Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard's sex assault trial set to resume in Toronto on Tuesday

WATCH ABOVE: Hedley singer Jacob Hoggard turned into ‘monster’ in hotel room, woman testifies at trial.

TORONTO — The sex assault trial of Canadian musician Jacob Hoggard is set to resume in Toronto today.

The Crown finished presenting its evidence early last week, and the defence is expected to begin making its case today.

Hoggard, the frontman for the band Hedley, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual assault causing bodily harm and one of sexual interference, a charge that relates to the sexual touching of a person under 16.

The charges relate to incidents involving two complainants, one of whom was a teenager at the time.

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Prosecutors allege Hoggard arranged to have the complainants meet him at Toronto-area hotels, where they allege he violently and repeatedly raped them, leaving them bleeding and bruised.

The defence, meanwhile, argues Hoggard had consensual sex with the complainants.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Privacy watchdog examining information City of Toronto compiled on homeless

WATCH ABOVE: One year after Toronto police cleared encampments of homeless residents, the City of Toronto is examining the idea of hiring private security companies to keep watch over key parks 24 hours a day. As Sean O’Shea reports, the city wants to prevent additional encampments from popping up but some residents say it’s overkill.

TORONTO — Ontario’s privacy watchdog is looking into the dossier of information the City of Toronto compiled on homeless people as it planned to clear a park where they lived last year.

The development comes after The Canadian Press revealed the inner workings of the city’s months-long planning of its operation to clear parks of encampments that had popped up during the pandemic. The dossier kept notes on behaviours, health information and photographs of those who lived in the park, internal documents show.

“Our office has reached out to the City of Toronto to obtain further information about this matter,” the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario said in a statement.

“Any affected individuals may make a privacy complaint to our office.”

Read more:

Toronto planned encampment clearing operation for months, built profiles of residents

The commissioner’s office noted it can also launch its own investigation if it suspects a privacy breach has occurred.

The city said it has responded to the privacy commissioner, saying the collection of personal information was in accordance with freedom-of-information laws. A city spokesman said it collected the information to better understand the “individual housing, health and supportive needs” as it sought to find a spot indoors for those living in encampments.

“The city has the discretion to collect the information as part of its law enforcement operations as well as ensuring that city services are directed to encampment occupants in an individualized fashion,” Anthony Toderian said in an email.

He said the legal authority was granted by city council under the bylaw named “COVID-19 Response Update: Protecting People Experiencing Homelessness and Ensuring the Safety of the Shelter System.”

“As the personal information was collected under a legal authority the use of this information would meet the requirements of the act,” Toderian wrote.

Top bureaucrats planned the operation for months, internal documents obtained by activists through freedom-of-information laws and shared with The Canadian Press show.

On June 22, 2021, the carefully planned operation swung into motion before dawn at Trinity Bellwoods Park. Drones hovered above as city workers erected tents around several homeless encampments within the park.

There were 268 city workers there that day, the documents show — including more than 100 private security guards the city hired — along with dozens of police officers.

The clearing drew scores of activists and supporters to the park to defend those living there.

Several clashes eventually broke out between police and the homeless and their supporters. A battle erupted over a fence that supporters tried to take down while police fought to keep it upright. Another skirmish broke out when police unleashed pepper spray, which inadvertently hit several security guards, the documents said.

Police in riot gear moved in near the end of the day, once most of the crowd had dispersed, and cleared the park with force.

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The city has said it called in police to clear the area because protesters prevented staff from doing their jobs and didn’t leave when they were cautioned.

The city spent nearly $2 million on clearing encampments at three parks, including Trinity Bellwoods, last year.

The city also plans to hire security guards to monitor parks this summer.

In the lead-up to last year’s operation, top city bureaucrats shared several detailed documents about the park.

In one titled “Trinity Bellwoods Park Analysis,” a map of the park is marked with locations of the tents and structures.

A chart identifies each person living in the park by name along with a photograph of their tent and, in some cases, photographs of the encampment resident.

There are also notes on each person’s behaviour, and how the city expects they would respond when asked to leave the park.

The documents upset some people who lived in the Trinity encampments at the time. They said they did not consent to city’s collection of their personal information _ nor did they know the information was being collected.

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David Naini, whose legal name is Navid Emanian, said he thought the information the city kept was “weird and creepy.”

“I think it’s the opposite of what they’re supposed to be doing,” the 57-year-old said.

In one entry, the city warns about a man _ all names and photographs are redacted in the released documents _ who was “most likely to escalate” and “has a large clutter surrounding encampment that he claims to make art with.”

