‘Why are we so different?’: Confusion continues among small business owners over Toronto lockdown restrictions


Small business owners say Toronto’s lockdown restrictions are continuing to unfairly restrict small businesses while allowing big-box stores to remain open.

Two flower shops in the same neighbourhood were visited by bylaw enforcement officers on Friday and told they couldn’t display flowers and plants outside their stores.

Yang, the owner of Yang’s Flower Market on Avenue Road, said an officer told him that if he didn’t put his flower displays inside the store, he could be fined up to $10,000.

Yang, who only gave one name, said he asked the officer about other stores allowed to sell flowers, like garden centres, and asked him to explain the difference but didn’t get a satisfactory answer.

“It’s not fair at all,” he said, adding that the shop is doing everything they can to stay safe, but it’s frustrating to be hit by restrictions that don’t apply to garden centres and other businesses.

Jasmine Nicholson, the owner of Jong Young Flower Market just steps away from Yang’s, had the same experience — she said she was told that their outdoors display had to be taken inside. She said when she asked the bylaw officer about garden centres, he didn’t have an answer for her.

“Why are we so different?” said Nicholson.

She said she supports having restrictions in place to keep the city safe, but doesn’t see how it’s fair for small flower shops to be prevented from selling flowers outdoors, when someone can buy flowers at a big store’s garden centre.

“I’m really tired of this,” she said. “It’s very frustrating.”

According to the city’s web page on COVID-19 restrictions for retail stores and shopping malls, garden centres and plant nurseries can remain open, with indoor shopping by appointment only. Outdoor markets including farmer’s markets and holiday markets are permitted with restrictions.

Most other retail operators can be open for curbside pickup or delivery only, according to the page, and in-person shopping is not allowed.

The City of Toronto media relations didn’t immediately provide more details about bylaw enforcement and flower shops when contacted by the Star.

This is the latest example of confusion about what’s allowed and what isn’t under the new “grey” lockdown measures in Toronto.

Business owners and industry leaders have expressed frustration about big-box stores staying open and selling non-essential goods alongside groceries and other essential items. Meanwhile small specialty stores must remain closed and rely on online shopping and curbside pickup during the holiday shopping season, when many were hoping to recoup some of their lost profits.

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Nicholson said she supports the motion in Mississauga to limit big box stores to selling essential items only, a motion intended to help level the playing field for smaller businesses.

“It has to be all across the board, everybody has to be treated the same way,” said Nicholson.





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Restaurateur Cuffed for Defying Toronto Lockdown for Days


Restaurant owner Adam Skelly was arrested by Toronto police Thursday after defying the city’s Wuhan coronavirus lockdown order for several days by opening his barbeque restaurant for indoor dining.

Skelly was arrested shortly before 12:30 p.m. on Thursday by police who had blockaded the entrance to his restaurant Adamson Barbecue, located in the Toronto district of Etobicoke, which is currently under a lockdown ordered by Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

Footage of Skelly’s arrest was posted on social media platform Twitter by local broadcaster Newstalk 1010, showing Toronto police officers escorting him away from the restaurant where a crowd of anti-lockdown protestors had also gathered.

Skelly announced the opening of his restaurant in protest of the lockdown measures earlier this week and opened on Tuesday at 11 a.m. Police did not shut down the restaurant on Tuesday, citing public safety fears, City News reported.

On Wednesday Skelly opened his restaurant once again despite being ordered to close by the Medical Officer of Health, Dr Eileen de Villa, who issued a closure of the small business under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford expressed sympathy on Tuesday for small business owners across the province and commented on Skelly’s protest, saying, “I don’t condone that he opened up but I feel terrible. My heart breaks for these guys … these business-owners, believe me.”

Ford’s attitude changed Wednesday after Skelly remained defiant, saying, “Buddy, you need to shut down,” and adding, “You’re putting people’s lives in jeopardy. I always try to be nice the first time, but this guy is just totally ignoring public health officials.”

Toronto Police officers walk by a shutdown order on the window of Adamson Barbecue, an Etobicoke business that has defied provincial shutdown orders, on November 25, 2020 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo: COLE BURSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

Ford was joined by Toronto Mayor John Tory who called the protest a “disgrace” and said, “If you ask my opinion as to whether I’d be getting those concrete blocks out of storage right now and going if necessary and putting those in front of Adamson’s or any other place that violates the law in that manner, yes I would.”

On Thursday morning Toronto police had changed the locks of the restaurant in order to prevent Skelly from accessing his own business, with Toronto city spokesman Brad Ross announcing the move.

