Small Alberta village honours founding families for Black History Month

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Long before the province officially recognized Black History Month, the tiny village of Breton in north-central Alberta had been commemorating and honouring the African American immigrants who helped settle the area.

“It started out as very low-key, very humble beginnings with the local tea here at the museum,” said Breton and District Historical Museum curator and manager, Allan Goddard. “At that time, we still had a number of the first generation family members that were still alive.”

Alberta officially recognized Black History Month for the first time in 2017 but the folks in Breton have been celebrating their founding families annually since the mid-90s — around the same time the federal government began recognizing it.


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Every February the museum holds a special event to commemorate those who helped settle the area which was originally known as Keystone.

At this year’s event, 89-year-old Vant Hayes, who was born in Keystone, shared stories of his and his family’s life in the area.

“My parents came at the turn of the century,” Hayes said. “We lived in a log house and I’m not kidding you, the weather we had a day or two here, we get up in the morning and the water in the pail would be frozen.”

Hayes’ family was one of 52 that immigrated to the area at around the same time. Many, like his parents, were fleeing areas in the southern United States where state and local racial segregation were being enforced and violence was escalating.

“The African American settlers who founded Keystone in 1910, 1911 — they were leaving some very harsh conditions in primarily Oklahoma but some other states too,” Goddard said.

“At that time period, the Jim Crow laws were in effect and [immigrants] looked northward to Canada,” Goddard said. “Supposedly all homestead land was available and conditions of more tolerance.”


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Hayes didn’t provide details but alluded to stories he was told of violence his parents experienced in both Mississippi and Oklahoma.

While the family wasn’t completely free from racism once they arrived in Alberta, Hayes beamed when he talked about how his family was one of the first to help settle the area.

“I’m the only one left,” he said.

His sentiment is echoed by others whose families also helped settle other parts of Alberta.

“Our people did come up in the early 1900s to help settle the Prairie provinces so we are a part of the development of Alberta and Saskatchewan, so it’s important that the roots are told,” said Deborah Dobbins, whose family settled in the Wildwoods area of Alberta.

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

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‘You can smell crude in the air’: Train carrying oil derails near western Manitoba village

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CN Rail is working to clean up an oil leak after nearly 40 train cars carrying crude oil derailed near a village in western Manitoba early Saturday morning.

CN crews are responding to the derailment, which occurred at 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning near St. Lazare, about 300 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg near the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border, a spokesperson from the railway said. 

« You can smell crude in the air. That’s really concerning, » said rancher Jayme Corr. The derailment happened on his property, about 10 kilometres south of St. Lazare, in the rural municipality of Ellice-Archie.

« There’s oil leaking, and where they’re sitting is [near] a water lagoon, » he said.

The derailment happened around 3:30 a.m. Saturday. As of Saturday afternoon, crews were still on scene. (Riley Laychuk/CBC )

Emergency personnel woke Corr up around 5 a.m. Saturday to alert him to the derailment, which happened just under two kilometres from his home.

No injuries or fires reported

Initial reports are that approximately 37 crude oil cars have derailed and that there is a partial leak of crude oil, Jonathan Abecassis, a media relations director for CN, wrote in an email to CBC.

« A perimeter has been set up around the area to facilitate site access. There are no reports of injuries or fires, » he wrote.

« CN crews will be conducting a full site assessment to determine how much product has spilled and exactly how many cars are involved. First responders are on location. »

CN’s environmental team has started cleaning up the area.

Corr said his cattle have since been moved away from the area, but he’s concerned that his main water source for the summertime will now be contaminated.

The train derailed about 10 kilometres south of St. Lazare, in the rural municipality of Ellice-Archie. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

The rancher says he thinks a derailment like Saturday’s has been a long time coming.

« It seems to be the trains go faster, they’re longer, heavier, and the maintenance is getting less and less, » Corr said.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has sent investigators to the site of the derailment. 

‘It’s discouraging’

Jean-Paul Chartier, a rural municipality of Ellice-Archie councillor, said staff from the local fire department are on the scene of the derailment, assisting CN crews.

« They’re trying to do their best to get everything contained, and trying to get the traffic going, and trying to clear whatever debris there is, » Chartier said.

Trains frequently run through St. Lazare, and Chartier said he’s thankful the crash didn’t occur closer to the community. In areas of the village, there are houses just hundreds of metres from the tracks, and 30 to 40 trains can travel past each day, he said.

« Every time they come through, you think of the tragedy that happened in Quebec, » he said, referring to the Lac-Mégantic, Que., rail disaster, which killed 47 people after a freight train loaded with fuel exploded.

« It’s discouraging. Like you look at it everyday and you say ‘hopefully it’s not today and hopefully it doesn’t ever happen.’ But you’ve always got it in the back of your mind. »

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Barton Village hosting monthly events, including Winter Wonder festival – Hamilton

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Barton Village is going to be hosting monthly events called Barton First Fridays.