A former Trinity resident who is known in the community as j the letter believes that is about him. (He says his legal name, Jeremy Magyar, harkens back to his life before becoming homeless.)

“They did us dirty,” he said.

“They were taking photographs of me, of my tent, numbering the tent, but never telling me what they were doing with that.”

Read more:

Toronto’s ombudsman to investigate homeless encampment clearings

After he lost his tent at Trinity, he moved to a second encampment — which was cleared by the city and police a month laterin another episode that turned violent — and then a third.

At that point, the city shifted gears with a softer approach and offered him and several others living there permanent housing.

Now, dozens of his paintings line the walls, floors and ceiling in his apartment.

Still, he worries that without people living in highly visible encampments concerns facing the vulnerable — including the collection of personal information — will be swept aside.

“I kind of wish I was still on the forefront of being in a tent because I feel like they’re just not going to take me seriously now,” he said.

“I don’t know if there’s justice to be had. We don’t have any rights.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Mike Schreiner's 'tough yet convivial' persona resonates with Ontario voters, rivals

WATCH ABOVE: Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner sits down with Global News for a one-on-one interview. With just two weeks to go until election day, Global News’ Alan Carter sits down with Schreiner to discuss his campaign and aspirations.

HUNTSVILLE, ONT. — Mike Schreiner has built up a reputation among political watchers as a likable, sharp and down-to-earth politician since he was elected as Ontario’s first provincial Green four years ago, and that perception made its way to a vastly expanded audience this month when he made his debut as the first leader of his party to participate in a provincial election debate.

“You can definitely see a difference from yesterday to today, for sure,” Schreiner said the day after the May 16 debate while knocking on doors in Huntsville, Ont., located in one of the ridings where his party hopes to capitalize on Schreiner’s increasingly recognizable brand and nab another seat in the legislature this June.

Residents honked horns, waved and shouted, “Go Green!” at Schreiner’s bright green electric campaign vehicle. People who answered their doors in the scenic waterfront town commended him on how he grilled his rivals over policy issues the night before.

“You did a darn good job,” one man told Schreiner at a doorstop. “You held Doug Ford to account.”

Read more:

Ontario Greens seek to build on Schreiner’s debate performance, eye 2 ridings

That’s a task that’s taken up much of Schreiner’s time as his party’s first-ever Green legislator. For the last four years, he’s been challenging Ford _ who’s running for re-election for the Progressive Conservatives _ on the environmental impact of the former Tory government’s plans, including plans for highways and other developments.

“One of my primary motivations was to advance the climate agenda, and instead of being on an offensive mode of moving the province forward, I feel like I’ve had to spend a lot of my time pushing back against Doug Ford taking us further back,” Schreiner said. “But in some respects, that may have meant that having our voice at Queen’s Park was even more important.”

It’s still unclear if Schreiner’s growing presence on the campaign trail as a scrappy, sincere underdog will translate into more votes or seats for his party. But his well-reviewed debate performances seem to have rattled his opponents enough to factor him into their own strategies.

During the first debate on northern issues, other leaders remarked repeatedly that they agreed with his points _ but New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath later warned progressive voters against a “dangerous poker game” of voting for Schreiner’s party when asked about similarities between their platforms.

Schreiner’sperformance during TVO’s supper-hour debate that saw him take Ford to task over his pandemic response and environmental policies made such a strong impression that his name was trending on Twitter in Canada, and it even prompted an on-air endorsement from Ford himself. In the midst of a volley between the two men, Ford described Schreiner as “honest and up-front,” and said he enjoyed working with him.

“You’re that type of guy, you can put the political stripes behind you,” Ford said to Schreiner, repeating a description that friends, colleagues and Schreiner himself often attribute to the Green leader and his approach to politics.

Read more:

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Western University political scientist Cristine de Clercy said it’s likely no accident that Ford, whose campaign serves to benefit most from vote-splitting on the centre-left, would want to capitalize on Schreiner’s growing appeal to voters _ many of whom are just now being introduced to the Green leader as a fresh face presenting his party for perhaps the first time as a legitimate place to park their votes.

As a leader, de Clercy said Schreiner has done well at broadening the typical Green platform beyond the environment to touch on other issues like housing and mental health, and said his “impressive” debate presence last weekstruck the difficult balance of effectively criticizing his opponents in a “tough yet convivial way.”

“That’s difficult in politics, generally, to be credible and likable at the same time, and he seems able to pull it off,” she said.

Sean Yo, who worked as Schreiner’s campaign manager in 2018, framed the appeal of his former boss somewhat differently.