Despite this, Skelly was able to access the building through a side door that accessed another business in the building, also owned by Skelly. Mr Ross clarified that the city could only change the locks of the restaurant portion of the building.

Adamson Barbecue owner Adam Skelly raises his fist outside his Etobicoke business that has defied provincial shutdown orders, in Toronto, Canada, on November 25, 2020.  (Photo: COLE BURSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

Prior to his arrest on Thursday afternoon, Skelly was charged with nine separate offences, from operating without a licence to holding an illegal gathering.

While many small businesses in the Toronto region and the Peel region have been forced to close their doors due to lockdown, many larger stores, such as Walmart and Costco, have been allowed to remain open by the government.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)breitbart.com





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City of Toronto threatens to remove tiny shelters built to help the homeless, citing safety concerns


TORONTO —
In October, the story of a Toronto carpenter who was building tiny portable shelters for people living on the streets to have a warmer, safer place to stay than in a tent, warmed hearts across Canada.

But last week, Khaleel Seivwright received an email from the city telling him his shelters were not permitted on city property — leading supporters to demand change for how the city handles homeless encampments.

“They told me to stop making them and that I can’t put them on city property and that they will remove them without warning and charge me for the cost of their removal,” Seivwright told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.

He was told that he was “breaking municipal bylaw in terms of having structures on city property.”

Seivwright had been constructing small wooden structures on wheels, big enough to lie down in and sit up in, since September, and donating them to people experiencing homelessness who had expressed an interest. The “Toronto Tiny Shelters” are insulated like residential homes, have a small window and a door, and are designed to keep an occupant comfortable in -20 degrees Celsius with only the occupant’s body heat to warm it.

In order to help more people, Seivwright started a GoFundMe to raise money for supplies. After media outlets covered his crusade, he experienced a huge swell of support, and has raised more than $165,000 as of Wednesday.

But the attention on the project was a double-edged sword.

“By having so much support, it was able to create pushback from the city,” Seivwright said.

He said he was surprised by the takedown notice from the city, because the community development department — specifically officials who work with vulnerable Torontonians — had reached out around Nov. 12 about a potential partnership, according to Seivwright.

CTVNews.ca has reached out to the officials in question for confirmation.  

He said they discussed ideas for where to place the shelters on city property so residents could have access to public facilities such as bathrooms, as well as ideas for putting together portable facilities that could aid those in encampments.

“Like a trailer that’s heated where people could come and use a washer and take showers and do their laundry,” Seivwright said.

The department that sent the order to cease his work on the structures was Parks, Forestry and Recreation.

“They did not seem to indicate that they were aware of a partnership,” Seivwright said.

A spokesperson with the City of Toronto told CTVNews.ca in an email that last Thursday, Seivwright “was informed via email that the structures are not allowed on City property and that the City can remove them at any time.”

The City said they would be sending trespassing warnings to nine tiny shelters that they were aware of, giving 72 hours notice ahead of the shelters’ removal.

Initially, the city said that the wooden structures weren’t considered safe because they lacked fire alarms and hadn’t been inspected. After CTVNews.ca pointed out that Seivwright says each structure is outfitted with a fire alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm, the city clarified that they were still potentially unsafe because they hadn’t been inspected by Toronto Fire Services, and “are not designed to have the elements that would make a fire safe dwelling.”

Seivwright said that Toronto Fire Services have not contacted him to inspect the shelters. He said he will be having an independent fire inspection done “just to show them that it is safe.”

The issue is larger than the tiny shelters themselves. Encampments — areas where people experiencing homelessness have set up tents and structures, usually within city parks — are not permitted according to city bylaws.

“Conditions in encampments create significant health and safety concerns for those living outside, as well as for the community-at-large,” the city said in a statement. “Open flames, generators, propane tanks, and lack of access to water and sanitation, increases health and safety risks for those who live outside.

The statement said that Toronto Fire Services have responded to reports of more than 189 fires in encampments so far this year.

“Sadly, one person has died in an encampment fire this year,” the statement said.

“The City has close to 6,800 spaces in shelters and 24-hour respite sites (permanent and temporary). The City is opening 560 additional spaces as part of the Winter Services Plan and will offer more spaces at four warming centres during Extreme Cold Weather Alerts.”

Since the start of the pandemic in March, the city says they have been able to refer 1,100 people from encampments to safe locations inside shelters or hotels. The pandemic, and the danger of crowded indoor spaces for transmission of the virus, has made operating a safe shelter system even more difficult, and add a complication to the city’s attempts to move people out of encampments.

