Maxime Bernier’s alt-right problem | The Star


Last Halloween, the hosts of a white nationalist podcast called The Ensign Hour discussed how to propel their ideology into the mainstream of Canadian politics. Although they pined for a “European homeland,” the co-hosts were all too aware of just how unappealing their movement remained to the political mainstream.

“We’re not at the stage where we can have a straight up nationalist party and start winning seats,” lamented one of the podcasters, who went by the name “Cracker Jack.”

What the country’s tiny cadre of neo-Nazis and the broader alt-right movement needed was a politician who could bridge the gap between the mainstream and the far-right fringe — someone who was an unabashed supporter of “Western values,” who would clamp down on immigration and multiculturalism.

That person, they decided, was Maxime Bernier.

Last August, after the long-serving Conservative MP denounced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “extreme multiculturalism and cult of diversity,” the Ensign Hour hosts perked up. When Bernier declared “the death of political correctness in Canada” to his more than 65,000 Twitter followers, it was heard as a dog whistle.

“This sets a precedent. This is a huge step forward. This opens the conversation for our people — the Europeans, the settler class — to give us permission to speak our minds,” said “Cracker Jack,” who later identified himself as Tyler Hall-Kuch on the show after the Star reached out to him for comment.

In September, about a month after quitting the Conservative Party, Bernier founded the People’s Party of Canada. Pundits and rival politicians dismissed it as a vanity project, the product of Bernier’s bitterness after having lost the Conservative leadership to Andrew Scheer in 2017.

But in just four months, the PPC signed up more than 33,000 members and has become a thorn in the side of Scheer and the Conservative Party, which has been forced to protect its right flank on issues like immigration and identity. More importantly, the PPC now has electoral district associations in every one of the country’s 338 federal ridings. Considering the party was little more than an angry Twitter feed last fall, the speed of PPC’s rise is notable.

Bernier declined through a spokesperson to speak to the Star for this story, but has said he wants nothing to do with white nationalists. “Racists are not welcome in this party,” he told Montreal radio station CJAD in December.

His party, meanwhile, has attempted to distance itself from the alt-right fringe, compelling its riding association members to sign pledges promising not to besmirch the party’s reputation.

But that public rejection seems to have done little to deter his alt-right supporters. The co-hosts of the Ensign Hour and others have called on members of the alt-right to infiltrate the PPC, whether the party is willing or not. As the extreme right has done elsewhere, they hope to move an adolescent political party, bit by bit, toward the political extreme, and thereby bring the political extreme toward the mainstream.

“What you need to do, you handsome, rugged listener who is listening at this moment, when this party gets created and has a name, you’re going to join,” said Ensign Hour co-host Bernardo “Dixon” Garcia, who also revealed his real name on the podcast in the wake of the Star reaching out to him for comment.

A Star investigation found three riding association executive members and a provincial organizer for the People’s Party of Canada who have made hateful comments about immigrants, Muslims and other visible minorities. Bernier’s party has parted ways with them, and Bernier has taken pains to distance himself from the alt-right, but their ability to attain those positions suggests that people who hold such views see his party as a vehicle for bringing the politics of the alt-right into the mainstream.

  • Nicola Hanson, who until recently served as the party’s Ontario organizer, disparaged Islam and Muslims in Twitter posts. “Islam is not Canadian. Canada was founded by Christianity. They do not assimilate because they don’t want to. They want to take Canada and every non Muslim country and kill non converters,” she tweeted in December 2017.

Then, in a tweet last March, she wrote, “Get the hell out of Canada. We don’t want you here, understand? I don’t give a rats [sic] ass about your stupid Islam. Go away pedophile.”

Hanson told the Star she had been “baited” into making the comments. “I have nothing against Islam,” she wrote in an email. “Everyone in Canada enjoys freedom of religion, which is one of our great pillars.” In a subsequent email, Hanson said she didn’t write the anti-Islam Tweets at all, claiming instead that her account had been “used without my consent.”

  • Emil Sosnin was elected to the executive of the PPC’s Thornhill riding association. Posts in his name on an alt-right Facebook group include one that said, “When I have kids, they will not play with n*****s.” (The Star added the asterisks.) Another post, in response to a story about German history, said, “I hope those are tears of Jews.” (Sosnin appears to be a listener of the Ensign Hour. In September, he tweeted about the show, “where is episode NEIN? Need my dose of toxic masculinity #itsokaytobewhite.”) The Star made repeated efforts to contact Sosnin through email and his active social media accounts, but he did not respond.
  • Joanne Dinelle, an executive on the PPC’s association in the Montreal-area riding of Pierrefonds-Dollard, has posted anti-Muslim comments using the since-deleted Twitter handle @Warrioroftruths. On Nov. 28, she referred to Islam as an “insane radical religion” and reminded her followers that “Our Minister of Immigration is a MUSLIM,” in reference to Ahmed Hussen. Asked about the posts via Twitter, Dinelle told the Star, “I do believe we must take a stand for what we believe in as individuals and every citizen has the right to freedom of expression while supporting their personal beliefs.”
  • Leigh Stuart, until recently a vice-president of a PPC’s riding association in the Niagara region, achieved notoriety for documenting, along with self-described white nationalist Ronny Cameron, a trip into a Scarborough hotel which housed recent migrants to Canada. The video shows them wandering the halls, acting altogether disgusted at the surroundings, which they attribute to the migrants living there. She didn’t respond to an interview request.

Stuart is also associated with a forum called the Mad Max Bernier Facebook page. (Bernier is not associated with the page, according to PPC spokesperson Martin Masse.) The page featured a caricature of Scheer being manipulated like a puppet by Jewish philanthropist George Soros, a favourite target of anti-Semites. Another meme featured a doctored picture of Bernier sitting behind a desk emblazoned with a sign reading “Scheer is queer, change my mind.”

Contacted last month, Masse told the Star that Stuart remained on her riding association’s executive, but that Hanson, Sosnin and Dinelle had all been dropped from their positions as a result of their social media posts. Stuart has since resigned from the PPC executive. “I support Maxime Bernier and his message, but refuse to represent his employed henchmen who potentially leaked my info to journalists and privately message me telling me what I can and cannot post,” she tweeted on Jan. 16. Masse wouldn’t comment on Stuart’s resignation.

Some in the alt-right see an opportunity in Bernier’s statements about immigration and multiculturalism and hope he may one day be in a position to make anti-immigration policies a reality.

“We need strength and we need conviction. We need true alpha-ism, because that is what the right is all about,” Cameron said in a podcast last August. “We don’t want Liberal light. Screw Andrew Scheer. It’s all about Maxime Bernier.”

The alt-right is a loose movement of white nationalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis, self-styled militias and anti-government extremists; anti-immigration, closed-border activists and anti-Muslim fanatics; conspiracists, culture warriors, men’s rights activists, anti-feminists and societal traditionalists.

This restive and fractious bunch share the cause of self-preservation — namely, of Western (read: white) heritage, culture and demographics. They seek a return to “traditional” gender roles and the protection of this culture, which is invariably under attack by a host of alleged enemies: progressive politicians, leftist groups, successive waves of immigration, along with religious and sexual minorities.

The alt-right found its stride with the election of Donald Trump, glomming onto the removal of Confederate statues in the southern United States as an example of widespread anti-white enmity. But although it had certain successes in broadening its appeal, the alt-right largely remained a street-level phenomenon, albeit one with a prolific online presence.

Richard Spencer, the American who coined the term “alt-right” and is among the movement’s most prominent and telegenic leaders, has argued that if the movement hopes to expand its reach, white nationalists need to look and act like everyday folks. The Ensign Hour podcast, which has had Spencer as a guest, seems to have taken this message to heart. Hall-Kuch and Garcia were frequent guests on the now-defunct podcast 88 Minutes, a more popular and more explicitly racist precursor to the Ensign Hour, which went off the air following a Vice News investigation last May. The Ensign Hour, named after Canada’s official flag prior to 1965, aimed to take a subtler approach. It would be “a family friendly show,” as Garcia put it in a July podcast. (The hosts, however, have not always succeeded in suppressing their most vitriolic views. In one episode, Hall-Kuch recited the so-called “14 words” slogan, a core tenet of the neo-Nazi movement, which espouses the protection and promotion of the white race.)

The hosts of the show have promoted another strategy for expanding the alt-right’s reach, so-called “entryism,” the infiltration and overtaking of political parties. While there are few examples in Canada, parties in the United Kingdom, Australia and France, among other countries, have had to grapple with extreme-right groups using this tactic in recent years.

In Australia, for instance, the national broadcaster reported that far-right groups espousing neo-Nazi and white nationalist philosophies attempted to take over a youth wing of the National Party in New South Wales. In France, Al Jazeera reported that violent far-right individuals had risen to political posts within Marine Le Pen’s National Rally. In the U.K., former UKIP members were accused of mounting an “entryist” campaign to take over the governing Conservative Party last year.