“I think people want somebody that they can trust to actually behave like an adult while doing some of the most important work of our society,” Yo, who’s aiding the Green campaign in other roles this year, said in an interview.

“There’s a lot of words that get overused in campaigns, things like integrity and respect, and trust and civility and things like that. But all you have to do is meet Mike and you know immediately that he’s the real deal.”

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Schreiner, 52, grew up on a farm in the U.S. and later moved to Canada with his wife, now residing in Guelph with his family. He said Green priorities on the environment, social justice and improving democracy overlapped with his own ideals when he decided to make the jump into politics. Before that, his background as a small business owner and in the non-profit sector helped him develop entrepreneurial skills which he said served him well in his efforts to build the Ontario Greens into a “viable party” over the last decade or so.

He’s also a hard worker, Yo said, noting that Schreiner knocked on more doors than any candidate he’d ever worked with during their history-making 2018 run in Guelph.

Since earning his seat _ an achievement that came nearly a decade after he became leader of the party _ Schreiner has brought his ground game to other Green campaigns, including the successful 2021 federal bid in Kitchener Centre that saw Mike Morrice become the first Green sent to Ottawa by Ontario voters.

Some observers have credited Morrice’s victory to the lack of a Liberal candidate in the race, but Morrice also points to help he had from Schreiner, who was one of Morrice’s first calls when he decided to run. Schreiner’s presence was instrumental on doorsteps in the riding, Morrice said as he recalled people often remarking that Schreiner’s provincial win in Guelph shifted their perception of the party as a realistic ballot option.

“Having Mike here with us in Kitchener, I think, really helped us demonstrate not only that it’s possible to elect a Green, but what you get when elect a Green. You get someone who is less partisan, who’s more focused on democracy and on our community’s priorities,” Morrice said.

In an interview earlier this spring, Morrice said he planned to return the favour and help where he could with Schreiner’s re-election bid in Guelph, with the leader expected to spend more time boosting other candidates in their campaigns this time around.

The party is targeting a few ridings in particular _ University-Rosedale, where former environmental commissioner Dianne Saxe is running, and Parry Sound-Muskoka, where Schreiner said he’s seeing levels of volunteer support and community response that echo his successful 2018 campaign,for candidate Matt Richter.

Despite being the party’s only incumbent, Schreiner said he’s “not taking anything for granted” in his home riding of Guelph, where he’s still attending local debates, knocking on doors and listening to constituents’ concerns.

The momentum of his post-debate campaign hit a snag when he tested positive for COVID-19 days later, but Schreiner said he was still determined to keep supporting candidates across the province remotely.

And while Schreiner is “laser-focused” on electing more Greens, gaining power was never the ultimate goal, he said in Huntsville.

“We’d like to put people before politics,” he said.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Where the Ontario leaders are on the campaign trail for Tuesday, May 24

WATCH ABOVE: For most of the Ontario election campaign, Doug Ford’s political handlers have kept him out of the reach of journalists. As Seán O’Shea reports, that’s a contrast with other campaigns—but Global News caught up with Ford to ask why.

Here’s where the leaders of Ontario’s main political parties are today:

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford

Brampton, Ont.: Makes announcement. 9:30 a.m.

Ridings of Scarborough North and Scarborough Rouge Park: campaign stops.

Riding of Scarborough Centre: door knocking

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath

Pickering, Ont.: announcement on plan for families who lost loved ones in long-term care. 9:15 a.m. The Esplanade Park, 1 The Esplanade

Toronto: Interview with the Toronto Star Editorial Board. 3 p.m.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca

Toronto: Makes announcement. 9 a.m. 8 Dawes Road

Toronto: Campaign stop. 1:15 p.m. Sangria Lounge, 145 Roncesvalles Avenue

Toronto: Visit to GO station to talk buck-a-ride. 2 p.m. Bloor GO Station, 2400 Dundas St W

Toronto: Visit to GO station to talk buck-a-ride. 2:35 p.m. Weston GO Station, 1865 Weston Road

Toronto: Campaign stop. 3:15 p.m. Kabalen Restaurant, 3778 Bathurst Street

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner

Virtual: Makes announcement on housing. 10 a.m.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Ontario party leaders focus campaigns on Greater Toronto Area

WATCH ABOVE: Ontario party leaders hit the campaign trail with new promises. Ahmar Khan reports.

TORONTO — The leaders of Ontario’s main political parties will be campaigning in the Greater Toronto Area today.

