Toronto cop guilty of assault made Sunshine List while suspended

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 18:37:45 EDT

An incident in which an on-duty Toronto police sergeant assaulted a man in a Scarborough parking lot and then drove away, leaving the victim collapsed on the ground, came to light after an account from a bystander and Toronto Community Housing Corporation surveillance footage, according to recently filed court documents.

Last week, Toronto police Sgt. Robert Goudie pleaded guilty to assaulting Hamza Sheikh, then 47, outside the man’s residence in October 2015, an incident that began with Goudie approaching Sheikh believing he had been driving while impaired.

In January 2016, Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) charged Goudie with assault causing bodily harm and failing to provide the necessities of life; the latter charge was dropped at the request of the Crown prosecutor, while Goudie pleaded guilty to assault.

“The defendant’s application of force to Mr. Sheikh was unjustified and excessive,” reads an agreed statement of facts filed in court last week.

The veteran police officer has been given a conditional discharge, meaning he is now subject to six months’ probation, which includes a ban on contacting Sheikh. He was also ordered to pay a $100 victim surcharge to Sheikh.

Goudie has been suspended with pay from the Toronto Police Service since November 2015. Nonetheless, he made Ontario’s Sunshine List in 2016, earning $116,000.

Meaghan Gray, a spokesperson for the Toronto Police, said in an email the suspension is under review now that the criminal case has concluded and the police service can proceed with a related disciplinary charge. Goudie faces one count of discreditable conduct under the Police Services Act for being charged with a criminal offence.

According to the summary of facts filed in court, Goudie was alone on patrol just after 4 a.m. on Oct. 31, 2015, when he spotted Sheikh’s vehicle and believed he was an impaired driver.

Goudie, driving a marked police vehicle, followed him into the parking area near 10 Gordonridge Place, near Danforth and Brimley Rds., then approached Sheikh after he parked his car, the court document states.

Surveillance footage, though low quality and shot from a distance, captured a 33-second discussion between Goudie and Sheikh, who was standing near his car with the driver’s side door open.

Then, Goudie “took hold” of Sheikh and forced him to the ground on a grassy boulevard near the cars, then pinned him with his right knee for 20 seconds and “appeared to search him.”

Goudie got up off of Sheikh, shone his flashlight into the man’s vehicle, then removed a crutch from inside and “tossed it towards” Sheikh. Court heard that Sheikh had pre-existing spinal injuries.

Sheikh “remained prone and motionless on the ground” at this time, according to the documents.

The officer then walked back to his car and drove off. Goudie never reported the stop or arrested Sheikh, although he had reasonable grounds to do so, according to the court documents.

“(Goudie) believed at that time that Mr. Sheikh was conscious,” according to the statement of facts.

Sheikh remained on the ground in the same position for 30 minutes, until a Toronto police car and ambulance arrived in response to an emergency call.

Paramedics found Sheikh on the ground wearing a neck brace, and noticed a strong odour of alcohol and signs of impairment.

The court documents do not explain who made the emergency call, but a document filed with the Toronto Police Services Board agenda last week states police and paramedics were summoned to the scene by a 4:13 a.m. call reporting an officer had assaulted a member of the public. Police and paramedics arrived at 4:34 a.m.

According to the police board document, which summarizes the internal probe that must take place after every SIU investigation, the officers who responded were then directed by a superior to leave and “the incident was abandoned without further investigation or documentation,” the report states.

That superior was later identified as Goudie, according to the police board document.

In an interview Monday, Goudie’s lawyer Gary Clewley vehemently disputed the contents of the Toronto police board document, saying that whoever wrote it “had nothing to do with the investigation.”

“I can tell you this much for sure: officer Goudie did not terminate or interfere with the investigation of this incident. Period.”

Clewley also stressed that the court did not find as fact that Sheikh lost consciousness following the assault.

According to the court document, Sheikh was taken to a hospital, where he refused assessment and voluntarily left before he saw a doctor. The Crown prosecutor was unable to prove Goudie’s use of force caused Sheikh any bodily harm, according to the court document.

Sheikh claimed that he had no memory of the incident. At a medical appointment three days after the incident, Sheikh exhibited no signs of a head injury, the court document states.

Sheikh said he contacted police to complain about the incident only after he was informed about what transpired by the neighbour who witnessed it.

Sheikh’s complaint generated an investigation by the Toronto police Criminal Investigations Bureau. Two weeks later, Toronto Community Housing informed police about the contents of its surveillance footage of the incident, according to the police board document.

The SIU was contacted the following day and took over the investigation. Goudie was suspended the same day.

The sergeant’s professional misconduct hearing continues.

Wendy Gillis can be reached at

Trudeau warns ‘thickening’ border over lumber, dairy will hurt both U.S., Canada

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 11:06:00 EDT

OTTAWA—The federal government is reaching out to reassure forestry workers, lumber producers and others facing the impact from a fresh softwood trade war that it stands ready to help cushion what it suggests will be a heavy blow.

The U.S. is imposing significant duties of up to 24 per cent on lumber imports — the latest flare-up in Canada’s escalating trade skirmish with President Donald Trump’s administration.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr acknowledged Tuesday that job losses are likely in the offing, saying Employment and Social Development Canada is standing by to provide essential services for anyone who is impacted.

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“If we look at the history of these trade actions, there inevitably will be job losses,” Carr told a news conference in Ottawa.

“We will focus our efforts on doing whatever we can to ease the impact of those job losses; that is the reality of this countervail. It is going to result in some tough times for some operators across the country.

“We are prepared and well-positioned to do whatever governments can reasonably do to help the workers, the industries and the communities that will be affected.”

