Ford won’t ask Lisa MacLeod to resign after group says it was pressured to support revised autism program


Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he won’t be asking his social services minister to resign after an association of behaviour analysts said she pressured them to support changes to the province’s autism program.

Ford says he hasn’t spoken with Lisa MacLeod about the allegations made by the Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis but has already ruled out asking her to quit cabinet.

The group says the minister told the association it would be a long four years for them if they did not publicly support the revamped autism program, which they say will leave many children without adequate levels of therapy.

Ford stood by MacLeod when asked about the matter on Thursday.

« I never ever, I want to repeat that, ever, ask Lisa to resign, » Ford said. « She’s done an incredible job. »

MacLeod’s office has not denied the group’s allegations and has said its priority is supporting families of children and youth with autism.

The head of province’s largest public sector union, opposition politicians and parents of autistic children are calling on MacLeod to resign over the matter.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said if MacLeod doesn’t quit, Ford should force her out.

« Lisa MacLeod is supposed to be a voice for children and parents at the cabinet table, » Horwath said in a statement. « Instead, she’s threatened them. »

Ontario Public Service Employees Union president Warren (Smokey) Thomas said he was appalled by reports of MacLeod’s actions and called for her to step down.

« I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in Lisa MacLeod, » he said in a statement. « It’s unbelievable she would bully others to pay lip service to Doug Ford’s attack on autistic children. »

MacLeod announced last week that in order to clear a backlog of 23,000 children waiting for publicly funded autism therapy, families will get up to $140,000 to pay for treatment, though funding will be subject to annual caps that families and advocates say will fall far short of what’s needed for intensive therapy.

The funding is dependent on age, rather than individual needs. Families will receive a maximum of $140,000 for a child in treatment from the ages of two to 18, also dependent on family income, but advocates say intensive therapy can cost up to $80,000 per year.


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Goodale says he won’t put Canadians ‘at risk’ to bring ISIS fighters home for trial


A day after the United States called on its allies fighting in Syria and Iraq to bring their foreign fighters home for prosecution, Canada is insisting it will not put its citizens at risk to answer the call.

« We have heard the request, or the suggestion, from the United States, but at this point, the fact of the matter remains that is a dangerous and dysfunctional part of the world in which we have no diplomatic presence and we are not going to put our diplomatic officers or consular officials at risk, » Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Tuesday.

Goodale said Tuesday that Canada is still working with its allies in the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network (Australia, Britain, New Zealand and the U.S.) to gather evidence that can be used to convict Canadians who went abroad to join ISIS — but he said he would not risk Canadian lives to do so.

« The issue is in part working with our allies to make sure that we are collecting the maximum amount of useable evidence that can be practically available and useable in the justice system to lay charges, to prosecute, » he added.

As the U.S. prepares to withdraw its remaining troops from the region, the U.S. Department of State issued a statement Monday that said the Syrian Defence Forces have taken custody of hundreds of foreign fighters from countries all around the world.

« The United States calls upon other nations to repatriate and prosecute their citizens detained by the SDF and commends the continued efforts of the SDF to return these foreign terrorist fighters to their countries of origin, » the statement said.

According to Amarnath Amarasingam, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue who has been to Syria to visit camps where foreign fighters are being held, there are currently four Canadian men, three women and seven children in custody in the country.

A spokesperson from Goodale’s office said the government would not confirm Amarasingam’s figures « due to the privacy act. »

All of the children born to Canadian women who left Canada to join ISIS are under the age of five, with several being under the age of one, Amarasingam told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.

« The behaviour of the parents that have put those children in that situation is absolutely appalling and reprehensible, » Goodale said. « We will examine carefully what can reasonably be done to protect those who are innocent in these circumstances.

« But this is a situation that [ISIS] has created, and to which those who have gone to that part of the world to participate have also contributed, and they need to show to their responsibilities. »

The risk of ignoring America

Amarasingam said that the Syrian Defence Forces are not going to be able to hold foreign fighters in camps indefinitely and the U.S. may fear they’ll escape or be released before they can be returned to their countries of origin.

« Leaving hundreds of jihadist fighters — well-trained jihadist fighters — in a kind of weird limbo state, if the Americans do pull out, is not ideal from a national security point of view, » he told Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos.

