School named for Mandela holds memorial

It is the oldest public school in Toronto and since 2001 it has been named after the former South African President. That’s because 12-years ago Mandela visited this school and his presence has been felt there ever since.With the drums beating and calls for their schools namesake, Nelson Mandela Park School celebrated Friday.Jhney Christmas is in grade 4: “I’m feeling sad and I’m feeling happy at the same time.”More than 450 students danced their way into the gymnasium much like Mandela did more than a decade earlier. It was November 2001, on his last trip to Canada when the school was named after the former South African President. They say he danced in to the very same drums, and told the students he loved them. Since then, students here are read quotes from Mandela on a daily basis, and on this day many shared feelings.Sabrina Dang, 5th grade: “Amazing and great because I get to stay in this school and learn in this school and learn about how he fought against racism.”Kayla Negus, 5th grade: “His spirit will still be with us, and his spirit will still be guiding other people.”Now the school stands as a memorial to Mandela with candles and images lining the front stairs. As part of their tribue, students sang both our national anthem, and South Africa’s.And despite being so young, many of the 450 children who attended this assembly feel a connection to the anti-aphartide leader, but also students who were here 12-years ago when he stood in this very gymnasium have come back to pay their respects.”Mitchell Atkinson was here and had the change to meet Mandela. He remembers the power of Mandela’s words as they affected one of his classmates: “She was supposed to be giving a speech, as well she was talking with him and she just broke down and cried, again it’s things you remember and again it’s just the magnitude of it all you really appreciate as you get older.”And on this day, as they honour the late leader, with familiar drums, a man who was instrumental in the decision to name the school after Mandela, feels a connection to the moment when Mandela graced this room.Lloyd McKell is a former Toronto District School Board educator: “It was like a replay of that day, there’s no doubt in my mind that Mandela’s spirit is here in this school today with these children, with these teachers and with all these people.”It was an emotional day, but it was far from a somber day. Everybody had smiles on their faces as they left the gymnasium as they felt they properly honoured Nelson Mandela. read more


Police arrest five young people in Brampton in connection with robberies

Police arrested five young people in Brampton this morning in connection with a number of robberies in the GTA.It’s believed they’re responsible for series of armed robberies across the region on Thursday and Friday morning, including an attempted robbery at Royal Pizza in Georgetown, and a Big Bear convenience store in Milton.Police said about 15 robberies took place in Toronto, Hamilton, and Halton and peel regions, mainly targeting gas stations and convenience stores.


ExCaribbean soccer official hit with 79 million judgment

NEW YORK — A former Caribbean soccer official has been ordered to pay a $79 million penalty stemming from the FIFA (FEE’-fuh) bribery scandal.A federal judge in New York City imposed the judgment against Jack Warner in a lawsuit brought by the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football.The 2017 suit accused Warner of embezzling millions of dollars from the soccer association. It said he arranged kickbacks in connection with broadcasting rights for regional tournaments.The civil allegations mirrored ones in a U.S. criminal investigation that has resulted in convictions of several top soccer officials.Warner is still fighting extradition in Trinidad and Tobago, where he has denied any wrongdoing. There was no immediate response on Wednesday to an email sent to one of his extradition lawyers.The Associated Press read more


North American stock markets down in latemorning trading loonie down

The Canadian Press Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X) TORONTO — Losses in the energy and industrial sectors led Canada’s main stock index lower in late-morning trading as U.S. stock markets also fell after China announced it would retaliate against the most recent round of tariffs imposed by the U.S.The S&P/TSX composite index was down 65.06 points at 16,188.40.In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 310.25 points at 25,941.99. The S&P 500 index was down 37.89 points at 2,885.06, while the Nasdaq composite was down 115.98 points at 7,875.41.The Canadian dollar traded for 75.20 cents US, compared with an average of 75.23 cents US on Thursday.The October crude contract was down US$1.64 at US$53.71 per barrel and the October natural gas contract was down 0.4 of a cent at US$2.16 per mmBTU.The December gold contract was up US$24.40 at US$1,532.90 an ounce and the September copper contract was down 1.15 cents at US$2.55 a pound. read more


