Upskirting victim launches website to flag hidden cameras across Toronto

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Sydney Eatz and her friend, computer programmer Richard Trus, launched a website Monday that allows the public to flag hidden cameras spotted in washrooms and change rooms.

TheySaid.org allows users to submit anonymous tips about peeping Toms, hoping that if there are enough complaints about a particular business, others will be warned to steer clear of the establishment and the police will be forced to investigate.

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It’s a personal mission for Eatz, who said she was a victim of upskirting on the floor at a Google-sponsored event two years ago — and didn’t know it until she found a video of herself online.

“It was really horrible,” said Eatz. “I was really depressed and traumatized.”

Google chose not to comment to Global News on the alleged incident.


READ MORE:
Man wanted for voyeurism after hidden camera found in Scarborough restaurant washroom (May 2018)

Eatz and Trus then began a mission to see how many people across the city may have been victims of upskirting and a quick search online gave them an idea.

“When you search on Google for Toronto hidden camera porn, you will find millions of videos. When you click on the results for Google, it will take you to porn sites and you will see places you recognize in Toronto,” said Trus. “We thought, oh my gosh, these people have no clue that they are basically being assaulted by someone and these repeat offenders are getting away with it.”

“It’s upsetting that a lot of these people can’t go to public washrooms or unisex washrooms and feel safe and have to check for cameras all the time,” said Eatz.

WATCH: Man charged with voyeurism at BCIT in Vancouver (July 2018)






Hans School, president of SpyTech, told Global News that part of the problem is that cameras are getting smaller and record in better quality. It’s easy enough to even purchase cameras that look like wall outlets online, he said, or you can make your own at home, sticking a small camera behind fake wall socket.

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That’s exactly what happened at a Starbucks at the intersection of Yonge and King streets in downtown Toronto. When the coffee company got into hot water after it failed to notify the public right away that a wall-socket camera had been discovered under their bathroom sink, facing the toilet.


READ MORE:
Hidden camera discovered in downtown Toronto Starbucks washroom (May 2018)

Eatz and Trus hope that their website gains enough traction to try and curb secret recordings in public washrooms.

“If nobody stops hidden camera porn, what’s going to happen is that you’re going to start videos of people that you know,” said Trus. “Sisters, mothers, aunts, anyone who has used a public washroom.”

“It’s not until it happens to you,” Eatz said. “Then you realize this is a big issue and needs to be tackled right away.”

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Five outside-the-box housing ideas that Toronto should try, according to report

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Toronto needs to think outside the box — or the condo tower — when it comes to solving its housing challenges. Put another way: “It’s time to hack the condo model,” says the executive director of the Ryerson City Building Institute.

Its latest report surveys ideas that are creating more middle- and lower-income housing in other cities and at home — notions, Cherise Burda says, that bear further exploration.

Options for Homes, a social enterprise that helps home buyers with down payments, and a new modular design being considered in Hamilton, are among the ideas Toronto needs, according to a report from the Ryerson City Building Institute.
Options for Homes, a social enterprise that helps home buyers with down payments, and a new modular design being considered in Hamilton, are among the ideas Toronto needs, according to a report from the Ryerson City Building Institute.  (Gillian Foster photo)

“I’m tired of the same old conversations about supply, supply, supply,” she said. “It’s time to start thinking creatively. If you just keep doing things the same way, you’re just going to end up with the same housing.”

Architect and developer Heather Tremain agrees the housing industry needs to step up its game. She is CEO of Options for Homes, a social enterprise that builds what it calls “below-market ownership housing.”

“For us, one of the challenges is we work in a market context. Everything is more expensive — exponential increases of land values. Last year construction prices rose 12 per cent. All of those things make it really hard to deliver something affordable in this market,” she said.

It’s the reality in the gentrifying city.

“To some extent we are becoming more of a luxury market,” said Tremain.

Changes in the way people are living and creating families provides an opportunity for the real estate market, she said.

Here are five ideas that could help Toronto confront its housing affordability challenge, according to the City Building Institute’s “Rethinking the Tower” report.

Naked House affordable housing offers the finished shell of a house or apartment and furnish it at your own pace and price.
Naked House affordable housing offers the finished shell of a house or apartment and furnish it at your own pace and price.  (nakedhouse.org)

The Naked House

Most Toronto-area pre-construction homes are sold with a base package of fittings, fixtures and finishes with the opportunity to pay extra to upgrade features from flooring to countertops. But what if you could just buy the finished shell of a house or apartment and furnish it at your own pace and price?

A British-based not-for-profit, Naked House is supported by grants, investments and access to public land. It keeps building costs down by providing buyers with a nearly bare box at about 20 to 40 per cent less than standard market price. Purchasers get a livable home built to code with basic plumbing and energy-efficient electrics.

There are income qualifications, and purchasers have to live in the part of London where the housing is being developed. They must also demonstrate they have the know-how or money to finish their unit.

The Naked House website promises that the lowest-priced homes are affordable to those earning the London median income of about $59,000 (Canadian) and should never cost more than a third of the buyer’s gross household income.

It calls its target market “generation rent” — those with too much income to qualify for publicly assisted housing but not enough to buy a home at the going market price.

Mod cons’ calls for 250-square-foot lots to be sold, allowing buyers to purchase one or more to create units of up to about 1,000 square feet.
Mod cons’ calls for 250-square-foot lots to be sold, allowing buyers to purchase one or more to create units of up to about 1,000 square feet.  (superlofts.co)

The new ‘mod con’

Although it resists being labelled as “modular” construction, developer JvN/d’s design for a Hamilton apartment building calls for it to be sold in 250-square-foot lots, allowing buyers to purchase one or more to create units of up to about 1,000 square feet.

“The main word is flexibility,” said director John van Nostrand.