Amarasingam said the SDF could strike a deal with the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to turn the fighters and their children over for execution.

« There’s this assumption that bringing them back brings about a whole bunch of complexity, which is true, but I think leaving them leaving them there is just as chaotic as bringing them back, » he added.

Jessica Davis and Amarnath Amarasingam on the logistics of the U.S. call for countries to repatriate foreign fighters and prosecute them at home. 11:34

Jessica Davis, former senior strategic analyst with CSIS, told Power & Politics that Canada has been avoiding bringing home its foreign fighters — but continuing to turn a blind eye to the situation will be more difficult now.

« Despite all of the dynamics around the Trump administration, the Americans are still our number one ally, particularly in the security and intelligence space, so this is the kind of thing that has to be taken very seriously, » she told Kapelos.


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Tiered Cooling Racks are the Space-Saving Tool We Won’t Bake Without


When you can’t build out, build up! That’s the principle behind two of our greatest innovations: skyscrapers and the tiered cooling rack that changed my life.

Perhaps that is an exaggeration, but here’s the truth: The amount of baking I do is disproportionate to the counter space in my kitchen. This means that there are almost always hot baking sheets or flocks of cookies in need of a resting place to cool undisturbed. I’ll leave them in the turned-off oven (which seems smart until I start preheating it for something else), or on top of the stove (smart until I need a burner), or on the table in the other room (smart until I hear a crashing sound and realize the cats have had free reign).

The tiered cooling rack—double the vertical space for the same amount of horizontal space—alleviates the problem. Suddenly I can cool twice the amount of stuff in the same constrained space. It’s like a space-making machine. There are even tiered racks with three levels: The sky’s the limit!

I first learned about multi-level cooling racks when I was a peeping at a total stranger’s wedding registry (oh, you don’t do this? Welcome to a new fun way to waste your time). What is this magical contraption, I thought, before ordering one immediately. The Nordic Ware rack is particularly convenient because it’s stackable—you don’t have to have two tiers unless you need both—and it’s easy to assemble and disassemble (read: nothing like Ikea furniture).

Now that I have one tiered cooling rack, I just might need two. Or three! That’s six levels, people. That’s so many cookies. I’ll just need to get a second oven to keep up with my baking habit.

All products featured on are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.


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Pride Toronto members won’t allow uniformed police to march in the parade


Members of Pride Toronto have voted against allowing the city’s uniformed police officers from participating in this year’s parade.

The vote comes about three months after the organization lifted a ban on uniformed officers taking part in the annual event, saying the force was welcome to apply to be a part of this summer’s festivities.

WATCH: Oct. 16, 2018 — Toronto police invited back to Pride

But the decision to keep them out was made by a margin of 163-161 on Tuesday night.

The relationship between Pride Toronto and city police has been tense for the past two years.

READ MORE: Toronto police allowed to take part in 2019 Pride parade, organizers say

Uniformed officers were first banned from the parade in 2017 over concerns of racial profiling, and again in 2018 over criticism the force had not taken the disappearances of several men missing from the city’s gay village seriously.

In a statement Tuesday, Toronto police say they “remain committed to maintaining a dialogue with Pride Toronto as well as the larger LGBTQS community to deliver policing services that are inclusive and responsive to the needs of the community regardless of the outcome of one particular vote or event.”


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Canada’s review of Huawei won’t be derailed by threats, Goodale says


Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale is brushing off recent threats from China’s envoy to Canada, who warned of « repercussions » if the federal government bans the Chinese firm Huawei Technologies from supplying equipment to Canadian 5G networks.

Goodale spoke to reporters Friday during the Liberal cabinet retreat in Sherbrooke, Que., a day after Ambassador Lu Shaye told the media at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa that « there will be repercussions » if Canada bans Huawei from its 5G network. Lu did not say what those repercussions would be.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau followed up on Goodale’s remarks during the closing press conference of the retreat, saying that China should keep its politics seperate from business.

« One of the things that is of concern in this situation is the apparent blending of Chinese commercial interests with Chinese political positioning and consequences, » Trudeau said. « This is something that I think should be of concern, not just to Canadians but to people around the world. »

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters in Sherbrooke, Quebec on Friday 0:44

Ottawa is studying the security implications of allowing the Chinese company to help develop the next generation of mobile infrastructure in Canada, which promises to be 10 to 20 times faster than current wireless connections and is designed to serve medical devices, self-driving cars and other connected technology. Unlike some of its allies, however, Canada has not announced a ban on Huawei equipment.