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The events kick off this Friday, Feb. 1, with the Winter Wonder festival.

It will take place from 3-9 p.m. between Victoria and Oak streets, where you can check out exhibits from local artists, live musical performances, an interactive hockey tournament, as well as an outdoor fire pit.

The monthly event is an effort to showcase Barton Village as an attractive place to work, play, live, shop and invest.


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For more details, click here.

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

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Alleged Gay Village serial killer Bruce McArthur set to appear in court Wednesday

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Alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur is scheduled to appear in Ontario Superior Court Wednesday morning.

Late last year, Justice John McMahon scheduled McArthur’s trial to begin in January 2020. McArthur, 67, is charged with eight counts of first-degree murder in deaths of men, killings alleged to have occurred between 2010 to 2017.

McArthur’s court appearance comes just short of a year since he was arrested by Toronto police and charged in the deaths of two men who went missing from the city’s Gay Village in 2017: Andrew Kinsman, 49; Selim Esen, 44.

As police continued their extensive investigation over the next few months, they would ultimately charge McArthur in the deaths of six more men, all of whom had connections to the Gay Village: Majeed Kayhan, 58; Soroush Mahmudi, 50; Dean Lisowick, 47; Skandaraj (Skanda) Navaratnam, 40; Abdulbasir Faizi, 42; and Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam, 37.

The remains of all eight victims were discovered on a Leaside property where McArthur had worked as a landscaper. Seven victims remains were found buried in large planters, while the remains of the eighth were located in a forested ravine behind the property during an extensive excavation conducted last summer.

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Saint-Martin-de-Belleville: Noël au village

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Célébrée pour sa table triplement étoilée, cette discrète destination des 3 Vallées poursuit son irrésistible ascension avec une nouvelle collection de chalets de luxe.

En ces temps troublés où la ruralité semble si malmenée, Saint-Martin-de Belleville fait figure d’exception. Rassemblé autour de son église, d’un pur baroque du XVIIe, avec maisons de pierres et chalets en bois, Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, sans rien perdre de son âme, connaît un âge d’or. Dans ce village si tranquille, qui prépare Noël, les anciens parlent encore patois et les autochtones disent «bonjour» quand vous les croisez dans la rue. La simplicité du lieu, – de «petits génies» du marketing préfèrent parler «d’authenticité» -, attire chaque année nombre de visiteurs, séduits par ce village d’irréductibles savoyards. Un restaurant triplement étoilé, la Bouitte, et son hôtel cinq étoiles, emmené par la famille Meilleur, participent à cet engouement.

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La simplicité du lieu attire chaque année nombre de visiteurs, séduits par ce village d’irréductibles savoyards.

Pour autant, rien ne semble perturber la vie quotidienne du gros bourg de montagne, électrifié seulement en 1953 et qui compte encore une petite dizaine de fermes. Si, à 17 h, règne quotidiennement une certaine agitation, ce n’est pas tant pour célébrer le retour des skieurs, que pour aller chercher les enfants à la sortie de l’école. Une force tranquille des cimes, à 1450 mètres d’altitude, qui cache bien son jeu.

Car c’est ici qu’a été conçu par son maire Nicolas Jay, dans les années 60 et qu’ont été portés sur les fonts baptismaux du succès, Les Ménuires et Val-Thorens. Un ensemble que complète vingt-deux hameaux alentours, regroupés en une commune nouvelle, Les Belleville, désormais la première destination au monde pour le ski, avec 4 millions de nuitées. Dans ce vaste ensemble «Saint-Martin», comme disent les locaux, se développe à vue d’œil. En témoigne l’émergence cette saison d’une collection de 13 chalets, au hameau de Caseblanche et de deux nouveaux chalets de luxe avec service hôtelier, Pure black Crystal et Pure Withe Crystal. Un ensemble en Tarentaise fondu dans le paysage et le patrimoine de cette destination des 3 Vallées qui, rappelons-le, rassemble effectivement trois vallées, celle de Courchevel, des Allues avec notamment Méribel et des Belleville avec Saint-Martin, Val-Thorens et Les Ménuires.

Ski aux pieds

Au cœur du village, le télécabine Saint-Martin, puis le Saint-Martin-Express qui le prolonge, conduisent au sommet de la Tougnette à 2437m, porte d’entrée du domaine skiable des 3 Vallées (600 km de pistes). À la sortie du télésiège, prendre à gauche la ligne de crète (superbe vue) puis aller chercher la piste Jérusalem sur la gauche, la moins fréquentée de Saint-Martin-de-Belleville car invisible des télésièges.

Autre spécificité de la station de Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, offrir un domaine skiable hors-piste pour lequel elle est très appréciée.