Available ESDC supports include employment insurance, career counselling, retraining and provincial skills development programs, said Carr, noting Canada is no stranger to softwood disputes with the U.S., and has always prevailed in the past.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, says the Canada-U.S. relationship is bigger than any one trade irritant — and that both countries would suffer from a “thickening” border.

“We are tremendously interconnected in our economy with that of the United States, but it’s not just a one-way relationship,” Trudeau said during a visit to Kitchener, Ont.

“There are millions of good U.S. jobs that depend on smooth flow of goods, services and people back and forth across our border.”

He cited the North American auto sector as one compelling example, and his oft-repeated illustration of how a typical car part can cross the border up to six times before it ends up in a finished automobile.

Trudeau also said the friendly nature of the relationship means both sides will be able to work through any disputes that arise, such as those currently brewing on softwood lumber and dairy products.

Carr, on the other hand, wasn’t sounding an especially friendly tone.

“We will continue to press our American counterparts to rescind this unfair and unwarranted trade action,” he said.

“We remain confident that a negotiated settlement is not only possible but in the interests of both countries.”

During a technical briefing on the softwood duties Tuesday, officials said Canada is not likely to challenge legally under the North American Free Trade Agreement or with the World Trade Organization until next year.

They need to wait until the final determinations, which likely won’t happen until late 2017, officials say, which means a legal challenge wouldn’t come before January 2018.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been stirring the pot of late, tweeting today that Canada is making life “very difficult” for American dairy farmers and that the government “will not stand” for it.

Lumber and dairy are long-standing irritants — and were also a problem file under previous presidents. In softwood lumber, the countries have a once-a-decade cycle of tariffs, trade litigation, and ultimately settlements.

Thanks to free trade, there is also a shortage of red tape and regulation that “blocks and gums up the system,” Trudeau added.

“You cannot thicken this border without hurting people on both sides of it,” he said.

“Any two countries are going to have issues that will be irritants to the relationship. Having a good constructive working relationship allows us to work through those irritants.

“There’s always going to be political pressures to raise this issue or that issue ... but the core of this relationship is bigger than any two individuals sitting in the top of their respective governments.”

Trudeau warned against paying too much heed to “those narrow interests that always want to close off or impose barriers.”

The softwood spat is unfolding amid a much bigger trade issue — the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Despite remarks from the president and his cabinet secretary, neither lumber nor dairy are actually part of the current NAFTA. However, different actors would be pleased to add provisions on one or the other.

What comes next on softwood is a study of separate anti-dumping duties, followed by a final verdict by the U.S. Commerce Department as early as Sept. 7, and then one of three possible outcomes: a negotiated agreement, a surprise retreat from the U.S. government, or a potential years-long court battle.

Canada’s government condemned the announcement. In a statement, the federal government called the move unfair, baseless, unfounded and it promised help for its industry.

Carr said the action hurts people in both countries — not only Canada’s lumber sector that employs hundreds of thousands, but also American homebuyers, who must now pay more for wood.

‘An epidemic within an epidemic’: Why opioid use in Canada keeps rising

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 12:58:59 EDT

Canada is in the midst of an epidemic of opioid use and abuse — involving both prescription and illicit forms of the potent narcotics — that shows no signs of abating and has led to an explosion of fatal overdoses.

So pervasive is the problem that it has become part of the Canadian consciousness and left doctors, public health officials and politicians scrambling to find solutions to contain the crisis.

Canadians remain the second highest per-capita consumers of opioids in the world, after Americans. But while U.S. use is beginning to decline, Canada’s numbers keep rising, according to the International Narcotic Control Board, which monitors countries’ prescribing levels.

“We doubt very much that it has to do with Canadians being different, having more pain than people elsewhere in the world. We think it probably has to do with how we’ve been programmed to prescribe,” says Dr. Jamie Meuser, executive director of professional development and practice for the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

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“There’s virtually no doubt that prescribing in Canada has resulted in more opioid medications being on the street in Canadian communities than in comparable places in the world.”

But just how did we get here?

Opioids have been used therapeutically and recreationally for thousands of years, starting with Persian poppy-derived opium that both Hippocrates and Galen praised for its healing effects. Even famed Canadian-born physician William Osler (1849-1919) — no lover of pharmaceuticals — hailed opium as “God’s own medicine.”

With the isolation and later synthesis of some of opium’s chemical properties beginning in the early 19th century, medicinal use of opioids like morphine, codeine, laudanum and heroin became widespread, as did cases of addiction to those easily purchased drugs.

Synthetic opioids, such as oxycodone, were introduced to the prescription market from the 1950s onward, followed by slow-release formulations of a number of the drugs in the 1990s and early 2000s, which doctors began embracing for the treatment of chronic pain.

Among them were the fentanyl patch, hydromorphone and OxyContin, the latter made by U.S.-based Purdue Pharma, which aggressively marketed its product to practising physicians and medical school students as a highly effective painkiller “without unacceptable side-effects” — including addiction.

Prescription numbers soared — in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere — as did growing reports of addictions and overdose deaths.

Then in May 2007, the truth about OxyContin was revealed when Purdue and three of its top executives settled U.S. criminal and civil charges for the company’s deceptive promotion of the medication.

Purdue agreed to pay US$634.5-million in fines, acknowledging that it had, “fraudulently and misleadingly marketed OxyContin as less addictive, less subject to abuse and less likely to cause withdrawal symptoms than other pain medications.”

Still, today’s opioid crisis can’t be linked solely to Purdue and its purported wonder drug OxyContin, suggests Benedikt Fischer, a senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

“There were a whole lot of other opioids around . . . which were broadly accepted as a quick and easy and effective fix for pain . . . and were massively prescribed to a lot of people in high quantities and for long durations,” says Fischer.