The Ensign Hour has devoted airtime to the notion that the Canadian political system, too, can be infiltrated and even overtaken. Hall-Kuch and Garcia first suggested doing so with the Conservative Party, but changed their minds in the wake of Bernier’s “extreme diversity” tweetstorm. “Even if [Bernier’s] just paying lip-service to us with the anti-immigration stuff, they’ve shown that there’s interest in this,” said Garcia.

Hall-Kuch already has political experience. He worked on the Toronto mayoral campaign of alt-right media personality Faith Goldy, who has made a career out of scapegoating immigrants and espousing the theory of “white genocide.” Goldy has also endorsed Bernier’s candidacy.

The alt-right’s attempts to infiltrate mainstream politics is neither surprising nor particularly novel. The Ku Klux Klan did as much in the 1920s by soft-pedalling its violent past and eschewing the anti-Black rhetoric that had come to define the group. Instead, it blamed the “new” wave of immigration to the U.S. — Jews and Catholics from Europe, for the most part — for a host of perceived social ailments.

As with the Klan before them, today’s alt-right sees its future not on the street but within the corridors of power. “White supremacists had become savvy at outwardly masking their real beliefs and intentions while most wrote them off as political innocuous wackos. Having bided their time, they are re-emerging to try and capitalize on a racially recharged political climate,” wrote American sociologists Robert Futrell and Peter Simi in 2017 in the journal Contexts.

The strategy is by no means limited to the U.S. “We’ve been seeing a shift to the political realm for at least the last five years in Canada,” said Ryan Scrivens, an expert in right-wing extremism at Montreal’s Concordia University.

“It’s going to be essential to the extreme right movement to continue to develop what they perceive as legitimate messaging so they can attract people into the movement that would otherwise be put off by violent force.”

The PPC isn’t the only Canadian party that has struggled to purge people who have expressed racist views from its ranks. Last year, Alberta’s populist United Conservative Party (UCP) expelled member Adam Strashok, who worked on Jason Kenney’s leadership campaign, after online media outlet Ricochet unearthed Strashok’s social media posts espousing anti-Semitic and white supremacist views.

More recently, the Star reviewed the Twitter feeds of Steven Luft, who until recently was president of the UCP’s Calgary Bow constituency association. Among Luft’s since-deleted posts is a response to a 2016 New York Times story about Sweden changing its outlook on refugees. “Most likely because #Refugees bring rape and violence with them and disrupt the host nation,” Luft wrote. UCP spokesperson Matt Solberg told the Star Luft is no longer with the party. The Star was unable to get a comment from Luft about his social media posts or his UCP position.

PPC party brass has tried to calm the online rhetoric of its supporters. “If you disagree with the government of Canada do so in a polite and respectful manner,” wrote PPC executive director Clinton Desveaux on Twitter in December, minutes after the Star sent screenshots from the Mad Max Bernier Facebook page.

Yet the apparent PR push, not to mention Desveaux’s gentle reminder, has sometimes been undermined by Bernier himself. He regularly uses language favoured by the alt-right, calling Trudeau a “hypocritical virtue signaller” and denouncing feminism as “a radical left-wing ideology” like “cultural Marxism.”

Bernier’s shift to identity politics has left some of his former supporters aghast — including at least one of the advisers who worked on his Conservative leadership campaign in 2017. “For a long time a lot of us were sympathetic to Max … We went to work for the guy. We wanted him to win more than anything,” said a former member of Bernier’s leadership team, who didn’t want to be identified for fear of being targeted by Bernier’s supporters.

“When he started talking about immigration, it was such a negative tone. By going in that direction he has lost us forever.”

Some observers believe Bernier’s pivot to anti-immigration politics was prompted less by any ideological commitment than by a political calculation.

“Bernier is essentially a libertarian, except that he knows that if you say you’re a libertarian you get about half a per cent of the votes, so he has to find legitimacy elsewhere,” said Quebec-based conservative pundit Jeff Plante. “It’s normal that the conservative movement would attract the anti-mass-immigration vote in the country. The problem is that Bernier isn’t legit in this. He has no past in it. It’s like he’s throwing ideas around to see what sticks.”

But if he is using identity politics to expand the constituency for the libertarian ideas he has long touted, he is playing a dangerous game, says Daniel Béland, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.

“[Bernier] would be aware that this kind of rhetoric could attract people who listen to some of the Hitler rhetoric [and] who are associated with the far right. It’s hard to imagine that he would be unaware of the ramifications of these comments,” Beland said. “Simply saying he’s against racism while at the same time attracting these people is … problematic and might turn against him over the next few months if it gets out of control.”

For their part, the Ensign Hour hosts have pleaded with Bernier to “drop the libertarian stuff,” as Hall-Kuch put it in a recent podcast, urging him instead to continue his criticism of immigration and multiculturalism.

“The reason why this party received any attention at all was because of its stance on immigration specifically. There was overtures to libertarian economic theory and models and ending supply management. But most people would agree that the reason why they care is because this new party’s alleged stance on immigration,” Garcia said on an Ensign Hour podcast in October.

“That’s why anyone gives a s**t about any of this.”

With files from Alex Boutilier, Emma McIntosh and Marco Oved.

Zachary Kamel and Martin Patriquin are freelance writers based in Montreal. Alheli Picazo is a freelance writer based in Calgary.


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Heavier police presence at Toronto LCBOs after Star exposes spike in brazen thefts


The customer, who we will call Andy, shared the experience with the Star on condition his name not be published to protect his family from possible reprisal. He credited skills acquired during a 20-year military career with his decision to follow the suspects.

“I was in the store about to pay for my wine when I heard a commotion behind me and turned to see two guys with faces covered by some sort of black fabric, filling up a massive shopping bag. As I turned back to pay, I thought, ‘What the hell did I just see?’ ”

He made a military-style decision. “I kind of do this thing where I gather up the information, analyze what is going on and kind of do a risk/reward thing to decide to do something and then act. It’s really just instinct.”

He thought their facial coverings would hamper their vision, an experience he’d had wearing a similar mask one Halloween. He could see the loot bag was so heavy the men were struggling to walk. Tracking them from a distance down a narrow, unlit alley, he turned a corner and suddenly found himself wide open, and only a few steps from the suspects as they lifted the bag into the trunk of their car.

“I made a note of the plate and I walked past them as calmly as I could — this was where my heart was beating pretty good — I was only ever scared when I turned the corner and realized I was so close to those guys. It was like, ‘Oh, crap.’ ”

Andy walked until he was clear of the suspects and then ran back to the LCBO “as fast as I could,” where the store manager was on the phone with police and conveyed the plate number.

He picked up the wine he’d already paid for and, moments later, as he got into his car and began driving away, the police takedown took place.

“It’s pretty amazing how fast everything clicked together. The police were great. They were in the right spot, in the right place,” said Andy, who works for the city of Toronto.

The close proximity of police on Wilson Ave. on the evening of Jan. 16 was not mere happenstance, according to Det. Matthew Routh of 32 Division, but part of a more deliberate plan to act against LCBO theft.

Police identified the Wilson store suspects as Dennis James, 25, and Nathaniel Snowden, 31, both of Toronto, and allege the duo is responsible not only for that night’s heist but also for a flurry of thefts from other Toronto LCBOs over the past three months that netted upwards of $90,000 worth of liquor. The pair face 260 charges involving 40 separate incidents.

The vast majority of that loot is long gone, Routh told the Star. None of the alcohol was recovered, save for the $3,800 worth the men had on them when they were arrested.

“Our belief, based on what we observed, is that we think they’re selling the alcohol immediately to some less-reputable bars,” he said.

That belief — that Torontonians may be unwittingly drinking the looted liquor in bars and restaurants — is sobering. And, thus far, unproven in court.

The Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission, which inspects licensed premises for potential Liquor Act violations, said in an email to the Star that their “inspections have revealed stolen or illegitimate liquor is not a significant issue.”

Yet police forces across Ontario also have authority to conduct liquor inspections. And as the various Toronto police divisions dive deeper into the LCBO theft epidemic, they say the evidence is mounting.

In 55 Division, Supt. Reuben Stroble points to a recent arrest at an east-end LCBO that enabled police to identify “a network to which some of this property was sold to local bars and business establishments at a discounted rate.”

The arrest marked a significant breakthrough. It was achieved because of a pilot project at 55 Division, which spans from the Don River to Victoria Park Ave. and south from Danforth Ave. to Lake Ontario, where officers have been given cellphones so community members can call them directly, as well as 911. In this case, it was an LCBO worker who called the police cell when a person known to steal entered the store.

At 14 Division, officers have racked up impressive arrest numbers, focusing on LCBO thefts after a rash of public complaints in November. As of Thursday, police have made 171 arrests — 68 of them through direct patrols and stakeouts and 103 by careful police sifting of a stream of online reports and surveillance photos of theft suspects provided by local LCBOs.

As detailed in four earlier stories in this series, LCBO outlets in Toronto have been targeted by thieves more than 9,000 times since 2014, according to police data obtained by the Star. And the pace of those thefts has increased year over year, accelerating threefold and making the LCBO far and away the most targeted retailer in the city.

