Friday, May 24, 2013

Gawker responds to Rob Ford denial of their drug report by noting he didn’t actually deny smoking crack cocaine

The U.S. website that first reported to have seen Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine in a video says the mayor’s statement Friday does nothing to address the issue, since he didn’t directly deny having done the drug in the past.
In an article headlined “Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Says He No Longer Smokes Crack Cocaine,” Gawker editor John Cook claims Ford’s statement was not “inconsistent with Rob Ford having been caught on tape smoking crack cocaine within the past six months.”
“The fact that Rob Ford says he does not currently use crack cocaine has no bearing on his past behavior. He did not say, as one who has never smoked crack cocaine might say, ‘I have never smoked crack cocaine,’” Cook wrote on Gawker shortly after Ford’s statement.
“He said he does not smoke crack cocaine, which is the sort of thing that someone who woke up this morning and decided to stop smoking crack cocaine might say, on the grounds that it’s not presently untrue.”

After eight days of silence, Ford finally spoke to the media Friday afternoon, delivering a carefully worded three-minute-and-45-second speech.
“I do not use crack cocaine nor am I an addict of crack cocaine,” Ford said. “As for a video, I can’t comment on a video I have never seen or does not exist.”
He blamed the accusations on longtime rival the Toronto Star, where two reporters said they saw also saw the video of the mayor smoking crack cocaine.
While the mayor did not take any questions, his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, took several questions from reporters, although he abruptly stopped when asked about Gawker’s role in the controversy. Instead he attacked the website’s attempt to crowdsource the purchase of the video.
“I think it is disgusting . . . That an organization like Gawker would go out there and deal with a bunch of extortionists, a bunch of Somali drug dealers,” he said. “I puts a real tarnish on a great community, the Somali community.”
Gawker’s own efforts to purchase the alleged tape to hit a snag Friday after Cook said his confidence in completing a deal to buy the video has “diminished” because the dealer who apparently has it has been incommunicado in recent days.
“The owner of the video is presumably frightened and skittish, and it’s not entirely unreasonable that he would go to ground,” Cook said.
“At this point, we have no idea why he is out of touch or if he even knows about the ’Crackstarter’ campaign.”
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris YoungToronto Mayor Rob Ford leaves city hall after making a statement to the media.
The crowdfunded ‘Crackstarter’ was attempting to raise $200,000 to buy the video. It has raised $166,000 with three days to go as of early Friday evening.
According to sources, the mayor fired his chief of staff Mark Towhey yesterday because he asked the mayor to go to rehab.
The mayor’s statement appears to have done little to quell the controversy at City Hall.
Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38 – Scarborough Centre) said the mayor did not tell the truth in his statement Friday and said Ford has to resign.
“You don’t have legitimacy to run this government anymore,” he said was his message to Ford. “His tenure is over. The mayor should resign and get some help for himself and his family.
“Take care of yourself. Take care of your family. But he is unable to govern the city anymore,” he said. “The statements he has made are so offensive on so many levels that his tenure as mayor is effectively over.”
Other councillors said Ford’s statement wasn’t enough and called for a “comprehensive” response. Ford did not take questions from reporters.
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Mayor Rob Ford video sellers have disappeared: Gawker

TORONTO - So where are the guys who are trying to sell the notorious alleged Mayor Rob Ford "crack smoking" video?

And where is the most sought-after video in Toronto history itself?

The guy trying to buy it for $200,000 would like to know.

As of right now they, as well as it, have disappeared.

"I haven't been in contact with them since last Tuesday," said Jon Cook of Gawker, who has a "Crackstarter" group collection drive going on line. "The guy who put me in touch with them has not heard from them since Sunday."

So where are they? In custody?

Or just lying low?

It seems while one set of strange circumstances is occurring with the mayor and the questionable way he's handling the crisis, at one end there is a whole other drama unfolding with the originators of the story.

"My feeling is they are frightened and concerned for their own security," said Cook. "There has been an intense amount of scrutiny. I think they are scared and in hiding."

He hopes the $200,000 will smoke them out.

Cook says with the clock ticking on more than just the survival of Ford, he needs to locate them if he is going to be able to purchase the video and post on his site for all to see.

Having raised $155,000 online, with the deadline for $200,000 coming Monday, he is preparing to legally make the transaction.

Toronto Police have said they are monitoring the situation. Some feel if laws are broken, they could seize the video.

In order for the deal to take place, Gawker must raise the full $200,000 before any money comes out of donor's accounts. If it is less, it means the fundraising deal is dead.

Gawker has said if they reach the $200,000 target but can't complete the deal with the drug dealers peddling the video, then the money raised would go to a Canadian non-profit that works on substance abuse issues.

Cook is hoping, however, he will find them first.

"I want them to be aware that $200,000 is within their grasp," he said. "I hope they know."

On the Gawker collection page it states the owners of the video "told him that they will not feel safe in the city after the video comes out" since "Ford is a powerful man, with powerful friends, and these are young kids who fear a possible frame-up from Toronto cops or worse. The money they are asking for will, they say, cover their departure from Toronto to get set up in another city where they will feel safer."

But what if they don't make contact in time?

"If we reach the goal I don't want to sit on this money for too long," said Cook.

In other words, this money could end up going to charity and the video would not surface at this time.

However, he acknowledges, having lost contact "could slow the collection down."

"If you are considering contributing, you should be aware that our confidence that we can get a deal done has ... diminished since we came up with this idea," Gawker states on its website.

"So: Proceed with caution. We will update you just as soon as we have any further information on how this might play out. Don't smoke crack."

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‘I do not use crack cocaine’: Rob Ford breaks silence to deny drug report

Breaking an extended silence, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has denied allegations he smokes crack cocaine or has a drug problem.
“I do not use crack cocaine nor am I an addict of crack cocaine,” Ford said in a statement Friday afternoon. “As for a video, I can’t comment on a video I have never seen or does not exist.”
Ford, sporting a new haircut and appearing relaxed, made the statement to reporters inside a packed room at City Hall. The mayor said he stayed quiet for the past week on the advice of his lawyer.
“It is most unfortunate, very unfortunate, that my colleagues and the great people of this city have been exposed to the fact that I’ve been judged by the media without any evidence,” Ford said.
“This past week has not been an easy one. It has taken a great toll on my family and my friends and the great people of Toronto.”
Ford delivered the statement an hour after his executive committee wrote a letter urging the mayor to address the allegations publicly.
Last week, U.S. website Gawker and the Toronto Star published stories saying journalists from both outlets had viewed a video that appeared to show the mayor smoking crack cocaine.
Ford’s presence in the video has not been independently verified.
Despite the mayor’s denials, City Hall watchers and Gawker, which first broke the story, immediately seized on Ford not ruling out having used the drug in the past.
ScreengrabA screenshot of Gawker's report about a video that allegedly shows Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine.