The concept — still in the planning approval stage — means the lots can be purchased individually or in multiples to create units. The lots can be individually titled under a mortgage so they can be purchased and sold separately, giving the owners the option of using the space differently at different stages of their life, including subletting parts of their units.

Van Nostrand calls it a vertical subdivision and says it’s similar to the way office space is sold and leased — with a recognition that uses and needs change.

It gives young adults the option of staying in the city when they might otherwise have children and look for a house somewhere else. It also provides an ownership opportunity for people with incomes in the $60,000-to-$80,000 range, less than you need to buy a typical condo in Hamilton.

All the units would be fitted up to building code standards but buyers would have the option of purchasing a unit finished or unfinished.

There are variations in other parts of the world. Pocket Living in London is using factory-made housing modules that are assembled on the building site for homes that sell for 20 to 40 per cent below market price.

Amsterdam’s Superlofts by Marc Koehler Architects is fitting a building shell with modular units that can be designed to the taste and budget of the occupants.

The line on assembly

Factory construction where some elements are built off-site can reduce construction cost by 25 per cent and reduce timelines by as much as 50 per cent, said Burda. That was the case with a Scarborough seniors home where 413 exterior wall panels were built by PCL Construction in Etobicoke.

“With windows pre-installed, the prefabricated wall panels reduced the number of building trades required on the construction site and increased worker safety overall,” said the City Building Institute report.

Prefab components also make it easier to work on smaller, harder-to-access building sites, Burda said.

“It’s like Lego. Some of these companies can build a floor a day because they build them off-site in a controlled environment. They’re energy-efficient modules. Then they transport them and they assemble them on site,” she said.

Family condos can also be brought down in size if the amenities in the building are the ones families need.
Family condos can also be brought down in size if the amenities in the building are the ones families need.  (Facebook)

Scaling down

The micro-condo has arrived in Toronto. But in many cases those small units come with a cost per square foot that veers toward luxury living because of the amenities. Burda suggests that family condos can also be brought down in size if the amenities in the building are the ones families need.

She likens it to the way families want to live in a single-family house.

“It’s a yard, a garage for your stuff and a play area for kids. That’s really becoming the thing for good co-living to build a big playroom for the kids that everybody can share and keep their toys in; outdoor spaces, and a lot of places provide a workshop, the alternative to a garage where adults can build stuff and fix your bike,” Burda said.

The report profiles a purpose-built rental in Vancouver that includes a DIY workshop, individual garden plots and a dog-wash, but with relatively small individual units.

At the Ollie at Carmel Place in New York, affordable units for low- and middle-income residents are integrated with micro-units at market rents. There was no city money in the project but the builder saved through modular construction, some relaxed unit size standards and sped-up timelines.

Options and shared equity

Options for Homes has already built 2,750 homes in 11 buildings throughout Toronto, including the first residential units in the Distillery District. It’s been around for 25 years and it’s the kind of program Toronto needs to expand, Burda says.

The social enterprise works with its not-for-profit Home Ownership Alternatives financial agency to provide loans that banks recognize as equity. Buyers don’t have to pay interest or repay the second mortgage until they sell their unit. The homes offer base finishes — carpets and ceramic tile — and appliances aren’t included, although they can be purchased as part of a group buy. Some buildings have basic amenities such as workshops and children’s playrooms.

Options’ latest project includes a building that is 60 per cent two- and three-bedroom units suitable for families, Tremain said.

“You would never have seen that even a couple of years ago,” she said.

Tess Kalinowski is a Toronto-based reporter covering real estate. Follow her on Twitter: @tesskalinowski

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Acid attack survivor who got life-changing surgery in Toronto wants to make Canada her home

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Every day for a year, from the confines of her tiny hospital room in Bangladesh, Popi Rani Das dreamed of Toronto.

A doctor from this faraway city had promised its surgeons could repair the life-threatening wounds in her throat caused by a horrific acid attack that left her unable to drink or eat.

Popi Rani Das has found a new home in the city’s Bangladeshi Hindu community, which has embraced her since she came to Canada to have her esophagus repaired after her husband tricked her into drinking acid.“I am safe here,” Das, now 30, says in her soft-spoken and tentative English. “I am OK here now.”
Popi Rani Das has found a new home in the city’s Bangladeshi Hindu community, which has embraced her since she came to Canada to have her esophagus repaired after her husband tricked her into drinking acid.“I am safe here,” Das, now 30, says in her soft-spoken and tentative English. “I am OK here now.”  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star)

Das was just 21 when her husband tried to kill her by tricking her into drinking the acid that burned away her entire esophagus and most of her stomach. For the next seven years, she lived in a top-floor room of the Acid Survivors Foundation Hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh, keeping herself alive by injecting pureed food into the feeding tube threaded into her small intestine.

Then, a chance meeting in February 2016 with Dr. Toni Zhong, a Toronto plastic surgeon on a medical mission to the country, gave Das hope that she would one day escape her bleak surroundings.

“I remember feeling so much sadness for this woman,” recalls Zhong. “I remember thinking: ‘This must be what it is like to be a forgotten person in a small corner of the world.’ ”

Das did come to Toronto in 2017 and, following a trio of risky surgeries at Toronto General Hospital, can once again eat and drink.

Now, two years since she arrived in Toronto, scared, weak and weighing less than 80 pounds, Das, 30, wants to make Canada her permanent home.

It was here, after all, that surgeons gave her another chance at life by building her a new esophagus using skin harvested from her arm.

She has also found friends and a new kind of family in the city’s Bangladeshi Hindu community, which has rallied around her since the freezing February night she arrived at Toronto Pearson International Airport.

And, most importantly, living in Toronto keeps Das safe from her husband, who she says wanted her dead so he could remarry for a bigger dowry. Police charged him for the attack, her lawyer says, but he was released on bail and Das fears he will try to find her should she return to Dhaka.