While the use of opioids to manage chronic pain is poorly supported by scientific evidence, many doctors continue to prescribe the powerful medications, often because they don’t see other options for easing patients’ suffering, he says.

In 2012, partly in response to widespread diversion of OxyContin to recreational users with devastating results — some indigenous communities, for instance, reported that almost their entire populations were addicted — Purdue pulled the drug from the market as its patent was about to expire and replaced it with OxyNeo, a crush-proof pill that couldn’t be snorted, smoked or injected for an instant high.

Despite its new formulation, OxyNeo is still highly addictive, and several provincial governments have moved to restrict coverage under their publicly funded drug plans. Ontario and B.C., for example, have delisted OxyNeo, other than for exceptional use. As of Jan. 1, Ontario also stopped paying for any high-dose opioid that exceeds the equivalent of 200 milligrams of morphine per day.

Since 2012, prescriptions for oxycodone have been falling — from almost 2.13 million that year to less than 1.84 million in 2016, according to estimates from the pharmaceutical sales-tracking company QuintilesIMS. But other opioids soon took up the slack. For instance, retail pharmacies dispensed more than 4.76 million prescriptions of hydromorphone last year, up from just over three million four years earlier.

None of the above figures include prescriptions from hospitals or other medical institutions.

“Overall, I don’t see a lot of evidence that the generous prescribing and dispensing of opioids have really been reduced dramatically, despite our knowledge that we’ve really overdone this,” Fischer says.

QuintilesIMS backs up his assertion: in 2012, Canadian retail pharmacies dispensed almost 19 million analgesic-opioid prescriptions overall. Last year, that number had ballooned to more than 30 million, reaping nearly $881 million in sales.

The College of Family Physicians of Canada is trying to tackle the problem at the educational level, joining with several other professional groups — among them the Canadian Medical Association and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons — “to look at what education needs there are around this and what we can do to fill them,” says Meuser.

Canada’s 17 medical schools are also grappling with the issue, with some revamping their courses on pain control to stress to the country’s future doctors the dangers of opioids and alternatives for treating patients.

Governments and public health bodies are also trying to put the brakes on indiscriminate prescribing. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued new guidelines a year ago, advising doctors to first try non-drug therapies like physiotherapy for chronic pain and initiating opioids only in low doses for a short duration.

Draft guidelines for Canadian doctors, developed at McMaster University in Hamilton, suggest restricting opioids to the equivalent of 50 to 90 milligrams of morphine per day, except in “rare circumstances,” putting them in line with the CDC’s advice. The previous guidelines, from 2010, limited the upper daily dose to 200 milligrams. The final recommendations are expected next month.

Meanwhile, a new threat has sent the opioid crisis into overdrive.

Illicit fentanyl pills from overseas have flooded onto the black market, helping to fuel a rash of overdose deaths, particularly in B.C. and Alberta. Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and up to 50 times stronger than heroin — making it potentially deadly in very small doses.

Dr. David Juurlink, head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, calls the fentanyl crisis “an epidemic within an epidemic.”

“The fentanyl epidemic is a response to the generation and enormous market for opioids that has always existed but was never as large as it currently is,” he says.

“When the demand is so high and there’s so much money to be made, when you try to restrain the supply side — you reformulate OxyContin into a tamper-resistant product, you close down pill mills and you abruptly reduce opioid prescribing — people will need something.

“And to avoid withdrawal, they’ll turn to whatever they can get their hands on.”

Fischer says two decades of over-prescribing, coupled with the growing illicit trade, has created a dilemma for those trying to curtail opioid use among both chronic pain patients and those who seek the narcotics to get high.

“The challenge, of course, is we have to deal with the hundreds of thousands of people who have become addicted and dependent and who are abusing these drugs on a daily basis or putting themselves at risk of overdose.”

Reining in opioid use may prevent more people becoming addicted in the future, says Fischer, who has long called for a national strategy to deal with the epidemic.

“But at the same time, you may create an adverse double-jeopardy effect where you may make things worse for all those people who are hooked on these drugs and are already procuring them non-medically.”

Wynne’s basic income experiment deserves to live a full life: Wells

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 14:13:07 EDT

“No nation can achieve true greatness if it lacks the courage and determination to undertake the surgery necessary to remove the cancer of poverty from its body politic.”

That’s a useful quote to keep in mind as the Wynne government pushes aside the naysayers, at least for the moment, and undertakes a three-city social policy experiment to test the efficacy of basic income. Hamilton, Lindsay and Thunder Bay are the chosen Petri dishes for the three-year Ontario Basic Income Pilot (OBIP) project, which means that this big test — will basic income not only provide better support for those on the bottom rung but also help push them up the ladder — may outlive the current government.

Or not.

The federal-provincial Manitoba Basic Annual Income Experiment of the 1970s, or Mincome, didn’t survive the political changing of the guard from Ed Schreyer’s NDP government to Sterling Lyon’s Conservatives. The fuller story: interest in the project, located in Dauphin and Winnipeg, was waning at the federal level. The project had already pushed beyond its initial time mandate when the plug was pulled, leaving behind a confusion of data and first person accounts. There were even complaints about researchers trying to get to interviews with Dauphinites in the middle of a Manitoba winter. Images of cost escalation aren’t difficult to conjure.

Throughout there was deep skepticism here in Ontario, which had been offered federal funding to conduct a similar experiment, but took a pass, taking the position that guaranteed income and negative income tax experiments had been conducted in the United States dating back to 1968, albeit with inconsistent results.