The mayor’s statement also appeared to put him at odds with his former chief of staff who was fired Wednesday night after sources claimed he urged Ford to “go away and get help for his problem.”
The mayor responded by telling Mark Towhey he “might as well just leave,” according to the source, and officially fired him in person the next day.
The source suspects the problem is alcohol-related. The mayor had denied a report in March that suggested he has a problem with alcohol as an “outright lie.”
But in a story headlined “Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Says He No Longer Smokes Crack Cocaine” posted soon after Ford spoke, Gawker editor John Cook claimed Ford’s statement was not “inconsistent with Rob Ford having been caught on tape smoking crack cocaine within the past six months.”
Cook also noted Ford never said he hadn’t ever smoked crack cocaine.
“He did not say, as one who has never smoked crack cocaine might say, ‘I have never smoked crack cocaine,’” Cook writes.
“He said he does not smoke crack cocaine, which is the sort of thing that someone who woke up this morning and decided to stop smoking crack cocaine might say, on the grounds that it’s not presently untrue.”
Tyler Anderson/National Post
Tyler Anderson/National PostRob Ford passes his brother councillor Doug Ford as he leaves a media conference Friday.
While the mayor did not take any questions, his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, blamed the entire controversy on “one news source” — the Toronto Star — in a testy statement after his brother’s.
“There is one news organization that accused and has an accusation of a video that does not exist, or we haven’t seen, very simple,” he said, as reporters pointed out that two news organizations have made the allegations.
Doug Ford then took several questions from reporters, although he abruptly stopped taking questions when asked about Gawker. Instead he attacked the website’s attempt to crowdsource the purchase of the video.
“I think it is disgusting . . . That an organization like Gawker would go out there and deal with a bunch of extortionists, a bunch of Somali drug dealers,” he said. “I puts a real tarnish on a great community, the Somali community.”
Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38 – Scarborough Centre) said the mayor lied throughout his statement Friday and said Ford has to resign.
“You don’t have legitimacy to run this government anymore,” he said was his message to Ford. “His tenure is over. The mayor should resign and get some help for himself and his family.
“Take care of yourself. Take care of your family. But he is unable to govern the city anymore,” he said. “The statements he has made are so offensive on so many levels that his tenure as mayor is effectively over.”
Mayor Ford thanked Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday for his support. He also thanked Towhey for his service “and all the work that he has done.”
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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Why hasn’t mayor sued the Star?

The most puzzling thing about the video purporting to show Rob Ford smoking crack and the Toronto Star’s coverage thereof is Ford’s apparent reticence in suing the Star for defamation. The Star coverage has Ford cavorting with criminals and smoking crack. It’s hard to imagine a more serious defamation of our law and order mayor.

Suing the Star should be an easy task. If sued, the Star would have the onus of establishing one of two defences: truth or responsible communication. Truth would be a tough defence to pursue without the video and a thorough forensic analysis of it. While the Star might get its hands on the video in the future, it currently doesn’t have the video and can’t establish its authenticity. It’s doubtful anybody would be willing to testify under oath they supplied drugs to Ford or were present when Ford smoked crack.

For now, that leaves the Star with the responsible communication defence. Responsible communication is a relatively new defamation defence, made available in 2009 courtesy of 2 Supreme Court of Canada decisions, one of which coincidentally was a defamation lawsuit against the Star. The responsible communication defence is available when reporting on items of public interest, something about which the public has some substantial concern. Clearly any report on the mayor of Toronto engaged in criminal activity is a matter of very substantial public concern.

However before applying the responsible communication defence the court will review a list of factors to determine if the defendant acted responsibly. Given the seriousness of the allegations made against Ford the required level of diligence necessary to verify the allegations and show responsible communication would be significant. Viewing a video without taking any steps to authenticate the video or its source would likely fail to achieve the required level of diligence.

The court will also examine the urgency of the matter and ask whether a delay in publication could have assisted a search for the truth or whether the public’s need to know required the early publication. Clearly there was no urgency to publish. The fact that a foreign website had broken the story doesn’t justify the Star’s rush to publish.

Next, the court will examine the status and reliability of the sources. Here again the Star would lose out as its sources could hardly be deemed trustworthy, in addition to their anonymous status.

One of the most important factors in the use of the responsible communication defence is whether comment was sought on a timely basis and adequately reported. Again the Star falls short as no effort was made to obtain comment until the evening prior to publication. On the other hand, the Star did report Ford’s response quickly and prominently as soon as the response had been made.

Another significant factor is the language used and whether the Star reported the defamatory statements, not to establish their truth, but rather to report merely on the controversy of the existence of the video. Here again the Star falls short. True, the reports are replete with cleverly worded disclaimers. For example the Star reports that the video “appears” to show Ford smoking crack and the Star “was not able to verify” claims made by its source concerning the supply of drugs to Ford. But notwithstanding the clever use of disclaimers the overall tone of the coverage is clear: Ford was observed smoking crack.

Then there’s the matter of malice. Responsible communication will fail as a defence if the defendant has acted with malice. Certainly there’s enough bad blood on both sides for this to be a lively argument.

The Star has taken a calculated risk in rushing to publish and it seems the Star’s defences would fail and Ford should win. So why hasn’t he sued? The answer likely lies in the fact that as between Ford and the Star, only Ford knows if he has smoked crack and if there might be an authentic video. If he sues and the video surfaces and is authenticated, he’d lose and be stuck with a fortune in legal fees. But if the video is a fake Ford should win a large award.

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‘You can’t profit from criminal activity’: Bid to buy alleged Rob Ford crack video could end in cash seizure

The so-called “Crackstarter” crowd-funding campaign raising money to buy the video allegedly showing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine is nearing its $200,000 goal, but the U.S. website will almost certainly face scrutiny when making the purchase from men involved in the city’s drug trade.
The campaign on Indiegogo launched by New York-based gossip site Gawker had raised more than $120,000 by Wednesday evening, with five days remaining for contributions.
John Cook, a Gawker editor who broke the story about the video, has said men involved in the city’s drug trade will turn it over for $200,000.
Mr. Ford has called the allegations “ridiculous,” but has refused any further comment.
There are going to be some red flags
However, even if the campaign does raise enough to meet the hefty price tag, an electronic transaction that large between Canada and the United States will likely get flagged to both countries’ financial regulatory bodies, said Christine Duhaime, a B.C. lawyer with a specialized anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing practice.
Electronic cross-border transactions over $10,000 must be declared, she said.
“Anyone is going to be concerned at any regulatory agency and any police force is going to be concerned with a company coming out and saying they’re raising money to buy something from a drug dealer.… There are going to be some red flags. I don’t really know how much this is going to be monitored, other than the fact that somebody is going to monitor the payment from Gawker fairly closely, because people have come out and said it is drug dealers [involved].”
The purchase of the video itself isn’t illegal, but if the recipient — the details of which must be known for wire transfers and other electronic transactions — is a known criminal and shows up on a list of suspects or suspicious individuals, it will be reported to FINTRAC in Canada or FINCEN in the U.S., she said.
“Assuming it’s a legitimate video and it’s legally taken, that’s not a problem,” she said. “Except that it’s going to a known drug dealer. Paying to a known drug dealer for a legitimate sale is problematic in and of itself, because the vendor [is] of questionable character and there are questionable activities.”
Gawker and two reporters from the Toronto Star have said they have seen the video in question, but the National Post has not viewed the footage and cannot verify its authenticity.
But Garry Clement, the chief of anti-money laundering consultancy Clement Advisory Group and the former director of the RCMP’s proceeds of crime program, says if the person who recorded the video also provided the alleged drugs and then sold the footage for profit, then both the payment and the video could be seized.
“You can’t profit from criminal activity. … [U.S. authorities] would be in a good position to go in for forfeiture of the money,” he said.
If the person who filmed the alleged footage just happened to be at the party, these laws likely don’t apply, Mr. Clement added.
However, these particular risks lay with the seller of the video and the recipient of the cash, not Gawker, he said.
Still, a transaction over $10,000 — whether from bank to bank, or wire transfer — will catch the attention of the authorities.
Under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, records must be kept for transactions over that threshold, said FINTRAC spokesman Peter Lamey.
The law over 10 years has tried to remove the anonymity and clandestine transactions and the ability to conduct them
“The law over 10 years has tried to remove the anonymity and clandestine transactions and the ability to conduct them,” he said. “So, if you’re carrying out transfers and transactions, there’s a paper trail at the financial institutions. If you’re moving across the border, that generates a paper trail as well.”
The transaction, if flagged, would still go through but the organization would look at it closely after the fact, he said.
“If someone is involved in criminal activity and has suspicious transactions already associated with them, or ongoing investigations… That would be a good starting point for looking at transactions in terms of looking at transactions of interest to police.”
That is, assuming that the exchange is made electronically.
It is possible that the money could be brought across the border in cash or pre-loaded VISA cards in sums below the $10,000 threshold.
This activity, called “structuring” of a transaction, isn’t illegal but is a signal of other criminal activities.
“Structuring is considered a money-laundering technique, it’s not a criminal activity. But it’s an indicator to a bank or a casino or a credit union that you’re dealing with something that may be linked to money laundering.”
National Post
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Friday, May 17, 2013