“I cannot go back … That is where my life is not safe and where my life could be in danger again.”

Read More:

A Toronto doctor promised to help this acid attack survivor. One year later, she’s leaving Toronto with a new esophagus

Acid attack victim finds hope in Toronto surgeons

Acid attack: From victim to triumph in India

Though she misses her country, especially its constant warmth and her friends at the Acid Survivors Foundation Hospital, Das is learning to love Toronto.

She enjoys her ESL classes, riding city buses and eating Oreo cookies, the everyday things that once seemed so impossible from her Dhaka hospital room.

“I am safe here now,” Das says in her soft-spoken and tentative English. “I am OK here now.”

Popi Rani Das, with her mother, Ajanta Rani Das, who hasn't left her daughter's side since the attack that left her unable to eat or drink.
Popi Rani Das, with her mother, Ajanta Rani Das, who hasn’t left her daughter’s side since the attack that left her unable to eat or drink.  (Toronto Star)

Das filed a refugee protection claim last February and is waiting for her case to be heard by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

Her mother, Ajanta Rani Das, who travelled to Toronto with her daughter in 2017 and who has been by Das’s side since the day she was attacked, has also made a claim. Both women say their lives are at risk in Bangladesh.

Douglas Lehrer, their Toronto-based immigration lawyer, says he has affidavits from Das’s maternal aunt and from a neighbour stating Das’s former husband is “threatening to kill them out of revenge.”

Lehrer says the immigration board, which is currently taking between six and 24 months to hear claims, must believe the women would be in danger in Bangladesh — and that the state would be unable to protect them — to grant them protected person status, thus putting them on the path to Canadian citizenship.

For now, Das is trying to put her immigration status from her mind and focus on her daily life in the city.

These days, she and her mother live in a basement apartment in Scarborough, where they enjoy cooking in their small kitchen, planning trips to the library and going for walks around their Birchmount Park neighbourhood.

Both women adore the big white flowers that bloom on bushes growing near their street and which remind them of their village in Bangladesh.

During her first year in Toronto, Das saw little more than hospital rooms, doctors’ offices and the apartment she shared with her mother near Toronto General. Much of her time was spent recovering from surgery, relearning how to swallow with her new esophagus, and finding strategies to deal with the post-traumatic stress triggered by her husband’s attack.

Popi Rani Das, right, shares some cake with Dr. Toni Zhong at a party thrown for Das following her successful surgery at Toronto General Hospital.
Popi Rani Das, right, shares some cake with Dr. Toni Zhong at a party thrown for Das following her successful surgery at Toronto General Hospital.  (Toronto Star file photo)

Zhong, director of the breast reconstruction program at Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN), says few people would have the strength to endure the hardships Das has faced.

That inner courage was one of the reasons Zhong felt compelled to help Das by raising more than $700,000 to start the UHN Helps Fund to bring international patients to Toronto for life-changing surgery. A portion of that money raised paid for Das’s medical care in Toronto, as well as her travel and living expenses.

Zhong also convinced Toronto General to open its operating rooms after-hours for Das, and the surgeons who performed the complex surgeries waived their fees, so as not to impact Canadian patients.

Though Zhong is happy Das is well and safe in Toronto, a part of her is also disheartened that Das will not return to Bangladesh to advocate for survivors of acid violence, something both women had once badly wanted.

She says she didn’t fully understand the risks Das faced until she was again in Dhaka in January of this year for another medical mission. There, she says, she met people who know Das who believe the young woman’s decision to stay in Canada is the right one.

“They told me: ‘There is no doubt that if she came back she would be a target, for her husband or just in general because (after earlier media stories) she has a celebratory status and she spoke out for herself.’ ”

The renowned doctor has many hopes for Das. Some, including a chance to eat and drink, have already been fulfilled. She also believes Das lived through her ordeals to make a lasting impact on the world.

Popi Rani Das stitches to pass the time at the Acid Survivors Foundation Hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2016, where she lived for seven years until coming to Canada for surgery.
Popi Rani Das stitches to pass the time at the Acid Survivors Foundation Hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2016, where she lived for seven years until coming to Canada for surgery.  (Toronto Star file photo)

“She shouldn’t have survived that initial attack,” Zhong says, adding that 75 per cent of people who swallow acid will die. “Popi is an incredibly strong person who can make a difference. I don’t know where or how she can do that. But my hope for her is that she will find a way to tell her story and to live a meaningful life with this gift she has been given.”

Arun Datta is among the dozens of people in Toronto’s Bangladeshi Hindu community who have helped Das since she arrived in the city. He says he didn’t hesitate for a moment after Zhong’s 2017 phone call, during which she asked for their community’s support.

Within days of that call, members of the Bangladesh-Canada Hindu Mandir temple in Scarborough were raising funds and finding a place for Das and her mother to stay.

“We all had a desire to help,” says Datta, who came to Canada 30 years ago and works as a paralegal while advocating for the rights of Hindus, a religious minority, in Bangladesh as the president of the Bangladesh Minority Rights Alliance. “We gave money, and we gave time driving her to the hospital, going to get groceries, anything that was needed.”

He and others in the Toronto community say Das’s Hindu faith is yet another thing that will put her at risk in Bangladesh, where religious minorities face oppression and persecution.

“That is the main reason we are all here,” says Datta, gesturing to Das, her mother and some of their friends gathered around a table on a recent winter evening at the Bangladesh-Canada Hindu Mandir. “We all have been victims as well.”

Bijit Roy, the temple’s president, says the Toronto community has been moved by Das’s story.

“It was a rare type of cruelty,” he says. “She is far better here. Here she can have a new and safe life.”

Popi Rani Das on a trip to Toronto's Centre Island with her English class last summer.
Popi Rani Das on a trip to Toronto’s Centre Island with her English class last summer.  (Supplied/Popi Rani Das)

Looking at those gathered at the table, Das says she is grateful to everybody for their help — the Toronto surgeons, her new community and Canada, the country that made her safe.