So the first takeaway is that regardless of what happens in the next provincial election, all parties need to pledge allegiance to OBIP’s full three years. History tells us that the rigorous research and evaluation experts promised by the Wynne government had better be the best in their field for this will be key to a robust scientific outcome. The third-party research consortium that will evaluate the study has yet to be announced.

The remnant data from Mincome has been much discussed, including here in an interview with Evelyn Forget, a University of Manitoba health economist. Forget’s first focus was on health outcomes, with the significant finding that health care utilization was reduced and mental health complaints dropped significantly.

When I spoke to Forget last spring she emphasized that one of the really big findings was the increase in high school completion for the children of Mincome-receiving parents. “Particularly boys,” Forget said. “Before Mincome they had been under a fair amount of family pressure to go out and become self supporting. When Mincome came along I guess their families decided they could support them in school a little longer.”

That’s a huge win that can’t be overstated, and the kind of result that plays into both federal and provincial promises to help advance “inclusive growth.”

Wisely, the Wynne government is not taking the Dauphin saturation site approach in which all residents were invited to participate — “a very weird way of doing an experiment,” Forget said, though the family files proved a goldmine for her own research — but rather will build its data base on 4,000 randomly selected participants between the ages of 18 and 64. Residents will be invited to apply.

A key point too is that by choosing Lindsay, Hamilton and Thunder Bay, the government has chosen representative sites that mirror the province as a whole: north, central, large, small. When I spoke with Forget she made the point that so much data — health, justice, education — is now routinely collected, it’s a completely different world than it was in 1974.

There are two elephants in the room.

The first is the fear that such a plan will serve as a disincentive to work — will there be negative labour market effects? And if so, where will they pop up?

The second, from the other end of the political spectrum, is that social programs will be compromised. The government’s announcement states that participants receiving support through Ontario Works will continue to receive the Ontario Drug Benefit.

The government hopes the first perceived barrier will be overcome by a 50-cents-on-the-dollar incentive: for every dollar earned, the basic income amount will be reduced by 50 cents.

It’s long past time that we figured out the labour market impacts of such a strategy.

Oh, and that opening quote? Those are the words of Senator David Croll, who led the senate committee’s report on poverty in Canada. In 1968. The key recommendation of the report? A guaranteed annual income.

Senator Croll’s words ring a familiar bell. Here’s what the Wynne government said in its release Monday: “Our approach to basic income is a simplified way to deliver income support that provides a floor under which nobody can fall.”

Here’s Senator Croll addressing the Empire Club in 1972: “What does the guaranteed annual income do? In essence, it simply means providing a floor below which the income of Canadians will not be allowed to fall.”

A near half century has passed. It’s now up to the Wynne government to hold the experiment to a gold standard, and resolve the decades old guaranteed income conundrum once and for all.

Great-West Lifeco to cut 1,500 jobs over next two years

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 08:18:05 EDT

WINNIPEG—Great-West Lifeco will cut 1,500 positions over the next two years in response to changing technology and customer expectations, the financial services company said Tuesday.

The cuts — which will be mostly back-office functions across the organization — are equal to 13 per cent of the Winnipeg-based company’s 12,000 employees in Canada.

“Not only are customers demanding greater digital and mobile access to financial services, they are becoming increasingly cost-sensitive,” Great-West president and CEO Paul Mahon told analysts on a conference call.

The company expects to lower its annual costs by about $200 million, before taxes, by the end of March 2019.

About two-thirds of the savings will be from the workforce reduction, and the rest primarily from reduced IT spending with some real estate savings.

About 1,000 of the job cuts will happen this year with the remaining 500 positions to be eliminated more gradually throughout 2018 and early 2019

At the same time, the company will continue to hire people who have the required skills.

Among other things, Great-West has updated its GroupNet online portal for health claim submissions and created an app for customers to track retirement savings across financial institutions.

Great-West is also a co-investor in Portage Investments — which includes the WealthSimple robo-adviser business in its portfolio of financial technology companies.

But Mahon said there’s no plan to reduce its commitment to distributing products through various channels, including its network of associated advisers.

To reach its targets, Great-West says will reduce its temporary workforce, offer a voluntary retirement program and a severance program.

The initiative will reduce Great-West’s earnings in this year’s second quarter by $127 million after taxes, or 13 cents per share.

‘Trump has accomplished more in his 100 days than any other President since Franklin Roosevelt,’ White House says, falsely

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 12:29:23 EDT

WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump will mark the end of his first 100 days in office with a flurry of executive orders, looking to fulfil campaign promises and rack up victories ahead of that milestone by turning to a presidential tool he once derided. But Trump’s frequent use of the executive order points to his struggles getting legislation through a Congress controlled by his own party and few of the orders themselves appear to deliver the sweeping changes the president has promised.

Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

White House aides said that Trump will have signed 32 executive orders by Friday, the most of any president in their first 100 days since the second world war. That’s a far cry from Trump’s heated campaign rhetoric, in which he railed against his predecessor’s use of executive action late in his tenure as president Barack Obama sought to manoeuvre around a Republican Congress. Trump argued that he, the consummate deal maker, wouldn’t need to rely on the tool.

“The country wasn’t based on executive orders,” said Trump at a town hall in South Carolina in February 2016. “Right now, Obama goes around signing executive orders. He can’t even get along with the Democrats, and he goes around signing all these executive orders. It’s a basic disaster. You can’t do it.”

But after taking office, Trump has learned to love the executive order.

In an email blast to reporters on Tuesday, the White House touted the sheer volume of orders as evidence for the suspect claim that “Trump has accomplished more in his 100 days than any other President since Franklin Roosevelt.” The White House has defended the use of executive orders as necessary to accomplish the speedy solutions it says the American people elected Trump to enact.