When you put faces to those numbers, the deeper human tragedies are obvious. Court documents and anecdotal stories from more than 30 front-line LCBO workers who approached the Star since the series began describe an onslaught of increasingly audacious and at times menacing theft, much of it driven by addiction and mental health issues.

“Many of these cases are incredibly sad,” said Staff Sgt. Tam Bui of 14 Division. “Some of them, right away you understand it’s more a health issue than a law enforcement issue.

“But then we see the groups stealing in high-volume, again and again, for thousands of dollars each time, until you’re talking in the range of $250,000 worth of liquor. That’s a whole different story. That’s our main focus.”

Though no new citywide data is available since the crackdown, officials with 14 Division say the combined heft of the LCBO’s paid-duty police, together with the success of the division’s patrols, have driven the number of thefts down. Though uniformed paid-duty officers rarely make arrests, their presence is proving an effective deterrence. And the regular-duty results of Bui and his team are readily apparent.

Other sources, meanwhile, have provided the Star with a sense of the vast range of characters in the orbit of LCBO theft.

One photo given to the Star shows an elderly gentleman who looks and sounds almost sprung from the pages of a Charles Bukowski novel. His role in the stolen liquor equation is to circulate through Toronto’s underground poker scene, selling bottles out of a duffel bag at two-thirds face value.

Other known players include the “Rickety Crickets Gang,” named by LCBO front-line workers. They are known to have plagued a number of east-end LCBOs for much of 2018 and along the way, earned a reputation for “stumbling, bumbling, almost hapless theft.”

In the absence of security and with LCBO staffers under orders to not interfere when thefts are in progress, the Rickety Crickets made their slow-motion escape with the loot each time — despite the fact that one of them is living his life of crime upon a mobility scooter.

Said one LCBO source who saw the Rickety Crickets in action: “It got so frustrating and at the same time hilarious that during the last few robberies, staff would mock them as the theft took place, playing ‘Yakety Sax’ (the theme to Benny Hill) on their phones while these guys grabbed the goods.”

Police may have allayed some of that frustration with the recent arrests, but some officers are skeptical about what will happen when the suspects reach court.

“Certainly my experience is recidivism is very high in this kind of criminal activity because there doesn’t seem to be a penalty,” said 32 Division’s Routh. The two men arrested by his officers in January were both on probation and one was out on bail, awaiting trial on a previous charge.

These are “significant criminals,” he said. “You and I as taxpayers, we’re out $92,000 in alcohol that we know of. It’s our tax funds that are being abused.”

But a judge at Old City Hall recently sentenced a man arrested by 14 Division officers for stealing $1,100 from an LCBO on Bloor St. W. to 20 days in jail, calling the theft a “high-end deliberate act.” The man, who was on probation for other offences, entered the store with a luggage bag and filled it with bottles of Jack Daniels, JP Wiser and Canadian Club, before wheeling it out of the store.

Routh is more positive about the outcome of his division’s recent arrest of the two men caught on Wilson charged with stealing dozens of times from LCBOs.

A dedicated crown has been assigned to the case — which isn’t typical — as part of a new program instituted by the province in August.

It’s “fantastic,” said Routh. “Now we know we have a single voice at the crown’s office that we can work with and that has a vested interest in the case.”

But skeptics, including some LCBO front-liners, wonder whether the paid-duty police blitz is a one-off, or merely the first stage of a deeper, more strategic overhaul that will lead to safer stores not only in Toronto but across the province.

“I am wondering whether this is indicative of a co-ordinated long-term effort or more of a public relations thing,” said Jane Archibald, a Toronto resident who has campaigned tenaciously since last fall, calling on the LCBO, police and the municipal and provincial governments to take action on liquor theft.

“Hopefully the LCBO are implementing a province-wide solution.”

LCBO officials did not respond Friday to questions from the Star on the new measures. But in a series of remarks to staff — including a video message last week and an email two days ago — President and CEO George Soleas sought to reassure workers that the LCBO will “always look to incorporate new methods and technologies, including the continuous upgrade of CCTV equipment in all our 665 locations.

“We will be implementing other technical safeguards in our stores, as well as increased security in some locations. We appreciate everything you do to prevent and report theft, and how you care for the safety of our customers and each other,” Soleas wrote.

Andy the Good Samaritan, for his part, wouldn’t hesitate to act again should he find himself in a similar situation.

He did, however, end the interview emphasizing his concern about anonymity.

“Nobody knows what connections these suspects have or what kind of irritation this has caused their buyers or their bosses,” he said. “I don’t want to risk them coming after me or my family in an act of revenge.”


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Edmonton collector selling rare Star Wars figurine for $30K


An Edmonton collector is selling a rare Canadian release of a Star Wars figurine that could take in tens of thousands of dollars thanks to growing interest in the memorabilia.

Shane Turgeon acquired the unopened, decades-old caped Jawa toy in December after learning about it through a friend who owns a toy store in Victoria.

“He contacted me right away because he knew the significance of it and he knew that we’d be able to work out a deal and afford it, because it is a very expensive piece to buy from the original owner,” said Turgeon, who owns Shades of Grey Tattoo and Collectibles in Edmonton.

The figurine is modelled after the hooded Jawa creatures featured in the Star Wars film franchise and features a vinyl cape, which was discontinued in favour of a more realistic cloth cape version shortly after production began in 1978.

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An unpackaged cloth cape Jawa retails for about $30 to $40, according to Turgeon, while a mint condition vinyl edition could fetch $3,000.

As for Turgeon’s latest find, which remains inside its unique Canadian packaging by manufacturer Kenner, it’s one of only five or six known to exist, he said. It’s currently listed at $30,000.

A U.S. grading company rated the item 30 out of 100, largely because of wear and tear on its packaging, Turgeon said.

Courtesy: Shane Turgeon

“A lot of people will look at a story like this and they’ll say, ‘A Star Wars toy is worth $30,000,’ and they think all of their Star Wars toys are worth $30,000, and that’s not the case,” Turgeon said. “Star Wars toys that are worth that much money are because they’re very specialized pieces and they’re that way because there are very few of them remaining.”

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The figurine is currently with a grading company in the United States, which ranked it 30 out of 100. It docked some points because of the packaging, Turgeon told Global News.

He said there is a growing market for collectibles like his, thanks to people getting older and moving up in their careers.

“That disposable income is driving up the prices on pop culture collectibles across the board, especially the best of the best of pop culture collectibles,” Turgeon said.

The long-time collector hopes to find a buyer who appreciates Star Wars and understands what makes it special, but admits with a chuckle that “money talks.”

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


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China has carried out death penalty threats against Canadians in the past, Star has learned


The former Canadian ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, said in an interview he was personally involved in steps taken by the embassy and the Canadian government, including personally delivering a letter Harper wrote seeking to prevent the execution of two Canadians of Chinese origin. Saint-Jacques recalls it occurred in late 2014 or early 2015, in separate drug trafficking cases in Guangdong province.

“I think what we just succeeded in doing was delay their execution by maybe one year.”

That’s cause for alarm as Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg faces execution by a Chinese justice system that had previously sentenced him to 15 years in jail on charges of smuggling 222 kilograms of crystal meth. A Chinese appeal court had ordered the sentence reviewed in late December, and after a one-day hearing the prosecution request to toughen the sentence was granted. Schellenberg, reported to have prior drug convictions in B.C., now has 10 days to file an appeal.

Harper took up their cases personally during a visit to China in a meeting with President Xi Jinping, who Saint-Jacques said told the Canadian leader China regards “drug trafficking as a very serious crime and they were following Chinese law.” Harper travelled to China in November 2014.

Harper’s letter was sent weeks after the visit, the day before the scheduled execution of one man, but was to no avail, said Saint-Jacques. He said Canadian officials were allowed one last consular visit, but the execution eventually went ahead, with the second execution occurring within weeks as well, he said. Saint-Jacques could not recall the full names of either man, nor are there any records of such cases in English-language Canadian media.

Global Affairs Canada did not confirm details of Saint-Jacques’ statements when first contacted but acknowledged late Monday that executions did occur in roughly that time period. The Star was unable to independently verify any other details.

The revelation was one of a number of alarming developments Monday.

The Canadian government warned of new travel risks for Canadians.

Ottawa said while the risk level for travel to and within China was unchanged at “high,” it added a new warning: “We encourage Canadians to exercise a high degree of caution in China due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”

Canada’s embassy in Beijing emailed Canadians registered in the country to be aware of the new risks, asking them to update the embassy if they leave China.

The Canadian government also made clear its concern over the fate of other Canadians now facing the Chinese justice system.

On Monday, the Chinese government formally dismissed Trudeau’s claim of diplomatic immunity for a Canadian former diplomat, Michael Kovrig, arrested by China last month.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, said Kovrig “is not entitled to diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by any measure.

“He is not currently a diplomat. Michael Kovrig used an ordinary passport and a business visa to come to China.”