Although encampments can present fire hazards and also can be dangerous in lower temperatures — a problem Seivwright’s shelters aimed to address — they also may be less risky in terms of COVID-19 than a traditional shelter, purely by being outside.

That’s one of the reasons Seivwright’s heard from people who prefer encampments over the shelter system, but it’s far from the only one.

“Some of them have tried to go into shelters and then have been kicked out for not following certain restrictions,” he said. “Other people are immune compromised and they’re very fearful of the sanitation of shelters.”

He said many people in encampments also have spent time in shelters, and experienced theft, violence, or simply didn’t feel as safe as they felt sleeping in a tent outside.

“There’s quite a few reasons and I guess COVID is just making that decision even harder for people to make,” Seivwright said.

The winter can be deadly for those who don’t have a place to turn to. In 2019, 52 people experiencing homelessness died between October and January. Shelters are often at capacity during the colder months, a challenge the city has struggled to deal with for years.

Seivwright is adamant that his shelters are meant to be a temporary aid to get people through the winter safely, and that they are not meant to disrupt or replace the city’s attempts to help those experiencing homelessness, but are trying to help those who fall through the cracks.

The city says encampments are not cleared “until notice has been provided and everyone sleeping on-site is offered a safe, inside space.”

But as they cannot force people to take up their offer of a shelter space if they don’t feel safe there, it’s unclear how many people have simply had to pack up their belongings and try to find a new place to camp.

“It’s one thing to be asked if you want to go to a shelter or hotel, if there’s space for them,” Seivwright said. “And it’s another to just be forced to leave. It’s just moving the problem and it’s not fixing anything.

“They continue to repeat that, we’ve saved 1,100 people, we’ve gotten 1,100 people off of the streets, but it is this continuous refusal to talk about how many people get kicked out or just don’t make it into shelters and die every single year from exposure,” he said. “And I wouldn’t imagine this year’s going to be any different — I think it’s going to be much worse because there’s many more homeless people.

“So not acknowledging that that is a reality and that in order to minimize the amount of suffering and deaths, maybe the [tiny] shelters are going to be a part of the solution — I feel like an acknowledgement of that reality is something I think would be important.”

After Seivwright announced earlier this week that the city was threatening to remove the shelters and didn’t want them on public land, there was an outcry on social media.

Toronto Tiny Shelters has officially launched a petition asking the City of Toronto to “reverse their stance on temporary shelters, allowing them to remain in City parks during the Winter of 2020-2021.”

As of Wednesday night, the petition had more than 16,500 signatures.

“Advocates estimate that there are over 1000 people living outside in Toronto – the city’s winter plan only accounts for 560 people,” the petition states. “These spots are not always safe, especially during a global pandemic.”

Seivwright believes the reaction to his shelters from the city “has to do with not having control of the situation.”

But despite the struggle, he says he’s not slowing down.

The response from those who receive a tiny wooden shelter has been “overwhelmingly positive,” he said.

“Just being consistently warm and being able to lock your stuff away and also being able to sleep in there and then put your latch on and know that no one’s going to bother you, know that you’re not going to be attacked while you’re sleeping,” he said.

“That’s actually a big deal.”

He said those who have used them have also remarked how much quieter it is inside the shelters “compared to sleeping in a tent when it’s raining or there’s a lot of wind or there’s just people outside making noise for whatever reason. It’s very quiet.”

Since the struggle with the City is related to the idea of the shelters being in encampments on public land, he is looking for anyone willing to host the shelters on private land, so that the project can continue.

“We are in contact with one church that will definitely house our shelters,” he said. “So yeah, we’re finding property for these things to exist if the city does end up following through with removing these shelters from the city parks.” 



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‘Significant snowfall’ to hit Toronto Sunday ahead of Monday’s lockdown


Torontonians planning on enjoying a last pre-lockdown outing on Sunday may be disappointed as Environment Canada predicts “significant snowfall” of between five and 10 centimetres will hit the GTA starting Sunday morning.

The federal agency issued a special weather statement for Toronto on Saturday, warning that travel may be impacted due to moderate to heavy snowfall. “Motorists should be prepared for winter weather driving conditions,” the statement read.

Environment Canada explained this will be due to a Colorado Low system tracking northward from Ohio.

Areas near Lake Ontario may experience lower snowfall, as the snow is expected to be wet in these regions.

The day will see a maximum temperature of 2 C and low of minus-1 C. Snowfall is expected to taper off overnight.





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It’s been 28 days, and Toronto is scheduled to reduce restrictions. What are five key indicators telling us?