Goodale said Friday that China also threatened Australia when it reviewed Huawei’s role in its telecommunications network.

« We understand that those sorts of comments will be made in the process, but we will make our judgment based on what’s right for Canada and not be deterred from making the right decision, » he told reporters.

Chinese ambassador, Lu Shaye, warns there may be « repercussions » if Canada bans Huawei from its 5G network

Ambassador Lu Shaye spoke reporters at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa 0:51

Goodale wouldn’t say when Canada is expected to finish its 5G review.

« We will make the appropriate analysis and take the decision ultimately that we believe to be in Canada’s national interests, » he said. « We’ve made it abundantly clear that we will not compromise national security. »

Trudeau said Canada would continue to follow the rule of law and that China and the rest of the world would be better off if Beijing did the same.

« We are reliant in this globalized and largely peaceful world on agreed-to rules and principles that must be respected if we are all to prosper together. That is the point we are respectfully and firmly making to China, » Trudeau said. 

Other Five Eyes countries have banned Huawei

Huawei has long insisted it is not a state-controlled company and denies engaging in intelligence work for the Chinese government. However, Chinese law dictates that companies must « support, co-operate with and collaborate in national intelligence work. »

Most of Canada’s partners in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance have taken action against the telecommunications firm.

New Zealand and Australia have banned the use of Huawei products in their 5G network development, fearing Huawei could use its access to spy for the Chinese government.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers introduced bills that would ban the sale of U.S. chips or other components to Huawei, ZTE Corp. or other Chinese firms that violate U.S. sanctions or export control laws.

The bills specifically cite ZTE and Huawei, both of which are viewed with suspicion in the United States because of fears that their switches and other gear could be used to spy on Americans. Huawei is the world’s biggest telecommunications equipment maker.

« Other countries have obviously made their views known, and their views are important to us. And we will weigh all of that very carefully and in the decision-making process, » said Goodale.

China’s Ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye is warning Ottawa against banning Huawei Technologies from participating in Canada’s 5G networks. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The back-and-forth between the ambassador and minister is the latest development in a deepening bilateral dispute.

Relations between China and Canada were put on ice last month when Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition request.

China then detained two Canadian citizens: businessman Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave to work for a non-governmental organization based in China.

McCallum briefing parliamentary committee 

Lu maintains the arrests of Spavor and Kovrig were legal and just while the arrest of Meng was the opposite.

Earlier this week, a Chinese court sentenced Canadian Robert Schellenberg to death for his alleged role in the smuggling of 222 kilograms of methamphetamines. His lawyer said he plans to appeal.

In the wake of that ruling, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused Beijing of arbitrarily using the death penalty and called world leaders to solicit their support.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says she will continue to see support from Canada’s allies in its dispute with China despite warnings from the Chinese ambassador to Canada to not to do so. 1:12

Lu said the current impasse could be resolved through negotiations, but those negotiations would be threatened if Canada were to ban Huawei Technologies from participating in Canada’s new 5G network for security reasons.

Trudeau spoke today with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. The two « reaffirmed their commitment to supporting multilateralism and the rules-based international order, » according to a PMO readout of the call. 

« Trudeau and the secretary-general discussed the arbitrary detention of two Canadians in China, the application of the death penalty to a third Canadian in China, and the importance of safeguarding international norms, including diplomatic immunity, judicial independence and respect for the rule of law, » the readout said. 

‘Last arrow in our quiver’

The Conservatives have urged Trudeau to speak directly to Chinese Xi Jinping. Canada’s ambassador to Beijing, John McCallum, was in Ottawa Friday to brief a Parliament committee. He described a phone call to Xi as the « last arrow in our quiver. »

« I think it is more effective if other means are deployed before we get to that point, » he said.

The briefing was held behind closed doors. McCallum told reporters he expected to tell the committee some things that the families of Spavor and Kovrig might not want aired publicly.

