers then enter the elevator, centre, before another officer tells the bystander to “get out of the way.”

The Star as not talked to the man and is not identifying him or his mother because he suffers from a serious mental illness.

The Star obtained a pair of videos showing some of the altercation, which took place at an apartment building at 300 Dufferin St., near Dufferin and King St. W., at approximately 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 12.

The cellphone videos, taken by a bystander, show more than a half-dozen police officers in the lobby of the apartment building, outside an elevator. A man can be heard loudly and repeatedly shouting from inside the elevator: “Mom! Mom!”

The video shows two police officers kneeling inside the elevator. The injured man cannot be seen, nor does the video appear to show the interaction that caused his injuries. The start of the incident also is not shown.

Toronto police spokesperson Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook on Sunday said the force has no comment on the matter while it is under investigation by the Special Investigations Unit, the police watchdog organization which probes police-involved deaths, serious injuries and allegations of sexual assault.

The man has been charged with assaulting police and is scheduled to appear in a Toronto court in January.

Police were called to the building for a report of a domestic disturbance that is unrelated to the man who was injured, according to a statement from the SIU.

“Get off my back,” the man says at one point in the video.

Cellphone video taken by a bystander and obtained by the Star shows a police interaction with a mentally ill man at a Toronto apartment building on Dec. 12. Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit is investigating after the man suffered a serious shoulder injury in the incident.

Later, one of the officers inside the elevator says: “Give me your hand … co-operate, just give me your hand.”

At another point, the other officer says: “I don’t know what’s wrong with you.”

Two officers can later be seen rushing into the elevator.

In the video, the man is told he will be charged with assaulting police by pushing an officer.

“How could I push you against the elevator?” the man asks.

At the end of the first video, a visibly upset officer gestures toward the bystander who’s filming the incident. “Get out of the way,” he says.

In the second video, which appears to have been taken immediately after the first, a number of officers talk to the man, who continues to repeatedly shout, “Mom!”

The mother of the injured man told the Star he doesn’t have a criminal record. She said his right shoulder was perfectly healthy before the incident, and he now requires surgery at Toronto Western Hospital on Christmas Day.

“It was a perfectly good shoulder,” she said. “Now it’s mess up. The nerve is damaged … The doctor said that it’s going to take long to heal.”

“It’s very bad,” she said. “He has numbness in a few of his fingers”

She described her son as “skinny,” standing well under six-foot and weighing less than 180 pounds.

Cellphone video taken by a bystander and obtained by the Star shows a police interaction with a mentally ill man at a Toronto apartment building on Dec. 12. Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit is investigating after the man suffered a serious shoulder injury in the incident.

He was diagnosed with schizophrenia after high school and is on disability for his mental illness, she said.

“He on medication,” she said. “When he’s not on the medication, he gets hostile.”

She said that her son told her he was on the elevator when several police officers arrived.

“He said, ‘Hurry up and come on the elevator.’ That’s when the argument started,” she said, relaying her son’s account.

She said police should be trained to calm things down when dealing with mentally ill people like her son.

“They must know how to take care of sick people,” she said. “Don’t do it in an angry fashion.”

She said she plans to be with her son on Christmas Eve, when he’s admitted to hospital, and Christmas Day, when he undergoes his surgery.

“I’m just going to give him a hug and tell him that I love him,” she said.

An SIU statement released Wednesday said police were leaving the scene of their domestic call when the incident occurred.

“The man was arrested in the lobby and then transported to hospital for treatment of a serious injury,” the SIU statement said.

Two SIU investigators have been assigned to the case.

The SIU asks witnesses to call 1-800-787-8529 and upload video via the SIU website.

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

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

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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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NSTU says poll shows majority of Nova Scotians critical of province’s handling of public education – Halifax

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The Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) commissioned a poll that shows the majority of Nova Scotians are critical of the province’s handling of public education.

The poll was conducted for the union by Corporate Research Associates (CRA).

READ MORE: N.S. Liberals appoint education advisory council after dissolving elected boards

The poll found that 60 per cent of those surveyed believe the government’s actions have a negative quality on public education. Those actions, according to NSTU, include imposing a contract on teachers and eliminating elected school boards.

The survey also found 83 per cent of those polled have a favourable opinion of public school teachers.

Seventeen per cent think the government is doing a good or excellent job of managing the public school system, while 75 per cent rate their performance as fair or poor.

READ: Decision to axe N.S. school boards, a reminder of power of cabinet: Charter expert

Forty-three per cent believe replacing elected school boards with a single advisory council has had a negative impact on student achievement, while 23 per cent see it as positive.

The survey was conducted by phone in October and November, and the sample size was 400 randomly selected Nova Scotians. The poll has a margin of error of ± 4.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The full CRA report can be found here. 

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

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Report shows meat prices will drop in 2019, but how will this affect local producers? – Lethbridge

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Canada’s Food Price Report, developed by researchers with the University of Guelph and Dalhousie University, predicts meat prices will decline in 2019 — the first time since the study was established nine years ago. But what could those decreases mean for local producers relying on the industry?

“Meat prices have been higher. They’ve kind of come down, but that’s a good thing, too, in that we want consumers to be able to afford our product,” said Ryan Kasko with Kasko Cattle Co. Ltd.


READ MORE:
Here’s how much more Canadians will likely spend on groceries in 2019

The report predicts that the price of meat across the country will see decreases of anywhere between one and three per cent, citing droughts from 2014 and 2015 as a main factor.

“Those draughts led to a lot of cattle farms reducing the size of their beef herds, and it’s taken a good four or five years to get those herds back to an optimal level,” said Simon Somogyi, a professor at the University of Guelph and one of the study’s authors.

“We think that prices are sort of stabilizing or coming down from the highs we’ve seen.”