It’s been a month. So how exactly is Toronto doing?

On Oct. 9, Toronto entered modified Stage 2 restrictions, closing high-risk venues to try to control the city’s fast-rising second wave of COVID-19 infections. The measures were supposed to last 28 days, but the city asked for more time, extending the slate of controls until the end of this week. Monday marked exactly a month of modified Stage 2.

In the meantime, the Ford government released a new colour-coded framework for implementing and removing new restrictions. On Saturday, Toronto is scheduled to move from the current slate of restrictions to the province’s “orange” level of intermediate measures. As proposed, the switch would reopen indoor dining, bars, and gyms, with capacity limits and liquor curfews.

Days away from this deadline, the Star examined five important indicators to see how Toronto fared over the last several weeks and how strong a grip the pandemic has on the city.

Weekly cases per 100,000

On Monday, Toronto notched another grim milestone: a jump of more than 500 new COVID cases in one day. The city recorded almost 1,350 confirmed cases in just three days.

“These case count numbers are the most concerning I have seen here in Toronto since the pandemic started,” medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa said at a press conference Monday.

“I don’t think the current case counts point us towards relaxing the roadblocks we’re putting up in front of the virus,” she added, saying the city was in conversation with the province and would release an update Tuesday for how restrictions would evolve.

Single-day numbers can be misleadingly high or low, so health experts prefer to compare the average number of new cases over a week. And to compare between regions with different populations, they typically compare the number of new cases per 100,000 residents.

On Oct. 9, when Toronto entered modified Stage 2, the city had logged 64.4 cases per 100,000 over the previous week, according to the Star’s ongoing tally. On Monday, that number hit 94.5.

Clearly, cases in Toronto are still rising. That doesn’t mean the 28 days of restrictions achieved nothing. In Toronto, the case curve went from double-black-diamond steep over much of September to more of a bumpy bunny hill in the month of October. (A late-September restriction on restaurants may have also helped.)

In mid-October, the province’s science advisory table, a group of experts and health leaders, recommended introducing new public health measures for any region with more than 25 weekly cases per 100,000 residents.

When the Ford government released a colour-coded framework for implementing and removing restrictions last week, the threshold for the red “control” zone was set at more than 100 weekly cases per 100,000 — far higher than what Toronto was seeing four weeks ago, when it introduced the measures that are now scheduled to be lifted on Friday. Toronto is set to enter the “orange” level of intermediate restrictions.

The province said its framework would provide transparency while implementing a gradual approach that avoids total lockdowns. Epidemiologists and infectious diseases experts harshly criticized the framework, saying the measures it introduces would be too little, too late.

“If you apply the framework as is, there is a 100 per cent chance we won’t get better,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Toronto, told the Star last week. “We may stay the same, but nobody will be surprised if we get worse.”

But case counts alone are not enough to assess the state of an epidemic — these numbers are highly influenced by how much testing is happening and who can get tested.

Testing

In October, Toronto saw a startling 158 per cent increase in COVID-19 cases compared to September. But testing in the Toronto region barely rose by just 1.5 per cent, with 203,145 tests in September compared to 206,279 in October.

“The number of tests we need to perform (is) definitely substantially higher,” said Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious diseases specialist with the Sinai Health system.

“It just reflects the lack of an effective ‘test, trace, isolate’ strategy. It’s really disconnected.”

From an epidemiological perspective, testing should have more closely tracked the surge in new infections that we saw in Toronto, Morris said.

But barriers — like the shift to appointment-only testing in early October and confusing changes to testing criteria — likely had a countervailing effect, causing the number of tests to flatline even as new cases surged, he said.

“We know there’s much more COVID,” said Dr. Jeff Powis, medical director of infection prevention and control at Michael Garron Hospital. “They’re just not seeking testing.”

The fact that tests in Toronto slightly increased last month is of little comfort to Powis, who questions how many of those tests were done at COVID assessment centres. At Michael Garron’s testing site, swabs have dropped by about 50 per cent since the move to appointment-only testing, he said.

He suggests that a lot of October’s tests may be linked to outbreaks, which have increased significantly in recent weeks. When a nursing home is in outbreak, residents and staff will be tested repeatedly and hospitals are also now testing more patients on admission in hopes of keeping outbreaks at bay, he said.

“I suspect a lot of (October’s testing) was being driven by people trying to control outbreaks or prevent outbreaks,” he said.

It’s unclear how many of October’s tests were also conducted at mobile testing sites, which were significantly ramped up last month to try to help communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic but have stubbornly low testing rates. Ontario Health, the agency in charge of COVID testing, was unable to provide this figure by the Star’s deadline.

