Trudeau tells London, Ont. mayor General Dynamic file is top priority

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The Prime Minister is reassuring Ed Holder, London’s mayor and leader of the city building light armoured vehicles, that resolving financial troubles with Saudi Arabia and preserving local jobs at General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) is a top priority. 

Justin Trudeau invited Holder to a private meeting Monday in Ottawa, alongside London-area Liberal MPs Kate Young and Peter Fragiskatos. 

In a written statement, Holder said the focus of the meeting was on the $15-billion arms deal between Canada and Saudi Arabia, a contract filled by the London-based defense contractor GDLS. 

« The Prime Minister confirmed that a clear priority of his government was to preserve the 3,000 to 4,000 London-area jobs, » Holder’s statement read. 

The contract to provide Saudi Arabia with armoured vehicles, equipment, and training over 14 years is controversial with political opponents citing the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Kingdom’s involvement in the war in Yemen.

Late last year, it was revealed that GDLS was owed $1.8-billion in overdue payments from Saudi Arabia, impacting the local company’s ability to pay dozens of suppliers.   

There has been talk of scrapping the deal. In an interview in Dec. 2018, the Prime Minister said for the first time that he was looking for a way out of the deal.

Holder experienced with Kingdom 

Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Naif Al Sudairy meets with Canada-Saudi Business Council chairman Ed Holder. (Canada-Saudi Business Council)

Holder reiterated in his statement that late payments and concerns around human rights continue to be issue. 

« The federal government is working with Saudi Arabia to resolve two issues: significantly delayed payments by the Saudi government, which are causing General Dynamics payment difficulties with its suppliers, and human rights concerns, » read the statement.  

Holder has experience dealing with the Kingdom, having travelled there as the first chairperson of the Canada-Saudi Business Council. He was also a Conservative MP in Stephen Harper’s government when the contract was signed in 2014.

Holder was in Ottawa Monday attending a meeting of Canada’s Big City Mayors. 

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China tells U.S. to back off Meng extradition demand and warns of ‘further response’

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OTTAWA—China is stepping up criticism of the United States over the American demand that Canada extradite Meng Wanzhou, saying the Trump administration should drop its pursuit of fraud allegations against the Huawei executive and warning of a “further response” if the U.S. doesn’t “correct its mistakes.”

On Tuesday, Chinese government spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing that the U.S. should “immediately correct its mistake, withdraw its arrest order for Ms. Meng Wanzhou and refrain from making a formal extradition request to the Canadian side.”

Asked whether there would be an impact on high-stakes trade talks now underway between the U.S. and China if the extradition were to proceed, Hua replied: “This case is a serious mistake and we urge the U.S. to immediately correct its mistake.”

“What the U.S. has done, with its egregious nature, severely infringes upon the legal and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens. China is firmly opposed to that. We urge the U.S. side to take seriously the solemn position of the Chinese side, take measures to correct its wrongdoings and withdraw its arrest order for the Chinese citizen. China will make further response in view of the actions taken by the U.S.”

To date, China has mainly taken public aim at Canada.

On Tuesday, the foreign ministry spokesperson nevertheless continued to blast Canada for arresting Meng.

“Be it Canada or the U.S., they need to grasp the seriousness of the case and take measures to correct their mistakes.”

Hua slammed the “ridiculous logic” of security concerns about Huawei’s technology equipment, and suggested the extradition process is being used as a way to target Huawei.

“The flagrant and unwarranted suppression on Chinese hi-tech companies will be proved to be terribly wrong by history. I believe that fairness and justice will prevail.”

“We keep stressing that security issues need to be backed up by facts. The U.S., Canada and several of their so-called allies have been going all out to create a sense of panic worldwide to the effect that whoever uses China’s hi-tech communications equipment will be spied on by China. But, do they have any evidence?! No. If they can offer no evidence, they’d better halt their ridiculous blabbering which only makes them a laughingstock for all.”

A week after Meng’s arrest was publicly revealed, the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing summoned the Canadian ambassador first, then the U.S. ambassador to formally raise objections in private.

But no U.S. citizens are known to have been targeted by Chinese state security forces as a result while U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called China’s detention of the two Canadian men “unlawful” and “unacceptable” and demanded their release after meeting with Canada’s foreign affairs minister, Chrystia Freeland last month.