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford is headed to Brampton, Ont., where he’ll make an unspecified announcement this morning.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca will make a few stops around Toronto.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who contracted COVID-19 last week, will be back on the campaign trail in person when she stops in Pickering, Ont., to share her party’s plan for families who lost loved ones in long-term care.

Read more:

Del Duca riding association spent $50K on high-end restaurants over 6 years, filings show

She took the day off on Sunday, and her federal counterpart, Jagmeet Singh, campaigned in her stead.

Green Leader Mike Schreiner, who also has COVID-19, is set to campaign virtually again today.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

A Ukrainian village falls victim to another type of Russian war crime: cluster bombs

BARVINKOVE, Ukraine — The mayor of Barvinkove climbed out of his SUV in front of the supermarket, rifle in hand and flack jacket on.

He looked angry, but that’s understandable when the Russian army has been raining missiles, rockets and cluster bombs on your town.

A farming community of 9,000, Barvinkove has no real strategic value but has found itself in the path of Russia’s disastrous invasion.

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Russian forces are positioned 40 kilometres to the northeast in Izyum and have been attempting to push south to seize Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

The Ukrainian defences have held them off but Russia’s strategy of levelling cities before advancing has left Barvinkove battered and deserted.

Aside from military vehicles, ambulances and dogs, the streets were mostly empty. A mangled car lay on its side in the desolate main square.

Downtown Barvinkove, east Ukraine, May 19, 2022.

Downtown Barvinkove, east Ukraine, May 19, 2022.

Stewart Bell/Global News

But what really upset Mayor Oleksandr Balo was the use of cluster munitions — bombs that release many smaller bombs that disperse over a wide area.

As he walked the main street of his town, Balo stopped across from the statue of the city’s Cossack founder, Ivan Barvinok, and bent to pick up a shrapnel pellet similar to those found in some cluster munitions.

Before long he had found several more — on the sidewalk and behind a residence. The marks they had left were visible on building walls. Other nearby debris also appeared to have come from cluster bombs.

“The whole city is like this,” the mayor said.

Emergency worker examines Russian Uragan cluster bomb rocket that landed in Kharkiv, Ukraine, May 21, 2022.

Emergency worker examines Russian Uragan cluster bomb rocket that landed in Kharkiv, Ukraine, May 21, 2022.

Stewart Bell/Global News

Cluster munitions are such a menace that most countries have signed an international treaty banning them, but Russian forces have launched them in more than a half-dozen regions of Ukraine.

While designed to kill infantry, Russia has been accused of firing them at civilian areas.

The evidence of cluster munitions that Barvinkove’s mayor showed Global News was near shops and homes.

A Russian missile that hit the Kramatorsk railway station on April 8 also allegedly carried a cluster warhead. More than 60 died.

In Kharkiv, which is cleaning up from intense Russian bombardments, members of the State Emergency Service ordinance disposal team said they regularly found the remnants of cluster munitions in populated areas.

On the weekend, Global News observed as they pulled the spent rockets of two Russian Uragan cluster bombs from an industrial property.

Such indiscriminate violence could amount to war crimes.

Ukrainian ordinance disposal worker shows tail fin of Russian cluster munition found in Kharkiv's Saltivka district on May 21, 2022.

Ukrainian ordinance disposal worker shows tail fin of Russian cluster munition found in Kharkiv's Saltivka district on May 21, 2022.

Stewart Bell/Global News

Russian-made cluster weapons have killed hundreds of civilians since the Feb. 24 invasion ordered by President Vladimir Putin, according to Human Rights Watch.

“They typically disperse in the air, spreading multiple sub-munitions or bomblets indiscriminately over an area about the size of a city block,” the group said in a report.

“Many fail to explode on initial impact, leaving dangerous duds that can kill and maim, like landmines, for years or even decades unless cleared and destroyed.”

Ukrainian forces appeared to have used cluster munitions once, it said. Neither Russia nor Ukraine have signed the convention banning them.

Mayor Oleksandr Balo shows cluster bomb pellets in Barvinkove, Ukraine, May 19, 2022.

Mayor Oleksandr Balo shows cluster bomb pellets in Barvinkove, Ukraine, May 19, 2022.

Stewart Bell/Global News

Surrounded by lush farmland, Barvinkove is an unpolished town, and the day-and-night shelling from Russian positions has worn it down.

A large roadside missile crater greets arriving visitors. No street has escaped without damage, the mayor said. Why Russia is doing it baffles him.

“We don’t have an answer for that question,” he said.