Powis said the recent dropoff in swabs collected at his hospital’s assessment centre after the switch to appointment-based testing was motivation to push for a more targeted testing strategy in Michael Garron’s catchment area. Together with East Toronto Health Partners, five mobile testing sites have recently been launched in the city’s east end. Other hotspot areas in the city, like the northwest corner and Scarborough, are also making efforts to ramp up testing in areas showing signs of trouble.

While October managed to avoid the nightmarish testing backlogs that plagued September, experts like Morris worry the province’s testing system is once again at risk as case counts continue to rise. “We are not that far away from overwhelming the testing system again,” he said. “Not because of unnecessary tests, but just because of the sheer volume of infected people. It’s a real problem.”

Positivity rates

Rising case counts and flatlining testing numbers have led to a predictable surge in another worrying indicator: test positivity rates, which refers to the percentage of tests that come back positive for COVID-19.

For the city as a whole, the lab test positivity rate was 1.3 per cent at the beginning of September. It rose to 3.1 per cent by the week of Oct. 4, when the city entered Stage 2 restrictions, and is now at 4.8 per cent, according to the most recent available data.

Toronto Public Health’s goal is to stay below three per cent; anything above that is considered by many jurisdictions to be cause for concern. But the citywide average also masks far more worrying numbers in certain areas and age groups.

In early October, Toronto Public Health began reporting test positivity rates broken down by neighbourhood. The week of Oct. 4, no neighbourhoods were above 10 per cent test positivity, but three were close.

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These testing maps have only grown more worrisome. For the week of Oct. 18, the last week of complete data available, 10 neighbourhoods had test positivity above 10 per cent. Eight of those are in the northwest of Toronto, by far the hardest-hit region of the city in the pandemic so far. Two are in east Toronto, in south Scarborough and Thorncliffe Park.

Breaking the citywide rate down by age groups shows similarly worrisome trends. Torontonians aged 10 to 19 have the highest test positivity of any age group, at over 10 per cent, according to provincial data. Next-highest is the 20-29 age group, at almost nine per cent. Test positivity in 80-plus-year-olds in Toronto sits at 7.9 per cent; four weeks ago it was at 2.3 percent.

The rise in this oldest age group is the most concerning shift. Because this demographic is the most at risk for severe COVID-19, health experts have highlighted “spillover” in infections from younger age groups to older ones as a major threat to health-care system capacity.

Hospitalizations

Over the last several days, Anthony Dale, CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, has been on the phone with hospital officials. And the message he’s heard is loud and clear: “No one feels comfortable lifting public health measures in the city of Toronto.”

He acknowledges that current hospital numbers may not paint an overly alarming picture to the general public. According to OHA data, Toronto-area hospitals had an average of 188 COVID-19 hospitalizations last week, and large hospital corporations like Sinai Health, Michael Garron and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre had fewer than 10 each.

But snapshot statistics like these fail to capture deeper pressures across the system, which last week showed its first sign of cracking when a surge at William Osler Health System forced the hospital to cancel some elective surgeries and transfer patients to other health centres.

As COVID cases rise, there are fears that William Osler’s experience could be a harbinger of what’s to come. Hospitals are already stretched thinner by worker shortages, a backlog of procedures and increasingly frequent COVID outbreaks.

“Right now hospitals are fighting at 100 per cent occupancy, their labs are running 24/7, they’re playing catch-up on 150,000 surgeries that were cancelled in wave one,” Dale said. “It’s the illusion of stability right now. But beneath the surface, you look at the system as a whole, the trends are going all in the wrong way.”

COVID hospitalization numbers are also a lagging indicator because they reflect what was happening in the community a number of weeks prior, Dale said. As other jurisdictions have seen, the disease is “lightning quick” — hospitals can rapidly go from quiet to overwhelmed.

And some in Toronto’s hardest-hit areas are starting to feel the burn. In Toronto’s northwest corner, Humber River Hospital has seen a slow but steady uptick in patients since late September, said infectious diseases physician Dr. Ian Brasg.

“What we’re seeing around the city, with hospitals needing to cancel elective surgeries — these are indicators of stress on the system,” he said. “To be opening up now in that context is very concerning.”

On the other side of Toronto, COVID hospitalizations have quadrupled over the last month at Scarborough Health Network, which currently has 75 patients across the hospital’s three sites.

That’s “about 20 per cent of the province’s admissions,” according to chief of medicine Dr. Elaine Yeung.