Canadians Michael Kovrig, a former employee of Canada’s embassy in Beijing now working for International Crisis Group, and businessman Michael Spavor are being held in an undisclosed location, in cells where the lights are kept on round the clock, and they are interrogated for four hours a day.

A day after she first questioned the credibility of the more than 140 scholars and diplomats who signed an open letter urging China to release the two Canadian detainees, Hua intensified her criticism of them, according to a Chinese government translation posted on the government’s website.

She accused the letter writers of “deliberately creating a sense of panic” and said they “interfered in China’s judicial sovereignty” by trying to “pile on pressure” on China with the much publicized letter.

“Do they wish to see an open letter undersigned by the 1.4 billion Chinese people addressed to the Canadian leader? I believe that the voice for justice from the Chinese people must be much louder than the sound made by just over 100 people.”

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

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Teachers can still use 2015 sex-ed curriculum in Ontario as a resource, province’s lawyer tells court

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Lawyers defending the province’s repeal of the 2015 sex-ed curriculum told a court on Thursday that teachers can still use it as a resource while abiding by the interim curriculum.

“There’s a lot of latitude because of the way the expectations are written,” Zachary Green told a panel of three judges in Divisional Court. “Teachers can use the 2015 document as a resource to meet the expectations in the 2018 document.”

He said they can use their professional judgment in selecting from a variety of resources and background material, including documents such as “How to Become a Super Rad Gender Warrior Classroom teacher.”

The judges pressed him on whether teachers would be sanctioned for using the modernized 2015 curriculum. Green said they would not, “provided it’s a reasonable exercise.”

“It’s not a blank cheque,” he said. “I can’t stand here and say teachers can say whatever they want. That goes too far.”

Judges also asked if teachers are free to talk about issues contained in the 2015 documents, such as consent, transgender and homophobia, to which Green replied, “Yes.”

It was the second of a two-day hearing that’s the result of separate legal challenges made by Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).

ETFO says the Progressive Conservative government’s directive to scrap the 2015 Health and Physical Education (HPE) curriculum created a chilling effect amongst educators. That violates the rights of educators and students, because it limits their ability to teach material that keeps children safe, says ETFO.

Meanwhile, the CCLA argues the interim curriculum — a 2010 document that contains sex-ed material from 1998 — has erased references to sexual orientation, gender identity and same-sex relations. That, says the CCLA, violates the constitutional right to equality of LGBTQ+ students and parents.

Judges asked Green whether teachers could discuss key issues such as consent with elementary students, which are expectations of the 2015 curriculum, but not the current one.

He said nothing prohibits talking about consent, if that’s something teachers want to draw upon in how they teach the current curriculum. Ultimately, he said, it’s up to the teacher.

“It’s a false dichotomy to say they can either use the 2015 (curriculum), or the 2018 one,” he said.

Green noted that various school boards, including the Toronto District School Board, have publicly stated they are following the current curriculum, but still tackling topics such as consent and are teaching in a manner that is inclusive of all students, including LGBTQ+.

Speaking outside the courtroom, NDP education critic Marit Stiles called the government’s arguments “pretty confusing.”

“It’s pretty clear to me that the government’s statements to date have caused many teachers, students, parents to question whether or not their children are going to be learning how to be kept safe from bullying . . . consent and LGBTQ and identity issues,” Stiles said.

She said the government has sent out “very confusing and conflicting” communications, about what the curriculum is and what the expectations are of teachers.

“Today was just another indication of this ongoing chaos and confusion they have created,” Stiles said.

Part of the confusion — and what ETFO says helped create a chilling effect amongst teachers — stems from comments made by Premier Doug Ford, when he announced the curriculum rollback in August.

“Make no mistake, if we find somebody failing to do their job, we will act,” Ford said at the time.

Green said the premier’s comments were in response to an earlier ETFO press release urging teachers to follow the 2015 curriculum, which he described as “their cry of rebellion.” The province’s position is clear in that the current curriculum must be followed.

Sam Hammond, ETFO president, told reporters outside court that he was “pleasantly pleased” to hear the province say teachers can use the 2015 curriculum, but was also “absolutely surprised.”

“It’s the first time since this whole debate began that the government, or a representative of the government, said ‘Yes, teachers may use the 2015 curriculum as a resource in implementing the current curriculum,’ ” Hammond said.

Hammond said if the premier, and government, had made that clear at the outset, “We wouldn’t be here today.”

The current HPE curriculum is an interim document. The province has said it’s working on drafting a new document for the next school year that is based on feedback from a public consultation process that resulted in 72,000 submissions.