US contractor sentenced in Iraq shooting seeks new trial

WASHINGTON — A former State Department contractor sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 2007 shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians is asking for a new trial because of what he says is newly discovered evidence.Lawyers for former Blackwater employee Nicholas Slatten said they received a State Department report two days before the Aug. 14 sentencing that they say cast doubt on prosecutors’ argument that Slatten is prone to unprovoked violence.The document concerns a rescue mission of a downed aircraft that took place once week before the shooting in the case.Slatten’s lawyers say the document shows Army forces reported incoming fire from Iraqi insurgents before Slatten and other Blackwater contractors arrived at the site.A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington declined to comment Wednesday.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press read more


Trial approaching in California hospital antitrust case

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Spurred in part by former President Barack Obama’s health care law, hospitals across the country have merged to form massive medical systems in the belief it would simplify the process for patients.But a simpler bill doesn’t always guarantee a cheaper bill.That’s a key issue in an antitrust lawsuit against one of California’s largest hospital systems set to begin Monday.About 1,500 self-funded health plans have sued Sutter Health, a system that includes 24 hospitals across Northern California. The case has dragged on since 2014, but it picked up steam last year when Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a similar lawsuit. The cases have been combined and jury selection begins Monday. Opening arguments are scheduled for October.The lawsuit alleges Sutter Health gobbled up competing medical providers in the region and used its market dominance to set higher prices for insurance plans, which means more expensive insurance premiums for consumers.Becerra points to a 2018 study that found unadjusted inpatient procedure prices are 70% higher in Northern California than Southern California. The lawsuit notes Sutter Health’s assets were $15.6 billion at the end of 2016, up from $6.4 billion in 2005.“We never meant for folks to use integration to boost their profits at the expense of consumers,” Becerra said.It’s rare for antitrust lawsuits of this size to go to trial because the law allows for triple damages — a prospect that often spooks companies into settling outside of court to avoid an unpredictable jury. Health plans in this case are asking for $900 million in damages, meaning Sutter Health could take a nearly $3 billion hit.Atrium Health, a North Carolina-based hospital system, settled a similar anti-trust lawsuit with the federal government last year. And CHI Franciscan, a health system based in Washington state, also settled similar claims in March that had been brought by the state.But Sutter Health is fighting the case. The company says the lawsuit is not about its prices, but about insurance companies who want to maximize their own profits. Sutter Health officials insist the company faces fierce competition, vowing to detail in court the expansion of other health systems in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sacramento Valley.Four Sutter Health hospitals had operating losses in 2018, totalling $49 million.“The bottom line is that this lawsuit is designed to skew the healthcare system to the advantage of large insurance companies so they can market inadequate insurance plans to Californians,” said Sutter Health Director of Public Affairs Amy Thoma Tan.At issue are several of Sutter Health’s contracting policies that Becerra says have allowed the company to “thoroughly immunize itself from price competition.”One way insurance companies keep costs down is to steer patients to cheaper health care providers through a variety of incentives. Becerra says Sutter Health bans insurance companies from using these incentives, making it harder for patients to use their lower-priced competitors.Becerra also says Sutter has an “all or nothing” approach to negotiating with insurance companies, requiring them to include all of the company’s hospitals in their provider networks even if it doesn’t make financial sense to do so.The case was originally filed by a trust of Northern California’s largest unionized grocery companies in 2014. A representative for the trust said it was “unknowingly forced to pay Sutter’s artificially high prices.”But the company says these contracting practices are designed to protect patients. People often are unable to pick which hospital they go to in a medical emergency, which can lead to surprise bills when they learn a hospital or doctor was not in their network.Jackie Garman, lawyer for the California Hospital Association, said these contracting practices are standard at a lot of hospitals. If the lawsuit is successful, she said it could “disrupt contracting practices at a lot of other systems.”But the consequences of not bringing the lawsuit could be greater, Becerra said.“We are paying every time we allow an anti-competitive behaviour to drive the market,” he said.Adam Beam, The Associated Press read more