Kovrig was on leave from Global Affairs Canada to work for a non-governmental peace advocacy group, the International Crisis Group. Arrested by China after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on Dec. 1, Kovrig faces vague allegations of engaging in activities that endangered Chinese state security. A second Canadian, businessman Michael Spavor, was arrested last month as well, and faces similar unspecified charges.

Trudeau reacted Monday with dismay to the latest developments in Schellenberg’s case and tied it to his concern about China’s actions in the other cases.

“It is of extreme concern to us as a government as it should be to all our international friends and allies that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply death penalty in cases facing – as in this case facing a Canadian.”

Trudeau told reporters he would seek clemency for Schellenberg, speaking after he shuffled his cabinet Monday morning. As part of that shuffle, Trudeau moved his justice minister out of the portfolio responsible for handling the U.S. extradition request of Meng, and installed a legal expert in comparative and public law, David Lametti.

Meng’s arrest infuriated the Chinese government, which has accused Canada of acting arbitrarily in the matter.

China dismissed Canada’s explanation that it was obliged to act under a bilateral extradition treaty with the U.S., with its ambassador in Ottawa publicly accusing Canada’s government last week of double standards driven by “white supremacy.”

Chunying fired a shot at the Canadian government’s insistence that Trudeau is bound to respect the independence of a Canadian court now seized with the Meng case.

“As to the Canadian side’s claim that all countries should respect judicial independence, I believe this is quite right if only the Canadian side itself could first prove its judicial independence with concrete actions.”

Saint-Jacques, who was Ottawa’s envoy from 2012 to 2016 and worked with Kovrig, said in an interview there is little doubt that with the men’s arrests and Schellenberg’s suddenly toughened sentence, China “is sending a clear message” to Canada.

He said the government needs to “prepare a Plan A and a Plan B in case this further escalates because this problem is going to be with us for some time,” said Saint-Jacques.

Saint-Jacques predicted Meng’s legal defence team will try to block the U.S. request and draw out the legal arguments for years, and he encouraged the Trudeau government to keep up the international pressure because China cares about its international reputation, even if it does not care about Canada.

Trudeau said Canada would continue to enlist the support of its international friends and allies to object to China’s actions.

Trudeau said all governments should be worried about China’s “arbitrary” moves.

“We are extremely concerned as should be all countries around the world that China is choosing to act arbitrarily whether it is in application of its own justice system to its own citizens and people around the world or whether it’s in its choice to not respect longstanding practices and principles in regard to diplomatic immunity.

“This is something that everyone should be alert to and certainly something we as a government take very seriously and will continue to engage strongly with China on.”

Several governments, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the European Union, and Australia have already stepped up to express concern about China’s arrests of Kovrig and Spavor.

Schellenberg’s aunt, Lauri Nelson-Jones, in an email to the Star’s Vancouver reporter Perrin Grauer, said “All I can really say at this moment is, it is our worst case fear confirmed. Our thoughts are with Robert at this time.”

“It is rather unimaginable what he must be feeling and thinking. It is a horrific, unfortunate, heartbreaking situation. We anxiously anticipate any news regarding an appeal.”

Canada seeks clemency for all Canadians facing the death penalty in foreign jurisdictions. We have sought clemency in the case of Mr. Schellenberg and will continue to do so,” said Global Affairs spokesman Guillaume Bérubé.

Global Affairs says about 200 are currently detained in China “for a variety of infractions and continue to face legal proceedings. Many of these Canadians are out on bail or serving probation,” while a handful are in custody.

Alex Neve, of Amnesty International Canada, said Monday the sentence against Schellenberg “was imposed after a rushed retrial,” and called on the Chinese government to abandon its plans to carry out the death sentence.

Neve called on the Canadian government “to intervene at very senior levels, including the Prime Minister, to press that request.”

Neve said the fact the Schellenberg death penalty “has arisen in the context of the strained relationship between China and Canada arising from Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant, adds greater urgency to the need for immediate and concerted effort on the part of the Canadian government to convince Chinese authorities to overturn the death penalty in this case.”

John Kamm, head of Dui Hua, a San Francisco-based non-governmental group that advocates for political prisoners in China, said in an interview that Schellenberg’s aunt has asked for his help in advocating for the Canadian man.

He said his organization is aware of 19 foreigners, but no North Americans among them, who have been executed by China from 2009 to present.

Kamm said the best thing that could happen now for Schellenberg is for an appeal to be filed, and “a cooling off period between the two countries,” the sooner the better.

However, Trudeau’s comments, and Ottawa’s travel advisory update, signaled a distinct shift in tone from the Liberal government towards China.

In December, Trudeau told reporters he has learned since taking power that it does no good to “politicize” or “amplify” consular cases because it can actually hinder what he said is the ultimate goal of securing Canadians’ release from detention and their safe return home.

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


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Senator calls for national bad doctor registry in wake of Star investigation


For decades, Marilou McPhedran worked to strengthen patient-protection laws in Ontario. The human rights lawyer chaired three task forces to combat sexual abuse of patients by doctors, producing hundreds of pages of reports for government with bold recommendations.

But all McPhedran sees is unfinished business.

“There can be, there should be, there needs to be a national database,” of disciplined physicians, starting with those guilty of sexually abusing patients, says Senator Marilou McPhedran.
“There can be, there should be, there needs to be a national database,” of disciplined physicians, starting with those guilty of sexually abusing patients, says Senator Marilou McPhedran.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star file photo)

She’s now seizing her position as independent senator to make one more aggressive bid to spark a federal review of the issues and solutions that she says medical regulators and health ministries across the country have ignored at the public’s peril.

“There can be, there should be, there needs to be a national database,” she said, that identifies physicians found guilty of serious misconduct, starting with those who sexually exploit and abuse their patients.

McPhedran lauded the Toronto Star’s ongoing “Medical Disorder” investigation as an impetus for her new campaign. The Star tracked more than 150 doctors who have held medical licences on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border and faced regulatory discipline for misconduct or incompetence. The data showed that in 90 per cent of cases, Canada’s medical watchdogs failed to share these doctors’ disciplinary histories with the public, even when they involved charges of rape, murder and child pornography.

Creating a “permanent record” that captures sexual offenders across the country is just a start, McPhedran said. In light of the Star investigation, McPhedran said she’s reviewing the evidence to support broadening the database initiative to include doctors who are disciplined for all forms of misconduct and incompetence.

Read More:

Bad doctors who cross the border can hide their dirty secrets. We dug them up

Canada’s medical watchdogs know more about bad doctors than they are telling you

Regulators expect doctors to tell the truth about their past. Here’s what happens when they don’t

The federal health minister’s office confirmed Ginette Petitpas Taylor has met on several occasions with McPhedran to discuss this issue, most recently in December 2018. McPhedran is submitting a report to Taylor that explains why a national registry is critical to public safety in the hope the proposal will be added to the agenda of a forthcoming federal-provincial health ministers meeting.

“Canadians put their trust in their health professionals and we need to do everything we can to prevent misconduct and abuse,” Minister Petitpas Taylor said in a statement to the Star. “I have raised this matter with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, and will never hesitate to raise it with my counterparts in Provinces and Territories.”

A Canadian study published in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety a month after the Star investigation found that one in eight physicians disciplined by regulators across the country went on to re-offend. These 101 repeat offenders each had up to six disciplinary events between 2000 and 2015. Four of these doctors faced discipline in more than one jurisdiction. The majority were men. The proportion of obstetrician-gynecologists was higher among repeat offenders compared to physicians disciplined only once.

The physician researchers concluded the “distribution of transgression argues for a national disciplinary database which could improve communication between jurisdictional medical boards.”

Many of Canada’s medical regulators have told the Star that what information they share with the public about physician discipline is less important than the fact that they are sharing these details with each other.

“That is a disturbingly self-interested definition of serving the public,” McPhedran said. “All I can deduce from that practice is that they are serving the privilege of their organization. Regulators can’t serve the public interest and demonstrate that they’re keeping the promise that these organizations have made under the law across this country if they are not accountable and transparent. It doesn’t add up.”

Diana Zlomislic is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Email: Twitter: @dzlo


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‘Discouraging. Dumbfounded. A sad reality.’ Star story on LCBO thefts prompts readers to share their eyewitness accounts


Shared outrage. Shared anger. Shared frustration. And maybe, just maybe, a few good ideas on how to stop, or at least slow, the spiralling problem of theft at the LCBO.

That’s the thrust of reaction to the Star’s revelation Saturday that LCBO outlets in Toronto have sustained a surge of theft, hit more 9,000 times since 2014 — often in high-volume heists in which teams of thieves fill backpacks, duffel bags and suitcases with premium liquors and then simply walk away.

The Star’s call for eyewitness accounts, a number of which we are publishing below, included input from a surprising range of people on both sides of the till: customers who’ve seen it happen, all over the city and well beyond; and long-suffering LCBO workers, past and present, who confirm the morale-crushing reality of feeling helpless and insecure as they try to do their jobs.

One female LCBO worker reached out from rural Ontario, asking that we not publish her name nor that of her town, citing fear of retribution. “I work in a very little store and I can tell you the theft is worse here. I am a young single mom and often work alone, which is very scary. I have unfortunately served drunk males because they are too aggressive and I’m afraid of what may happen if I deny them.