But Kasko believes the meat market will remain strong in southern Alberta, as he explains that small fluctuations within the industry are inevitable.

“I’m optimistic about the beef industry, and we do have good demand for our product and the prices are pretty good,” Kasko said.

The report also highlights a change in dietary habits, with many Canadians switching over to vegetarian diets.

“We recognize that you’ve got this rise in vegetarianism happening in the marketplace, especially in the younger generations,” Somogyi said.


READ MORE:
More people in Lethbridge are growing their own food as grocery costs continue to rise: garden retailer

However, affording vegetables may be more of a struggle in 2019, as the report predicts produce prices jumping anywhere from four to six per cent.

Paul de Jonge, a local farmer at Broxburn Vegetables and Cafe, agrees with the prospect of pricier products and attributes the possible hike to increased labour costs across the country.

“Vegetable growers are very labour-intensive so when labour costs continue to go up, somehow that has to be reflected in the costs of the vegetables,” said de Jonge.

With the report stating that the average Canadian family can expect to spend around $400 more a year on their annual grocery bill, growers and producers hope consumers will continue to support local products in the new year.

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

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Workers’ compensation board denies over 90 per cent of chronic mental stress claims, audit shows

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The provincial workers’ compensation board has denied 94 per cent of chronic mental stress cases since new legislation extended benefits coverage to employees experiencing long-term trauma or harassment on the job, according to an internal Workplace Safety and Insurance Board audit obtained by the Star.

Previously, workers could only seek compensation for mental health injuries caused by a traumatic incident, not those triggered by ongoing trauma in their workplace — which labour advocates and legal experts described in a 2016 ombudsman complaint as unconstitutional and discriminatory. Subsequent legal changes mean workers can now file claims for work-related chronic stress issues.

But between January and May, just 10 of the 159 claims for work-related chronic mental stress were approved, the audit conducted by the WSIB shows.

Maryth Yachnin, a lawyer with the Toronto-based legal clinic Industrial Accident Victims of Ontario, said advocates already had concerns about existing barriers to winning chronic mental stress claims — but said she was “stunned” by the denial rate.

“I cannot imagine a world where they should be denying upwards of 90 per cent of the cases,” she said.

In a statement to the Star, WSIB spokesperson Christine Arnott said the board wanted “anyone dealing with work-related chronic mental stress (CMS) to get the help and support they need.”

She said workers were entitled to compensation if they met the board’s criteria, which includes evidence of a “substantial work-related stressor” and abusive workplace behaviour that rises to the level of workplace harassment. (Workers are not entitled to chronic stress compensation for problems stemming from discipline, demotions, transfers or termination.)

“We will continue to monitor our new chronic mental stress program as we help support mentally healthy workplaces across Ontario,” Arnott said.

Yachnin said the board’s approach to chronic mental stress creates unique and unreasonable barriers for people with “harassment-type injuries.”

Workers filing for chronic mental stress, for example, must prove their workplace was the “predominant cause” of their illness — while workers with physical injuries must simply show their workplace was a significant contributing factor.

“That’s subject to a higher legal test than any other workers in Ontario,” Yachnin said, adding in court workers only have to prove employer negligence was one factor in a workplace injury.

Like all workers filing WSIB claims, those with chronic mental health injuries give up their right to sue their employer if they initiate a case at the compensation board.

“All workers with these chronic stressors have been stripped of their right to sue their employer. The replacement right has to mirror the right you took away,” Yachnin said.

The board’s current guidelines were formed after consultation with both employers and worker representatives. According to one submission from an employer association, “stress cases are not the same as ‘other’ kinds of workplace injuries,” and treating them as such is a “momentous miscalculation and policy design error.”

In the WSIB statement to the Star, Arnott said the nature of mental stress injuries are “complex and differ from physical injuries.”

“The use of the predominant cause test is consistent with other workplace compensation boards (Alberta, Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia) across Canada that also compensate for CMS,” she said.

Last year, a coalition of 12 legal clinics and private practice lawyers decried the “predominant cause” test before it came into effect in a letter sent to former premier Kathleen Wynne.

“The Supreme Court of Canada and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal have rejected the wrong-headed notion that mental injuries are less real, more subjective and more suspect than physical ones,” the letter said.

According to the WSIB’s chronic mental stress policy, a work-related stressor is considered “substantial” if it is excessive compared to “the normal pressures and tensions experienced by workers in similar circumstances,” although the policy says workers can’t be denied compensation simply because they work in a routinely high-pressure environment.

“In some cases … consistent exposure to a high level of routine stress over time may qualify as a substantial work-related stressor,” the policy says.

Yachnin said logic runs contrary to how physical injuries are treated, where constant exposure to stress or risk would be seen as “positive evidence of causation.”

Board adjudicators must also “be able to identify the event(s) which are alleged to have caused the chronic mental stress,” through “information or knowledge” provided by co-workers or supervisors, according to board policy.

“When you think about harassment in a small workplace, the person harassing you is very likely your employer,” Yachnin said. “Who else in the workplace is going to provide confirmation?”

The low number of claims registered to date may reflect a lack of awareness about legislative changes, Yachnin said — but could also indicate workers see the barriers to winning compensation as insurmountable.

That prevents the employer-funded workers’ compensation system from functioning properly, she added: if employers’ insurance premiums go up because of high injury rates, there is a financial incentive to rectify the safety risks.

“(The costs) are properly borne by the employer community because they were generated by workplace risks,” Yachnin said.

“The system is designed to point out the canary in the coal mine and show where there are health and safety risks factors,” she added. “But you can’t do that if at the front door you’re basically auto-denying them. I don’t know what else to call this.”

Sara Mojtehedzadeh is a Toronto-based reporter covering labour issues. Follow her on Twitter: @saramojtehedz


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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