Anciennement rouge, son relief a été retravaillé pour la rendre plus ludique et la passer en bleue. Mais elle garde de son passé écarlate de petits murs qui en rythment la descente sur un peu plus de 3 km. Du haut de la Tougnette, on peut encore gagner Les Ménuires par le Gros Tougne, un boulevard des neiges très recherché pour sa pente douce. De Saint-Martin aux Ménuires, remontées mécaniques comprises, il faut compter 1h environ, en fonction du niveau du skieur. Deux autres options du haut de la Tougnette, soit gagner directement Méribel, par plusieurs pistes, dont une rouge (le Blaireau), soit glisser en quelques minutes jusqu’au départ du télésiège des Granges qui conduit aux Trois-Marches à 2704 mètres. Le Graal. De là, on peut se rendre à peu près partout, Val-Thorens, Courchevel, Les Ménuires ou Méribel-Mottaret.

Aux trois Marches on trouve un restaurant d’altitude le Bouche à Oreille (autour de 40€), qui propose depuis cette saison un petit déjeuner à 7h du matin avec lever du soleil sur le glacier du Borgne. Une dameuse vous emmène depuis Les Ménuires jusqu’au sommet. Le grand avantage est de pouvoir aussi profiter des pistes alentours, encore vides, avant que n’arrivent les premiers skieurs. Autre spécificité de la station de Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, offrir un domaine skiable hors-piste pour lequel elle est très appréciée, notamment au départ de la pointe de La Masse (2804m) que l’on atteint avec la télécabine éponyme. De ce sommet, on rejoint le hameau du Chatelard par le vallon des Encombres particulièrement sauvage. Mais attention, pour ce parcours la présence d’un moniteur de ski est vivement recommandé.

» LIRE AUSSI – Comparez plus de 200 stations de ski selon vos critères

Il est rythmé par le bien-être et la culture avec une initiative plutôt originale en partenariat avec la société savoyarde Lys Spa. Trois spas publics et gratuits (accessible sur réservation. Tel.: 07.89.54.03.52) ont été installés dans la station (Aux Grangerais, place du Biollay, à la Patinoire) disposant chacun d’un jacuzzi et d’un sauna. On se change dans les anciennes télécabines des Bruyères, reconverties en vestiaires (tous les jours de 14h à 19h). Côté culture, le patrimoine de Saint-Martin-de-Belleville fait l’objet d’un parcours en douze étapes qui commence par l’église paroissiale baroque dont le retable en bois doré, classé Monument historique, a été récemment restauré. La balade se poursuite par le lavoir, un habitat traditionnel, une fromagerie, une épicerie, l’école… Des panneaux sur chaque édifice racontent ce qu’était autrefois le quotidien du gros bourg. L’office de tourisme a édité un document-guide gratuit. Dans le musée municipal, muséographie un peu fatiguée, ont été reconstituées plusieurs étapes de la vie pastorale. On y voit surtout des petits films sur la naissance des stations des Ménuires et de Val Thorens, avec les témoignages pittoresques d’habitants de la vallée. Le point d’orgue de la visite patrimoniale reste toutefois la découverte du sanctuaire de Notre-Dame-de-la-Vie, un chef d’œuvre du baroque doté de fresques et d’un retable d’une beauté inouïe.

Caseblanche, quartier d’avenir

Certains viennent à Saint-Martin-de-Belleville uniquement pour La Bouitte. Et rien ne ressemble moins à l’idée qu’on se fait d’un trois macarons Michelin que la table de la famille Meilleur, une institution. Ici, règne avant tout la simplicité et il n’est pas rare de voir attablés au déjeuner des skieurs en combinaison. Fait rarissime, peut-être même unique, dans les annales de la gastronomie, les trois étoiles ont été gagnées une à une par un père et son fils «ensemble», insiste René et Maxime Meilleur. Le patriarche, né à Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, ouvre avec sa femme Marie-Louise un premier restaurant de fondue, en 1976. Découvert par le critique Gilles Pudlowski en 2002, il obtient, avec son fils, une première étoile un an plus tard, une deuxième en 2008 et la troisième en 2015.

» LIRE AUSSI – Savoie: chez Meilleur, père et fils, une montagne de petits bonheurs

Aujourd’hui, dans un décor montagnard, René et Maxime Meilleur servent une cuisine sincère à l’image de cet omble chevalier posé sans chichi sur une assiette de grès. Une merveille de cuisson qui résume «une cuisine compréhensible», comme la définissent les deux chefs. Au-dessus du restaurant, un hôtel Relais & Châteaux de 15 chambres. Un second établissement, bistrot baptisé «Simple et Meilleur» ouvrira ses portes en janvier 2019 dans le nouveau quartier de Caseblanche.