At first, the president’s West Wing advisers fashioned an onslaught of executive action to set the tone for this term, with the centrepiece of that first-week blitz being Trump’s travel ban. But that hastily drawn ban was rejected by the courts. A second replacement order also remains in judicial limbo.

Presidents frequently turn to executive orders when they struggle to advance their agendas through Congresses controlled by the opposition party. In Trump’s case, he’s struggled to pass his agenda even though both houses of Congress are in the hands of Republicans; his health care bill never even came for a vote in the House of Representatives after it drew sharp criticism from moderate and conservative Republicans alike.

And in the Senate, Republicans need to win over some Democratic lawmakers to get the 60 votes needed for passage of a contested bill. But the Senate is generally more inclined to cut bipartisan deals than the House because senators have statewide constituencies.

“This president has found that legislating is hard work,” said Mark Rozell, dean of George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government. “Executive orders are the easiest, simplest way to showcase action by the president to begin to fulfil some of the pledges made in the campaign.”

A review of Trump’s executive orders reveals that a number of them represent necessary first steps at unravelling Obama-era environmental safeguards and financial service regulations. In some cases, there is no other way around those administrative hoops and some of the orders have brought about major changes. Among them: his late March order that directed federal agencies to rescind any existing regulations that “unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources,” a move that rolls back environmental protections that was denounced by Democrats and environmentalists and cheered by Republicans who advocate energy independence.

But many of Trump’s executive orders signed with great fanfare have had little immediate impact.

For instance, during his campaign, Trump talked tough on trade, vowing to slap punitive tariffs on companies that move production offshore and on countries that undercut U.S. goods. Aides hailed one of the executive orders he signed on the topic as “historic.” Yet the order called only for the completion within 90 days of a large-scale report to identify trade abuse and nonreciprocal practice.

And while Trump has pledged to overhaul the nation’s tax code, the order he signed on Friday simply commissions a review of the nation’s tax regulations.

On Tuesday, Trump is expected to sign an order that will create an interagency task force that that will be charged with identifying measures to spur American agricultural growth. On Thursday, he’s expected to sign an order to create whistleblower protections in the Office of Veteran Affairs while making it easier to discipline or terminate employees who fail to carry out their duties to help veterans. He’s also poised to sign an order that directs a review of the locations available for offshore oil and gas exploration. Another will instruct the Interior Department to review national monument designations made over the past two decades.

“Unlike his predecessor who abused executive authority to expand the size and scope of the federal government in an end run around Congress, President Trump is using his legal authority to restrain Washington bureaucrats,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Trump is far from the first president to turn to governing by executive orders signed from the friendly confines of the Oval Office rather than by legislation that would need to wend its way through the halls of Congress. Obama had frequently criticized his predecessor, George W. Bush, for governing unilaterally, but he too turned to the executive action, particularly after the Republicans seized control of Capitol Hill.

Obama signed 276 during his eight years in office, slightly less than Bush (291) and Bill Clinton (364) did in their two terms, according to data from the University of California-Santa Barbara. Executive orders were used relatively infrequently until Theodore Roosevelt ushered in a new era of executive action at the beginning of the 19th century, signing more than 1,000 while in office and establishing a template his successors.

Three men convicted in Sweden for rape livestreamed on Facebook

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 13:30:33 EDT

COPENHAGEN—A Swedish court on Tuesday sentenced three men aged 18-24 for participating in a gang rape that was streamed live on a closed Facebook group.

The Uppsala District Court said one of the men was given a sentence of 27 months for rape and assistance to rape. The others were given respectively one year — which was halved because he was a minor at the time of the crime — and six months. Two of the men are Afghan citizens and the third is a Swedish citizen of Afghan descent.

Judge Nils Palbrandt said the victim, a woman in her 30s, who was under influence of narcotics and alcohol, was not able to give her consent to the sexual act, as was claimed by the men. The men, too, were influenced by alcohol during the act.

The court said the film had received a lot of attention both in Sweden and internationally.

During the four-day trial, the video was aired behind closed doors, according to court documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The men also were sentenced to pay total damages of 300,000 kronor ($33,890 U.S.) to the victim.

The three were arrested in January in Uppsala, north of Stockholm, after police received tips about the streaming and the rape and interrupted the broadcast.

United passenger was dragged off plane with ‘minimal but necessary force’: report

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 13:46:28 EDT

The Chicago Department of Aviation is defending the officers in the infamous United Airlines video, saying they used “minimal but necessary force” when they dragged a passenger off a flight.

A report from the department describes what the officers say happened earlier this month on United Express Flight 3411. It says that the passenger, David Dao, was “aggressive” and “violently” swung his arms at officers, who then had to forcibly remove him from the plane.

The encounter, captured on videos taken by other passengers, and the airline company’s handling of the aftermath set off an international outrage and a prolonged public relations nightmare for United.

According to the report, flight crews called security officers because a passenger, Dao, was yelling and refusing to leave the aircraft. A United official earlier told passengers that it needed four volunteers to give up their seats for off-duty crew members. But no one volunteered, so the airline chose the passengers. Three agreed to leave, but Dao, a 69-year-old Kentucky resident, refused.

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Three officers tried several times to convince Dao to give up his seat, the report says.

“I’m not leaving this flight that I paid money for. I don’t care if I get arrested,” he told one of the officers, according to the report.

The report says Dao became increasingly combative and began swinging his arms with his fists closed after one of the officers tried to grab him. It says the officer was able to pull Dao up from his seat and toward the aisle, but then lost his grip because Dao kept fighting.

That’s when Dao fell and hit his mouth on the armrest, according to the report, which was posted online by the Chicago Tribune.

At some point, Dao went limp. Disturbing videos taken by other passengers show him bleeding from the mouth as he was dragged off the plane.