While Das can read and write English fairly well, she finds it more difficult to maintain a conversation in English. Datta helps, when needed, to translate her conversation with a Star journalist between English and Bengali.

Das says she is not yet sure what her future holds as a potential Canadian.

In between her trips to the library and her ESL classes, Das continues to embroider, a task that helped pass time in her Dhaka hospital room. As long as she takes small, slow bites, Das can eat anything that she likes. She still loves Kit Kat and chocolate ice cream and most kinds of cookies. And she is practicing English by watching TV.

“I don’t like sad movies,” she says in English. “Only funny.”

While she is now used to Canadian winters, Das says she can’t wait for the warm weather and more trips to Centre Island, one of her favourite places in Toronto. This summer, she wants to go up the CN Tower so she can look out over the city that is now her home.

“The people here are good,” she says in Bengali.

And then, in English: “Here, I am safe.”

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Port Lands businesses welcome development to ‘underused’ Toronto waterfront

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When it comes to Sidewalk Lab’s contentious plans to develop Toronto’s Port Lands, Trevor Welsh has no axe to grind. But he does have one to throw.

The 40-year-old general manager of BATL Toronto — an axe throwing facility on Villiers St. — says improving the Port Lands with public transit, businesses, neighbourhoods and attractions will boost reasons for people to visit the area.

Reasons that might include, oh, say, hurling a hatchet at a wooden bull’s-eye.

“The more, the merrier,” said Welsh, as about 100 throwers and fans cheered each time a tossed axe hit targets dead-centre during a Canada-U.S. friendly competition Saturday.

“There’s not really a lot down here right now in terms of business (and) it’s a big pain to get here by public transit, especially for my staff,” he continued.

Welsh said he didn’t know much about the Port Lands until five years ago when BATL Toronto expanded to its second location at 33 Villiers St., near Cherry and Commissioners Sts. He said he was shocked how few businesses existed in the enormous area.

“I’m like, ‘Where am I?, ” he laughed, recalling his first impression of the Port Lands as a “ghost town.”

However, he said the axe throwing crowd soon got to know a few great neighbours; the Keating Channel Pub and Grill around the corner and the Cherry Street BBQ.

Lawrence LaPianta owns the Cherry Street BBQ. He says plans to develop the Port Lands, regardless of how that revitalization occurs or who gets to engineer it, should not be feared.

“I think it’s been underused, underappreciated land in Toronto for a very long time,” said LaPianta. “It’s prime real estate right next to the water. It’s kind of unfortunate that we don’t have anything to show for it in this area.”

Compared to other parts of the city, the land does seem underused — especially at this time of year when huge lake freighters cannot nose into busy ports to deliver cargo. But there are full-time operations, big and small, government and private, running 12 months of the year.

Commissioners St., for instance, is home to Toronto Hydro headquarters, the 12-stage Pinewood Studios and a FedEx office. Cement trucks are frequent Commissioners St. travellers, loading and unloading at aggregate depots and cement companies. Waste management sites sit on Unwin Ave.’s north side.

Summer brings more people to the area, cramming Cherry Beach with swimmers, picnickers, dog walkers, cyclists and stroller pushers.

The Cherry Beach outdoor sports fields, closed for the winter, are usually busy with soccer, lacrosse, ultimate frisbee teams beginning in spring. That’s also when sailors start cleaning and launching their crafts from the water’s edge.

Rebel Night Club on Polson St. attracts crowds locally and from across the border.

Mary Ormsby is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Reach her via email: mormsby@thestar.ca

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Sidewalk Labs hires former Toronto councillor for Quayside project

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Sidewalk Labs, the Google sister company proposing a high-tech neighbourhood on Toronto’s waterfront, has hired a former city councillor to explain and sell the vision to Torontonians.

Mary-Margaret McMahon, who retired from politics last fall after representing Beach and East York residents for eight years on council, confirmed Wednesday that on Tuesday she becomes Sidewalk Labs’s “director of community” for the controversial project slated for Queens Quay and Parliament St.

Since 2017 when Waterfront Toronto announced Manhattan-based Sidewalk Labs as its preferred partner on “Quayside,” a hyper-connected test zone for urban tech, proponents have faced tough questions over privacy, data protection, land ownership and more.

“My role is basically getting Sidewalk Labs known across the city, especially areas where they aren’t known now, and hearing people’s thoughts and concerns about the project that we’ll all know more about,” with release of a master innovation and development agreement this spring, McMahon said.

“Sidewalk needs a Toronto face — they haven’t had that 100 per cent and so I think that’s part of hiring me,” on a contract until the end of 2019, said the former environment committee chair.

Under the city’s cooling-off provision, McMahon is not allowed to lobby council members or city staff for one year from her November departure from city hall.

On council McMahon was known as a progressive ally of right-leaning Mayor John Tory, championing bike lanes, tree protections and also term limits for municipal politicians.

She joins the urban innovation arm of Google parent company Alphabet Inc. and its local workforce of about 20 people working out of an open-to-the-public office and “experimental workspace” at 307 Lake Shore Blvd. E. McMahon is among four locals being added to the mix of Canadians and Americans.

Sidewalk Labs also hired: Pino Di Mascio, a former partner at Urban Strategies, as director of planning; Ryan Guptill, a former federal Conservative political staffer, as associate focused on government relations; and Zak Abdulle, a former Toronto Community Housing program co-ordinator, Muslim Fellow in Mayor John Tory’s office and unsuccessful 2018 school trustee candidate, as project management associate.

Micah Lasher, head of Sidewalk policy and communications, said in an interview McMahon was hired for her deep commitment to the city and ability to get things done.