Au cœur du village, les deux chalets Pure black Crystal et Pure White Crystal, à la décoration chicissime et de très bon goût, signent une montée en gamme de la station

Caseblanche est un hameau de Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, aux pieds des pistes du télécabine du Biollet. C’est aussi un ensemble de 13 chalets contemporains, ski aux pieds, flambant neuf et plutôt haut de gamme, ouvert à la location saisonnière. On y trouve 34 appartements de 80 à 200 m2, dont l’équipement est assez luxueux. Quelques commerces ont élu domicile sur la place Notre-Dame, dont une boulangerie, un point d’alimentation et un magasin de sport. Mais rien à voir avec les deux chalets Pure black Crystal et Pure White Crystal, inaugurés ces jours-ci, et loués individuellement avec un service intégré. Pour chaque chalet, un cuisinier, une femme de chambre et un chauffeur (avec voiture) à disposition. Les équipements sont au top. Piscine individuelle intérieure chauffée, salle de massage perso, salle de cinéma et bibliothèque garnie. Le service inclut le petit déjeuner, l’apéritif et le dîner. Admirablement intégré dans une architecture superbe, au cœur du village, ces deux chalets, à la décoration chicissime et de très bon goût, signent une montée en gamme de la station. Saint-Martin-de-Belleville est une fête. Pour Noël, les plus spectaculaires animations demeurent les descentes aux flambeaux. Organisées par les moniteurs, le lundi 24 décembre et le lundi 31 janvier à 18 heures (téléski du village), elles sont suivies d’un vin chaud. Mais un tel luxe, même discret a un coût.


Carnet de route

VENIR En train il faut viser Moutiers (TGV direct de Paris en saison), puis navette à la gare routière (13,40 €).

DORMIR Dans le hameau Saint-Marcel, l’hôtel spa restaurant La Bouitte, Relais & Châteaux, 5-étoiles, 15 chambres. À Partir de 290 €  en haute saison, 275 € en basse, avec petit déjeuner. Tél.: 04 79 08 96 77.

Au Grangerais lhôtel Saint-Martin,  4-étoiles, club enfant très réputé, 22 chambres, à partir de 310 €  en basse saison et 440 € en haute pour deux personnes en demi-pension. Tél.: 04 79 00 88 00.

À Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, les luxueux chalets Pure Black Crystal et Pure White Crystal. Chacun à partir de 14.500 € la semaine, 24.000 € pour les vacances de février (compris 7 jours en demi-pension entre 10 et 12 personnes). Tél.: 04 79 898 898 ; cimalpes.ski

BONNES TABLES À l’ombre de La Bouitte: L’Étoile des Neiges, semi-gastronomique, 4e génération d’une même famille (autour de 50 €). Tél.: 04 79 08 92 80.  La ferme-auberge Le Chatelard mérite un détour car tout  est fait maison (menu à 26 €). Tél.: 06 13 98 91 56. Sur les pistes, une nouveauté, Au Chaudron Saint-Martin, à l’arrivée de la télécabine Saint-Martin (autour de 25 €). Tél.: 04 79 08 95 36.

SKIER Forfait 6 jours 3 Vallées,  en pleine saison: 306 €/adulte,  245 €/enfant (jusqu’à 13 ans), 275 €/ senior (de 65 à 74 ans). Forfait jour Saint-Martin-les-Menuires: 51 €, et 6 jours 250 €.

SE RENSEIGNER Office de tourisme de Saint-Martin: tél.: 04 79 00 20 00.

» Vous pouvez également suivre Le Figaro Voyages sur Facebook et Instagram.

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Regina Pioneer Village resident says long-term solution needed now – Regina

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Regina Pioneer Village is Saskatchewan’s largest seniors complex, but the provincially run facility has been on life support for years.

Now, one longtime resident is speaking out and hoping the province will find a permanent solution to the complex’s infrastructure problems.


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“This used to be my home. Now, it’s just a death trap,” said Cathy Girard, a resident of the complex.

Girard moved to the facility in 2007, but over the years she says the standard of care has deteriorated.

“We have mould, we’re overrun with mice — and the shortage of staff, especially nurses, housekeepers and doctors,” Girard said.

“A lot of people are complaining that their eyes are watering, and they have breathing problems.”


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The Pioneer Village facility was built in two phases – the first in 1967 and the second in 1972. Due to its age, the building has recently been plagued with ongoing infrastructure issues including weakening brickwork and ageing plumbing and electrical systems.

Back in April, the Saskatchewan Health Authority moved around 94 residents from the facility after a report showed an excessive amount of mould.

Since then, Girard says they’ve been left with more questions than answers.

“What’s going to happen? Are we going to get a new building, or a Band-Aid solution?” Girard said.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says remediation is currently taking place.

“We have ongoing weekly monitoring and we have air quality monitoring so we feel comfortable with the steps that we’ve taken [and] that the environment remains safe for residents to remain in it and staff to work in it at this time,” said Debbie Sinnett, executive director of ongoing care at Pioneer Village.