But the Institute for the Study of War reported Sunday that Russian troops were shelling settlements southeast and southwest of Izyum “indicating continued Russian plans to move southward” to encircle Ukrainian defences in the east.

Eleven civilians have been killed in Barvinkove, including children and the elderly, Balo said. More would have died had the town not been largely evacuated, he added.

The mayor for the past eight years, Balo was indignant cluster bombs weapons were being fired at his citizens.

“I can’t understand, in the 21st century, who can think about it,” he said of their use by Russia on civilians. “We have a lot of rockets like this.”

Window of residence that appears to have been hit by shrapnel from cluster munition in Berinkove, Ukraine, May 19, 2022.

Window of residence that appears to have been hit by shrapnel from cluster munition in Berinkove, Ukraine, May 19, 2022.

Stewart Bell/Global News

Shellfire was still audible in Barvinkove, but locals said it had decreased and they were returning to their corn and sunflowers beds.

A farmer with a sunburnt face and gold teeth said he had been working his crops that morning, after staying home for over two months.

With artillery flying and shells landing in fields, it was just too dangerous, said the man, who said his name was Alexander.

He stood in the vacant city centre, looking confounded by the lack of activity. No cars, no shoppers, no kids.

“No one expected it could be like this,” he said.

Barvinkove, Ukraine, May 19, 2022.

Barvinkove, Ukraine, May 19, 2022.

Stewart Bell/Global News

Down the road, a car lay on its side in the grass, across from a house with its roof ripped off and windows blown out. The garage was gutted.

The owner said she was in Dnipro when the neighbours phoned to tell her the Russians had bombed her place, and she came home to take care of it.

She needed to clean up the mess and plant her garden or she’d miss the growing season. She said nobody was injured in the attack.

Two days after she returned, the debris she collected was already stacked at the end of her driveway, and she had made a start on the roof repairs.

“Life is continuing, we need to live,” she said.

Resident of Barvinkove looks at fragments of Russian missile that struck her house, May 19, 2022.

Resident of Barvinkove looks at fragments of Russian missile that struck her house, May 19, 2022.

Stewart Bell/Global News

She collected the metal fragments of the Russian rocket and leaned them against a wall, as if to hold them to account for what they did.

“They don’t understand us and we don’t understand them,” she said of the Russians. “And we will never forgive them.”

She began to tear up. Artillery guns boomed somewhere in the distance.

“Everything will be good,” she said.


© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Canada ‘not ready’ for growing national security threats, former officials warn

Canada's Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told a press conference on Thursday that the federal government conducted an "extensive and thorough security examination" of 5G wireless communications technologies, including high-risk providers. This is what led the country to ban China's Huawei and ZTE from Canadian 5G networks. He added that the government will table legislation to protect the national security of telecommunications.

The Canadian government is not ready to handle an increasingly dangerous national security environment, a report by former senior national security officials warn.

It’s the latest in a series of increasingly vocal warnings that Ottawa’s national security framework is not prepared to deal with the challenges of modern security threats, including economic espionage, foreign interference in domestic politics and cyber attacks.

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The report, assembled by the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, drew from the experience of recent national security officials and asserted the Canadian public and government rarely take security issues seriously.

“Canada is not ready to face this new world,” the report starkly warns.

“As a country, we urgently need to rethink national security … (The report delivers) the underlying message that governments must have the courage to look at national security issues beyond today’s news cycle or the next election.”

The report canvassed a former national security advisor, the prime minister, former directors of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and former foreign policy advisors to the government.

“It’s a dangerous world. Canada, not just it’s governments, but it’s people writ large, have not always taken national security seriously,” said Vincent Rigby, who advised Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on national security issues, in an interview with Global News.

“I’m not sure that the threat is really coming home to Canadians at the moment … There are all these threats out there. We need a comprehensive strategy to deal with all that. And so it’s a strategy for the government, the bureaucrats, the Canadian Armed Forces, others. I think it’s a strategy for Canadians, to articulate to Canadians the threat, how dangerous that threat is right now and how they have to play a part as well.”

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has been pushing for increased powers to deal with rising national security threats. CSIS Director David Vigneault has highlighted both threats to economic security, including stealing research from Canadian universities and private business, as well as increased threats from domestic extremists in recent public comments.

At the same time, Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) has been warning of increased cyber espionage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more:

Extremism, hateful rhetoric becoming ‘normalized’ in Canada, spy agency head warns

Both agencies have taken unprecedented steps to reach out to the private sector and universities during the pandemic. At the same time, CSIS has drastically reallocated resources to address the rising threat of “ideologically-motivated domestic extremism,” the intelligence community’s catch-all term that includes far-right and anti-authority violence.