“If this project is successful, it will be because it drew on the insights and lived experiences of people from every neighbourhood in this city and it will generate innovation and ideas that can improve life in every neighbourhood in this city,” he said. “We hope to be part of this city’s future for a very long time to come.”

Waterfront Toronto, an agency representing the city, provincial and federal governments, has been working with Sidewalk Labs on the draft master agreement spelling out plans for data collection and retention, revenue generation, housing and development guidelines, and more.

After public consultations and any resulting changes, the document is to go to the government partners and Sidewalk Labs for final ratification. If no agreement can be reached, Waterfront Toronto is free to seek a new development partner.

Bianca Wylie, co-founder of the advocacy group Tech Reset Canada who has criticized secrecy around the Quayside process and a private company’s role in shaping city space and policies, said Wednesday that local hires should not be the firm’s priority.

“Sidewalk Labs’s priority should be defining how they will make a graceful exit from Toronto,” she said, “including how they will thank the city’s residents for the privilege and opportunity they were given to do their research and product development here over the past 15 months.”

Correction — February 14, 2019: This article was updated to reflect the fact that Micah Lasher did not move to Toronto to head Sidewalk Labs’ communications team.

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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Woman, 19, accused of throwing a chair off downtown Toronto balcony, turns herself in

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A 19-year-old woman has turned herself in to police, four days after a widely viewed video showed a chair being tossed off a downtown Toronto highrise balcony, sparking huge outrage.

Marcella Zoia, a Toronto resident, walked in to 52 Division around 7 a.m. this morning. She has been charged with mischief endangering life, mischief involving damage to property and common nuisance.

Det. Todd Higo said Zoia was alone when she turned herself in.

She is scheduled to appear in College Park court today in room 505.

Police said in a news release that they started an investigation into the incident that happened 10 a.m. Saturday in the Harbour St and York St. area.

A video of the incident, which was widely shared online, shows a young woman picking up a folding chair and tossing it over the railing hundreds of feet in the air.

The video follows the chair as it hurtles towards the busy Gardiner Expressway and ends just before it hits the ground. Police later said a second chair and other items were tossed as well.

Const. David Hopkinson on Wednesday said detectives are investigating whether the apartment unit was being rented as a short-term rental.

In a short statement, Airbnb spokesperson Ben Brait said the company is investigating whether any of its users were involved in the incident.

“We are outraged by the blatant disregard for community safety on display in the video,” he said.

“We will be suspending any guest accounts that appear to be connected to this incident. Additionally, we have reached out proactively to Toronto police to offer our full support to help them investigate this abhorrent behaviour.”

Ajax woman Tyler Walton told the Star she believed she rented the same unit Saturday night, the same day as the chair-throwing incident, through AirBnB.

She said she saw the broken chairs on the street in front of the condo tower’s Lake Shore Blvd. W. entrance and later noticed the unit did not have the balcony set shown in the online listing. She said she didn’t put two and two together until she saw the video.

“I saw the chairs outside on the street and joked to my boyfriend that they looked like they were thrown,” she said. “He didn’t think anyone was dumb enough to do that.”

The online listing for the unit — Walton said it’s a south-facing apartment on the 45th floor — includes pictures of a patio set that appear to match the chairs in the video.

Walton said she asked the AirBnB host if the unit should have had a balcony set, and was told yes.

Walton said the AirBnB host told her to arrive later than the regular check-in time because the previous guests had left it “a disaster.”

Read more:

Toronto police investigating ‘reckless’ video of woman throwing chair from downtown highrise

Opinion | Emma Teitel: Toronto’s chair thrower is a symptom of a bigger problem

Condo-heavy areas at high risk for fires started by careless smokers

Fairbnb researcher and spokesperson Thorben Wieditz said it’s not unusual to hear residents in downtown highrises in the area complain about problems caused short-term rentals.

“It’s very common for partiers and Airbnb guests to throw stuff off the condos. What we haven’t seen yet is something like those two chairs that could have very well caused death,” he said, noting the group is “desperately” waiting for the city’s regulations on short-term rentals to come into effect.

Hopkinson said Monday that he was “outraged” at the incident.

“Anybody could’ve been walking underneath,” he said, adding if someone was hit, they could have suffered “catastrophic” injuries.

A conviction for mischief endangering life could result in jail time, Hopkinson told the Star earlier.

With files from Gilbert Ngabo

Jack Hauen is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @jackhauen

Alexandra Jones is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @AlexandraMaeJ

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‘I’m in shock’: Toronto police rule out charges after 30 women accuse former RCMP doctor of sexual assault

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Toronto police sex crimes investigators say there are « no grounds » to lay criminal charges against a former RCMP doctor. That’s despite 30 women alleging they were sexually assaulted during mandatory medical exams when hired by the police force in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

« The Toronto Police Service does not dispute that these women felt (and continue to feel) violated, » said police spokesperson Meaghan Gray in an email Tuesday. However, she said investigators reviewed medical standards at the time and determined there is a lack of evidence « to prove there was a sexual purpose » to the doctor’s exams.

« I think it’s a lot of bullshit. I’m in shock, » said Vicki Gravelle, a 911 dispatcher for a regional police force in Ontario, no longer with the RCMP.

Gravelle and two others came forward to CBC News last month, detailing sexual assault allegations against former RCMP doctor John A. Macdougall, saying he inappropriately pinched nipples, conducted invasive vaginal exams without gloves, caressed their legs and pushed his pelvis against their naked backsides as they were told to bend forward during « spinal exams. »

Gravelle and two others came forward to CBC News last month, detailing sexual assault allegations against former RCMP doctor John A. Macdougall. (Rachel Houlihan/CBC)

The women complained to the RCMP, Toronto police and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario at the time, but their concerns went nowhere.

In early 2018, Toronto police reopened their investigation after dozens of women came forward, emboldened by the #MeToo movement, alleging they too were assaulted by Macdougall.