“We’ve asked for more and better security cameras because the ones we have don’t cover the store. We were denied. I’d love to see the LCBO ‘suits’ make more of an effort to show that employee safety is taken seriously.”

The Star’s crunching of Toronto Police Service theft data produced sobering numbers: more than 9,000 thefts at LCBO outlets in the past four-and-a-half years (Jan. 1, 2014 to June 26, 2018). That makes the Liquor Control Board of Ontario far and away the most targeted retail entity in the city. And though retailers as a whole have reported a major spike in shoplifting incidents in the city — 11,010 thefts in 2014 versus 16,667 in the first 10 months of 2018 — the spike in liquor theft appears to be the single biggest driver.

Read more:

LCBO thefts surge in Toronto, often as staff stand and watch. ‘They’re literally just walking away’

The LCBO declined a request for an interview on the Star’s findings. Instead, the provincially owned liquor retailer responded in writing to a summary of the troubling data, acknowledging, “We can confirm that the LCBO is seeing an increase in shop theft, with the majority taking place in urban areas.”

As the Star reported Saturday, no single explanation unpacks the whole of the LCBO problem, which, in Toronto, some observers say, is made worse by new police policy to not respond to the scene of liquor theft unless the suspects are still in the building. And nowhere in the wide range of responses is there any hint that front line LCBO staff are at fault. The broad consensus is they deserve protection, not blame.

One signal we are able to read from the responses — the public has a voice in this and when it is sounded loudly enough, action follows. Though there is not yet any citywide police effort to staunch liquor theft, a new pilot program underway involving 14 Division’s Community Response Unit only exists because the public — LCBO customers who witnessed theft — asked for it.

Likewise, east Toronto resident Jane Archibald, a self-described “angry citizen and taxpayer” after witnessing thieves fill “large pieces of luggage” with liquor and flee the LCBO near Carlaw Ave. and Gerrard St. in November, shared with the Star on Saturday her correspondence with Councillor Paula Fletcher, the LCBO, Mayor John Tory, Premier Doug Ford and the Toronto Police Priority Response Command.

“The LCBO responded the following day (adding) security guards. I was told they were working to staff up on security. Thefts have decreased in the Gerrard location as a result,” said Archibald, who intends to continue agitating. “This is a policing issue which leaves retail employees ridiculously vulnerable.”

Here follows a cross-section of responses to the Star’s request for eyewitness accounts of theft at the LCBO. Some anecdotes involve customers taking it upon themselves to engage in levels of risk that ignore police advice. We can only add our voice to those calling for maximum restraint when shopping for liquor:

“About two years ago I was at the LCBO on Davenport near Dupont and I saw a guy loading up his backpack with vodka from a display near the entrance. We all stood and watched as he strapped the bag to his back and walked out the door. I asked the (cashier) if he’d ever seen anything like it. “It happens,” I recall him saying.

— Mary Kirley

“I was at the LCBO at Warden and Eglinton in the summer. This guy cruises through the checkout with a 60-ounce vodka in each hand, pretending to be talking on the phone. One cashier said, ‘Sir, did you pay for those?’ He ignored her. Myself and a gentleman in front of me offered to go get them off the guy but they told us not to. Then they proceeded to write the incident down in a book and continued on like nothing had happened. The customers were dumbfounded as to the level of apathy and the lack of any attempt to stop the person. When I left the guy was strolling down Eglinton without a care in the world. Pretty sad when the civilized, law-abiding customers are seemingly the only ones who care about theft, and stopping it.”

— Graham Kritzer

“At the LCBO in the Junction, I saw two men with backpacks fill them up with liquor and walk out the door as the staff stood by and did nothing. I asked and they said they were not allowed to pursue anyone caught stealing! This makes sense for personal safety reasons but it’s clearly a huge problem.”

— Sue St. Denis

“I saw it at the LCBO at Oakwood and St. Clair. A guy in a hoodie, filling his jacket with liquor bottles. I advised the unaware employees and the staff told the guy to give back the bottles and leave, which he did. I’m sure this result is rare. If we’re going to continue this ‘unique’ monopoly system in this province, I think going back to the pre-’80s order-desk format would be the best way to stop this. Rather than paper, digital screens or your phone would presumably be the selection tool. Encouraging more online purchases and in-store pickup and discouraging/minimizing their fancy merchandising is another thought. After all, the purpose of the latter surely isn’t to stay ahead of the competition when there isn’t any.”

— Jason Dear

“I guess that because the cost of the liquor is so low relative to the retail price, which includes a large amount of tax, that the actual losses are minimal. If the perpetrators were arrested and convicted these costs would far outweigh the losses, so it looks like the present solution is working and costing the public less to allow them to continue to shoplift. Also, the police cannot be involved in such small amounts with no violence.”

— David Franklin

“Considering the costs of thefts, why not hire off-duty undercover police with tasers, at least at the most often-hit stores? Or maybe have a security guard make customers check their bags at the front desk? We need to muscle up to this problem, soon and quickly. The response so far seems to be pure apathy at taxpayers’ expense. Where’s bold leadership on this problem?”

— C.L. Cateshaw

“Here in Mexico where I spend my winters, many businesses post guards with assault rifles, machine pistols or combat shotguns at the door. They don’t get many visits from smash-and-grab punks.”

— Tom Philip

“Four young people walked into the (Beaches LCBO) store with bandanas over their faces, loaded up backpacks and reusable shopping bags with anywhere from 6-15 bottles of wine and liquor and just walked out. They were inside for maybe 30 seconds. Nobody did anything. When I blocked the exit with my arm to try and block one of them, an employee told me not to so I dropped my arm and let the person go. This was a couple of years ago around this time of year, but it was very organized and completely bizarre.”

— James Di Fiore

“I live in Saskatoon, where the government-run liquor stores (have) high-security guards to prevent theft. And they catch shoplifters. I’ve seen people tackled to the ground.”

— Ellen Armstrong

“Interesting article about LCBO thefts in Toronto, but having worked for The Beer Store for over 10 years I feel compelled to mention that this happens every day at The Beer Store as well. The amount of stock that goes out the front door is staggering. And usually in brazen fashion as most times the perpetrators know there is nothing we can or will do about it. The unfortunate thing is we too are threatened on a daily basis.”

— Name withheld

“I worked for the LCBO for over 38 years. I’ve seen shoplifting. The staff were told do not interact with shoplifters — just watch them and report. Management would tell employees to try to kill the shoplifters with kindness. A lot of time, employees would just turn and walk away, knowing that nothing is going to come of the incident. It is discouraging for staff. I hope more employees tell their story so that the LCBO will act.”

— Kenny McGillvary

“A couple of summers ago at the LCBO at Bayview and Millwood, I watched some guy fill a duffel bag with booze and elbow past me as I opened the door. …Exactly a week later I get out of my car near the same spot and the same guy lumbers past with another full bag. He’s got to be going somewhere — so I get back in the car and trail him from a distance to a side street where a car is waiting. I pull behind and make like I’m checking out house numbers or something. Meanwhile, I’m taking the plate number and later give that to staff. I’ve always wondered if anything concrete came of that. I have to think the police did, in the end, do something. The point is the thieves are always heading somewhere with 50 pounds of bottles over their shoulder. So where? I asked the question and carried it through. Although police may have a different opinion on whether that was the wisest choice.”

— Christopher Childs

“Summer of 2017, I witnessed a robbery just like this at Coxwell and Queen: perp had a basket loaded with large bottles of premium liquor. Walked past the cash and right out the front door. We all saw it, customers and staff. I pulled out my phone and filmed it. Ran out and followed him across Queen toward the rear parking lot of Harvey’s. He calmly unloaded the bottles into his SUV and sped off. I called the police and reported it. From reading this article, I know he got away and nothing was done about it. I’m shocked to hear the LCBO is the biggest retail target for theft and so little is done to stop it, since taxpayers eat the cost … I’m also astounded that police won’t respond unless the thief is still on the property; since these are basically smash-and-grabs, law enforcement has a negligible impact in deterring these crimes. What now? LCBO stores are just sitting ducks? As a Toronto resident and taxpayer, I’d like to hear what (Toronto police Chief) Mark Saunders and (Premier) Doug Ford have to say.

— Pamela Capraru

“I work at LCBO. I’ve witnessed three thefts in the last month. It’s sad but a reality that we can’t do anything about it. I say this because the thieves return because there is no threat to combat their actions. Yes, we see them on CCTV but we can’t stop them from leaving or even touch them. They could sue us back since they have rights preventing these actions. What can we really do, any suggestions? Bottle locks can be removed by screwdriver. The truth is theft will continue and the taxpayer will pay for it. We become witnesses to the perfect crime. How ironic.