The judges asked Green if he could assure them that the government would release a new HPE curriculum in time for the next school year.

“It’s intended to be released in the fall of 2019,” said Green. “But I can’t make a promise. These are big tasks.”

Isabel Teotonio is a Toronto-based reporter covering education. Follow her on Twitter: @Izzy74

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Leaked LCBO memo tells staff it is ramping up ‘theft protection tactics’

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The LCBO is scrambling to reassure staff it is ramping up deterrence efforts after a weekend expose showing the scale of theft at the Ontario liquor retailer, the Star has learned.

In an internal memo distributed to staff on Saturday following the Star’s revelation that Toronto LCBO outlets have been targeted more than 9,000 times by thieves since 2014 — often in broad daylight and sometimes using duffel bags, backpacks and suitcases to maximize their loot — a senior company executive acknowledged the problem but maintained LCBO management now is spending more on security to ensure the safety of workers and customers.

“There’s something broken here that needs to be fixed,” said one LCBO insider on the rampant thefts that take place at stores across Ontario.
“There’s something broken here that needs to be fixed,” said one LCBO insider on the rampant thefts that take place at stores across Ontario.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star file photo)

“Shop theft is a reality we have to deal with at all of our stores across the province and much of what is reported in the article is accurate — we have seen increase in shop theft, with the majority happening in urban areas,” Rafik Louli, VP, Retail Operations, told staff.

“What is not included as thoroughly in the (Toronto Star) article is what we are doing about it … While we never encourage you to physically engage with a perpetrator when an active shop theft is taking place, however, we are reacting to shop theft with increased spending and theft protection tactics,” said the memo, which was leaked to the Star by an LCBO insider.

“We have increased our guarding and investigator expenditures, as well as CCTV technology, in-store deterrents, and always collaborate with local police on active investigations.”

Read more:

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

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

Since Saturday’s article was published, the Star has been deluged with eyewitness anecdotes of LCBO theft from customers throughout Ontario, many sharing stories of shocking scenes in which teams of two or more bandits fill multiple bags before breezing out the door, laden with premium liquors.

That response now includes a growing number of LCBO insiders — as of 5 p.m. Sunday, 11 current and six former LCBO workers had reached out, confirming the thrust of the Star’s reporting and offering more stories besides. Each asked for anonymity, fearing reprisal.

One of the active-duty LCBO sources who emailed on Sunday, we now can confirm, is the original whistleblower — the author an of unsigned letter mailed to the Star via Canada Post weeks ago, conveying the morale-crushing desperation of front line workers who fear the surge in theft will spill over into outright violence. In an email exchange, the whistleblower, who asked to be identified as John Doe, expressed gratitude and urged continued vigilance.

“I am grateful for the story and the outpouring of people coming forward and telling their stories,” John Doe wrote. “I was at work yesterday and I saw the generic statement (from VP Louli). They say what they want you to hear and they do nothing. They do this and they think it will go away. Well not this time.”

Several of the LCBO sources who contacted the Star detailed a previously unreported dimension to LCBO theft in which thieves go beyond the display shelves, stepping directly into employee-only areas to help themselves to whole cases of liquor, sometimes in full view of stockroom staff. “This is a call for help by some employees who are afraid that someone might lose their life before anything is done,” wrote one.

Upon receipt of the leaked internal memo, the Star sought official comment from the LCBO, asking that the corporation quantify the increases in spending on security and theft-deterrance measures described in the note. As of Sunday night, the LCBO has not responded.

In other developments, the broader public reaction to the Star’s report — which included several firsthand accounts of LCBO customers intervening physically to halt thefts-in-progress, sparked across-the-board alarm among the front line workers who spoke to us.

Said one insider: “There’s something broken here that needs to be fixed — but it is absolutely not the public’s job to fix it. Any customer who tries to intervene is putting themselves and everyone else at risk. It’s the worst idea. Please don’t.”

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

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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

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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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Barry Sherman’s son tells Apotex CEO to leave

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Two days before the anniversary of Barry Sherman’s murder, Jonathon Sherman told his father’s longtime partner and friend Jack Kay to leave Apotex, the generic drug company the two men built over 35 years.

Kay, the chief executive officer of Apotex, was sitting in his office last Tuesday when Jonathon Sherman walked in and said his services were no longer required, according to a source with knowledge of what happened.