John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, talks to reporters after briefing members of the Foreign Affairs committee regarding China in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019 (Chris Rands/CBC)

Despite the diplomatic tensions, McCallum said he believes it’s safe for most Canadians to travel to China, but added anyone who has had a past run-in with Chinese authorities might want to stay away.

He said his security detail suggested he remove the Canadian flags on his diplomatic car, but he called it a « crazy idea. »

« I drive proudly with the Canadian flag, » he said.

Both countries have issued travel warnings.

On Monday night, Global Affairs changed its online travel advisory for China to advise Canadians to « exercise a high degree of caution due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws. »

A day later, China issued its own advisory and urged its citizens to « fully evaluate risks » and exercise caution when travelling to Canada, citing the « arbitrary detention » of Meng.


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Ottawa says it won’t be ‘deterred from making the right decision’ on Huawei 5G networks


SHERBROOKE, QUE—Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the federal government won’t be “deterred” as it considers whether to allow Huawei access to 5G networks, pushing back on an implied threat from China that Canada would face economic reprisals if the technology firm is blocked.

Goodale said Friday that the government continues to examine the security and technical considerations around 5G networks, the next generation of wireless technology, but offered no timeline when to expect a decision.

Public Security Minister Ralph Goodale says Ottawa will weigh all factors of allowing Huawei access to Canada’s 5G infrastructure. New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. as well as other countries have already banned the tech company’s access.
Public Security Minister Ralph Goodale says Ottawa will weigh all factors of allowing Huawei access to Canada’s 5G infrastructure. New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. as well as other countries have already banned the tech company’s access.  (Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press)

But he said the coming decision would be based on “Canada’s national interest” and not pressure from Beijing.

Read more:

China’s ambassador accuses Canada of ‘backstabbing’ in arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou

Canada Huawei 5G decision said to be months away

The promise of 5G is the problem with Huawei in eyes of critics

“We’ve made it abundantly clear that we will not compromise national security,” Goodale told reporters at the Liberal’s cabinet retreat.

Chinese Ambassador Lu Shaye said Thursday that if Huawei is banned when there is “no evidence” to justify any security concerns, there will be “repercussions” for the bilateral relationship. He said he was unsure what those would be.

Asked Thursday for his reaction, Goodale sought to downplay the warning of economic punishment.

“We understand that those sorts of comments will be made in the process but we will make our judgment based on what’s right for Canada and not be deterred from making the right decision,” he said.

“It’s a tough decision-making process but you can’t shrink from the challenges,” Goodale said.

Other countries, such as New Zealand and Australia, have banned Huawei from their 5G infrastructure, citing national security concerns that the firm could be exploited for espionage by the Chinese government.

“Other countries have obviously made their views known and their views are important to us. We will weigh all of that very carefully in the decision,” he said.

“Ultimately this decision has to be made in the best interests of Canada,” he said.

A negative decision could further complicate already frosty relations between Canada and China.

Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant has angered Chinese authorities. China has since detained two Canadians and a third Canadian has seen a 15-year jail term for drug smuggling turned into a death sentence.

Lu, the Chinese ambassador, told reporters in Ottawa Thursday that Meng’s detention was a “politically motivated” act in violation of international law norms.

With files from Tonda MacCharles

Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier


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City of Toronto staff say $3 million cost overrun for shelter conversion won’t happen again


Toronto learned lessons from mould and other problems that boosted the cost of converting a Kingston Rd. motel into a homeless shelter by $3.2 million, and it won’t happen again, city staff say.

City councillors on the new government services and licensing committee lightly grilled bureaucrats Monday over what inspections were done on a Comfort Inn before the city agreed to pay $7.8 million in 2016 for the property and commit another $8.7 million to covert it to a city shelter.

The city didn’t realize the expensive structural problems, and others related to mould and rodent damage, until crews took down walls, city staff told committee members. The extra costs pushed the total price tag of converting the 30,000-square-foot building near Bellamy Rd. to about $20 million.

Staff said they hired an engineering firm to do a building condition assessment, and another on soil conditions, but the owner would not allow them to do more invasive testing behind walls because it was a functioning motel with guests coming and going.

“There were no outward signs of these issues,” and past renovations might have helped make the significant problems less apparent, councillors were told.