‘No grounds’ for charges

Macdougall retired in 2001. He is now in his mid-80s and lives in a retirement home west of Toronto. According to his lawyer, Macdougall has dementia, suffered near-fatal pneumonia recently and is living with around-the clock care. His family has declined to comment.

But in 1991, when the three women first complained to Ontario’s medical regulator, Macdougall explained he elected to do lengthy breast exams on new recruits in an effort to teach self-examination technique. He was silent on the other allegations of unwanted touching and invasive vaginal exams.

Following the women’s complaints the RCMP banned all staff physicians from conducting gynecological exams and laid out proper breast-exam techniques.

This photo of John A. Macdougall was taken when he graduated from the University of Toronto in 1963. (University of Toronto)

Toronto police on Tuesday told CBC News that they « know that many involved in this case are angry and frustrated. » But they say they have closed the file after review of the 30 women’s statements and are « confident » in their decision not to lay charges.

« Our investigative efforts were unbiased and extended beyond these statements to include a review of documentation, consideration for case law and research into what may have been acceptable medical practice at the time, » said Gray in her statement.

« We had to determine whether or not grounds existed to prove there was a sexual purpose for the actions that took place. Without those grounds, we simply could not lay charges. … We know that many involved in this case are angry and frustrated but, pending any new information that is brought forward, we are confident in the decisions we have made. »

‘I am flabbergasted’

Sylvie Corriveau, one of the three women to complain about. Macdougall in the 1990s, says she is « disillusioned » by the Toronto police decision.

« You have 30-odd strangers stating the same thing, and the doctor’s word means more, » said Corriveau, a senior RCMP employee based in Ottawa. « Many of the victims are still serving peace officers, do their sworn statements not mean anything? »

Watch Sylvie Corriveau describe when she knew the doctor was abusing his authority:

RCMP ‘OVERLOOKED’ COMPLAINTS OF SEX ASSAULTS DURING EXAM, RECRUITS ALLEGE 1:09

She flatly rejects that Macdougall’s actions were in any way legitimate and maintains he was seeking sexual gratification during her exam.

« If the investigators did in fact state that his techniques were acceptable medical tests back then … I am flabbergasted, because they were not, » Corriveau told CBC News.

Gravelle says she can’t understand why Macdougall’s medical training has any bearing on the allegations by the 30 complainants. « I don’t understand what any of that has to do with anything. If he’s archaically been trained … it’s still inappropriate behaviour, conducted to a woman in an office, behind closed doors in secret, and still under the threat: « You do this or I’m going to have your job. »

Complaint filed against Toronto police

Helen Henderson, who received compensation last month from an RCMP class action fund for abuse victims based on her encounter with Macdougall, says she is enraged Toronto police will not lay criminal charges.

« It’s absolutely devastating after all of our efforts, » Henderson said.

She’s filed a formal complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director demanding a review of the Toronto police investigation. 

Henderson says she is enraged Toronto police will not lay criminal charges against Macdougall. (Rachel Houlihan/CBC)

« They didn’t do their job, » Henderson says.

Another woman, Laurel Hodder, describes the Toronto police decision as « devastating. » She is pressing ahead with her own lawsuit against Macdougall and the RCMP. Hodder was sent to see Macdougall despite senior brass being aware of complaints against the doctor.

« It makes you feel like you don’t matter, » said Hodder.

Send tips to dave.seglins@cbc.ca or rachel.houlihan@cbc.ca  
 

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Ontario, Toronto release framework for deal to upload city’s subway to Queen’s Park

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It sets the stage for the biggest subway transfer in the history of the Toronto Transit Commission.

Premier Doug Ford’s government on Tuesday released the terms of reference for the deal to “upload” the building and maintenance of new and existing TTC subway lines to the province from the City of Toronto.

Premier Doug Ford has released the terms of reference for the deal to upload the building and maintenance of new and existing TTC subway lines to the province from the City of Toronto.
Premier Doug Ford has released the terms of reference for the deal to upload the building and maintenance of new and existing TTC subway lines to the province from the City of Toronto.  (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press)

The plan, a cornerstone of the Progressive Conservatives’ election platform last June, would leave the TTC responsible for day-to-day operations of the subway while keeping fare box revenues.

Buses and streetcars would continue to be run by the city.

“With an upload, our government can cut through red tape to start new projects and finish construction faster,” Ford promised.

“Necessary maintenance and investment in the subway system has been put off for too long. We’ve also been waiting far too long for subway expansions. New subway construction has been stuck in red tape for years. It’s time to take action and speed things up,” the premier said.

Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek said the “bold action” would speed up construction, making life easier for commuters from across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

“As a government, we are turning priorities into real projects and get the job done. We know that a lack of transit infrastructure and traffic congestion are costing money, jobs and time,” said Yurek as the framework was announced.

Read more:

Law to upload responsibility for Toronto subway to province coming in spring

“The signing of the terms of reference between the province of Ontario and the City of Toronto signals a shared interest to improve subway service, build more transit projects, to expand, and integrate the regional network and get people moving,” he said.

That means a push for more integrated fares and services between the TTC and regional transit systems, including GO.

“As we continue to work with the city and TTC, we will act in an open and transparent manner to get desperately needed transit built sooner and we will make every decision with … taxpayers and transit riders top of mind,” said Yurek.

As part of nine-page accord, Queen’s Park and the city will assess the value of the subway system, which carries 289 million people annually, and the price tag for deferred maintenance.

Sources told the Star that both sides are close to agreeing that the subway is worth between $8 billion and $9 billion, with about $5.6 billion required to maintain and upgrade existing equipment such as signals, tunnels, and track.

That suggests the city would have a one-time net gain on its bottom line of between $2.4 billion and $3.4 billion.