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in 'crack cocaine' video scandal

A cellphone video that appears to show Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine is being shopped around Toronto by a group of Somali men involved in the drug trade.

Two Toronto Star reporters have viewed the video three times. It appears to show Ford in a room, sitting in a chair, wearing a white shirt, top buttons open, inhaling from what appears to be a glass crack pipe. Ford is incoherent, trading jibes with an off-camera speaker who goads the clearly impaired mayor by raising topics including Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the Don Bosco high school football team Ford coaches.

“I’m f---ing right-wing,” Ford appears to mutter at one point. “Everyone expects me to be right-wing. I’m just supposed to be this great.…” and his voice trails off. At another point he is heard calling Trudeau a “fag.” Later in the 90-second video he is asked about the football team and he appears to say (though he is mumbling), “they are just f---ing minorities.”
Photos View gallery

    This photo shows Toronto Mayor Rob Ford with a man who, according to a source, is fatal gunshot victim Anthony Smith. The photo was given to the Toronto Star by the same person who later showed Star reporters a video in which Ford appears to be smoking crack cocaine. zoom

The Star had no way to verify the authenticity of the video, which appears to clearly show Ford in a well-lit room. The Star was told the video was shot during the past winter at a house south of Dixon Rd. and Kipling Avenue. What follows is an account based on what both reporters viewed on the video screen. Attempts to reach the mayor and members of his staff to get comment on this story were unsuccessful.

A lawyer retained by Ford, Dennis Morris, said that Thursday evening’s publication by the U.S.-based Gawker website of some details related to the video was “false and defamatory.” Morris told the Star that by viewing any video it is impossible to tell what a person is doing. “How can you indicate what the person is actually doing or smoking?” Morris said.

How can you indicate what the person is actually doing or smoking?

Ford's lawyer


WATCH: What we saw in the Rob Ford 'crack cocaine' scandal video

Rob Ford must respond to crack scandal, councillor says

Ford’s chief of staff, Mark Towhey, would not listen to questions by the Star on Thursday night and abruptly hung up when the Star called.

The video was taken on a smartphone by a person who said he has supplied crack cocaine to the mayor.

Throughout the video Ford’s eyes are half-closed. He lolls back in his chair, sometimes waving his arms around erratically. He raises a lighter in his hand at several points and moves it in a circle motion beneath the glass bowl of the pipe, then inhales deeply.

The Star reporters (Donovan and Doolittle) were shown the video on the evening of Friday, May 3, in the back of a car parked in an apartment complex at Dixon Rd. near Kipling Ave. in the north end of Etobicoke. The reporters were allowed to watch and listen to the video three times. After, both reporters separately made written notes of what they saw and heard. Both reporters, prior to watching the video, studied numerous city-hall-related videos of Ford and, to the best of the reporter’s abilities, they separately concluded the man in the video was Ford.

In the video, what appears to be afternoon sunlight is streaming through partially closed window blinds, lighting Ford’s face. The video ends with the ringing of a cellphone (it is not clear if it is the cellphone that is being used to video the scene). The ring tone, which is a song, startles the mayor, whose slitted eyes open a bit, and he is heard to say, “That phone better not be on.”

The Star was approached with an offer to purchase the video shortly after the Star’s story on Ford’s removal from the Garrison Ball due to apparent intoxication of some sort. The story, published March 26 of this year, described a concern by unnamed associates and staffers at city hall that Ford had a substance abuse problem. Ford dismissed the Star story, called the Star “pathological liars” and invited the newspaper to sue him. Garrison Ball attendees interviewed by the Star did not say they smelled alcohol. One said, “He seemed either drunk, high or had a medical condition.”

After the story was published the Star was contacted by two separate people who purported to have information on Ford abusing crack cocaine.

One person, who described himself as an organizer in the Somali community, told the Star he had copies of a video that, he said, showed Ford smoking crack. This man was acting as a sort of broker for the person who had shot the video. What followed was a protracted discussion between the man and Star reporters. The broker said he represented two Somali men who had supplied crack cocaine to the mayor in the Dixon Rd. area. The Star was not able to verify those claims.

The man said his two associates (one had been present when the video was made and had done the filming) wanted “six figures for the video.” At another point he said they had originally wanted $1 million, but he had convinced them to lower the price. Asked why they were selling the video, the man said the two who claimed ownership of the video wanted to make a change in their lives and use the money to move out west to Calgary.

The Star did not pay money and did not obtain a copy of the video.

Initially, the Somali man who contacted the Star said he had information about “a Toronto politician.” When the Star met him the first time, he showed a photo of Ford dressed in sweatpants, standing in the driveway of a brick house with three other men. The one on the left in the picture had apparently been killed the previous week on King St. near the Loki Lounge. The man, with his strong forehead and distinctive jaw line, looked like Anthony Smith, 21, who indeed had been killed recently.

Over the last month the Star has had several meetings with the man who was acting as a broker, culminating with the May 3 meeting at the Dixon Rd. apartment complex.

The reporters had told the man that they wanted to see the video. A meeting was arranged. First, the reporters were told to drive to the parking lot of an Etobicoke strip mall. They were told to leave their bags and cellphones in their own cars and get in his. The drive lasted less than five minutes. They pulled into the parking lot of the Dixon Rd. highrise complex.

The man got out of his car and returned with his associate.

The associate, also Somali, was a man in his early to mid-20s. He looked nervous and was shaking slightly. He had thick scabs on his arm.

He pulled out an iPhone — he would not let the reporters hold it. At first he wouldn’t let the sound play, but then relented.

In a video clip less than two minutes long, an incoherent and rambling Mayor Rob Ford can clearly be seen smoking what appears to be crack cocaine.

He is sitting on a chair holding a glass pipe with a blackened top and a lighter. Ford is the only person on the video, but there are at least two other people in the room — one, a man who said he is his dealer, secretly recording him, and another, an anonymous voice asking him questions.