An undercurrent in the report, Rigby and co-organizer Thomas Juneau acknowledge, is the instability in the United States, Canada’s closest security ally and the world’s largest military force, which has acted as a guarantor of Canadian security since the end of the Second World War.

“The U.S. is and will remain for the foreseeable future our closest ally. That’s not going to change, at least for now. But there are serious reasons to be concerned,” said Juneau, who is also a professor at the University of Ottawa who specializes in national security and foreign relations issues.

“We see it, for example, with growing transnational ties between right-wing extremists in Canada and in the U.S. We saw it very clearly at the time of the protests in Ottawa and elsewhere in the country where there were ideological exchanges, monetary support, political encouragement, not only from other right-wing extremist individuals or groups in the U.S., but in some cases from U.S. hard conservative media, Fox News and from U.S. politicians.”

“This is a serious problem for Canada,” Juneau added. “It’s not something that we’re used to dealing with, not something that we’re used to thinking about.”

Rigby, Juneau and their co-authors stress that the Canadian government needs to rethink the country’s security posture now rather than wait for a major incident on Canadian soil.

Read more:

Extremism, hateful rhetoric becoming ‘normalized’ in Canada, spy agency head warns

The report also stressed the need for the Canadian security and intelligence community to be more open with the press, who gather information for the public, and with groups like universities and research institutions who have increasingly been the target of espionage.

Rigby, who recently held the top job in Canada’s national security system, said the community must be much more open with the public to get them to take the threats seriously.

“If you want everybody rowing in the same direction, if you want everybody to really understand the threat and know that this is serious stuff, you have to be open with them,” Rigby said.

“I’m not sure the average Canadian understands just how serious the threat is right now. But also give them the information, the intelligence if you want, to actually respond.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Del Duca riding association spent $50K on high-end restaurants over 6 years, filings show

WATCH: Ontario’s party leaders go head to head in the official Ontario election campaign debate. Focus Ontario host Alan Carter sits down with both NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner. Plus, as food inflation pushes up your grocery bill, are meal kits worthwhile?

Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca‘s former riding association racked up thousands of dollars in hospitality charges during his six years in government, money that was spent on expensive dinners at upscale restaurants and ritzy steakhouses.

Global News reviewed years of riding association annual filings housed at Elections Ontario’s headquarters in Scarborough and discovered more than $50,000 in hospitality expenses charged to Del Duca’s Vaughan-Woodbridge riding between 2013 and 2018, when Del Duca served as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance, Minister of Transportation and Minister of Economic Development and Growth.

During that period, when Del Duca earned between $130,000 to $165,000 per year as an MPP and cabinet minister, the constituency filed between $5,000 and $11,000 each year in sit-down dinner expenses that the party is defending as “legitimate.”

Read more:

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Riding associations typically have two sources of income: donor support, of which a portion is refunded through a provincial tax credit, and a yearly per-vote subsidy parties receive from taxpayers.

The issue of politicians charging their riding associations for expenses was raised during the election campaign after Global News reported eight Progressive Conservative MPPs were given constituency allowances while also receiving a taxpayer-funded salary, which Del Duca criticized as “troubling.”

“I think it is troubling for those individuals who are receiving an MPP is compensation or salary. And then, frankly, from this particular party, telling the people of Ontario that they had to freeze the minimum wage four years ago,” Del Duca said on May 11.

Del Duca riding association expenses

From the moment Del Duca began his first full year in office, his Vaughan-Woodbridge riding association began racking up dinner expenses and the charges continued until 2018 — Del Duca’s final year in office.

The reasons for the expenses, according to the filings, were to host meetings but the documents do not offer any clarity on who participated in those meetings, the subject matter or why the riding association was paying for meals at restaurants outside of the Vaughan-Woodbridge constituency.

An Ontario Liberal party spokesperson told Global News that “all the expenses were legitimate,” were used for donor and volunteer appreciation, and were approved by the riding association before being submitted to Elections Ontario.

“ volunteer dinners both in the riding and out, riding association gatherings at party events, donor events and volunteer appreciation gifts,” the party said in a statement.

The expenses, however, showcase a taste for the finer things in life.

In 2018, the riding association was billed $10,581.62 for meals at four steak houses including:

The Keg Steakhouse: $8,464.26

Hy’s Steakhouse on Bay St.: $1,196.77

Jacob’s & Co. Steakhouse: $566.03

Bob’s Steak & Chop:  $354.56

That same year — the Liberals’ final year in government — Del Duca’s constituency association also shelled out more than $1,200 for meals at two upscale Italian restaurants in Woodbridge and Kleinburg.