“The numbers are definitely higher than the first wave,” Yeung said. “We are worried … we haven’t had to cancel elective surgeries at this point, but we’re watching things very, very closely.”

LTCs

Nursing homes were devastated in the pandemic’s first wave. By mid-summer, long-term-care residents represented two-thirds of Ontario’s total COVID deaths.

In September, eight Toronto long-term-care homes declared an active outbreak, according to ministry data. In October, 26 did. Perhaps most worrying, another seven have declared outbreaks in November, almost as many as the whole month of September though only nine days have elapsed.

An active outbreak can be declared after just one lab-confirmed COVID case in a resident or staff, and many of these have been small. But some have grown to the same sickening proportions as we saw in the spring.

In September, two Toronto LTCs had outbreaks that infected over 40 residents. In October, five had outbreaks that large. It’s difficult to calculate exactly how many deaths resulted, because the ministry does not report exact numbers for any totals lower than five. But at least 50 residents died across both months combined.

The province promised to gird nursing homes by creating more beds and hiring more staff, among other measures.

A study that geriatrician Dr. Nathan Stall co-authored in August showed that the risk of a long-term-care outbreak was strongly linked to case numbers in the surrounding community.

Responding to the province’s colour-coded framework — and its “red” zone threshold of over 100 weekly cases per 100,000 — Stall wrote that “Allowing this level of transmission will have catastrophic consequences for our (long-term-care) population.”

Jennifer Yang

Kate Allen

Kate Allen is a Toronto-based reporter covering science and technology for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @katecallen

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Resignations demanded of four Toronto Catholic trustees who voted that their colleague’s linking LGBTQ issues to bestiality and pedophilia did not breach the board’s code of conduct


The four Toronto Catholic trustees who decided fellow trustee Michael Del Grande did not breach the board’s code of conduct when he connected bizarre sexual behaviours to LGBTQ rights are now facing a complaint and a call for their resignation.

In a letter to the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s director of education, former student board trustee Kyle Iannuzzi complains that Trustees Garry Tanuan, Nancy Crawford, Teresa Lubinski and Angela Kennedy voted that Del Grande did not breach the code even after they had seen a report by a law firm probing Del Grande’s behaviour that concluded he had.

“I am requesting that trustees Del Grande, Tanuan, Crawford, Lubinski and Kennedy resign from office,” Iannuzzi wrote to education director Brendan Browne Friday. “Should the trustees refuse to resign, I would like these trustees to issue a formal apology to the LGBTQI2SA+ community and for them to be forbidden from running for any chair, vice-chair, or representative positions at the remaining caucus meetings of their term.”

Iannuzzi’s complaint also asks that the report on Del Grande’s conduct by Michelle Bird, a lawyer with Rubin Thomlinson LLP, be released publicly by the board with a formal apology, along with information about who decided the report should not be made public.

Joseph Martino, Chair of the TCDSB, told the Star in a statement Sunday that trustees decided in a private meeting to release the report to the complainants and to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Tanuan, Crawford, Lubinski, Kennedy and Del Grande did not respond to requests for comment Sunday. Kennedy told the Star last week that since the vote, “I have had great difficulty living with my decision” and that she “will be voting in favour of reopening the matter and revisiting the decision” at a special board meeting this coming Wednesday.

Del Grande faced complaints and calls for his resignation for comments he made during a public meeting on Nov. 7, 2019, when the board was debating whether to include four terms in its code of conduct: gender expression, gender identity, family status and marital status.

During discussions concerning the four terms, which the board was debating to ensure the code aligned with human rights legislation, Del Grande attempted to add a long list of bizarre sexual behaviours to the code, including bestiality, pedophilia, necrophilia and anthropophagolagnia, an interest in raping and cannibalizing another person.

“After all, everybody is concerned that the right terms are used … It’s a slippery slope. This is how slippery it’s going to get,” Del Grande said during the meeting. “All these poor people are children of God, created in the image of God, and they need to be recognized.”

This past August, seven TCDSB trustees voted that Del Grande, a veteran trustee and politician, had breached the code of conduct with his behaviour, while four trustees — Tanuan, Crawford, Lubinski and Kennedy — did not, despite the fact that they had seen the report by Bird that found Del Grande had violated the code. (Under the board’s two-thirds voting rule, the support of eight trustees was needed for a finding that Del Grande broke the code.)

“I note that Mr. Del Grande’s actions are exacerbated by the fact that he chose to suggest that including criminals — such as cannibals and rapists — in the Code of Conduct was somehow similar to including members of the LGBTQ+ community,” Bird wrote in her report, which has not been released publicly but a copy of which was obtained by the Star. “In choosing the words that he did, he created an unwelcoming and harmful environment for certain members of the Catholic school board community.”