The footage begins with the mayor mumbling. His eyes are half-closed. He waves his arms around erratically. A man’s voice tells him he should be coaching football because that’s what he’s good at.

Ford agrees and nods his head, bobbing on his chair.

He says something like “Yeah, I take these kids . . . minorities” but soon he rambles off again.

Ford says something like: “Everyone expects me to be right-wing, I’m . . .” and again he trails off.

At one point he raises the lighter and moves it in a circle motion beneath the pipe, inhaling deeply.

Next, the voice raises the name of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. The man says he can’t stand him and that he wants to shove his foot up the young leader’s “ass so far it comes out the other end.”

Ford nods and bobs on his chair and appears to say, “Justin Trudeau’s a fag.”

The man taping the mayor keeps the video trained on him. Then the phone rings. Ford looks at the camera and says something like “that better not be on.”

The phone shuts off.

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Toronto home sales slump 10 per cent in mid-May, but prices continue to climb

House sales were down almost 10 per cent in the first half of May, but prices climbed by one of their highest levels in months — a 5.4 per cent gain driven largely by sales of detached homes.
But even condos more than held their own. While sales were down 13 per cent across the GTA, and the inventory of units for sale remains above historic norms, prices were up 1.1 per cent overall across the GTA — 2.1 per cent in the city.
Sales of all housing types took the biggest tumble in the City of Toronto where they slumped by 11.4 per cent year over year, fuelled largely by a 21.3 per cent drop in townhouse sales and a 13.6 per cent in condo sales, according to mid-May sales and price figures released Thursday by the Toronto Real Estate Board.

The 905 regions saw an 8.6 per cent decline in sales over mid-May of last year, thanks largely to an 11.6 per cent slump in condo sales and 9.6 per cent decline in the sale of townhomes.
But despite the lower sales numbers, the average transaction price during the first two weeks of May was $543,838, a 5.4 per cent increase over the same period last year and one of the biggest price gains seen in the last few months.
A 2.1 per cent increase in resale condo prices in the City of Toronto saw the average condo sale hit $377,341 in mid-May, according to the TREB figures. In the 905, prices dropped by 1.4 per cent, bringing the average unit sale price to $285,851.
The sale of detached homes declined by 7.5 per cent across the GTA, with a drop of 6.7 per cent recorded in the City of Toronto and 7.8 per cent in the 905 regions.
Average sale prices jumped 5.6 per cent for detached homes across the GTA, with the biggest price hikes in the 905 regions (up 7.5 per cent to an average price of $615,563) followed by more modest increases in the 416 region (up two per cent to $855,334) where the inventory of homes for sale remains tight.
Semi-detached house sales were down 7 per cent across the GTA, with the decline slightly bigger in the 905 regions than the 416. But prices were up 5.5 per cent in the city, to an average $630,984, and 3.2 per cent in the 905 regions to $414,835.
New listings were up three per cent, year over year, said Jason Mercer, senior analyst for TREB, who pointed to Toronto’s land transfer tax, and relatively higher house prices, for the fact sales have been slumping more in the city than the suburbs the last few months.
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Never do a Liberal a favour

TORONTO - So that’s the thanks a guy gets for turning around the mess called the OLG?

“I was fired,” Paul Godfrey said with a grin Thursday night after being dismissed by Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Finance Minister Charles Sousa.

And he wasn’t just fired but there was an attempt to embarrass him.

Word of this shiv in his back came out through anonymous sources Monday in a story in the Globe and Mail.

“All she had to do was make a phone call and say you are not my guy,” Godfrey said. “That’s her prerogative as premier.”

Instead, he was hung out to dry like a nameless, faceless, powerless pawn.

It should be noted that he had the opportunity when that story came out to put the boots back on her but decided, in the interest of the team he has assembled at the OLG, to take the high road.

But I did take note of that grin at his news conference.

I read it as this was all the premier’s folly and this was probably the wrong guy to do this to.

If it was a hockey cheap shot, the person bleeding on the ice normally looks up long enough to memorize the number on the back of the dirty player.

Never leave a scar on the face of an opponent unless you want one, too, is the general rule of thumb.

From a purely economic point of view, only in Ontario would the premier fire the guy who helped bring billions of dollars of revenue into the coffers and protect those who let billions disappear into thin air, never to be seen again.

And that’s exactly what happened.

There wasn’t as much swift public action to deal with the failed leadership in the e-health, Caledonia, Ornge or gas plant scandals.

It’s just tough politics.

Whoever replaces him — and right now cabinet secretary Peter Wallace has the job — they won’t be inheriting the disaster Godfrey did.

After all, the legendary media executive was brought in to clean up the disaster that was Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. which was rocked with scandal after scandal.

There were rigged games, stolen winnings and mostly a failing business.

Integrity was not a word being used around there.

Liberal finance minister Dwight Duncan reached across the bench and brought back into public life a famous conservative businessman to help fix things.

And he did.

He brought in CEO Rod Phillips and with a new board, in concert with existing stellar staff, they modernized the place.

The result was the OLG generated its highest consolidated gross gaming revenue ever in 2011 at $6.692 billion which meant a high spending government was handed $2.068 billion — an increase of $193 million or 10% over the year previous.

Wrongs were righted, winners that had their tickets stolen were found.

Integrity restored.

And then the government asked Godfrey and team to fix the gaming side of things.

With the border casinos no longer prosperous they wanted a location in Toronto and who better to steer that ship into port than Captain Toronto.

He understood being in downtown Toronto was the only way to get an “iconic” building, a massive convention centre and millions of tourist dollars.

He also understood for it to be in Toronto, the share to the city had to be in the $100 million range annually.

So did Duncan.

But somehow Wynne does not want gaming in downtown Toronto but won’t cancel it anywhere else.

Still a cynic could conclude this is really all about Larry Tanenbaum and his downtown business group lost in the casino sweep stakes and Liberal stalwart Greg Sorbara and his Vaughan or Markham crowd has possibly won.

And with that settled the premier, it seems, has decided to make Godfrey her fall guy.

The problem for her is the political ball keeps on bouncing and it’s a long game.

Either way, one thing for sure is Godfrey has learned to never do a favour for a Liberal again.
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Thursday, May 16, 2013

The gun pipeline: Kesean Williams’ mother shares her never-before-told story of his unsolved murder

Nine-year-old Kesean Williams loved cheetahs so much he decided he would dedicate a school project to them.

On the drive to school, the day before he was to present to his fourth-grade class, the little boy, usually a ham, was excited but also nervous.

His mother, Tanya Garvey, offered him some advice about speaking in front of crowds. “You just look people in the eyes,” she said. The wisdom seemed to ease him.

That night, Wednesday, Jan. 23, mom and son went to a friend’s house to borrow a printer, so they could print off cheetah pictures for a poster to go with the cue cards Kesean had painstakingly written out by hand.
Photos View gallery

    “He had the most beautiful eyes,” Tanya Garvey says of Kesean. zoom
    "Love you, Mom" were Kesean Williams' last words to his mother, Tanya Garvey. zoom
    After his death, friends shared photos of 9-year-old Kesean Williams on Instagram. zoom

The machine was temperamental and ran out of ink, and Garvey had to pick up her eldest son, who was playing basketball at the YMCA. She decided to drop both boys at the Brampton townhouse they’d moved into just three days earlier and return to finish the printing job herself.