Councillor John Filion said he still has questions about the ballooning cost and wondered if the city could have saved money by subdividing the 65,000-square-foot lot.

“Rebuilding a property at a total cost of more than $20 million, most of which is for construction, at this kind of density on Kingston Rd. doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” he said.

The shelter is being funded as part of a plan to open up beds as the city redevelops George St. downtown, including the razing and replacement of the Seaton House shelter.

The Kingston Rd. shelter is expected to open in early March, hold beds for 95 vulnerable people of all genders and to accommodate pets.

At the same meeting, committee members fast-tracked a licensing staff review of clothing drop-boxes, after one Toronto woman, Crystal Papineau, and multiple people in B.C. have been trapped and killed in the boxes.

The report with recommended changes slated to come in September will instead be ready in May, and look at multiple issues involving the bins where people drop old textiles to be sold offshore for resale and recycling.

“The largest city in Canada, having people sleeping on our streets … you look at the unfortunate circumstances of people going into bins,” to retrieve clothes or even sleep, said committee chair Councillor Paul Ainslie.

“I think we have a long way to go in this city dealing not only with these bins and make them safe but also the social aspect of why we even need these bins in the city in the first place.”

Toronto has issued 460 $100 drop-box permits to six charitable organizations and four for-profit firms, but has a “running battle” with others who illegally drop collection boxes on public and private property, committee members heard.

Councillors expressed other concerns, including garbage dumped around the boxes and even fires lit inside them.

Two representatives of Diabetes Canada told the committee their non-profit relies on more than 4,000 clothing bins across Canada to help fund research, advocacy and camps for diabetic kids.

All the Diabetes Canada bins are being retrofitted by the end of this week to eliminate “pinch points” where intruders can get stuck, they said. They encouraged Toronto to work with non-profits that use the boxes to develop a “textile diversion program,” like those in Markham and Newmarket, to regulate use of the boxes.

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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Hearing into whether ombudsman should examine Taverner appointment won’t be fast tracked, judge says


An Ontario Divisional court judge has ruled there’s no need for an expedited hearing that could force the ombudsman to investigate the appointment of a close friend of Premier Doug Ford to head the OPP.

Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel ruled Monday that there is no reason to jump the queue, though he wants the matter dealt with “in a timely manner.”

Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair, who served as interim OPP commissioner until going public with complaints about the Progressive Conservatives’ controversial hiring of Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner, wants ombudsman Paul Dubé to review the matter.

Public confidence is … essential in policing,” Blair’s lawyer, Julian Falconer, told the court, noting “political interference in the running of the OPP” should worry all Ontarians.

“This is not a personal attack on Mr. Taverner,” Falconer said of the long-time Ford friend.

Wilton-Siegel stressed that no evidence of that was before the court.

Blair filed an application to Divisional Court “to determine and enforce the jurisdiction” of hiring process on an “expedited” basis.

But Dubé has declined to investigate, insisting it is beyond his jurisdiction.

“The ombudsman has no standing whatsoever to keep someone from being appointed,” said Frank Cesario, the ombudsman’s lawyer.

“The ombudsman simply has the power to make a report,” said Cesario.

Falconer countered that “there is some irony that I am debating with counsel for the ombudsman whether the ombudsman can be effective — it’s weird.”

Integrity commissioner J. David Wake is conducting a probe into the hiring after a complaint by New Democrat MPP Kevin Yarde (Brampton North).

Wake is examining whether the premier breached the Member’s Integrity Act in the appointment of Taverner, 72, whose Toronto police command in the northwest corner of the city includes the Ford home base of Etobicoke.

Falconer argued that report would be ineffective because the legislature can ignore it.

Ford’s government appointed Taverner OPP commissioner on Nov. 29, triggering concerns about the independence of the force, which has investigated provincial governments in the past.

The 51-year police veteran asked his appointment be postponed during the integrity commissioner’s review. Taverner has returned to his previous Toronto police duties in the meantime.

Ford has insisted he did not push for his friend to be hired, but he has blasted Blair for complaining.

In December, the premier said it was “sour grapes” because the 32-year OPP veteran was a runner-up to Taverner.

“There is a lot of misinformation going out there,” said Ford, pointing to Blair’s nine-page letter to Dubé on Dec. 11.