As a gay man himself, Iannuzzi, who was the student trustee at the TCDSB in 2003-04, said thinking about Del Grande’s comments is “very depressing.”

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“I get caught up in those depressive thoughts and it distracts me from being productive at work, it distracts me from being productive in my day to day,” he told the Star on Sunday. “It’s very demeaning, it’s very hurtful. It causes me a lot of flashbacks to issues that I dealt with in my adolescence and younger than that.”

“This contingent of people who cling to the Catholic faith supposing that who we are is immoral and wrong and all that kind of vitriol, they just don’t understand how hateful their rhetoric is.”

With files from Kristin Rushowy





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NRL 2020 News: Toronto Wolfpack, Super League, Brian McDermott, COVID-19, Rugby League news


Toronto Wolfpack coach Brian McDermott has lashed the Super League in an impassioned interview with Sky Sports, branding the decision to refuse his club re-admission “the biggest mistake the game has made”.

The Canadian club withdrew from their inaugural season in the top flight in July after financial issues caused by COVID-19 left them unable to compete.

However, they were hopeful of returning the following year and a meeting of the Super League board would end up determining their future.

Watch State of Origin I REPLAY on Kayo with no ad-breaks during play and Fox League Commentary. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly



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How the pandemic has turned downtown Toronto condos into ‘challenging’ investments – National


Jaimie Walker figured she couldn’t go wrong owning a condominium in the historic St. Lawrence Market district in downtown Toronto which dates to the late 1700s.

Then the pandemic hit.

“It sat there for three months and three people came in, which was shocking,” she told Global News, referring to the low level of interest when she attempted to lease it.

READ MORE: Toronto rental prices fall, as condo listings surged nearly 114% this summer

Walker first rented the apartment from its previous owner, then bought it and planned, in turn, to rent it to someone else as a way to earn income.

Under ordinary circumstances, the investment plan seemed sound. But now, with nearby office towers nearly empty — downtown workers had fled to suburbs, some moving in with their parents — suddenly rentals were available everywhere.

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Almost overnight, owning a downtown Toronto condo as an investment plan no longer seemed viable. Neither did the idea of selling the unit, as a flood of other condo investors in a similar situation had tried.

“It was getting to the point where I’m not going to get what it’s worth pre-COVID,” Walker said.

In no time, a seller’s market for condos had shifted dramatically.

“It’s totally a buyer’s market,” said Ari Armani, a real estate broker with Royal Lepage Signature Realty.

“COVID-19 had a huge effect on downtown Toronto’s prices,” he said.










Troubling trajectory for Toronto’s COVID-19 cases


Troubling trajectory for Toronto’s COVID-19 cases

With fewer people needing to work downtown, reduced numbers of foreign students needing accommodation, and almost no new immigration or foreign tourism to fuel short-term rentals, a housing glut had appeared in an area of Toronto with historically high demand.

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“All of these factors make the downtown market a vulnerable one,” said Janet Yao, who owns a Toronto condo apartment as an investment, as do her parents. Both units are up for sale.

“It’s challenging,” Yao told Global News, explaining that there is almost no buyer interest in the properties at the moment.

Last week, the Toronto real estate consulting firm Urbanation Inc. reported that the total number of new condominium apartment sales in the Greater Toronto Area increased 30 per cent, year-over-year. But the record high 6,370 units was buffeted by a 10-year low in second-quarter sales, the period right after the pandemic was declared.

As a result, year-to-date sales were down 22 per cent to 13,454 units.

READ MORE: Toronto condo, apartment rental prices drop again amid ongoing coronavirus pandemic

“This regional shift in activity is expected to continue as buyers gravitate to less expensive markets while the downtown area faces supply challenges in the near term,” said Shaun Hildebrand, Urbanation’s president, in a statement.

In October, Urbanation reported that downtown Toronto rental vacancy rates had increased to 2.8 per cent from only 0.7 per cent a year ago.

“The market will continue to face challenges heading into 2021 from restrained demand caused by COVID-19 and elevated supply levels,” Hildebrand said.

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So what does this mean for investors who bought condominium apartments thinking they were a safe bet?

“It looks a little dark and dampening out there but I would really focus on what the future investment is, not necessarily what is happening today,” said Tom Storey, a sales representative with Royal LePage Signature Realty.