Kay was told to return to Apotex after business hours to collect his belongings.

“It was like a gut punch. Actually, a gut punch is an understatement,” said an Apotex insider with knowledge of what happened on Dec. 11. By Monday of this week, Canada’s small pharmaceutical manufacturing industry was buzzing with the news that Kay was out the door.

At the time of Kay’s dismissal, plans were being made for a company-wide day of mourning later that week. The bodies of Barry Sherman and his wife Honey were found in their Toronto home on Dec. 15, 2017, two days after they are believed to have been strangled there in what police have termed a “targeted” double homicide.

Berman responded with a statement confirming Kay’s departure, but did not answer questions about the manner of his departure or the apparent tensions between Kay and Barry Sherman’s son.

“Upon the successful completion of our transition plan, Jack Kay is no longer with the company,” Berman wrote. “All of us at Apotex wish Jack the best of luck in his future pursuits. Jeff Watson, currently president and COO, is now ready to lead Apotex into the future. Jeff has been with Apotex for 24+ years, working in various capacities including chief commercial officer for North America, and president of global generics. Jeff is well respected within the industry, and we are very proud to have him leading the company.”

Reached by the Star Tuesday, Kay declined to comment.

The Sherman children recently offered a $10-million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed their parents. A tip line set up by the family directs callers to a private investigation team — not Toronto police, who had treated the case as a murder-suicide until a Star story prompted them to review the results of private autopsies conducted on the victims’ bodies.

Kay, 78, who owns shares in the privately held Apotex, was vice-chairman of the company’s board of directors but semi-retired from executive duties when Barry Sherman died. He was called into action by the Sherman family and the Apotex executive team in the days that followed, and in January was reinstated as chief executive officer, a job he had previously held for many years.

Kay was working for a pharmaceutical company in Montreal when he was headhunted by Barry Sherman in 1982 to be vice-president of sales and marketing for Apotex, the company Sherman had founded in the mid-1970s. In an interview with the Star last summer, Kay described how he and Sherman hit it off immediately.

“For each of us, it is fair to say we were the brother neither of us had,” he recalled. “That day in Montreal, he said, ‘Jack, come work with me. We will build Apotex and we will make a bit of money and have fun.’”

Kay, a workout enthusiast with a crushing handshake who maintained a strict diet, was the polar opposite of Sherman, who loved chocolate and junk food and only exercised because wife Honey insisted, say long time colleagues and friends. Kay and his wife, Pat, often dined with Barry and Honey, and the couples maintained a close friendship.

Under Sherman and Kay, Apotex grew to a multinational and multibillion dollar generic drug manufacturer, employing 10,000 people as of this year. According to Kay, and interviews with other Apotex executives over the past year, the two men worked closely for 35 years, starting in a shared office when the company was small and later in adjoining offices when it became a going concern. “Our connecting door was always open,” Kay recalled in an interview last summer.

Sherman was the scientist and the idea man, Kay said, while his job was to “operationalize” Sherman’s ideas.

When Barry and Honey Sherman were killed, majority ownership of the company went to the Sherman children: Lauren, 43, Jonathon, 35, Alexandra, 32, and Kaelen, 28. None of them were working at Apotex at the time.

The Sherman estate has four trustees: Jack Kay, Jonathon Sherman, Brad Krawczyk (who is Alexandra’s husband), and Alex Glasenberg, an Apotex executive who manages the family’s investments. A court has sealed the estate file, saying it contains information that could be of importance to the police investigation and due to a fear of the family of “kidnapping and violence” if details of the file were revealed. The Star is appealing the sealing order.

In the past year, Apotex continued its role as Canada’s biggest generic pharmaceutical company, but has sold off some of the international business interests Kay and Barry Sherman had grown or purchased. During the summer, Apotex announced it had sold its commercial interests in the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain and Belgium to “further accelerate our efforts to drive additional growth in the Americas,” according to a statement by Watson, who was hired many years ago by Kay and Sherman.

Kay had moved into Barry Sherman’s office in the Apotex headquarters at 150 Signet Dr., and photos of the two men together over the years — some in business suits, some in lab coats — adorned the walls prior to Kay’s departure last week.

According to sources in Canada’s pharmaceutical industry, there was growing tension between the 35-year-old Jonathon Sherman and Kay over what direction the company should take.