But according to a report published by the TTC last month, the subway network and stations will require roughly $22 billion in capital investment over the next 15 years, a figure that doesn’t include the cost of building the much-anticipated relief line or other expansion projects. More than $16 billion is unfunded.

The required work, which the TTC says is necessary to keep current levels of service and meet future demand, includes capacity improvements on Lines 1 and 2, installing the automatic train control signalling system, buying new trains, and expanding Bloor-Yonge station.

The terms of reference released Tuesday make clear that options on the table include ones that would fall short of a complete transfer of subway assets to the province. The city and province will also examine a model under which Ontario would only assume ownership and responsibilities of new transit expansion projects.

In December, Toronto council voted overwhelmingly to reaffirm its position that the subway should remain in the city’s hands. But at the same meeting of that largely symbolic decision, councillors also voted to enter talks with the province to set terms of reference for discussions about the upload.

Despite Mayor John Tory and the majority of councillors registering their disapproval of the upload proposal, many said they felt they had little choice but to sit down with the province, having received confidential legal advice that the city had no legislative authority to prevent Queen’s Park from taking over the rail network.

“Discussions between city staff and the province will continue now guided by the approved terms of reference and I expect a full report to council at the appropriate time,” Tory said Tuesday.

“I continue to firmly believe that any actions taken with regard to our subway system need to be in the best interests of the people of Toronto, including transit riders and employees, and that Toronto must be completely involved and fully consulted as Premier Ford previously indicated would be the case,” the mayor said.

“It is a good document that has been agreed upon by the two parties to now shape the discussion. The real decision time will come once those discussions have happened and whether or not they produce some kind of a deal or some kind of a change from the status quote that is good for employees, transit riders, taxpayers and anybody else who is a stakeholder from the city of Toronto,” he said.

“I can’t tell you if that’s going to be the case or not.”

At Queen’s Park, the opposition New Democrats said Toronto’s subways are “one step closer to being stolen by Doug Ford.”

“What Toronto’s subways need is the provincial investment they’re owed, not a complicated Doug Ford scheme to break subways apart from the TTC,” said MPP Jessica Bell (University-Rosedale).

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner was also not convinced.

“Centralizing power in the premier’s office is not a silver bullet for fixing transportation delays,” he said in a statement, calling for a downtown relief line as soon as possible.

“Given Ford’s well-documented distaste for above-ground public transit, I am skeptical about the ability of his government to make evidence-based decisions for the TTC,” Schreiner said.

“Putting the relief line on the back burner while Ford builds subways to the suburbs would be disastrous for the TTC and for anyone trying to travel in Toronto.”

The terms of reference released Tuesday lay out objectives that largely reflect council’s stated position from the December meeting that the framework for discussions should give consideration to guiding principles of good governance, fair allocation of financial obligations between the city and province, and an integrated transit system.

They also state the province and city will consult the public on the proposal, which council had also set out as a condition for talks in the December vote.

Under the framework, there would be more private-public partnerships to build infrastructure like the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which is slated to open in 2021.

“The parties jointly recognize the need to pursue alternative approaches to the planning, funding, decision-making and delivery of transit in Toronto, and spanning the broader region,” stated the document signed by the province and the city on Monday.

This means the “accelerated implementation of priority transit projects,” better integration of TTC with Metrolinx and transit agencies in the 905, the “modernization and enhancement” of the existing subway system and a “long-term sustainable, predictable funding model” for transit.

However, there remains a lot of room for the deal to go off the rails.

Josh Matlow, the one member of council who voted against entering into talks with the province, said he took no comfort in the fact the terms state the two parties will consider options under which the city would retain ownership of existing subway assets while ceding new projects to the province.

“I think we’re being suckered,” said Matlow (Ward 12-St. Paul’s).

Citing past statements by the premier and the province’s recently announced strategy of using private development at station sites to fund transit, he charged the Ford government is dead set on taking over Toronto’s subway system wholesale and selling off land and air rights along the lines.

Matlow said councillors would be a “bunch of Pollyannas” to believe otherwise.

“Metaphorically, they’ve already announced that they want to take over your house and all the belongings in it. And to get you to the table to give them your keys and the number for your alarm they’ve said, oh yeah, we’ll also discuss some other options too. Maybe we’ll only take your furniture.”

Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 10- Spadina-Fort York) slammed the upload talks as “a waste of time.”

Cressy said if Ontario was sincere about improving transit, it would increase its spending for the TTC instead of trying to take the subway system from the city.

“If the province truly wants to support the TTC and the movement of people and goods and services in this city, they should invest in it,” he said.

But proponents argue the province, which can borrow more money and run a deficit, will be better positioned to build and repair the subway network.

With files from David Rider

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

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at bspurr@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr

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

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We know who you are — turn yourself in, Toronto police tell woman videotaped tossing chair from condo

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Toronto police say they know the identity of a woman caught on video throwing a chair from an upper floor of a downtown condo building, but don’t know her exact whereabouts and want her to surrender.

Police received a « significant amount of information » from the public that helped officers determine the woman’s identity, Const. David Hopkinson of the Toronto Police Service said on Tuesday

He declined to release the woman’s name or age, but told CBC Toronto: « We are in the midst of contacting her and giving her an opportunity to consult a lawyer and turn herself in. »

Hopkinson confirmed police have spoken with the woman or someone acting as her representative.

Police believe the chair-throwing incident occurred Saturday around 10 a.m. ET at a condo in the Harbour and York streets area, which overlooks the Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Boulevard. It was captured on video and shared widely on social media on Monday. 

The chair that was thrown over the balcony is seen fluttering in the wind as it makes it way down towards the highway. (Lisa Calderon/Facebook )

Hopkinson said two chairs, among other items, were thrown over the balcony. Police are also looking for the person who videotaped the chair throwing.