In 2014, a provincial report indicated the facility needed around $60 million worth of repairs, but over the past four years, the province has invested just over $8 million.


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“Every time it rains, there are tiles falling down on people’s heads, and in the summer there’s water leaks, cracks in the ceiling, cracks in the building,” Girard said.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says it’s working closely with the Ministry of Health to come up with a long-term solution, but Girard says the clock is ticking.

“We can’t just be waiting and sitting on our thumbs; we’ve got to have help now,” she said.

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

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A timeline of the Bruce McArthur case and the police investigation into the Gay Village killings

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On a grey Thursday in January, Toronto police made one of the biggest arrests in the city’s history.

Apprehended from a Thorncliffe Park apartment complex was Bruce McArthur, a self-employed landscaper. Police had uncovered evidence they alleged implicated him in the deaths of two missing men from Toronto’s Gay Village, Andrew Kinsman, 49, and Selim Esen, 44.

Bruce McArthur's alleged victims. They are, top, from left to right: Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam, Majeed Kayhan, Skandaraj (Skanda) Navaratnam and Abdulbasir Faizi. And bottom, from left to right: Selim Esen, Soroush Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick and Andrew Kinsman.
Bruce McArthur’s alleged victims. They are, top, from left to right: Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam, Majeed Kayhan, Skandaraj (Skanda) Navaratnam and Abdulbasir Faizi. And bottom, from left to right: Selim Esen, Soroush Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick and Andrew Kinsman.  (Star Wire Services)

At a press conference announcing the arrest, police said they believed there were more victims.

Over the next three months, McArthur, 67, would be charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of six more men: Majeed Kayhan, 58; Soroush Mahmudi, 50; Dean Lisowick, 47; Skandaraj (Skanda) Navaratnam, 40, Abdulbasir Faizi, 42, and Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam, 37.

The sprawling, months-long police probe has seen the largest forensic investigation in Toronto’s history, and resulted in the discovery of dismembered, skeletal human remains buried in large planters on a Leaside property.

The arrest of an alleged serial killer came after long-held speculation in the Church-Wellesley community that a murderer was in their midst — a concern met with denial by police until just weeks before McArthur was arrested. As questions mounted about whether an arrest could have been made sooner, an independent review has been launched into the Toronto police handling of missing person’s cases.

Below is a detailed account of key dates in the ongoing investigation.

The Star intends to update this story as the Bruce McArthur case unfolds:

Oct. 2001: McArthur, 50, attacks a man midday inside the victim’s apartment in the Gay Village. McArthur strikes the man numerous times with a metal pipe. The victim, who has advertised in gay publications as a male hustler, calls 911 and is taken to hospital. McArthur goes to police headquarters to say he may have hurt someone and doesn’t know why he did it.

Jan. – April 2003: McArthur pleads guilty to assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm in the 2001 attack, his first criminal conviction. He later receives a conditional sentence of two years less a day, and three years’ probation. As part of his probation, he is barred from an area of the city that includes the Gay Village and from spending time with “male prostitutes.” He is also ordered to have a sample of DNA taken and added to a database. He later obtains a pardon for the conviction.

Sept. 2010: Skandaraj (Skanda) Navaratnam, 40, goes missing after he is seen leaving Zipperz, a now-closed bar at Church and Carlton Sts., with an unknown man. Speaking anonymously, a source tells Xtra that McArthur once dated Navaratnam, who is originally from Sri Lanka, beginning around 1999. The two men were listed as friends on Facebook.

Police later allege McArthur killed Navaratnam on or about Sept. 6.

Dec. 2010: Abdulbasir Faizi, a 42-year-old machine operator at a printing company in Mississauga, is reported missing to Peel Regional Police. His car is later found abandoned in Toronto, in the area of St. Clair Ave. E. and Mount Pleasant Rd.

Police later allege McArthur killed Faizi on or about Dec. 29, 2010, according to court documents.

Oct. 2012: Majeed Kayhan, a 58-year-old Afghan immigrant, disappears and is reported missing by his son.

Police later allege McArthur killed Kayhan “on or about” Oct. 18, 2012.

Nov. 2012: Toronto police in downtown’s 51 division launch Project Houston, an investigation into the disappearances of Navaratnam, Kayhan, and Faizi.

Late 2012 – June 2013: During Project Houston, Toronto police find some evidence Navaratnam has been murdered. Investigators from the homicide squad join the case, pursuing evidence including the suggestion Navaratnam had been the victim of a cannibalism ring. That evidence is discounted — and the investigation continues without the involvement of the homicide squad.

April 2014: Project Houston ends. McArthur was never a suspect in the investigation, but sources will later tell the Star he was questioned by police around the time of Project Houston.

Aug. 2015: Soroush Mahmudi, a 50-year-old professional painter, is last seen alive by his home near Markham Rd. and Blakemanor Blvd. in Scarborough. He is reported missing by his family.