“Love you, Mom,” Kesean said as Garvey headed back out the door.

A short time later, around 10:30 p.m., a bullet tore through the family’s living-room window, striking Kesean in the head while he watched TV.

Over the past several weeks, a Toronto Star investigation has taken you along the gun pipeline, revealing how easy it is to buy a pistol in the U.S. from states with lax guns laws, to the border where most guns get across, and then into the GTA, where criminals — and even kids — buy, rent and steal the deadly weapons.

This is where the pipeline ends: a child, killed. A mother’s irreparable heartbreak.

Because her grief makes it too difficult to return to work right now, and because she doesn’t have benefits, like paid leave, Garvey, the kind of mom who saved up to buy a Jeep just so she could fit her boys’ bikes in the back to take them to the beach, has lost a home. She is struggling while trying to support her teenage son.

On that night, Garvey returned home from the house with the printer. She pulled into the complex on Ardglen Dr. and saw the flashing lights. Her 15-year-old son, Kajan, was “freaking out” in the back of a squad car.

Kajan, a quiet, respectful kid (“sometimes a little mouthy at school,” notes his mom with a smile) had found his younger brother, his “main man,” not breathing, and began performing CPR, a skill he had learned while working toward his volunteer hours at the YMCA.

The teen’s furious pumping brought his sibling back to life.

When Garvey arrived on the scene, an ambulance had already peeled off en route to the Hospital for Sick Children.

Tanya Garvey moved her boys to Brampton in the summer of last year, looking for a fresh start. Before that, Garvey lived in the same Hamilton apartment for 13 years.

One of the reasons for the move: Kesean’s biological father lives in Brampton, so Garvey thought it a good opportunity for them to forge a closer relationship.

For the first five months, the family lived in a different apartment, just around the corner from Ardglen Dr. Garvey decided to move to the townhouse because it was a little roomier and a little cheaper, giving her a few extra hundred dollars spending money a month. To buy her sons a new pair of sneakers or take them to the beach.

Garvey, who has round cheeks and big round eyes just like both her boys, had worked with people with intellectual disabilities for the past six years, with Community Living, a non-profit provincial agency. On the night shifts she took care of severely disabled children, feeding and comforting them. On the day shift, she often looked after adults, when parents needed a reprieve from the demands of taking care of a grown child with Down syndrome, for example. She talks admiringly of mothers and fathers, 70 or 80 years old, still so devoted to their kids.

The Toronto native is outgoing and gregarious, qualities that periodically poke through in the moments between her grief, like when she jokes about how her boys, fiercely protective, stared down every man that came within five feet of her. There’s also the story about the time she was kicked out of Kesean’s basketball game for arguing a referee’s call.

Mostly, though, she cries nearly every time she talks about Kesean.

On a recent Saturday, she mustered up the courage to attend a community event in the schoolyard of Kesean’s school, Sir Winston Churchill. The purpose of the day was to stand up against violence, and Garvey set out to do everything her son would have done: she toured the neighbourhood fire truck, shot hoops and painted Kesean’s favourite symbol, a peace sign, on a half-dozen murals that will hang in his school corridor.

It lifted her spirits, though she was exhausted afterwards.

Kesean was a kid so passionate about sports he refused to wear boots in winter because their clunkiness hindered his ability to kick the soccer ball or sprint down a basketball court. Coaches have talked of his lightning, catlike speed, not unlike a cheetah, the world’s fastest land animal.

At Winston Churchill, Kesean found a core group of friends. Initially, the boy’s teacher told Garvey she was worried her son might be keeping company with some of the more troublesome kids in class. “I’m not worried, my son is a good boy,” Garvey replied. As it turned out, it was Kesean, a “little superman,” as family friend Robert Junor describes him, who acted as a compass for the others, keeping them so wrapped up in sports none of the boys had time to stir up trouble.

“He was an angel,” says his mom.

Kesean worshipped his older brother, Kajan, who attended Cardinal Leger high school, where he landed a spot on the basketball team, a sport he practiced nearly every day at the YMCA.

“Can’t believe they took my sweet sweet Kesean from me I want you here,” Kajan tweeted after his brother’s death.

“I feel like they shot me not even my bro my bro just gone.”

Before January 23, the family was doing well. “Things weren’t perfect,” says Garvey. But they were good.

Peel police didn’t immediately take Garvey and Kajan to the hospital to see Kesean that night. They took them, in separate cars, to nearby 22 Division, where Garvey says she waited in a hallway for 45 minutes while her eldest child, in his pyjamas, without socks or shoes on the -12 C night and covered in his brother’s blood, was questioned.

Garvey remembers throwing a fit in the station’s hallway, threatening to call every news organization in the city. After that, police rushed the pair to SickKids, where family, including Kajan’s biological father — who Kesean called dad as well — was racing to the city from Hamilton.

At one point during the investigation, an officer implied that Kajan may have shot through the window himself and then run back inside the house, she says angrily, noting she understands questions have to be asked but not the manner in which they were asked. There were questions about whether Kajan was involved in gang activity, she adds.

“They treated us like we were criminals,” she says of Peel police.

Insp. George Koekkoek of the Peel police homicide unit said he couldn’t comment on questions asked by investigators because the investigation is ongoing. He said police have “no indication” Kajan was involved.

Koekkoek’s understanding of what happened after the shooting was that Kajan was initially taken to the division because he was home alone and officers brought Garvey shortly after with the purpose of reuniting the pair.

“It was a very chaotic scene as you can well imagine. And once we got Kajan and his mother reunited back at the division it was shortly thereafter that they were taken together down to SickKids,” he said.

The case remains unsolved. Some area residents said they believed the previous tenant was a suspected drug dealer, one lead police are probing.

The gun has not been found.

At the hospital, Garvey and Kajan got to say goodbye.

Kesean was still breathing, still warm when she touched him.

She felt his cheeks, held him close and kissed his face again and again.

She could see the looks on the doctors’ faces. “I knew it was the last time I was going to see him,” says Garvey. Kesean died soon after, in surgery.

“He waited for me,” she says, tears streaming down her face. “He waited to say goodbye to me.”

Garvey doesn’t remember much of the weeks that followed her son’s death, though she tells one story, of when she and Kajan needed some time alone and headed to Tim Hortons for a hot chocolate. On the front page of the papers, they saw Kesean’s smiling face. She broke down.

Hundreds of people attended the standing-room only funeral, including all the tenants from their Hamilton apartment building.

An aunt on Kesean’s father’s side, whom Garvey had never met, came to her home and handed her an envelope with money inside.

“You bury him however you wish,” the aunt told her. Garvey did, purchasing a spot in a mausoleum in Burlington, right by the lake that reflects the sun. Kesean loved the water, so the place is fitting. When she can afford it, she will put his picture on his plaque.

“He had the most beautiful eyes,” she says.

Every Sunday, she visits him, decorating the plaque with things like handwritten notes from classmates.

Garvey has introduced herself to the other children laid to rest nearby — a 3-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy, a car accident victim.

“Kesean is just over there,” she told the other children.

From the darkness, brighter moments have come.