— Gloria Hunter

Mitch Potter is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @MPwrites


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35 years ago, Isaac Asimov was asked by the Star to predict the world of 2019. Here is what he wrote


Originally published Dec. 31, 1983

lf we look into the world as it may be at the end of another generation, let’s say 2019 — that’s 35 years from now, the same number of years since 1949 when George Orwell’s 1984 was first published — three considerations must dominate our thoughts:

In 1983, American writer Isaac Asimov wrote that by 2019, “It is quite likely that society, then, will have entered a phase that may be more or less permanently improved over the situation as it now exists.”
In 1983, American writer Isaac Asimov wrote that by 2019, “It is quite likely that society, then, will have entered a phase that may be more or less permanently improved over the situation as it now exists.”  (Mondadori Portfolio)

1. Nuclear war. 2. Computerization. 3. Space utilization.

If the United States and the Soviet Union flail away at each other at any time between now and 2019, there is absolutely no use to discussing what life will be like in that year. Too few of us, or of our children and grand· children, will be alive then for there to be any point in describing the precise condition of global misery at that time.

Let us, therefore, assume there will be no nuclear war — not necessarily a safe assumption — and carry on from there.

Computerization will undoubtedly continue onward inevitably. Computers have already made themselves essential to the governments of the industrial nations, and to world industry: and it is now beginning to make itself comfortable in the home.

Read more: Isaac Asimov, you were no Nostradamus

An essential side product, the mobile computerized object, or robot, is already flooding into industry and will, in the course of the next generation, penetrate the home.

There is bound to be resistance to the march of the computers, but barring a successful Luddite revolution, which does not seem in the cards, the march will continue.

The growing complexity of society will make it impossible to do without them, except by courting chaos; and those parts of the world that fall behind in this respect will suffer so obviously as a result that their ruling bodies will clamour for computerization as they now clamour for weapons.

The immediate effect of intensifying computerization will be, of course, to change utterly our work habits. This has happened before.

Before the Industrial Revolution, the vast majority of humanity was engaged in agriculture and indirectly allied professions. After industrialization, the shift from the farm to the factory was rapid and painful. With computerization the new shift from the factory to something new will be still more rapid and in consequence, still more painful.

It is not that computerization is going to mean fewer jobs as a whole, for technological advance has always, in the past, created more jobs than it has destroyed, and there is no reason to think that won’t be true now, too.

However, the jobs created are not identical with the jobs that have been destroyed, and in similar cases in the past the change has never been so radical.

Destroying our minds

The jobs that will disappear will tend to be just those routine clerical and assembly-line jobs that are simple enough, repetitive enough, and stultifying enough to destroy the finely balanced minds of those human beings unfortunate enough to have been forced to spend years doing them in order to earn a living, and yet complicated enough to rest above the capacity of any machine that is neither a computer nor computerized.

It is these that computers and robots for which they are perfectly designed will take over.

The jobs that will appear will, inevitably, involve the design, the manufacture, the installation, the maintenance and repair of computers and robots, and an understanding of whole new industries that these “intelligent” machines will make possible.

This means that a vast change in the nature of education must take place, and entire populations must be made “computer-literate” and must be taught to deal with a “high-tech” world.

Again, this sort of thing has happened before. An industrialized workforce must, of necessity, be more educated than an agricultural one. Field hands can get along without knowing how to read and write. Factory employees cannot.

Consequently, public education on a mass scale had to be introduced in industrializing nations in the course of the 19th century.

The change, however, is much faster this time and society must work much faster; perhaps faster than they can. It means that the next generation will be one of difficult transition as untrained millions find themselves helpless to do the jobs that most need doing.

By the year 2019, however, we should find that the transition is about over. Those who can he retrained and re-educated will have been: those who can’t be will have been put to work at something useful, or where ruling groups are less wise, will have been supported by some sort of grudging welfare arrangement.

In any case, the generation of the transition will be dying out, and there will be a new generation growing up who will have been educated into the new world. It is quite likely that society, then, will have entered a phase that may be more or less permanently improved over the situation as it now exists for a variety of reasons.

First: Population will be continuing to increase for some years after the present and this will make the pangs of transition even more painful. Governments will be unable to hide from themselves the fact that no problem can possibly be solved as long as those problems continue to be intensified by the addition of greater numbers more rapidly than they can be dealt with.

Efforts to prevent this from happening by encouraging a lower birthrate will become steadily more strenuous and it is to be hoped that by 2019, the world as a whole will be striving toward a population plateau.

Second: The consequences of human irresponsibility in terms of waste and pollution will become more apparent and unbearable with time and again, attempts to deal with this will become more strenuous. It is to be hoped that by 2019, advances in technology will place tools in our hands that will help accelerate the process whereby the deterioration of the environment will be reversed.

Third: The world effort that must be invested in this and in generally easing the pains of the transition may, assuming the presence of a minimum level of sanity among the peoples of the world, again not a safe assumption, weaken in comparison the causes that have fed the time-honoured quarrels between and within nations over petty hatred and suspicions.

In short, there will be increasing co-operation among nations and among groups within nations, not out of any sudden growth of idealism or decency but out of a cold-blooded realization that anything less than that will mean destruction for all.

By 2019, then, it may well be that the nations will be getting along well enough to allow the planet to live under the faint semblance of a world government by co-operation, even though no one may admit its existence.

Aside from these negative advances — the approaching defeat of overpopulation, pollution and militarism — there will be positive advances, too.

Education, which must be revolutionized in the new world, will be revolutionized by the very agency that requires the revolution — the computer.

Schools will undoubtedly still exist, but a good schoolteacher can do no better than to inspire curiosity which an interested student can then satisfy at home at the console of his computer outlet.

There will be an opportunity finally for every youngster, and indeed, every person, to learn what he or she wants to learn. in his or her own time, at his or her own speed, in his or her own way.

Education will become fun because it will bubble up from within and not be forced in from without.

At the dawn of 1984, Isaac Asimov predicted that robots would be common by the year 2019. They are, in many forms, although silicone-covered sex companions may have been one step beyond his imagination.
At the dawn of 1984, Isaac Asimov predicted that robots would be common by the year 2019. They are, in many forms, although silicone-covered sex companions may have been one step beyond his imagination.  (FRED DUFOUR)

While computers and robots are doing the scut-work of society so that the world, in 2019, will seem more and more to be “running itself,” more and more human beings will find themselves living a life rich in leisure.

This does not mean leisure to do nothing, but leisure to do something one wants to do; to be free to engage in scientific research. in literature and the arts, to pursue out-of-the-way interests and fascinating hobbies of all kinds.

And if it seems impossibly optimistic to suppose that the world could be changing in this direction in a mere 35 years (only changing, of course. and not necessarily having achieved the change totally), then add the final item to the mix. Add my third phrase: space utilization.

It is not likely that we will abandon space, having come this far. And if militarism fades, we will do more with it than make it another arena for war. Nor will we simply make trips through it.

We will enter space to stay.

With the shuttle rocket as the vehicle, we will build a space station and lay the foundation for making space a permanent home for increasing numbers of human beings.

Mining the Moon

By 2019, we will be back on the moon in force. There will be on it not Americans only, but an international force of some size; and not to collect moon rocks only, but to establish a mining station that will process moon soil and take it to places in space where it can be smelted into metals, ceramics. glass and concrete — construction materials for the large structures that will be put in orbit about the Earth.

One such structure which very conceivably, might be completed by 2019 would be the prototype of a solar power station, outfitted to collect solar energy, convert it to microwaves and beam it to Earth.

It would be the first of a girdle of such devices fitted about Earth’s equatorial plane. It would the beginning of the time when a major part of Earth’s energy will come from the sun under conditions that will make it not the property of any one nation, but of the globe generally.

Such structures will be, in themselves guarantees of world peace and continued co-operation among nations. The energy will be so necessary to all and so clearly deliverable only if the nations remain at peace and work together, that war would become simply unthinkable — by popular demand.

In addition, observatories will be built in space to increase our knowledge of the universe immeasurably; as will laboratories, where experiments can be conducted that might be unsafe, or impossible, on Earth’s surface.

Most important, in a practical sense, would be the construction of factories that could make use of the special properties of space — high and low temperatures, hard radiation. Unlimited vacuum, zero gravity — to manufacture objects that could be difficult or impossible to manufacture on Earth, so that the world’s technology might be totally transformed.

In fact, projects might even be on the planning boards in 2019 to shift industries into orbit in a wholesale manner. Space, you see, is far more voluminous than Earth’s surface is and it is therefore a far more useful repository for the waste that is inseparable from industry.

Nor are there living things in space to suffer from the influx of waste. And the waste would not even remain in Earth’s vicinity, but would be swept outward far beyond the asteroid belt by the solar wind.

Earth will then be in a position to rid itself of the side-effects of industrialization, and yet without actually getting rid of its needed advantages. The factories will he gone, but not far. only a few thousand miles straight up.

And humanity, not its structures only. will eventually be in space. By 2019, the first space settlement should be on the drawing boards; and may perhaps be under actual construction.

It would be the first of many in which human beings could live by the tens of thousands, and in which they could build small societies of all kinds, lending humanity a further twist of variety.

In fact, although the world of 2019 will he far changed from the present world of 1984, that will only be a barometer of far greater changes planned for the years still to come.