The sources say that Kay, as a shareholder and longtime executive, had planned to retire in the coming months but wanted to remain connected to Apotex out of loyalty to Barry Sherman and because of his institutional knowledge of the company. Kay wanted to make sure Sherman’s “legacy was protected,” sources say.

Jonathon Sherman keeps a low profile. He has briefly worked in some of his father’s non-pharmaceutical businesses over the years, and is involved in a storage company. He lives with his husband on a sprawling, heavily wooded property in King City, north of Toronto. Land registry records show Jonathon purchased the property at a cost of $2 million in 2006, when he was 23.

At the funeral for his parents, Jonathon noted that his father was often and understandably too busy to attend his sporting events when he was a child but, on the few occasions he did watch him play hockey or baseball, “those few games were my Stanley Cups and my World Series.” Jonathon also told mourners that his father was a “real-life super hero” and a “great Canadian.”

Of his mother, Jonathon told mourners that Honey was heavily involved in his childhood, making sure to attend all parent-teacher interviews and after-school events. “Our mother always had everything taken care of,” he said.

The Star has made several attempts to interview Jonathon Sherman about his parents and their legacy. However, the Star could not agree to Sherman’s terms — he wanted “sole and absolute discretion” to edit any information about him of which he did not approve.

At the funeral, Jack Kay told the mourners that “for 35 years I was incredibly privileged to work side by side, day by day with Barry.”

Kay said he was lucky to have “partnered with him as he built Apotex into the incredible enterprise it is today … Barry and I would refer to each other as brothers and I cannot tell you how much I will miss him.”

Kevin Donovan can be reached at 416-312-3503 or kdonovan@thestar.ca. Follow him @_kevindonovan

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Trudeau tells Mohammed bin Salman Canada will ‘always stand up strongly’ for human rights

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Canadian officials have been openly critical of the actions of both Russia and Saudi Arabia, and in an open forum with their leaders, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t back away. 

The prime minister confirmed Saturday afternoon in Argentina that he’d « directly » approached both Vladimir Putin and Mohammed bin Salman at the G20 summit. 

Trudeau explained he’d conveyed Canada’s concerns to Putin at the leaders’ plenary session, particularly with the situation in the Sea of Azov, where Ukranian boats were attacked by Russian vessels earlier this week — and reiterated the demand that the captured sailors be released. 

Canada has also spearheaded a G7 foreign ministers’ statement that condemns Russian aggression in Ukraine, Minister Chrystia Freeland confirmed earlier this week.

There wasn’t opportunity for Putin to respond at the leaders’ retreat, Trudeau said when asked if he was worried about repercussions from Russia. 

Better answers needed over Khashoggi’s killing

In his conversation with Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Trudeau said better answers about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi were required. He also pushed the issue of imprisoned human rights workers and the « humanitarian catastrophe » from violence in Yemen. 

« I made it clear Canada was concerned. »

Trudeau said he stressed the fact that Canada will « always stand up strongly and clearly for human rights. »

All eyes have been on the Saudi crown prince during the trip, which marks his first major overseas appearance since the killing of Khashoggi in October.

Though the leaders spoke, Trudeau did not hold official meetings with either Putin or bin Salman. 

With Russia’s previous cyberthreats and Saudi Arabia’s poor reaction — freezing trade and investment — to earlier criticism of their human rights record, backlash could be a possibility. However, Trudeau didn’t seem too worried. 

« Frank and direct conversations … is better than not talking, » he told reporters. 

May, Macron speak to Saudi prince

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and France’s Emmanuel Macron were more forceful in their condemnations of Saudi Arabia.

May’s office says the prime minister stressed to Salman the importance of ensuring those responsible for the « appalling murder » of Khashoggi are held to account.

Macron also came face-to-face with the Saudi crown prince, and an official said the tense exchange captured on video shows the president’s firm stance.

Canada is also ramping up its response. On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced Canada was imposing sanctions on 17 Saudi Arabian nationals the government deems linked to Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

G20 nations skirted current global trade tensions, but threw their weight behind reforming the World Trade Organization in a copy of their end-of-summit joint statement obtained by Reuters.

U.S. confirms it will withdraw from climate accord

In the communiqué, which was set to be released at the end of the two-day meeting Saturday, the United States also reaffirmed its commitment to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, while other G20 signatories to the agreement declared the pact irreversible and said they would fully implement it.

Despite the withdrawal and some trade tensions, Trudeau still praised the summit for making progress on multilateralism, trade, climate issues and gender equality.