There have been memorials at Kesean’s school and scholarships set up in Kesean’s name, all things that give Garvey strength. The principal of Kesean’s school, Kristin Bergen, arranged for Kajan to be flown to Disney World for a day on May 8, in memory of his brother, as part of a program called Dreams Take Flight.

On May 25, at Brampton’s David Suzuki Secondary School, Peel board trustee David Green will host a breakfast in memory of Kesean, with proceeds going toward a scholarship for a student at Sir Winston Churchill. The remainder will support Kajan’s education over the coming years. It’s being administered by the Free for All youth foundation.

But there’s also palpable loneliness and a sense of complete loss of control.

After Kesean’s death, Garvey spent a week in a Brampton motel before moving in with a friend with young children. While the support is appreciated, it’s hard to wake up amidst the youngsters knowing her own child isn’t coming back.

Garvey loves her job and would like to go back to work when she’s ready. But while she was working full-time hours with Community Living, she was technically a part-time worker, so she doesn’t receive benefits that would cover paid leave.

Victim Services was not helpful.

She was told she doesn’t qualify for subsidized “emergency housing” in Peel and is now trying to avoid moving to a complex in Mississauga she likens to a shelter that is much farther away from Kajan’s new school, where she drops him off and picks him up each day. Her son, who was moved to an alternative school after the shooting, away from his friends and his basketball team, doesn’t want to move there either.

“I don’t want my son to be angry,” she says of how she now has to be extra vigilant, to make sure her teenager keeps on the straight path he was on before “some idiot with a gun” shot his brother.

She’s never needed to apply for social assistance and doesn’t want to. She has always been able to manage on her own, and perhaps because of that, the idea of accepting help is hard. That she has to think of so many practical, logistical factors compounds the stress.

“This has been the most devastating heartbreak . . .” she says, her voice trembling. “I don’t know how to explain it in words because all I know is that I feel pain, pain that won’t go away. I see the sun and Kesean’s not there to enjoy it.”

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bicycle helmet laws don't prevent injurues: U of T study

TORONTO - Mandatory bicycle helmet laws don’t reduce head injuries, says a study from the University of Toronto.

“In the context of provincial and municipal safety campaigns, improvements to the cycling infrastructure, and the passive uptake of helmets, the incremental benefit of provincial helmet legislation to reduce admissions to hospital for head injuries is substantially uncertain,” the report said. “When baseline trends in cycling related injury rates were considered, the overall rates of head injuries were not appreciably altered by helmet legislation.”

Cycling-related injuries across Canada accounted for 66,716 hospital admissions, between 1994 and 2008.

Cyclists are twice as likely a car occupants to be killed per person trip and 10 times more likely to be injured per kilometer travelled.

“Reductions in the rates of admissions to hospital for cycling-related head injuries were greater in provinces with helmet legislation, but injury rates were already decreasing before the implementation of legislation and the rate of decline was not appreciably altered on introduction of legislation,” the study concluded.

Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto, agreed with the report’s findings.

“The study suggests that there is no evidence that helmet laws reduce head injuries and that is not inconsistent with our views, although we do promote wearing helmets. Helmet laws are not the way to go,” Kolb said.

“There are safety in numbers. The more cyclists you have on the road reduces fatalities and makes the cyclist feel safe. Cyclists need to have adequate space and speed limits (for cars) need to be reduced. We are pleased the (city’s) executive committee is looking at a one metre passing rule (for cars).”

Klaus Mader, with Cycle Solutions bike shop in Cabbagetown, countered that he believes mandatory helmet laws do reduce head injuries.

“Helmets help reduce injuries ... It is a no-brainer. Just do the math. I always ride with a helmet, but a lot of people still don’t ride with a helmet. I even see kids without a helmet and their parents aren’t paying attention,” Mader said.
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Guns being rented, shared on Toronto’s streets

Toronto police officer Rob North saw the robbery suspect standing in the middle of Rankin Cres., feeding a shell into a single-barrel shotgun.

North, responding to a report of a Beer Store holdup, stopped his squad car on an angle, thinking he could get out and behind it for cover.

The suspect, Jeron Powell, saw North getting out of his cruiser about 30 metres up the road, and swung the gun up, hip-level.

“When he raised it, I knew right away that this wasn’t good,” North recalled.
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Hours earlier, Powell had rented the 12-gauge, sawed-off shotgun for $200 and a day’s work from a man in an Etobicoke housing project.

North heard a zip as something cut the air and hit his forehead. He touched his hand above his left eye and looked at the blood on his hand.

North remembers thinking: “Holy sh-t. I’m shot.”

On that January evening in 2009, the suspect fired five shells at pursuing Toronto cops. Four were slugs that would have blown a large hole in whatever they hit. These missed their targets.

The bullet fired at North was a casing of birdshot pellets that disperse when fired. One of these pellets hit North’s forehead but did not penetrate his skull.

“A slug round would have killed me,” said North, now a homicide detective who has seen rented guns in some of the cases he’s investigated since his confrontation with Powell in 2009.

“It causes a lot of concern that these things are available out there for rent,” he said. “Because if it can happen to a police officer, it can happen to anybody.”

The Star’s ongoing investigation — which began by revealing how easy it is to buy a pistol in the U.S., then followed the gun pipeline from the states with lax gun-purchase laws to the border where most guns get across to Toronto — continues today with a look at how guns circulate once on our streets.

In Toronto, where comparatively strict laws make gun possession difficult, criminals, depending on their street-level connections and budget, have several options.

Today’s story is about how criminals desperate for firepower will rent, buy, borrow and steal.

Whether a gun is domestic or foreign, big or small, comes with ammunition or without, are among the variables that set prices on Toronto’s black market for firepower.

While most guns used in Toronto crimes are smuggled from the U.S., about 20 per cent are traced to domestic sources, such as break-and-enters.

In a case now before the courts, a Toronto man is accused of stealing more than 20 firearms, most of them handguns, from storage lockers in Durham Region. In another case, a Scarborough man was found with several shotguns and rifles, including five taken during a break-and-enter in Caledon.

A gun stolen from a home or storage locker can command less than a smuggled gun, which will sell for as much as 10 times the original value.

This markup is driven in part by the risk taken by the mule who, if caught at the border, could face several years in prison. And because U.S. guns are often new, ordered for trafficking by Toronto criminals.

If not smuggled or stolen, guns headed to Toronto streets have found another supply route, a recent Toronto police bust revealed. Chief Bill Blair recently told the Star of a case involving two local men with firearms licences who bought guns, obliterated the serial numbers and then sold them to the street. It is called straw-purchasing.

“About 70 guns hit the street as a result of the actions of those two guys . . . They were buying really inexpensive guns and selling them on the street at a premium,” Blair said. “Now, we’ve locked them up and we got some of the guns, but the majority of them were already out there.”

Gun size matters, too.

While the shotgun used in the 2009 Beer Store robbery was rented for $200 and would likely sell for $600 to $800, handguns, easier to conceal, typically sell and rent for more.

An economy brand Hi-Point 9-mm sells for around $1,500 on the street while the rarer but coveted .50-calibre Desert Eagle — which comes in a gold finish — can sell for $3,000 or even as much as $6,000.

In another gun-renting case, a Toronto man charged $600 per night for a handgun.