How and why did the Star get Asimov to write for us back in 1983?

Vian Ewart, who was Insight editor then, says the idea for an Orwell series came naturally, and he recalls the project fondly to this day. He put together a team including a writer (Ellie Tesher), an illustrator and layout designer.

“Asimov was popular at the time” for his science fiction, Ewart says, “so I simply phoned him at his New York home and asked him. He loved the idea of a 1984 series and was pleased to be ‘the lead-off writer.’ He was a very gracious man and charged $1 a word.”


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How a Degrassi child star became a leading academic voice on legalizing weed


When Rebecca Haines-Saah was 13, she saw an ad in the Toronto Sun looking for teenagers to star in what would become a cult classic Canadian TV show. Having experience in dance and theatre — she already had an agent — she showed up to the audition with a pink, cable-knit sweater and loads of teenage ambition.

The show was Degrassi Junior High, the drama that dealt with teen pregnancy, underage drinking and drug use. For many children growing up in the 1980s, it would become a cultural treasure.

Haines-Saah didn’t get the part of Melanie Brodie, whom she had auditioned to play, but the show’s writers were so enamoured with her acting chops that they created a new role for her: Melanie’s best friend, Kathleen Mead. The so-called Wicked Witch of Degrassi.

While Haines-Saah played the character for five seasons, she didn’t go on to become a professional actor. Instead, she reinvented herself as an academic. But the parallels between her childhood job and her career as an adult are all the more striking.

This episode of Degrassi Junior High is the first appearance for Kathleen Mead (blue sweater), played by Rebecca Haines-Saah. Joey Jeremiah ends up selling them vitamins as drugs. 1:08

The woman who played a teen experimenting with drugs, dealing with anorexia and coping with a mother addicted to alcohol now researches youth substance use and mental health at the University of Calgary.

The child star whose character once brought pot to a birthday party, grew up to become a leading academic voice in Alberta on the value of legalizing cannabis, arguing that jailing users created more harm than the drug itself.

« It’s that approach to engaging youth voices and putting youth stories at the centre, that really shapes my work, » says Haines-Saah, who teaches in the department of community health services and works with youth on video and photo projects to help share their stories.

Youth have something valuable to say

« That’s really a Degrassi-style approach to storytelling and to thinking youth have something valuable to say. If we want to help youth in any way, we need to talk to them and understand how they see the world, not our adult-centric perspective on life. »

Haines-Saah grew up in Toronto’s Regent Park, where she saw the rise of the crack epidemic, with people using and selling drugs, and engaging in sex work around her doorstep. She left that same stoop every morning to film on set, but she couldn’t get a taxi to drop her off close to home at day’s end, because of the way her neighbourhood was viewed.

Kathleen Mead had a streak of mischief. In this episode, she brings 2 joints to a birthday slumber party. 0:30

« I had this dual experience growing up, and it really did inform how I approach people who use drugs, the compassion that I think we need and why I challenge stigma, » she says.

There are some notable contrasts between her and the character she played for most of her teenage years.

Haines-Saah is warm and engaging. To be charitable, Kathleen was cold. A harsher assessment might peg her as a snooty mean girl. But her hostile demeanour was often a defence mechanism against her peers prying into her personal life, especially her troubled home.

She was a trivia master who wanted to excel at school and, most of all, make her parents proud. She once produced a science project with her bestie Melanie about the dangers of pollution and acid rain, and was crushed when it didn’t win at the school science fair.

Character could be mistaken for a nerd

Kathleen could have been mistaken for a nerd if it weren’t for her streak of mischief. In one episode, she finds a pair of cannabis joints and shares them with friends during a birthday party sleepover. The drama takes a turn when Melanie gets so high she reveals some of Kathleen’s deepest, darkest secrets, including that she’s in counselling.

« Kathleen, I don’t see what the big deal is, » her best friend blurts out. « You had anorexia. Your mom is an alcoholic. And your boyfriend beat you up. Most people would need counselling for even one of those things. »

Kathleen Mead had a reputation for being cold, including in this episode about a trivia contest. Haines-Saah says she sometimes had a hard time convincing fans she’s not the « evil character » she played on TV. 0:44

Despite her hard exterior, the character resonated with Haines-Saah, given that Kathleen’s home life « isn’t that far off from what many kids experience, » and given her « remarkable resilience » to all those challenges. Still, the actor sometimes got heckled on the streets of Toronto over her character’s harsh disposition.

« The male castmates had fun, » she says. « They had teenage girls chasing them around, trying to get into their hotel rooms and date them.

« I just got yelled at and called names. »

Haines-Saah starred in Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High, along with a single appearance on Degrassi: The Next Generation. As a young Canadian actor, she didn’t lead a lavish life of luxury.

Awkward moments, worst hairstyles forever captured

« I don’t think I ever really experienced that type of uber celebrity that child stars have now, and in many ways I’m thankful for that, » she says. « But I have some of my most awkward teenage moments and worst hairstyles forever captured on film for everybody to see. »

While she played a young student, she missed three or four months of school a year. Her mom told her if her average fell below 80 per cent, she had to quit the show.

Rebecca Haines-Saah argues cannabis prohibition and scare-tactic campaigns like the poster hanging in her office did not stop youth from smoking pot. She says the policy did more harm than the drug itself. (Reid Southwick/CBC)

« I literally had a tutor driving me around on geography field trips around Ontario to look at granite outcrops and all kinds of other ridiculous things on the weekends, » she says. « I’d be writing a chemistry exam on set at 7 a.m. supervised by a production assistant and then sending it over to the school. »

Academics were always important. She had read somewhere « if you could picture yourself being happy doing anything other than acting, you should go and do that thing. » So she enrolled at McGill University. She was initially in communications, thinking she’d get into journalism or film production, but she fell in love with research and writing papers, later shifting her focus to youth drug use.

Putting youth at the centre

« It’s no accident that I became a youth substance use researcher, » she says on a University of Calgary video about legalizing cannabis, « because I started out as an actress on the Canadian television series Degrassi.

« What was so unique and different about Degrassi, compared to other television for young people is that, in the Degrassi storylines, youth always solved their own problems … and that’s definitely the approach I take in my research, is amplifying youth voices and putting youth at the centre. »


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Mayor John Tory wants to keep a lid on Toronto police salary hikes, he tells the Star in a year-end interview


Mayor John Tory wants to keep a lid on Toronto police salary hikes but says officers don’t compare themselves to other city employees who got below-inflation raises.

Tory made the comment in a year-end interview with the Star Thursday, as he reflected on four years in office and the fresh four-year mandate that lies ahead, thanks to his commanding autumn re-election win.

Tory said he and fellow members of the police services board will soon give negotiators guidelines for talks with the Toronto Police Association, which represents more than 8,000 officers and civilian employees.

In 2015, under Tory, police won pay hikes of 8.64 per cent over four years.

Tory’s administration bargained hard in 2016 with city inside and outside workers represented by CUPE locals, winning below-inflation hikes of about 5 per cent over four-year contracts.

The mayor said he is inclined to see a “relevant comparison” between contracts, but said they aren’t “apples to apples.” Police union officials “negotiate more within the context of what other police officers in the province are making,” rather than other workers paid by the city, he said.

Toronto police first-class constables this year earned a $98,450 base salary, but those receiving maximum “retention pay”, a bonus that survived the last negotiation, earned $107,312. The total police budget will cost taxpayers just over $1 billion this year, most of it in salaries.

“Being a police officer is the most complex policing job that probably exists in the province and they do a very good job at it …,” Tory said. “Ideally, you would have something that is consistent with the overall desire I have as the leader of the council, which is to run a government that can expand services and manage affairs responsibly, but within the context of a low (property) tax increase.”

Another big challenge for Tory in 2019 will be dealing with Premier Doug Ford, the former councillor who settled into office by slashing the size of council in mid-election over the objections of Tory and his council colleagues.

The mayor said the two have since had productive meetings, but acknowledged the busy agenda of Ford’s Progressive Conservative government has not included passage of regulations allowing for the use of traffic wardens, rather than paid-duty police officers at busy intersections, or for the city to issue traffic tickets using photo radar in school zones.

Tory said much of the city’s wait on those safety initatives happened under the previous Liberal government but he remains frustrated. “To me, it underlines that, on these matters, we shouldn’t have to go and ask. We should have the latitude to … make the decision ourselves.”

Nor has the Ford government committed to honoring his predecessor’s pledge to reduce GO train fares within Toronto to $3 to integrate with TTC prices.

“All (the province) has said to me so far is they’re looking at reducing those fares to reduce the gap between the two (fares), but I have no commitment that they are going to do what had previously been agreed upon” and was to have taken effect Jan. 1, Tory said.

Fare integration could help relieve acute congestion on Toronto’s subway lines because riders, especially those in Scarborough, have told him they’d switch to GO for daily commutes if the prices were the same, the mayor added.

It is unclear what say Toronto will have over SmartTrack stations it has agreed to fund in conjunction with provincial Metrolinx’s regional electric rail expansion; the province wants to develop new GO stations in partnership with private developers in exchange for “air rights” to build above the stations.