Police later allege McArthur killed Mahmudi on or about Aug. 15.

Late 2015: Police later allege McArthur kills Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam, 37, sometime between September 2015 and December 2015.

Kanagaratnam, a refugee from Sri Lanka, had never been reported missing.

2016: Toronto police question McArthur after a man reports that McArthur attempted to strangle him during an otherwise consensual encounter, according to sources who spoke to the Star. McArthur is let go.

April 2016: Dean Lisowick checks into the Scott Mission shelter in Toronto for the last time.

Police later allege McArthur killed Lisowick between April 2016 and March 2017.

April 2017: Selim Esen, a 44-year-old Turkish citizen, goes missing.

Police later allege McArthur killed Esen on or about April 16, 2017.

June 2017: Andrew Kinsman, a 49-year-old Cabbagetown resident, goes missing. Investigators will later confirm that Kinsman and McArthur had a sexual relationship.

Police later allege McArthur killed Kinsman on or about June 26.

Two pages from a production order Toronto police filed in Sept. 2017. The heavily redacted document was one of several ordered unsealed in October.
Two pages from a production order Toronto police filed in Sept. 2017. The heavily redacted document was one of several ordered unsealed in October.

Aug. 2017: Toronto police launch Project Prism, a probe into the disappearances of Esen and Kinsman. Investigators from downtown’s 51 division and other units are brought in, and information is shared from Project Houston.

Sept. 2017: McArthur becomes a person of interest in Kinsman’s death, launching a probe into McArthur that would include surveillance of his vehicle and a team of officers tracking him around the GTA.

Nov. 2017: Police uncover evidence suggesting Kinsman has likely been murdered and McArthur is a suspect. Part of their investigation includes seizing McArthur’s rusted maroon Dodge Caravan from Dom’s Auto Parts in Courtice, just outside Oshawa.

Unsealed court documents later reveal that Kinsman’s blood was found inside one of McArthur’s vehicles.

Dec. 2017: Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders downplays the suggestion of a serial killer in the Gay Village, as concerns mount about a growing list of people disappearing from the area.

A police spokesperson says there is “no evidence — let me repeat, no evidence” linking any of the disappearances. Homicide investigators, meanwhile, obtain authorization to surreptitiously enter McArthur’s home and clone his computer in connection to Kinsman’s death.

Jan. 18, 2018: McArthur is under police surveillance when officers observe a young man entering his apartment and intervene. The man is found tied up but unharmed.

McArthur is arrested and charged with the murders of Esen and Kinsman. The charges are made possible after police uncover evidence that “pushed the case over the edge,” says Det.-Sgt. Hank Idsinga, the lead detective on the case. Investigators believe there are other victims and reveal they are searching properties linked to McArthur, in Toronto and Madoc, Ont.

Jan. 29, 2018: McArthur is charged in the deaths of three more men: Kayhan, Mahmudi, and Lisowick. Idsinga reveals police discovered the dismembered, skeletal remains of three unidentified people buried inside planters at a Leaside home where McArthur worked as a landscaper. Investigators seize more than a dozen large planters from the property in search of more human remains.

Feb. 8, 2018: Toronto police reveal that the remains of at least six people have been recovered from a private property at 53 Mallory Cres., a Leaside home owned by Karen Fraser and Ron Smith. The remains of Kinsman are identified through fingerprint evidence.

A few days later, after heating and excavating frozen earth in the backyard, police say they will halt digging but may return when the weather is warmer.

Feb. 23, 2018: McArthur is charged with Navaratnam’s murder. Navaratnam’s remains were among the dismembered human remains recovered inside the planters, identified through dental records.

The charge means McArthur is now accused of killing two of the three men whose disappearances were probed during Project Houston. Mahmudi’s remains have also been identified through dental records, police reveal.

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March 5, 2018: In a rare move, Toronto police release a photo of a dead, unidentified man who they believe is a seventh victim of McArthur. The image is a close-up of a deceased man with dark skin, black hair and a beard. Investigators “cleaned up” the photo to “remove some artifacts,” Idsinga says.

Police also reveal that a seventh set of human remains have been uncovered in the Mallory Cres. planters. The discovery means four outstanding sets of human remains are undergoing forensic DNA testing to be identified.

March 6, 2018: The Star reveals that an internal police misconduct investigation has begun in connection with a past police interaction with McArthur. Idsinga tells the Star he initiated a complaint into “concerning” behaviour of officers who “potentially did not do what they were supposed to have done,” but does not provide any detail.

March 22, 2018: In the wake of mounting questions about past handling of the McArthur investigation, the Toronto police board commissions an external review of how Toronto police handle missing-persons cases — though the probe cannot directly examine the McArthur case because of the ongoing investigation and looming trial. The external investigation is supported by Chief Saunders, who had already launched an internal investigation of missing-persons cases.