“I get it that he’s upset that he didn’t win a fair process. I understand. Did he step over the line on a lot of things? I’m going to let the media decide that — and I wish you would look into that actually,” he said

In his letter, the OPP deputy commissioner alleged the premier’s chief of staff, Dean French, asked the force “to purchase a large camper-type vehicle … modified to specifications the premier’s office would provide us” and keep the $50,000 customization costs “off the books.”

On Dec. 18, Ford called that “a baseless claim without merit.”

“That’s just not accurate whatsoever. I asked if they had a used one,” he said.

The premier did not say why he needed the van or why his office allegedly wanted the costs of customizing the van kept hidden. He is currently driven around in a police SUV.

Blair served as interim commissioner after the retirement of commissioner Vince Hawkes last fall.

In the wake of his letter to Dubé he was replaced by Gary Couture.

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

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


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#MeToo won’t last if it isn’t fair


What is the future of #MeToo?

As we mothball 2018, the social movement remains a cultural force, one that has reshaped attitudes, fortified HR policies and placed bullhorns in the hands of sexual-abuse victims. Many men who once traipsed the corridors of power are now living ghosts, stripped of their careers and reputations, banished to purgatory.

In the last three months of 2017, as allegations of sexual misconduct gripped the news cycle almost daily, #MeToo was hailed as a seismic event, a watershed, a reckoning, a point from which there was no return.

Those last three months of 2017 felt like a mass exorcism.

We were purging demons.

By contrast, the movement is now a hot-air balloon in a pewter sky: it is moving slower and basked in grey. This is not necessarily bad. It might even be good. The speed of #MeToo in 2017 was unsustainable. But if the ultimate goal is to stop harassment and abuse, this year’s loss in momentum is a blessing in disguise: we can now exhale and poke holes into #MeToo to make it stronger.

The first problem, which emerged with allegations against comedian Aziz Ansari in January, is that we probably need to have a conversation about what constitutes mistreatment and what is just a bad date.

In the marketplace of human sexuality, what is a toxic hard sell and what is buyer’s remorse? What is transactional and what is stolen? Where do we draw the line between criminality and clumsy attempts at courtship?

Published on, the effort to put Ansari in the #MeToo rogue’s gallery came from a feature that recounted in graphic detail a pseudonymous 22-year-old’s date with the celebrity that “turned into the worst night of my life.”

But if you read the piece, waiting for the gotcha sins, you’re still waiting.

There was something about this story — the Atlantic would later dismiss it as “3,000 words of revenge porn” — that did not dovetail with the spirit and exhaustive reportage of so many 2017 investigations.

This seemed less like abuse and more like character assassination.

The same might be said of bizarre allegations against TVO’s Steve Paikin the following month. Former Toronto mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson claimed Paikin propositioned her during a lunch meeting. TVO launched a probe. The charge was “not substantiated.” In the words of Paikin, it was “complete fiction.”

Instead of lifting the #MeToo tide, the Ansari blip muddied the waters. But with Paikin we had tumbled into a treacherous riptide: the possibility an accuser was lying. And as the year rumbled on, this became a refrain from many who denied misconduct allegations while notably still championing #MeToo: David Copperfield, Michael Douglas, Ryan Seacrest, Jamie Foxx and others.

As James Franco told Stephen Colbert in response to allegations against him in January: “The things that I heard that were on Twitter are not accurate, but I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice because they didn’t have a voice for so long.”

Around the same time, 100 female writers, academics, producers and actors in France — including Catherine Deneuve — signed an open letter arguing that the movement was going too far and now posed a danger to society: “In fact, #MeToo has led to a campaign, in the press and on social media, of public accusations and indictments against individuals who, without being given a chance to respond or defend themselves, are put in the exact same category as sex offenders.”

The “pendulum effect,” discovered by Galileo more than 400 years ago, was underway in Europe. And the #MeToo backlash would build throughout the year, steamrolling to other corners of the world where, as the Washington Post recently noted, the movement “either fizzled or never took flight.”

But while the French letter was condemned in woke parts of North America, the cautionary subtext — the need for due process — became obvious in 2018. An internal investigation cleared Seacrest. An internal investigation doomed Les Moonves. An internal investigation is now underway over Neil deGrasse Tyson.