Click to play video 'The New Reality: How COVID-19 could impact the commercial real estate market'







The New Reality: How COVID-19 could impact the commercial real estate market


The New Reality: How COVID-19 could impact the commercial real estate market

But in the near term, Storey cautions investors not to expect the returns they had counted on.

“I think expectations have to change,” Storey said, adding that for investors trying to fill their condo apartments, units are still leasing but owners have to adjust their price demands.

Jaimie Walker, the woman who initially ran into problems finding a tenant, and then saw the sales market collapse, got lucky.

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Her boyfriend, a real estate agent, located a buyer for her unit and didn’t even list it on the market. The deal was signed in August and closed in October. Afterward, she saw more desirable units in her building on the market for $100,000 less than the price she accepted.

Others, needing to sell, aren’t so fortunate.

“I do feel for anyone who bought with the intention of it being an investment property,” she said.

 




© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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Toronto Wolfpack axed from Super League, Sonny Bill Williams free agent, NRL return, boxing, Paul Gallen


Sonny Bill Williams is a free agent again after his UK Super League club the Toronto Wolfpack were blocked from returning to the competition and leaving the future of the club up in the air.

The Canadian club decided to withdraw from the 2020 Super League after earning its way into the top flight rugby league competition when the COVID-19 pandemic struck with the cost and logistics of Transatlantic travel proving too difficult for the fledgling club.

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Having played just six games for six losses before pulling out, the Super League board rejected the Wolfpack’s submission to return to the Super League competition.

The reaction was swift with current and former players sharing their displeasure at the move.

“The club shares the obvious disappointment of our players, staff, sponsor and partners, as well as incredible fans, at today’s decision,” Toronto Wolfpack said in a statement.

“The Wolfpack will now take some time to consider our position and consult further with the current ownership group, led by David Argyle.”

It leaves the Super League also needing to work out the structure of its competition going forward, whether it will continue with 11 teams or promote a team to restore the 12 team competition.

But the move leaves the contract of Williams up in the air once again as the cross-code star is now without a home.

Having signed a two-year $10 million deal to sign with the club, the 35-year-old is now a free agent once again.

After the season suspension, Williams signed with the Sydney Roosters and although he had mixed reviews, pundits raved about the effect the football great had in the change rooms.

NRL.com reported that SBW would be open to offers once he recovered from neck surgery sustained in the Roosters’ final round loss to South Sydney.

But retired NRL great Paul Gallen told 2GB that he didn’t believe that Williams would bother returning to the football field and instead turn his attention to the boxing ring.

“It’s going to be a hard one, because realistically what’s Sonny Bill worth today? He’s a human headline. He brings a lot of publicity to your club, maybe a lot of sponsorship which may help.”

Gallen said he was “good” his return but that he was “not the Sonny Bill we remember but he’s a quality first grader”.

“What’s that worth to a club these days? $500,000? That’s decent money for the average Joe but this is Sonny Bill,” Gallen said. “He’s made a whole lot of money his whole careers: is he going to play for $500,000?”

Gallen said SBW could have “three or four fights against bums and earn himself $500,000 to $750,000 a fight”.

Gallen said “he’d probably get a couple of mill if he wanted to fight me”.

“I think he may turn to boxing,” Gallen said. “I just don’t see the money for him, from Sonny’s point of view. From a club’s point of view, if you picked him up for $4-500,000, the amount of money he can bring your club, the amount of people you’re going to get through the gate, the amount who watch on TV because it’s Sonny Bill, it’s enormous.”

Gallen may also have an ulterior motive with the Origin great needling SBW when the pair tried to organise a long anticipated grudge match.

“One-hundred per cent,” Williams told Gallen on Nine‘s 100% Footy when asked if he was “ever going to fight him one day.”

“Paul to be fair bro, I understand your frustrations and you coming out and saying what you need to say but I‘m comfortable in my own skin. I’ve been around for a while now bro.

“But when it comes to that, I‘m definitely not scared to get in the ring with you, I’m definitely not running. I’m actually excited to get in the ring with you and it’s going to happen.”



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NRL 2020: Super League news, Toronto Wolfpack voted out, Sonny Bill Williams, Ricky Leutele


Toronto have failed in their bid to be re-admitted to the Super League after clubs voted against allowing the Wolfpack back into the competition in 2021, putting Sonny Bill Williams’ playing future up in the air.

The Sydney Morning Herald report Williams’ has not interest in playing elsewhere after the Wolfpack’s hopes of survival were dashed.

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Reacting to the news, Wolfpack prop Darcy Lussick said: “No wonder the game here is 25 years behind the one on the other side of the world.”





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