“I’m not afraid of any of this,” said Tory, who added that the city should examine provincial requests-for-proposals on station development, but, if it doesn’t like the proposals, should be allowed to stick with paying for a station, itself, and deciding on the design.

“I’m quite willing to take a look at the results of such a process, but (am) always quite mindful of the need to have proper planning, and the need for us to have development which is compatible with what is going on in the rest of the city,” Tory said.

Any provincial attempt to using ministerial zoning orders to overrule city zoning guidelines for SmartTrack station construction would be “a serious issue between the City of Toronto and the province of Ontario”, Tory said. “I just don’t anticipate that is what their plans are.”

In his 2017 year-end interview with the Star, Tory said if he won a second mandate he would work more closely with progressive downtown councillors.

His recent choices for committee chairs leaned heavily on past suburban allies, with only, Ana Bailão, from the Toronto-East York community council, a downtown representative. The mayor says now that he honoured his pledge because he tapped Joe Cressy and Paula Fletcher for key posts at city agencies.

“I looked (the pledge) as being a greater inclusion of downtown councillors in the decision-making process of the government … consistent with my own obligation to move the mandate forward that I’ve been given by the people,” to expand transit, increase affordable housing and keep taxes low.

Since re-election Tory has opened the door to the possibility of seeking a third term, something he previously said he would not do. He now says that door remains open, but, as he starts his second term, he is not giving it any thought.

“It’s nothing to do with legacy; it’s everything to do with trying to address transit and housing and build a great city,” the mayor said. “If I saw a threat to that, that might cause me to make a decision that would be more likely to try to continue as mayor.”

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider


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Une exposition Star Wars montée par un fan à Paris


Jusqu’au 10 mars, «Les Fans Contre-Attaquent» dévoile 600 pièces collectors de la saga, issues de la plus grande collection privée d’Europe, dans le tout nouveau Centre Expo Lafayette-Drouot.

Ce jeudi 13 décembre, le collectionneur Daniel Prada présentait son exposition en avant-première.
Ce jeudi 13 décembre, le collectionneur Daniel Prada présentait son exposition en avant-première. Élodie Falco

Il y a bien longtemps, dans une galaxie très lointaine (de quelques semaines seulement), le Centre Expo Lafayette-Drouot n’était qu’un parking. Ce 14 décembre, le nouveau lieu artistique de Paris ouvre ses portes avec une exposition cosmique: «Les Fans Contre-Attaquent». «La visiter tu dois» scande Yoda sur tous les panneaux publicitaires de la ville. On ne peut que se fier à ce grand sage vert, et maître jedi, de 66 cm! Ce voyage immersif au sein de la saga Star Wars présente la plus grande collection privée d’Europe. D’épisode en épisode, de planète en planète, on découvre 600 impressionnantes pièces qui sont pour la plupart uniques au monde. Elles appartiennent toutes à Daniel Prada, un chaleureux quadra madrilène.

La scénographie a été entièrement pensée par ce fan qui a débuté sa compilation à l’âge de 8 ans. «Quand j’étais enfant, j’étais très malade. Mes parents ont dû me garder éveillé pendant une nuit entière pour la bonne exécution d’un test médical. Pour que je puisse tenir le coup, ils m’ont emmené dans un magasin de vidéo à la recherche de films qui m’aideraient à ne pas m’endormir. J’ai choisi la trilogie Star Wars. Quelques jours plus tard c’était mon anniversaire. Mes parents m’ont offert mes deux premières figurines de collection. C’est ainsi que cette histoire folle a débuté». Depuis, Daniel Prada est parti en pèlerinage à Los Angeles, territoire de création de George Lucas, à la rencontre d’autres fans et a acquis des œuvres d’art conçues dans le monde entier. L’exposition a traversé les grandes villes espagnoles, où elle a même été élue «meilleure exposition de l’année» par un jury d’internautes, et compte poursuivre sa route à travers la planète Terre.

Allez Chico, on met la gomme!

Le module de course piloté par Anakin Skywalker.
Le module de course piloté par Anakin Skywalker. Élodie Falco

Il n’y a pas plus fidèles accompagnateurs que C-3PO et R2-D2. C’est donc naturellement avec eux que l’aventure démarre. Toutes les reproductions manifestent d’un travail exigeant, accompli avec le souci du détail. Le démontre ce droïde doré de Tatooine, qui a encore ses fils apparents et surtout sa jambe droite non-colorisée, en référence à l’Épisode I: La Menace Fantôme où Anakin ne peut terminer sa construction. Le parcours s’ouvre au -2 avec une première surprise de taille: le podracer du jeune Skywalker, mis en scène en pleine course de la Bounta Eve avec les effets d’accélération marqués au sol. L’engin, le Radon-Ulzer 620 C pour les connaisseurs, fait plusieurs mètres de long et se laisse admirer pendant des heures au vu de la complexité de sa réalisation. Tout comme le buste de Grievous et ses organes apparents derrière son armure blanche. Dans la même pièce se trouve une trentaine de figurines articulées comme celles de Mace Windu, du chasseur de primes Jango Fett, du rougeoyant Dark Maul, de Padme Amidala dans trois de ses tenues iconiques et des séduisantes combattantes Aayla Secura et Shaak Ti.

Une fiche d’identité, reprenant la typographie culte, est adjointe à chaque objet pour nous rappeler la planète, la taille, l’espèce, la réplique phare et les épisodes où apparaît le personnage. Pour poursuivre l’excursion, il faut passer devant le visage diaphane et flétri du Chancelier Palpatine. Le Seigneur noir des Sith est confortablement installé dans son trône du Palais Impérial, aussi sombre que son âme. À ses côtés, Dark Vador semble toiser impassiblement les visiteurs du haut de ses 2,03m. Le côté obscur de la Force est bien là.

D’Han Solo et Leia à Rey et Kylo Ren

L'impressionnant Rancor mesure 3m90.
L’impressionnant Rancor mesure 3m90. Robin Cannone

D’une rareté considérable dans les films et unique au monde en réplique, un Rancor pose à côté de sa dernière victime. Une belle bête féroce de 3,90m, fière de montrer ses dents tranchantes, qu’on n’aimerait pour rien au monde croiser ailleurs que dans cette exposition. L’animal de compagnie partage l’étage avec son propriétaire Jabba Le Hutt et ses 5m de long répartis au milieu de coussins moelleux. «Sa confection a demandé des mois. Il n’a encore jamais été exposé auparavant, c’est une première mondiale pour Jabba!» s’enthousiasme Daniel Prada.

Avec passion, le collectionneur commente ses pièces et se plaît à rappeler des anecdotes de la saga: les parties articulées des Troopers fixées avec du scotch jusque dans les années 90, la ceinture de l’armée suédoise datant de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale que porte le Jawa, la barbarie initiale des Ewoks assagis pour le grand public, l’attaque du monstre au début de L’Empire Contre-Attaque pour justifier les cicatrices de Mark Hamill… Comme des poupées russes, les quadripodes impériaux TB-TT et les Stormtroopers sur leurs speeder bikes se déclinent du plus grand au plus petit. «Vous voyez la réplique minuscule de ce Stormtrooper dans la forêt d’Endor? Je l’ai trouvée dans un Kinder Surprise» dévoile en riant Daniel.

Le pont de commandement de l'Étoile de la Mort est une pièce unique au monde.
Le pont de commandement de l’Étoile de la Mort est une pièce unique au monde. Quentin Bujidos

Au dernier étage, les sabres lasers et les costumes des univers étendus prennent place sur le pont de commandement de l’Étoile de la Mort et sa centaine de boutons répondant à des fonctionnalités précises («Dépressurisation», «Rotation», «Contrôle du chauffage», «Réparer les dommages», …). Vous ne le verrez qu’ici. Les œuvres non-protégées peuvent être touchées par le public. Qui résistera à la tentation de glisser sa tendre main dans le pelage soyeux de Chewbacca? Avec cette exposition conçue par un fan pour les fans, accueillis par des guides en cosplays, Daniel Prada offre un concept muséal innovant et l’occasion unique d’embrasser un Wookie.

«Les Fans Contre-Attaquent» au Centre Expo Lafayette-Drouot. 44, rue du Faubourg Montmartre (IXe). Jusqu’au 10 mars 2019. Du mardi au vendredi, de 12h à 18h. Enfants jusqu’à 12 ans: 11,50€. Adultes: 16€. Tarif réduit: 13€. Forfait famille (deux adultes + deux enfants): 46€. Du samedi au dimanche de 10h30 à 19h. Enfants jusqu’à 12 ans: 13,50€. Adultes: 18€. Tarif réduit: 15€. Forfait famille (deux adultes + deux enfants): 50€. En période de vacances scolaires, ouvert tous les jours de 10h30 à 19h. Les organisateurs précisent que la téléportation n’est pas encore disponible pour se rendre à l’événement.

SERVICE: Réservez vos places pour «Les Fans Contre-Attaquent» sur Ticketac


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