The report says Dao was taken to the jet bridge, where he lay down and told the officers that he’s diabetic. At some point, it said, he ran back to the aircraft, held onto to a pole inside and said, “I’m not getting off the plane. Just kill me. I want to go home.”

Dao was again removed from the plane and eventually agreed to be taken to a hospital.

The incident happened April 9 at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, on a plane that was headed to Louisville. The officers involved have been placed on leave.

Outrage over the incident was compounded by the airline company’s initially muted response to it. United’s chief executive, Oscar Munoz, released a statement the following day apologizing for “having to re-accomodate” the passengers. In a letter he sent to his employees, Munoz appeared to blame Dao, saying he “refused” to co-operate after he was “politely asked” to leave, prompting flight crews to call for help.

Two days after the incident, Munoz issued a more humbled apology, saying he was “disturbed” by what happened and that he “deeply” apologizes to Dao. By then, United’s stock prices had plummeted and outrage had reached China, where public anger was fuelled by reports that Dao is Asian. He is originally from Vietnam.

United has since changed its policies so that crew members will no longer be allowed to displace passengers who are already seated on the plane. Off-duty airline crews are now required to check in at least an hour before a flight leaves. The purpose is to avoid having to find a seat for a crew member after all the passengers have already boarded.

United also will no longer ask law enforcement officers to remove passengers from flights “unless it is a matter of safety and security,” according to a statement.

Munoz, who was awarded “Communicator of the Year” by PRWeek just a month before the public relations debacle, also promised further review of the airline’s policies and to release a public report by Sunday.

But Munoz’s assurances have so far done little to convince lawmakers that broader changes aren’t necessary.

A group of Democratic senators said this week that United hasn’t responded to its questions about the incident.

“I am disappointed and troubled that United Airlines has so far failed to answer basic questions about the troubling incident aboard Flight 3411,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan. “No passenger should ever experience the mistreatment that we all saw on that United flight. I will continue to use all of the tools at my disposal, including introducing legislation later this week, to help prevent such an incident from happening again and to strengthen consumer protections for the flying public.”

Hassan, along with Sens. Brian Schatz, Dick Durbin, and Charles E. Schumer, a letter to Munoz demanding a more detailed account of what happened on the plane and a clearer understanding of the airline’s policy on removing ticketed passengers after they’ve boarded a flight. The senators have yet to receive a response.

United and the Chicago Department of Aviation also have not responded to a separate set of questions from leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee.

In a letter sent to leaders of the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security, Munoz outlined concrete actions the airline has taken in light of the dragging incident. He said United will provide answers no later than Thursday.

Likewise, Ginger S. Evans, head of the Chicago Department of Aviation, which manages O’Hare, and the three officers involved in the incident, also had asked for more time to respond.

A few lawmakers have indicated plans to introduce legislation in response to the incident.

Rep. Neal Dunn said last week that he plans to introduce a bill that would prohibit airlines from involuntarily removing paying passengers off a flight to make room for other passengers or crew members when there are no empty seats left.

“Passengers should have the peace of mind to know they will not be dragged off a plane once they’re in their seat,” Dunn said in a statement.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal had sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao demanding a “swift, sweeping investigation into United Airlines and the industry practices that led to this incident.”

Blumenthal said in an earlier statement that he’s working on a “passenger bill of rights.”

Dao, a doctor from Kentucky, suffered a serious concussion, a broken nose and other injuries. He also lost two of this teeth, according to his attorney, Thomas Demetrio.

Demetrio had said that his client will “probably” sue United.

‘Child care cannot wait,’ advocates say ahead of Ontario budget

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 11:47:39 EDT

Ontario’s due for some child-care spending if the government is going to fulfil its promise of 100,000 spaces over the next five years, advocates say.

At a press conference at Queen’s Park on Tuesday morning, daycare groups and parents urged the Liberals to dedicate at least $500 million for capital and $200 million for operating costs in the upcoming budget.

“We are here . . . two days before the provincial budget, to say child care cannot wait,” said Carolyn Ferns, public policy co-ordinator for the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care.

“We have a child-care crisis here in Ontario — we have the highest child-care fees in the country, spaces for only one-quarter of kids, and early childhood educators’ wages and working conditions are far too paltry for the professional and vital work that they do in our communities . . .

“We are expecting big things from this Ontario budget and we’re expecting (Premier) Kathleen Wynne to finally deliver on her child-care promises.”

Last year, the Liberals pledged to create 100,000 daycare spaces starting in 2017, saying that would double the current numbers and help families not only find, but afford, spots for their children.

The government has since held public consultations about its five-year plan and other policy changes in the works.

Ferns is hoping that in addition to the money, the government will also outline a plan to make child care more affordable for families “either in the form of more subsides — but better than that would be a commitment to really building an affordable fee scale for families.”

A Better Man documentary explores aftermath of abusive relationships

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 11:00:00 EDT

Attiya Khan, sitting across the table from her former boyfriend, asks if he can describe the way he abused her.

“Oh yeah,” he says. “That’s tough. That never leaves your mind.”

Steve — who abused Khan daily for the two years they dated and lived together as teenagers, decades before this meeting — swallows, looks down, shakes his head and then looks back at her.

Read more: How to make a better man: Keenan

“I remember choking you,” he says. “I don’t really remember hitting much, but I remember that.”

This is one of several pointed questions Khan asks in the consensually taped conversation that opens A Better Man, a dialogue-driven documentary that looks deep into an abusive relationship as it was experienced and continues to linger through the lives of both people involved.