While 2018 was the most expensive year for “meetings,” it capped off a years-long pattern of spending at some of the highest-end restaurants in Toronto  — including in the ritzy Yorkville area — Vaughan, Windsor and Ottawa.

Yearly top-tier restaurant expenses for the Vaughan-Woodbridge riding:

2013: $5,122.99

2014: $6,926.08

2015: $6,768.26 

2016: $11,284.25

2017: $9,646.03

2018: $11,844.54

Those expenses are over and above what could be considered typical food-related costs — such as pizza, coffee and grocery items — to feed staff, volunteers and constituents at events. For example, in 2013, the riding association also purchased $661 worth of food from Pizza Nova and $120 from The Big Canoli — which Global News has excluded from the overall dinner-related expenses.

While most of the expensive dinners took place at steakhouses, three in particular appeared to rank as the most popular among the riding association.

Between 2013 and 2018, the association approved:

$2,600: Morton’s Steakhouse

$2,900: Hy’s Steakhouse in multiple cities

$14,437: The Keg

Del Duca’s campaign team told Global News the top-tier expenses coincided with party events, such as annual general meetings and provincial councils, and high-end restaurants were picked because of the availability of space.

How does it compare?

Global News reviewed the constituency expenses of the other party leaders participating in the 2022 election to compare the costs of Del Duca’s Vaughan-Woodbridge riding.

While NDP Leader Andrea Horwath‘s Hamilton Centre and Green Party leader Mike Schreiner‘s Guelph riding associations did not list any similar dinners at expensive restaurants during their time in office, PC leader Doug Ford’s Etobicoke North constituency association approved thousands of dollars in meals and meetings in 2020.

Ford’s riding approved roughly $5,000 in expenditures during the first year of the pandemic with the bulk of the “meals with members” taking place at fast-food or local restaurants including McDonald’s, Pizza Pizza, Subway and Tim Hortons. None of the meetings, according to the yearly filings with Elections Ontario, was held at any high-priced restaurants.

“Like all riding associations across the province, the Etobicoke North EDA hosts volunteer appreciation events, community events and holiday celebrations. All expenses are approved by the local riding association board, audited by a licenced auditor, and reviewed and approved by Elections Ontario,” said Ivana Yelich, a spokesperson for the PC campaign.

Read more:

Ontario PC MPP speaks out about ‘allowance’ scandal

Other Progressive Conservative MPPs, however, found themselves in hot water for receiving an ‘MPP allowance’ that allowed some to pay for childcare costs even as they received a $125,000 a year salary from Queen’s Park to serve as a member of provincial parliament.

Del Duca’s campaign team said that unlike the PCs, “no time has Steven topped up his MPP salary through the riding association.”

What will change?

The leaders of all three major parties have promised to review the Election Finances Act and possibly introduce new rules to crack down on how money given to ridings associations — either through direct donations from supporters or from Ontario’s per-vote subsidy — can be spent.

Del Duca, who criticized the Progressive Conservatives over their spending habits, promised a “citizens assembly” on election reform would study the subject if his party formed government on June 2.

“I want all parties involved, all political parties, Elections Ontario, academics, advocates involved in that process,” Del Duca said on May 11. “I think it should have the opportunity to examine everything, including election finance laws.”

The NDP promised to “ban” the practice of MPPs “using riding associations as personal ATMs” if they form government this spring.

Ford — who used the notwithstanding clause to overrule the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to pass legislation in 2021 that loosened election financing rules —  has promised to form an all-party committee after the election to review the election financing laws and “tighten them up.”

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© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Trudeau faces chants, pounding drums as he walks through crowd at Kamloops memorial

Members of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in British Columbia, as well as many others from across Canada, gathered in Kamloops to mark the first anniversary of when 215 unmarked graves were detected at a nearby former residential school. Neetu Garcha explains how the community honoured the children who never came home, and the calls to fight the systemic erasure of Indigenous culture to protect future generations.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received a loud, stern reception Monday during his attendance at a daylong memorial marking one year since the detection of graves believed to hold the remains of hundreds of children at a former Kamloops, B.C. residential school.

Trudeau was followed by a large group of memorial attendees who chanted and pounded drums as he stopped in the stands, talking face-to-face with people and often exchanging hugs with others.

“We have so much more to do,” Trudeau was overheard saying to an elderly woman who he spoke with and hugged.