The agreement is more watered down than it has been in past years, but Trudeau said any time countries can come together to discuss big issues it’s a « good thing. »

« No country can solve global problems on its own, » he said. 

 « We must work together. » 

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‘We need your help,’ St. Michael’s principal tells alumni at emergency meeting

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The principal of St. Michael’s College School appealed for assistance Tuesday evening — as alumni from the all-boys Catholic school held an emergency meeting to talk about allegations of assault and sexual assault by students.

« We need your help, » Greg Reeves told the gathering of about 300 people in Toronto.

Reeves asked alumni with expertise in mental health, or anything that could help, to attend a conference for boys at the school. Alternatively, he said they could provide their contact information for boys to contact them.

Police are currently investigating six allegations involving students at the school after an alleged gang sexual assault was captured on camera and shared on social media.

Reeves defended his handling of the scandal at Tuesday night’s meeting. He had been criticized for not going to police sooner after learning about the video. He told reporters Monday he wanted to protect the victim.

He told the alumni he « would do exactly the same thing » again.

« And I’ll take the hit for that, » Reeves said to applause.

Reeves said a student brought the « horrific video » to him in private.

St. Michael’s College School principal Greg Reeves says there is a problem at his school and that it needs to do better. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

« The victim is giving me strength, » Reeves said, speaking of the the boy who was attacked in the video, adding that the incident had school staff in tears.

The principal also said the victim and perpetrator looked like best friends in class.

A handful of alumni called for the principal’s resignation and for teachers who knew of the incidents to step down, saying the entire situation was poorly managed.

But Reeves and his staff received support from majority of the attendees.

Reeves announced that the school will be setting up an online platform for alumni to submit prior stories of potential bullying.

Additional measures to be taken to ensure students’ safety include hiring four full-time security guards to patrol the school, Reeves said.

A ‘sad but encouraging meeting’

Larry Colle, who graduated from the school in 1969, described the mood inside the meeting as sad, but very positive.

« It’s sad but encouraging that they’re finding ways to help the current students there. They’re also asking past students to get involved and help with improving the culture, » Colle told reporters as he left the meeting.

« The focus is how could we improve the school in the future, how we can provide more support to especially the victims and their families. »

Larry Colle, who graduated from St. Michael’s College School 1969, describes the mood inside the meeting as sad, but very positive. (CBC)

Colle said alumni questioned the principal closely about the timeline of events and he was satisfied with the answers he heard. 

« The principal gave, I thought, a reasonable explanation, that his focus was on the families and the victims, » Colle said.

« They gave a reasonable explanation about the time and what a difficult week it has been. »

While giving an account of perceived homophobic culture at school, one attendee asked if a gay straight alliance will come to school. 

Reeves responded « yes, thanks. We will be doing that. »

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Warren Kinsella tells court that Your Ward News called for him to be ‘bludgeoned to death’

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Political consultant and author Warren Kinsella testified Tuesday that he and his wife, Lisa, had ample reason to feel intimidated and frightened that the editor and publisher of a controversial publication were making death threats against them.

“We regarded the article as a call to action, that we should be bludgeoned to death,” Kinsella told Ontario Court Justice Dan Moore on the first day of trial.

James Sears, 55, and LeRoy St. Germaine, 76, respectively editor and publisher of Your Ward News, have pleaded not guilty to uttering death threats against the Kinsellas in the summer 2017 issue of the publication.

They are also charged separately with two counts of wilful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group, namely Jews and women.

Less than 24 hours after helping John Tory’s relatively easy coast to re-election as Toronto mayor, Kinsella — a lawyer and author of several books about extremism — described the escalating conflict with Sears and St. Germaine that began after the Kinsellas began receiving Your Ward News at their east-end home.

They persuaded advertisers to stop advertising in what Kinsella described Tuesday as a racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist and offensive rag, and organized a group, called STAMP (Standing Together Against Male Prejudice) that successfully pressured Canada Post to stop delivering the publication.

However, the Kinsellas continued to receive copies, though with less frequency, and found themselves increasingly as targets both in words and images inside.

Crown attorney Matthew Giovinazzo showed Kinsella several issues featuring Kinsella’s image, including caricatures of him drinking the blood of Christ and his head superimposed on the head of a snake.

“We were concerned. We have six children between us, we enhanced the security system we had placed, we spoke to all of our kids about taking prudent steps,” Kinsella said.