In August 2006, undercover officers met crack dealer Marvin Washington at a jerk chicken restaurant on Finch Ave. The officers said they wanted a gun and Washington said he had a source. He made a call, then told the officers to drive to the Jane St. address of Joel Thomas. Thomas got in the undercovers’ car, showed a loaded 9-mm Helwan handgun and exchanged the rental for cash.

“(Thomas) wanted to utilize what’s known as a community firearm that allows customers to rent the firearm over a weekend or week to do whatever they wanted to do with it and then they had to return it,” one of the officers who investigated the case told the Star.

After accounting for pretrial custody, a judge sentenced Washington to four months in jail and Thomas to 11 months.

So-called “community guns” are a growing problem facing the public and police.

“The reality is that some of these guns are being used in multiple crimes, and not necessarily by the same people,” Supt. Ron Taverner of Toronto police’s 23 Division said earlier this year. “We know that guns are being shared, rented.”

Often stored in shoeboxes, guns are dealt for money or an equivalent amount of drugs like cocaine, the deals done in apartments, cars and, in at least one case, a clothing store.

An apartment in 2675 Eglinton Ave. W. consisted of a couple bedrooms, a bathroom and a combined kitchen and living area, but police who raided the unit in January 2009 found little to suggest the 500-square-feet of space was anything but a store selling drugs and guns.

In one of the bedrooms, two pit bulls and their feces. In the living room, no chairs or couch but an aquarium holding an alligator and rat. And in a closet, two shotguns and two rifles.

In the kitchen, no food, cutlery or dishes. The freezer contained two clear plastic bags of cocaine. In a drawer under the counter were three handguns, a Taurus .357 revolver loaded with six rounds, a .38 Special snub-nosed revolver and a Glock loaded with 10 rounds.

Other ammunition found in the apartment was in small bundles, leading a police officer to testify during the subsequent trial that the rounds were packaged for sale.

“This was an apartment being used for . . . selling crack cocaine and guns,” said the judge before finding Lyvon Lambert guilty of gun possession. After noting Lambert’s previous record and accounting for time he spent in pretrial custody, the court sentenced him to serve nearly 10 more years in prison.

In another case, as part of an investigation of illegal guns flowing from Windsor to Toronto, police watched John Currie pull into a laneway behind a clothing store on Danforth Ave., exit his Jeep, hand another man a shopping bag of guns and ammunition, and the man walk into the store. Later that night, a third man walked out carrying the bag.

Of the eight guns sold that night in 2009, one had its serial number obliterated and could not be traced, six were smuggled from the U.S. and another was reported stolen in Hamilton the year before. Currie served 2 ½ years in jail.

Sale and rental price go up if ammunition is included.

“Prior to . . . 1998, the normal citizen could go into a gun store and buy ammunition by showing photo ID,” Toronto police gun expert Michael Press testified in a trial. “Now, you are required to show an actual firearms licence for that particular class of firearm (and) what type of ammunition you are buying.”

This restriction means ammunition on Toronto’s streets can sell for up to $25 a bullet. Until recently, a shortage of ammunition due to the demands of overseas wars also strained the supply chain.

Bullets of the same calibre — that is, the same diameter — come in different lengths, points and casings, and due to scarce and irregular supply, Toronto criminals cannot be choosy.

Toronto police sometimes seize crime guns with mismatched bullets in the magazines.

How fast a criminal can lay hands on a gun depends on his street connections to people like Omar Allen.

Allen was called as a defence witness in the trial of Lyvon Lambert, whose apartment police raided and found the pit bulls, alligator, drugs and guns. Allen said on the stand that the drugs and guns were his, but the judge did not believe his attempt to spare Lambert.

Allen, a convicted criminal and drug dealer, testified that “if it is time to get down and dirty, I am locked and loaded” and that while he “ain’t no Santa Claus,” he would loan a gun to a friend in need.

Associates of 20-year-old Derick Kusi had no such ready source. The 2011 case shows those desperate to arm themselves will go wherever they have connections, and they’ll take whatever they can get.

Kusi, an errand boy for a Toronto gang rattled by the murder of one of their own and needing guns for “serious times,” was sent to B.C. by plane to meet a man in a blue Honda and bring home two packages by Greyhound bus.

Toronto police had been watching Kusi and his associates, and on the evening of Oct. 15, 2011, two Mounties approached Kusi in the Langley, B.C., bus station as he carried a Foot Locker shopping bag. Inside were a .22-calibre Browning and a Glock 9-mm, both handguns, both loaded.

One of the guns was “good, but a bit rusty,” Kusi said on an intercepted telephone call the day before his bust. After Kusi’s arrest, police traced the Glock to a sale in Oregon.

Kusi was sentenced to four years and two months in prison.

While his accomplice waited in the getaway car, Jeron Powell went in the Beer Store with his rented shotgun and ordered everyone down on the floor. He grabbed some money but not much, said Det. Nunzio Tramontozzi, who investigated the case.

Det. Rob North remembersthe radio call came in at 7:17 p.m. on the evening of Jan. 24, 2009. “A holdup in progress at the Beer Store at Symington and Dupont.”

North was about to respond to the call when he heard a shot. He drove closer to the scene and heard two more. (Two undercovers had approached a man in the street and asked to talk to him. The man was Powell, who smiled and pulled the rented sawed-off shotgun to fire two rounds that missed, Tramontozzi said.)

North turned his car onto Rankin Cres., saw Powell and drew his Glock as he got out of the cruiser. The officer says he does not recall hearing the shotgun’s boom or seeing the muzzle flash.

“The adrenalin that you feel is astronomical. I can recall a short time later having a massive headache.”

A couple of firefighters who arrived on the scene “sort of had this look of terror on their face,” said North, who now believes he was going into shock.

They put him in an ambulance headed for St. Michael’s Hospital.

“In my mind I’m thinking I’m OK,” but North wondered why the ambulance was driving so fast. “I finally said, ‘Listen, if I’m not going to be OK, I’m going to need to make some phone calls.”

In the weeks after the shooting, North struggled through emotional swings. “You’re home and sometimes you’re laughing and sometimes you’re crying. . . . and I’m thinking: What’s going on with me? This isn’t the way I normally act.”

After several weeks, North decided he was not “going to sit there and be a victim,” and went back to work. Powell later pleaded guilty to robbery and attempted murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

After his arrest that night, Powell told officers he planned to hold up a convenience store after the Beer Store job, then return the gun, Tramontozzi said. Police never learned the identity of the man who rented the shotgun to Powell.

“There are people out there that criminals can go to rent the guns, to commit whatever criminal offence they want, and after that they return the gun,” Det. Tramontozzi said. “It’s very easy to do. It’s done all over the city. It’s very disturbing.”
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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Councillors shoot down Humbertown development

This isn’t Liberty Village.

The Etobicoke York Community Council unanimously sided with residents from the Humbertown community Tuesday night in deciding a big, controversial downtown-style condo development doesn’t belong in their suburban neighbourhood.

“If we let this go down, everything else is going to go down. It’s like a domino effect,” Mayor Rob Ford said at the podium, moments before he voted against the proposal.

More than 350 people attended the community council meeting Tuesday at Church on the Queensway in hopes of halting the proposed First Capital Realty project. The plan called for 604 residential units to be built in a five-building mixed-use complex in the existing Humbertown Mall, near Royal York Rd. and Dundas St.

“Councillors have approved Liberty Village and now it is a huge traffic mess,” said Santino Agueci, a condo salesman in the Liberty Village area who lives in Humbertown.