The documentary, co-directed by Khan and Toronto-based filmmaker Lawrence Jackman, will have its world premiere at Hot Docs Sunday April 30. Sarah Polley is an executive producer on the project.

In the film, Khan, 43, and Steve, whose last name is never disclosed, visit the Ottawa apartment they used to share, walk through the halls of their former high school and discuss their past with and without a counsellor present. They recall details of the violence that occurred throughout their relationship.

“There is something so satisfying about being able to tell the person who hurt you what exactly it is they did,” Khan tells the Star in an email. She says when Steve started being accountable for his behaviour, 20-plus years later, she felt she was finally able to start healing.

“I no longer have nightmares about being hurt. Flashbacks of incidents of violence I experienced are happening a lot less. I don’t anticipate violence wherever I go. I’m sleeping better. I feel a sense of calm and happiness I haven’t felt before,” she says.

In the film, they visit the spot where their lockers used to be — Steve remembers the location, while Khan barely recognizes the school’s hallways. She says she rarely looked up when she was a student there, afraid Steve would catch her glancing the wrong way.

Beginning a couple of years after Khan left Steve, the two began bumping into each other in the streets. At one of the more recent encounters a few years ago, she asked him if he’d speak with her on camera about their relationship, suggesting the insight might be helpful to others experiencing violence.

About half a year later, he reached out and said he was ready to try.

Khan had initially wanted to make a film about the perpetrators of abuse and the counsellors who work with them. Early on, she had only planned to have a small role as a subject in the film herself. But, she tells the Star, she realized it might be tough to find others who would speak on record about their own violent actions. She wanted to show both sides of the story and have it led by someone who had experienced abuse, so she and Steve became the focus of the film.

“It’s not often we hear about people being accountable to those they have harmed,” she says.

Khan says that going into the project, she hadn’t considered that people who have been violent could work toward living a completely non-violent life.

She says her talks with Steve changed the way she approaches her work as an advocate and counsellor for those who experience domestic violence. She thinks believing people can change can be powerful enough to save lives.

“Many people don’t want to hear from people who use violence. We hold anger towards people who have hurt others. This is a valid emotion. However, it’s okay to be angry and care for someone who has used violence.”

Both filmmakers say some scenes will be hard to watch and that it’s intentional — they want to show what these discussions looks like.

To stop violence, Khan says, both the violent person and the abused person can benefit from access to resources and support.

“Talking to Attiya is the reason I’m healing,” Steve said in a statement to the National Film Board of Canada. “If we hadn’t done this, she might know that I’m sorry, but those are just words. I’m hoping that really sitting down and doing this is showing her how sorry I am.”

Steve told Khan he never abused anyone before his relationship with her. Khan says she hasn’t asked him whether or not he’s ever used violence against anyone since. She says she knows revisiting their past was hard for Steve too, and thinks he was brave for agreeing to take part in the film.

Khan says no one should feel pressure to reconnect with the person who was violent to them if they don’t want to. For those who want to try it, she suggests looking into local resources that might be able to assist with the encounters.

Khan hopes her film makes it in front of policy-makers, schools and those working in criminal justice system and social services. She wants them to think how they can help people on both sides of violent relationships.

“We all need to collaborate and invest in resources that provide a whole range of options for people who have experienced violence to find justice, support and healing,” she says.

“One path towards justice isn’t enough.”

Tickets to screenings on April 30, May 1 and May 6 are available online. A Better Man is presented by the National Film Board of Canada and Intervention Productions, in association with TVO.

How to help someone who is experiencing domestic violence

Another main theme in A Better Man is how trauma is amplified when no one intervenes.

At one point, Khan sits on a curb next to Steve facing the Ottawa apartment where they lived as a teenage couple. She points to the route she used to run, yelling and screaming, to escape him and recalls the time someone shut their blinds.

“No one, no one on this street ever helped,” she says in the film.

At another point, she mentions finding out a teacher noticed her bruises but never said anything, and that Steve told her he’d also talked with a teacher about the violence.

Khan told the Star knowing that people saw what was happening and didn’t help reinforced the feeling that she deserved to be hurt.

“Intimate partner violence is not something we feel comfortable talking about or addressing as a society, and people are understandably afraid they’ll be hurt if they intervene,” Khan says. “But I needed the film to show how isolating and hurtful it was for me when people chose to look the other way.”

She gave this advice for helping someone who is suffering from domestic violence.

  • Know that the exact moment when the violence is happening or right before it’s about to happen isn’t the only time when you can be helpful.

  • Listen to the person who is experiencing violence. Ask them what they need instead of telling them what you think is best for them to do.

  • Provide a safe space. Let the person know they have somewhere to go if and when they need to take you up on it.

  • Store an emergency bag (filled with documents, favourite things and some clothes) for those considering leaving a relationship.

  • Help the person who is experiencing the violence get to the resources they need, such as housing, finances and therapy.

  • If the person experiencing violence approves, it can be helpful to talk with the person who is being violent to them. This can mean speaking up when you see something happening or finding an opportunity to discuss your concerns.

  • Help people who use violence access resources that can help them change their behaviour. This, by extension, can help the people who they are being violent to.

White House refuses to hand over documents to Flynn-Russia investigation

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 12:13:35 EDT

WASHINGTON—White House officials have refused to turn over documents related to the hiring and firing of Michael Flynn, U.S. President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, the House’s top oversight lawmakers said Tuesday.

Flynn failed to comply with the law by not disclosing his business dealings with Russia, the lawmakers said after viewing classified documents during a briefing with administration officials. The congressmen raised new questions about Flynn’s consulting firm accepting $530,000 from a company tied to Turkey’s government.

“As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else,” said Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House oversight committee. “And it appears as if he did take that money. It was inappropriate, and there are repercussions for a violation of law.”