April 3, 2018: Toronto police withdraw an application to participate in the 2018 Pride parade, one day after Pride Toronto and a coalition of LGBTQ groups called on police to rescind their request to take part.

Citing anger and shock about the deaths in the Gay Village and “insufficient” investigations into missing-persons cases, the groups said the damaged relationship between the community and police “cannot be mended through a parade.”

April 11, 2018: McArthur is charged with a seventh count first-degree murder in Faizi’s death after forensic pathologists identify his remains among those found in the Mallory Cres. planters.

April 16, 2018: Police identify the deceased man in the photograph as Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam, and charge McArthur with an eighth count of first-degree murder. Kanagaratnam is the youngest man alleged to be killed by McArthur.

May 2018: Toronto police complete their four-month forensic examination of McArthur’s 19th-floor Thorncliffe Park apartment building. They seized 1,800 exhibits and took more than 18,000 photographs. The probe is officially the largest forensic investigation in Toronto’s history.

June 2018: Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Gloria Epstein is tapped to lead an independent review of how Toronto police review missing persons cases. She retires from Ontario’s highest court to conduct the review, which will examine whether the probes into the alleged McArthur victims’ disappearances could have been “tainted by systemic bias or discrimination.”

Toronto police sift through materials behind 53 Mallory Cres. in a July 5 file photo.
Toronto police sift through materials behind 53 Mallory Cres. in a July 5 file photo.  (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

July 2018: Toronto police resume an extensive search behind 53 Mallory Cres. involving cadaver dogs and locate human remains just hours in. Human remains are found virtually every day of the nine-day excavation of what police called a ‘compost pile’ at the back of the property, in a forested ravine.

The remains are identified as those of Kayhan, the sole alleged McArthur victims whose remains had not yet been recovered. His are the only remains not buried inside large planters on the same Leaside property.

October 2018: Toronto police provide details of its dedicated missing person’s unit, formed after criticism of Toronto police handling of sudden disappearances, including those now alleged to be McArthur’s victims.

Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at wgillis@thestar.ca or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis

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New Indonesia quake kills 3 in Java village, shakes Bali

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PALU, Indonesia – An earthquake collapsed homes on Indonesia’s Java island, killing at least three people, and shook the tourist hotspot of Bali on Thursday, two weeks after a major quake-tsunami disaster in a central region of the archipelago.

Indonesia’s disaster agency said the nighttime quake was centred at sea, 55 kilometres northeast of Situbondo city, and also felt in Lombok. The U.S. Geological Survey said it had a 6.0 magnitude.

At least three people were killed as a shallow 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia's Java and Bali islands, a government official said.
At least three people were killed as a shallow 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia’s Java and Bali islands, a government official said.  (HANDOUT / AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

The agency said the worst affected area was in Sumenep district, East Java where three people died in one village and several homes were damaged.

It said « the earthquake was felt quite strongly by people in Sumenep and Situbondo for 2-5 seconds. People poured out of their houses. In other areas the earthquake was felt to be moderate. »

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are holding annual meetings on Bali through Sunday.

Some tourists and residents on Bali went outdoors as a precaution but then back to sleep when there was no tsunami warning.

The country is still working to recover from the earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 2,000 people and left perhaps thousands more buried deeply in mud in some neighbourhoods of Palu city in central Sulawesi.

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Indonesia limits foreign role in earthquake relief

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said Wednesday the death toll from the double disaster on Sept. 28 has risen to 2,045, with most of the fatalities in the coastal city of Palu. More than 80,000 people are living in temporary shelters or otherwise displaced, he said.

Possibly 5,000 people were buried in places where the earthquake caused liquefaction, a phenomenon where wet soil weakens and collapses, becoming mud that sucks houses and everything else into the ground in a quicksand-like effect. Stretches of the coastline were trashed by the tsunami that Nugroho said had waves up to 11 metres high.

The official search for bodies will end Thursday with mass prayers in hard-hit neighbourhoods, but Nugroho said volunteers and family members can continue searching. Memorials will be constructed in hard-hit neighbourhoods such as Balaroa and Petobo, he said at a news conference in Jakarta.

« People are traumatized. They don’t want to go back » to those places, Nugroho said. « They asked to be relocated to another place and a house made for them. »

After making a rare appeal for international assistance, Indonesia is now trying to limit foreign involvement in the disaster relief effort. Nugroho said there’s no need for international aid other than the four priorities identified by Indonesia — tents, water treatment units, generators and transport.

The disaster agency has circulated guidelines that say foreign aid workers can be in the field only with Indonesian partners. Groups that sent foreign personnel to the disaster zone are « advised to retrieve their personnel immediately, » according to those guidelines.

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Toronto police chief must explain why he debunked fears of a serial killer in the Gay Village

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Mark Saunders needs to explain himself to this city.