Others did not appear as friendly, chanting, “Canada is all Indian land,” and “We don’t need your Constitution.”

Trudeau told the crowd he hears their concerns.

Earlier Monday, Gov. Gen. Mary Simon told the crowd the atrocities, the death, the loss and the silence of residential schools that Indigenous Peoples knew about for so long is now known by all.

“It’s unimaginable that a place of learning was so cruel. It’s inexcusable that people could commit these atrocities or that people could stand silent as they were committed,” she said.

One year ago, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced that the graves were detected using ground-penetrating radar at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

They are believed to hold the remains of up to 215 children who died at the school, a finding that led to the discovery of hundreds of other similar sites across the country and triggered a national reckoning on Canada’s past and present relationship with Indigenous peoples.

Read more:

Reclaiming, rebuilding: Kamloops school survivors share in memorial for missing children

Simon said while the unmarked graves of children found around residential schools in Canada have been called a discovery, for survivors it’s the confirmation of First Nations experiences and knowledge passed down from generation to generation.

“It shouldn’t have taken that long, but finally people know,” Simon said. “And knowing has transformed this community. People have made pilgrimages here to pay their respects, to say they’re sorry, to show their support.”

Simon, who is the first Indigenous person in Canada to hold the office of Governor General, said many members of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc haven’t had time to grieve and she hoped that Monday’s event could contribute to their healing process.

“We mourn with you. We stand with you. We believe you,” she said.

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief or Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir told the crowd at the memorial that she hopes the events over the past year will lead to reconciliation for Indigenous Peoples.

“Non-Indigenous are now wanting to know about the real hidden history of this country. That we know is a good thing. Those conversations, as hard as they are, are going to lead to steps that we all need to make towards our collective history.”

Casimir was part of the delegation to the Vatican where the Pope apologized last month for the role of the Catholic Church in Canada’s residential school system.

While she said she’s disappointed the Pope will not be coming to Kamloops during a scheduled visit in July, she’s pleased he’ll be meeting with other Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

Pope Francis will make stops in Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit during his visit.

Trudeau also viewed a traditional jingle dance performance and participate in a closed meeting with Casimir and members of her council on Monday.

The prime minister also participated in the memorial’s closing ceremonies and spoke to the media after.

Read more:

Honouring Le Estcwicwéy̓: B.C. First Nation marks 1 year since discovery of 215 unmarked graves

He faced widespread criticism last September when he did not attend national reconciliation day ceremonies in Kamloops.

Kamloops school survivor John Jules said Monday’s memorial was an inspiring event. Jules participated in a dance where he circled the pow wow grounds with hundreds of people, young and old.

“It’s uplifting to have all our people together,” he said. “It brings healing for our people.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Head-on collision kills female motorcyclist near Edmonton Garrison, charges pending

A 37-year-old driver is in police custody and a 62-year-old woman is dead after a head-on collision on Highway 28, just north of Anthony Henday Drive, on Monday night.

A driver is in custody and a woman in her 60s is dead after a head-on collision at the entrance of CFB Edmonton on Monday evening.

RCMP said two people on separate motorcycles were driving north together on Highway 28, when a northbound SUV ahead of them made a U-turn and collided head-on with one of the riders. The other bike was not hit, RCMP said.

The crash happened around 6 p.m. at the intersection of Highway 28 and Township Road 544/Sturgeon Road, which is the entrance to the Edmonton Garrison military base.

Read more:

Woman dies in crash near CFB Edmonton

Morinville RCMP, along with the military police from the base and EMS, responded to the two-vehicle collision.

The 62-year-old Edmonton woman who was hit was taken with life-threatening injuries by ambulance to an Edmonton hospital, where police said she died.

The 37-year-old man driving the SUV was detained by police, RCMP said.

“Preliminary investigation suggests that driving impairment may be a contributor this head-on collision,” RCMP said, adding a collision reconstructionist was called to the scene — which police said extended down the road from the intersection.

Scene of a fatal collision between a motorcycle and SUV on Highway 28 at Township Road 544/Sturgeon Road just north of Edmonton on Monday, May 23, 2022.

Scene of a fatal collision between a motorcycle and SUV on Highway 28 at Township Road 544/Sturgeon Road just north of Edmonton on Monday, May 23, 2022.

Global News

The intersection was closed, with traffic being diverted east and west along Township Road 544, and south of the collision at Anthony Henday Drive.

The road was expected to remain closed until early Tuesday morning.

RCMP Const. Patrick Lambert said more details may be released on Tuesday, once charges are laid before the provincial courts.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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