There has been outrage over the possibility the tossed objects could have injured someone or caused an accident, as the expressway is right below.

Hopkinson said he obtained a copy of the video on Sunday and police began to investigate on Monday. 

The items, which police say were thrown from a « very high floor » in the building, landed in front of the entrance to the condo, police said in a news release.

Police have said the woman is wanted for a mischief investigation, but Hopkinson declined to say which charges she could be facing.

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

On Monday, police released a photo of the woman, who they say appears to be in her 20s.

Police said the incident has prompted dozens of calls. 

« People can stop calling now, » Hopkinson said.

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It’s a snow day! All TDSB and TCDSB schools closed in Toronto

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Kids across Toronto are jumping for joy after a snow day was declared Tuesday morning, shutting down both public and Catholic schools for the day.

It’s the first snow day for the Toronto District School Board in eight years. The last time TDSB schools were shut down because of snow was in February 2011, the night before a potential storm coined by the public as “Snowmageddon.”

A woman gets blasted Tuesday morning by wind and snow in the West Don Lands, at Lawren Harris Square and Lower River St.
A woman gets blasted Tuesday morning by wind and snow in the West Don Lands, at Lawren Harris Square and Lower River St.  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

That decision drew sharp criticism as countless parents were left scrambling to find backup care for their young children. What made it worse was that the storm never came that day, angering parents even more.

Eight years later, the TDSB tweeted Tuesday that it would shut down shortly after 6 a.m. Not a snowflake had hit the ground when the decision was announced. But this time, the storm did start rolling in at around 8 a.m.

“We always make the decision the morning of, so that we have the absolute latest available information,” said TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird. “There have been cases in the past where there has been a forecast, but it hadn’t (arrived) or was delayed later in the day.”

The TDSB sent an email to parents Monday about the pending storm.

“As I hope you can appreciate, the decision concerning whether to keep schools open or closed has a major impact on the lives of thousands of families across Toronto and that is why we strive to keep them open whenever possible,” wrote John Malloy, director of education, before the storm hit. “Should all schools be closed, it causes significant hardship for many families, some of which have no other options readily available for their children.”

The region’s two French-language public school boards, Conseil scolaire Viamonde and Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir, have both also closed schools across the GTA.

On Monday, Environment Canada had issued a winter storm warning for Toronto, calling for high winds and between 15 and 25 centimetres of snow, ice pellets and possible freezing rain.

“Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots may become difficult to navigate due to accumulating snow,” Environment Canada said. “Visibility will be suddenly reduced to near zero at times in heavy snow and blowing snow. There may be a significant impact on rush hour traffic in urban areas.”

Pearson airport and Billy Bishop airport are experiencing delays and cancellations Tuesday morning. There have already been more than 400 flights cancelled at Pearson as of 9 a.m. Travellers are advised to check in with their airlines to confirm flight status before leaving for the airport.

Click here to check on status of your flight

OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt called the highways “a mess.”

“We’ve got about a dozen crashes right now in the GTA,” said OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt.

All northbound lanes of Highway 400 are currently closed at Teston Rd. because of an earlier multi-vehicle crash that left the male driver of an SUV with life-threatening injuries, Schmidt said.

Other GTA school boards rolled out various cancellations.

Universities and colleges also cancelled classes ahead of the storm’s arrival.

  • Ryerson University is closed, including all classes, university-run events, research labs, business services and administrative operations.
  • The University of Waterloo closed all campus locations. Classes, events, labs and administrative operations are cancelled.
  • George Brown College and Centennial College campuses are closed. George Brown tweeted that child care lab centres will also be closed and continuing education classes will be cancelled for Tuesday evening.
  • All of Centennial College campuses will be closed, including Ashtonbee, Downsview, Morningside, Progress and Story Arts Centre. The college tweeted that the closures include all daytime and evening classes, child care centres and other services. Campuses are expected to reopen Wednesday.
  • Seneca College is closed. In a tweet, the school said it expects to reopen Wednesday.
  • Durham College remains open and all activities are expected to continue as scheduled, although the college said it’s keeping a close eye on the weather.

“We are expecting quite a bit of snow,” Environment Canada meteorologist Gerald Chang said. “If you can plan to avoid going out altogether, that’s the ideal way to deal with it.”

The snowstorm was so bad, even the Raptors cancelled their scheduled practice at the Toronto Raptors Training Facility, their last chance to hold a practice before the NBA all-star break.

The city, police and the TTC say they are keeping close track of the storm and preparing to take extra precautions — especially in light of the city’s last serious snowstorm in January.

The TTC is reminding riders to give themselves extra time for their commute — and asking drivers not to park in the paths of streetcars, which caused massive delays last time.

Toronto police plan to remove vehicles blocking streetcar tracks “as expeditiously as possible” by patrolling the most problematic routes, and making tow trucks readily available, spokesperson Brian Moniz said.

“Depending on the snow level and the degree of obstructions and infractions that may take place, we’re ready to mobilize our staff and provide dedicated resources to the routes,” he said.

City staff will be monitoring streetcar corridors to clear snow “as quickly as possible,” spokesperson Eric Holmes said.

“Every vehicle we have is on the road,” said Holmes. “Typically for this kind of storm, the average amount is 10,000 tonnes of salt city-wide.”

The city has 1,100 vehicles at its disposal, which includes on road plows, driveway machines, snow plows and salt trucks to cover 5,600 streets, 7,000 km of sidewalks and separated bike trails.

The highest priority routes for snow-clearing are expressways, which the city has promised to clear within two to three hours of snowfall. Arterial roads and streetcar routes will take six to eight hours; collector roads, bus routes and all other local streets will be clear after 14-16 hours, according to the city’s levels of service commitments.

With files from Jack Hauen

Stefanie Marotta is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @StefanieMarotta

Emerald Bensadoun is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @twerk_vonnegut

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