In all three cases — exoneration, guilt and to be determined — the lesson is clear: if #MeToo is to remain a powerful force it must navigate a bedrock of the West: innocent until proven guilty. To allow that principle to be inverted in the court of public opinion is to do grave injustice to actual victims of abuse.

Any lessening in the burden of proof will also worsen gender relations and create a chilling effect in workplaces if people begin to believe, as actor Liam Neeson told a late-night TV show in Ireland this year, #MeToo is “a bit of a witch hunt.”

Throughout 2018, there were stories of male managers confiding they no longer felt comfortable mentoring young females or even getting into elevators with them. This anxiety over being alone with a woman — something Chris Rock jokes about and Mike Pence lives by — is not an antidote to sexual misconduct.

It is an affront to true equality.

But this fear of being wrongly accused — which in part triggered the #HimToo movement this fall and unleashed a polarized debate around Brett Kavanaugh — became an inextricable part of #MeToo in 2018.

There can be no doubt the movement has changed the way we think. It has achieved more in 15 months than was accomplished this century. It is an undertaking that is long overdue. Sexual harassment and abuse is repugnant.

But if #MeToo is to charge full speed ahead next year it must also accept that not everything is black-and-white. Some points of no return are actually forks in the road. And, ultimately, there can be no justice without due process.

Vinay Menon is the Star’s pop culture columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @vinaymenon


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Toronto cop won’t stand trial for allegedly refusing to stop man’s suicide in High Park, top court rules


Toronto police Const. Kyle Upjohn will not face a trial for allegedly failing to help prevent a man’s suicide in High Park, the Court of Appeal ruled Thursday.

The unanimous decision from Ontario’s top court effectively puts a halt to the long-running criminal case in which Upjohn was accused of breach of trust for allegedly refusing to help when told a young man, later identified as 19-year-old Alexandre Boucher, was going to hang himself in the park in February 2016.

Toronto police Const. Kyle Upjohn, seen here in a Facebook photo, will not stand trial on breach of trust charges, the Court of Appeal ruled Thursday.
Toronto police Const. Kyle Upjohn, seen here in a Facebook photo, will not stand trial on breach of trust charges, the Court of Appeal ruled Thursday.  (Facebook/Ashley Upjohn)

Upjohn was on duty in a patrol car near the park’s entrance when a man, Sasa Vukobrat, came to him for assistance, saying another man was about to hang himself, according to the appeal ruling. (Vukobrat had been called by his wife, who saw what Boucher was doing.)

“The respondent (Upjohn) refused to assist, stating that he was already on a call. He told Mr. Vukobrat to phone 911,” reads the appeal decision, written by Justice Paul Rouleau, who was joined by Justices David Doherty and David Paciocco.

“Police records show that the respondent was in fact not on a call at that time. The respondent left the area after Mr. Vukobrat entered the park to find his spouse.”

The Crown had already withdrawn charges of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life laid by Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, leaving just the charge of breach of trust.

Upjohn was ordered to stand trial on that charge following a preliminary hearing in the Ontario Court of Justice, but that decision was quashed by a judge of the Superior Court of Justice. The Crown appealed to the Court of Appeal, hoping to have the charge reinstated, but the appeal was dismissed Thursday.

The top court concluded that there was no evidence to prove a key element of the breach of trust charge, namely that the officer “acted with the intention to use his public office for a purpose other than the public good, for example, for a dishonest, partial, corrupt, or oppressive purpose.”

What was required in this case, the Court of Appeal said, was “proof of an intention” other than just refusing to carry out his duty as a police officer.

“While I accept the (Crown’s) submission that an inference is available on this record that (Upjohn) intended to put his own comfort or needs before the good of the public, I do not agree that this constitutes an intention to use his public office for a purpose other than the public good,” Rouleau wrote.

“However egregious (Upjohn’s) conduct may have been and however seriously such conduct might tarnish the image of his police service and its members, no intent to use the public office for some improper purpose can be inferred from the record.”

Upjohn’s lawyer, Gary Clewley, did not immediately return the Star’s request for comment Thursday.

The Crown can still ask the Supreme Court of Canada for permission to appeal the Court of Appeal’s ruling, should it choose to do so.

Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering legal affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant


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