“We have to look forward and see what we’ll have to fight 10, 15 years down the road, if this project is approved.”

About 50 speakers vehemently objected to the proposal during a six-hour public meeting.

Three of the five buildings are were slated to be residential and the plan called for all buildings to range between six and 12 storeys in height. There were to be 28 townhomes and 21,000-square metres of commercial space and 1,652 parking spaces.

The city’s planning department recommended approval of the ambitious development.

But residents worried the buildings were too high and the development too dense for the neighbourhood. They feared it would lead to traffic congestion, a loss of trees, and overcrowded schools.

“I think it’s one of those cases where we have to agree to disagree,” Jodi

Shpigel, vice-president of development for First Capital, said after the vote. “We think it’s a great proposal that fits right in with the community, the

buildings are no taller than what’s existing. We’re building a community.”

The community council recommended that if the project does eventually receive approval from the Ontario Municipal Board, that the city should seek $2.5 million from the developer to go towards fixing up Humber Valley Park, its ice rink and public artwork, under Section 37 of the Planning Act.
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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Second Africentric school program to open in Toronto

Toronto will start a second Africentric high school program in September.

A Grade 9 program is being set up at Downsview Secondary School — in the Keele St.-Wilson Ave. area — that will teach English, French, math and geography.

“This will be a program in the school. We don’t know how much interest there will be because we have just announced this,” said Toronto District School Board spokesman Shari Schwartz-Maltz. “We will have an open house so students can learn more about the program.”

Winston Churchill Collegiate in Scarborough was the first Africentric school to open last fall. Students study African-focused topics in their various classes.

Doretta Wilson, of the Society for Quality Education, said the new Africentric program is a good idea if it receives the support of the community.

“If there is a demand and it is what the parents want, I don’t see a problem with it. This is a good location and I think the community would support it,” Wilson added. “We are for alternatives that are sound and educate students.”

A public information session will be held at Downsview, located at 7 Hawksdale Rd., on Tuesday, starting at 6 p.m.
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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Shooting at Yorkdale restaurant injures one

TORONTO - A man is in hospital with non-life-threatening injuries following a midnight shooting through the window of the Joey restaurant at Yorkdale

Shopping Centre early Saturday morning.

It was the second shooting in six weeks at the mall near Dufferin St. and Hwy. 401.

The shooting happened just after midnight — several hours after the mall closed. The premium casual restaurant is open until 2 a.m.

“Like all Torontonians, we are concerned about gun violence and saddened when such incidents occur in our city,” said a media release from Yorkdale. “We are co-operating with police and want to thank Toronto Police Service and emergency services for their rapid response.”

Investigators are looking for a suspect or suspects who fled eastbound on Yorkdale Rd. toward Allen Rd. in a silver Honda CR-V, Toronto Police said Saturday.

Joey, which opened in November, will be closed until further notice.

The scene on the south side of the mall was cordoned off by yellow police tape and there were bullet holes in glass of the restaurant’s ground floor lounge.

The mall opened on time Saturday and shoppers mostly went about their business, with most saying they were unaware an incident had happened at all.

The entrance to the restaurant is on the exterior of the complex, so the vast majority of shoppers didn’t see the scene.

A few of the curious were shooed away by security, but otherwise, it was business as usual on a busy, pre-Mother’s Day Saturday.

On March 30, 23-year-old Michael Nguyen was shot and killed execution-style in the parking lot and another man was injured in what police said was a targeted, gang-related attack.

No arrests have been made in that shooting and it is not yet known whether this most-recent shooting is related.
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Friday, May 3, 2013

Toronto real estate: Downtown condos lead broad rise in prices

Sales of homes across the GTA slipped by 2.1 per cent in April, but prices were up 2 per cent, as the usually hot spring market suffered through another wet, cold month.
Surprisingly, downtown condos saw the biggest spike in prices — up 5.6 per cent to an average of $379,266 — and a decline in sales of just 1.3 per cent over last April, according to statistics released Friday by the Toronto Real Estate Board.
Suburban condo sales were the flip side of the coin, however, in a market that continues to glide to a soft landing rather than the devastating crash many economics and housing experts had predicted just last fall.
Resale condo prices were down almost 6 per cent across the 905 regions, to an average of $273,832. Sales of suburban condos took the biggest hit of any housing sector across the GTA in April — next to sales of detached homes in the 416 region — dropping 7.3 per cent in April.
“The condominium apartment segment in the City of Toronto was a key driver of price growth in April,” which suggests that first-time buyers are out house hunting again, almost a year after Ottawa moved to tighten mortgage lending rules, said TREB president Ann Hannah in a statement.
Economist Will Dunning points out, however, that this April had 22 weekdays — when sales tend to be recorded by TREB — compared to 20 in 2012. When sales figures are adjusted for seasonal fluctuations, the sales downturn of 2 per cent reported by TREB is probably closer to 14 per cent, he noted.
Most interesting about the condo numbers, said Dunning, is that the total number of units for sale in the 416 region was up 8 per cent, helping keep the market stable, while there was a 16 per cent jump in the 905 regions, now a buyer’s market.
“There’s still not a lot of urgency in the marketplace,” said downtown realtor Andrew la Fleur, who focuses largely on the downtown condo market. “There’s still a lot of wait-and-see mindset.”
Detached homes took the biggest hit in April. Sales in the City of Toronto plummeted almost 12 per cent over last April, although prices were up 2.5 per cent to an average of $852,090, according to TREB’s figures. That may reflect, at least in part, the lack of enough detached homes on the market to meet demand, which has been an ongoing issue, especially in Toronto, for three or four years and has contributed to bidding wars — and escalating prices even in a softening market — in coveted neighbourhoods close to downtown jobs and transit lines.
Sales of detached homes in the 905 were up 2.5 per cent year over year, and prices were up 2.2 per cent to an average of $588,784, according to TREB.
Semi-detached homes in the 416 region saw a 5.5 per cent sales downturn in April, year over year, but prices were up 2.4 per cent to an average of $595,398. In the suburbs, the sale of semis were up 1.3 per cent and prices up 4.3 per cent, to an average sale price of $410,739.
Townhouse sales declined 3.6 per cent in the city, but the average sales price was $433,710, up 2.3 per cent over last April. In the 905 region, townhouse transactions declined by 1.2 per cent, although prices were up 3.5 per cent, to an average sales price of $375,269.
Despite an unrelenting winter that lingered through most of April, dampening the enthusiasm of both buyers and sellers, some of whom were holding out for their pricey landscaping to be in bloom, new listings were up almost 11 per cent year over year.
The time it takes to sell a house climbed slightly, to 23 days compared to 21 days in April of 2012. Condos, on the other hand, are averaging 32 days on the market.

Interactive charts

April home sales in the '416'20122013DetachedSemi-DetachedTownhouseCondo 05001,0001,5002,000

Average April home prices in the '416'20122013DetachedSemi-DetachedTownhouseCondo $200,000$400,000$600,000$800,000$1,000,000

April home sales in the '905'20122013DetachedSemi-DetachedTownhouseCondo 01,0002,0003,0004,000

Average April home prices in the '905'20122013DetachedSemi-DetachedTownhouseCondo $200,000$300,000$400,000$500,000$600,000
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