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The couple initiated lawsuits against Spears and St. Germaine, some of which are still active.

The tipping point, said Kinsella, 58, was when Sears wrote an article that ended “there was a chance that some hothead who cares deeply about me and my family would lose it and do something illegal and bludgeon the Kinsellas to death.” St. Germaine also wrote something that Kinsella felt put a “bounty” on his head.

The Kinsellas laid a private charge against the pair that was eventually taken over by Toronto police.

Kinsella, however, faced aggressive cross-examination by defence lawyer Chris Murphy, who is representing St. Germaine. Murphy suggested the case is a “battle for publicity” and the alleged death threat “inconsequential.”

Murphy asked Kinsella about the numerous articles and news releases his communications firm has issued about the case, as well as granting media interviews after a Justice of the Peace indicated charges would be laid.

“If there were neo-Nazis or members of the far right who had no right idea who James Sears or Leroy St. Germaine were, you’re actually spreading (the word about) them and spreading the alleged threat,” Murphy stated.

“Is there a question there?” Kinsella shot back in one of many testy exchanges between the two.

Kinsella finally said there was no “media tour.”

“We were shining a light on the threat. For more than 30 years of my life, my belief has been that it is better to shine a light on the cockroaches so that they scatter,” he said. “I do not believe that sticking your head in the sand is effective against people like your client.”

Murphy also grilled Kinsella about his hardball tactics in the political arena, pointing to his online bio where he says “it is said that you can be useful in a stick-swinging, bench-clearing brawl, correct?”

“It’s not an official biography, it’s clearly, for anybody, let me answer your question, anybody who reads it, it’s intended to be humorous. My official biography is on my firm’s website.”

Murphy also asked Kinsella about a tweet sent from his Twitter account on Oct. 19, 2015 that said “James Sears is a neo-Nazi sex offender,” with a link to a website that contained personal information including Sears’ home address.

Kinsella said the tweet was a retweet and that he was unaware of that content.

The trial continues.

Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy

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Muskrat Falls biggest economic mistake in N.L. history, premier tells fundraiser

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Premier Dwight Ball used the spotlight at a $500-per-plate dinner to up his rhetoric against Tory leader Ches Crosbie, condemn Muskrat Falls and propose some ideas of his own.

Ball told a room of 500 party donors that Crosbie is a man « bankrupt of ideas » to steer the province in the right direction.

In a speech many viewed as kicking off the road to the 2019 election, Ball doubled down on his disdain for the hydroelectric project that threatens to hamper the province with debt and soaring electricity rates.

« I believe Muskrat Falls was the biggest economic mistake in Newfoundland and Labrador’s history, » he said. « Liberals have always been in the business of fixing PC mistakes. »

PC leader Ches Crosbie addresses the crowd at his campaign headquarters after winning the Windsor Lake byelection Sept. 20. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Ball said Crosbie had a « free ride » throughout the Windsor Lake byelection, which Crosbie won over Liberal candidate Paul Antle last week, and said he made promises without offering real solutions. 

« When I listen to Ches Crosbie I still hear that unwillingness to bring forward ideas. »

Multi-pronged approach to steady rates

Ball said the recent decision to reinstate the Public Utilities Board to its full regulatory capacity was just the beginning of his party’s plan to correct the course of the province’s fiscal future. 

« There is no single solution, » he said. « The solution will be a combination of many things, and we will leave no stone unturned. »

Ball repeatedly said the Liberals will look at increasing electricity demands in the province to increase revenue and lessen the burden on citizen ratepayers. That could include changing oil-heated government buildings to electric heat. 

In a scrum with reporters after, Ball acknowledged there could be major costs associated with that decision, but said it is something his government is exploring.

When asked how many buildings could be converted, and how big a difference it would make on electricity demands, Ball said it could be hospitals or schools and could make a substantial difference.

Rest assured, it is not on the backs of ratepayers.– Dwight Ball

He also said the government would consider « restructuring financial agreements, » which Ball later said could include increasing the amortization period on the Muskrat Falls loans.

« We need to look at all those options but we may not even need that option by 2021, » he said. « We may have enough electricity use within our province and with other customers that we may not even have to do that. »

Ball said they will « leave no stone unturned » when it comes to finding ways to lessen the blow when the hydroelectric megaproject comes online and the first loan payments are due.

« When we have more details on this, we want to share it with the public. But I can tell you and rest assured, it is not on the backs of ratepayers. »

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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