“That money needs to be recovered,” said Chaffetz.

Flynn’s failure to obtain permission from military authorities for the payments raises concern whether Flynn violated a constitutional ban on foreign payments to retired military officers, said the House committee leaders, Chaffetz and Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings.

The two leaders said there was no evidence Flynn complied with federal law. They said Flynn could be criminally prosecuted, and they said Flynn should surrender the money he was paid.

Cummings also criticized the White House for refusing to turn over documents the committee requested about Flynn’s foreign contacts during his three-week stint as national security adviser.

“That is simply unacceptable,” he said.

Flynn campaigned vigorously for Trump before the presidential election and was chosen as national security adviser in January. But Trump fired him in February on grounds that he had failed to notify senior administration officials about his contacts with Russian officials before his appointment.

Cummings said Flynn’s failure to formally report the Russian payments on paperwork requesting his security clearance amounted to concealment of the money, which could be prosecuted as a felony.

Flynn’s lawyer said in a statement that Flynn disclosed the trip, organized by the Russia Today news organization, in conversations with the Defence Intelligence Agency, where he was its former director.

“As has previously been reported, General Flynn briefed the Defence Intelligence Agency, a component agency of (the Defence Department), extensively regarding the RT speaking event trip both before and after the trip, and he answered any questions that were posed by DIA concerning the trip during those briefings,” attorney Robert Kelner said.

Earlier Tuesday, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee announced a public panel May 8 to hear testimony for the first time from the former acting attorney general, Sally Yates, who played a role in Flynn’s firing.

Yates was supposed to testify publicly before the House intelligence committee in March, but that was cancelled and has yet to be rescheduled. Some Democrats believe the White House wants to limit what Yates says publicly, but the White House has denied this. Former National Intelligence Director James Clapper is also to testify at the May 8 hearing.

With files from the Associated Press

Bridgepoint hospital resident, 68, charged with manslaughter in 90-year-old’s death

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 10:39:30 EDT

A 68-year-old resident of Bridgepoint hospital has been charged with manslaughter following the death of another resident there last month.

Officers were called to Bridgepoint on Feb. 26 when Catherine McNamee, 90, fell and struck her head after being pushed, Toronto police said in a news release Tuesday.

McNammee died of her injuries on March 4.

An autopsy was ordered, and homicide investigators took over the investigation.

On March 5, Terry Shorter, 68, was charged with assault.

On Friday, after consultation between police and the Crown attorney’s office, Shorter was charged with manslaughter.

He appeared in court on Friday.

Bridgepoint is a 464-bed rehabilitation and complex-care hospital.

Toronto lawyer suspended over handling of Roma refugee cases

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 06:00:00 EDT

A Toronto lawyer who has been found guilty of professional misconduct in representing Roma refugee claimants will be suspended for six months and placed under supervision for at least one year if he is to continue practising refugee law.

The professional disciplinary action against Joseph Stephen Farkas followed similar penalties handed out earlier by the Law Society Tribunal against lawyers Viktor Hohots and Elizabeth Jaszi.

Hohots was suspended for five months and barred from practising refugee law for two years while Jaszi was fined and disbarred.

According to an Osgood Hall Law Journal article, the three lawyers represented a total of 986 Hungarian Roma refugee claimants between 2008 and 2012.

Five of Farkas’ complainants retained new counsel, while at least one client was denied statutory stay of removal and deported in 2012 after the lawyer failed to file an application for leave in a timely fashion, according to the tribunal ruling.

The tribunal said Farkas’ suspension will take effect at the end of April and ordered him to pay $200,000 in costs to the Law Society of Upper Canada within two years.

“Upon resumption of his practice, Mr. Farkas shall practise refugee law only in association with and under the supervision of another lawyer . . . Both the plan of supervision and the supervisor shall be approved by the Law Society’s Executive Director,” said the tribunal order.

“The approved plan of supervision and the supervisor shall continue for a definite period of one year and then indefinitely until the Executive Director is satisfied that the plan and the supervisor are no longer required.”

Farkas faced complaints from 10 former clients who claimed the lawyer was not directly involved in assisting them in their asylum claims, which one expert witness said “were vague, lacked important details and contained mistakes in spelling and grammar.”

Advocates for Roma refugees have for years blamed the group’s low asylum acceptance rates on the poor legal representation they received during the asylum process. Most Roma claimants say they face ethnic discrimination and persecution.

Related: Federal government urged to help Roma refugee clients of disciplined lawyers

Farkas testified he recalled being directly involved in the preparation process for many of the complainants. The tribunal said it heard “conflicting and inconsistent” evidence from the lawyer’s two Hungarian interpreters, Szilvia Sztranyak and Tamas Buzai, about his involvement.

Farkas’ current lawyers, Marie Henein and Kenneth Grad, did not respond to the Star’s request for comment for this article. His former counsel, Samuel Robinson, said before the disciplinary order was handed down that his client intended to appeal the guilty verdict by the tribunal.

In disregarding the law society’s request to revoke Farkas’ licence, the tribunal said it took into consideration that the lawyer had no prior disciplinary record and expressed remorse, as well as changing his refugee law practices to become more directly involved with his clients.

“In ordering a six-month suspension as opposed to the revocation of licence, we are by no means endorsing the view that because no money has been stolen and no financial fraud has been committed, the lawyer’s conduct is thus not serious enough to warrant the harshest of penalties,” the tribunal said.

“The panel is fully aware that refugee claimants in general are vulnerable persons whose very life, liberty and security interests are at stake every time they are engaged in a legal process . . . The action of an incompetent refugee lawyer can have far more devastating impact than a dishonest lawyer who steals from his or her clients.”