He is not only Toronto’s police chief, top of the investigative and administrative chain. He’s also a crucial community leader.

We look to him for reassurance and forthrightness in times of trouble. Sometimes even pre-emptively, when the trouble is not widely known or suspected.

Except there were strong suspicions — at least in the Gay Village community — that a serial killer had for years been preying on homosexuals who had vanished from their usual haunts, from their homes, from their families.

And there were clearly some common denominators identified by detectives investigating what was then believed to be five missing men. That was evident in documents unsealed by the courts this week — heavily redacted applications to support search warrants indicating police had already zeroed in on Bruce McArthur as a suspect.

In the information to obtain, filed by Det.-Const. Joel Manherz in an October 2017 affidavit, he wrote: “Clearly there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that McArthur could have been involved in the disappearance of (Andrew) Kinsman and possibly four other men, too.”

Over subsequent months, police tailed McArthur, a self-employed landscaper, hither and yon. They watched him as he worked at various properties across the GTA. They tracked his meanderings to coffee shops and restaurants. They had eyes on his vehicle. They covertly entered and searched his apartment, accessing and cloning his computer digital files.

The missing men had specific commonalities: All middle-aged with facial hair; most of South Asian or Middle Eastern ethnicity; each self-identified as “bears” in the gay community, an insider term for a “larger, hairier man who projects an image of rugged masculinity,” according to the documents.

Every one of them — ultimately the missing extended to eight males — had frequented the Black Eagle Bar on Church St. and every one of the five had disappeared on a holiday: Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Labour Day, Pride Weekend.

The police chief would have known all of this when, on Dec. 8, 2017, during an hour-long news conference, he dispelled escalating rumours of a serial killer at work. “We follow evidence,” Saunders said in response to a direct question about the serial scenario. “The evidence is telling us that is not the case right now.”

That was the day after investigators had surreptitiously entered, for the second time in a week, McArthur’s apartment.

Parsing Saunder’s language, he told the literal truth. Investigators did not have actionable evidence to support the belief that anyone had been murdered. No bodies, no forensics. But they damn well had their suspicions. And they had a distinct suspect.

Police are not obliged to publicize their suspicions; indeed, they often bend over backwards to avoid doing so. There may be investigative reasons for that, although police departments long ago dropped the posture of withholding information for the purpose of protecting an ongoing investigation lest a suspect be tipped off.

Putting the public at risk is no longer tolerated. That was one of the lessons learned from the fiasco of the “balcony rapist” investigation in the mid-’80s when women who matched the description of the rapist’s preferred victim — he operated in a particular downtown area — had not been warned. They were essentially used as bait.

The woman known as Jane Doe — his last victim, raped at knifepoint in her apartment — subsequently and successfully sued Toronto police, although it took a full decade after she secured the legal right to sue the department for her case to be resolved. In a scathing indictment of the police force and its officers, Justice Jean McFarland slammed Toronto police for being “utterly negligent” in the way they handled the balcony rapist probe. McFarland condemned police for failing to warn women about a serial rapist who’d already been identified, ruling it was a violation of Jane Doe’s charter rights, fuelled by systemic sexist discrimination and a complete failure to understand how the crime of rape affects women.

Toronto police were ordered to pay Jane Doe $220,000 in damages and $2,000 a year for the next 15 years.

An investigator involved with Project Prism told the Star on Thursday that the two cases — the balcony rapist, the serial murderer of gay men — have little in common. With the rapist, there were victims who’d been interviewed and a suspect who’d been identified. With alleged serial killer McArthur — arrested on Jan. 18, 2018, ultimately charged with eight counts of first-degree murder — the 66-year-old was very much on the police radar but there were no victims to interview, no solid case to be made for murder and, allegedly, no links among the victims. No concrete evidence.

Yet, as more information surfaces, it becomes harder to take Saunders on his word — the words that came out of his mouth some 10 months ago. At the very least, the police chief was withholding; at the very worst, he gave false assurance to the gay community about a suspect serial offender still at large. McArthur was clearly a “person of interest” even if, as the police affidavit states, “no evidence currently exists to suggest culpability in the commission of the offense.”

Saunders was unavailable for comment on Thursday. But police spokesperson Meaghan Gray earlier told the Star that the documents detailed officers’ “theories” about what may have happened, with no evidence to support them in a way that would have justified Saunders going public with suspicions. This, despite Manherz having noted of the five missing men, in the December affidavit: “At this point, I believe they may all be related.”

It may be true that Saunders was being circumspect. However, the chief went significantly beyond that. He expressly debunked.

I cannot call the chief a liar. But I will say he deliberately misled because investigators were following the evidence and they did have reasonable cause to suspect a worst case scenario.

For that the chief owes the gay community, the entire city, an explanation. If not an apology.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno

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