Discontent dogs Simcoe BIA

Norfolk County is looking for ways to bolster confidence in the Simcoe BIA before mounting divisions render it ineffective.Norfolk council heard this week that a growing number of merchants and stakeholders have lost faith in the Simcoe BIA and would like it disbanded. The term of the last board of directors has expired. A new board has yet to be appointed.In the past, the new board has been constituted by the end of January following a municipal election. The latest slate of officers was rejected at Tuesday’s meeting of Norfolk council, leaving a leadership vacuum at the top.“There is a feeling it isn’t working,” Mayor Kristal Chopp reported. “If we take this away, we will have a hard time getting it back. A lot of good could be done with these funds if we had the right structure in place.”The Simcoe Business Improvement Area board of directors is an arms-length agency of the county. The BIA board is responsible for beautification and promoting the downtown. It has an annual budget of nearly $200,000. The funds are drawn from a special levy on properties in the BIA zone.Simcoe councillors Ian Rabbitts and Ryan Taylor are council appointees to the Simcoe BIA. Rabbitts said some stakeholders are dissatisfied with the selection process for BIA nominees, who are ultimately approved by council. He said some feel they did not receive sufficient notice of the BIA meetings in recent weeks where nominees were chosen.Members of the former board gathered recently to select nominees for the new board. BIA general manager Jim McGimpsey provided the list to the county May 3. Nominees included Thais Depotter, Cam Carter, Tiffany Niece, Sherry Lloyd, Doug Rixman, Brian Jones and Dustin Wakeford. Council heard Tuesday that Wakeford has withdrawn his name.“As it stands, I don’t feel comfortable accepting this list,” Rabbitts said Tuesday. “I’m not comfortable with the process. I know there are people in the community who are upset that they weren’t notified of the process. From the get-go, this has been cumbersome.”The mounting dissatisfaction has some wondering if Norfolk council needs to be more involved. Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman has suggested a formal interview process might address this discontent while increasing confidence in the county’s committee structure.Port Rowan Coun. Tom Masschaele shared similar sentiments.“If we can get that straightened out, I think we can salvage this,” he said.Peter Black, a former Simcoe councillor, stepped down as a council representative to the BIA in November. However, he remains a member of the BIA by virtue of property ownership in the core.Black said mounting discontent is due, in part, to some stakeholders thinking the BIA has more power than it actually does.The BIA’s mandate, Black said Thursday, is restricted to promoting the interests of the downtown, generating traffic through promotional activities and special events and beautification.He blamed this crisis of confidence on previous councils. He said past councils threw the Simcoe market open to competition from big-box retailers on the Queensway – contrary to their own official plans and zoning bylaws – and then did little to mitigate the impact on the core.As downtown Simcoe has declined, some stakeholders directed their dissatisfaction at the BIA instead of where Black said it belongs: The elected councils that made downtown Simcoe what it is today.“The BIA has always been willing to meet with people and learn what they want,” Black said. “But there is this thinking that the downtown is the way it is because of the BIA. That’s not the BIA’s responsibility; that’s council’s responsibility.“But everyone is in this upset state and they want someone to blame. There is this attitude of `What good is the BIA?’”Norfolk council is gathering information on the situation and intends to discuss it further at its next meeting on Tuesday.MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

Federal government commits cash for national strategy to fight human trafficking

REGINA — Ottawa is putting up tens of millions of dollars to fight human trafficking in the hope that more victims will come forward and there will be more successful prosecutions of offenders.Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced Wednesday that the Liberal government will commit $57 million over five years and $10 million annually after that as part of a national strategy.The government said the funding will support measures that include adding resources to the Canada Border Services Agency, the development of a national case management standard and the appointment of a special adviser on the issue.It builds on other initiatives, such as a human trafficking hotline announced a year ago at a cost of $14 million over five years. It has been operating for just over three months.The total cost for the national plan comes in at about $75 million.Goodale said human trafficking takes the form of sexual exploitation or forced labour, most often of young women and girls in vulnerable circumstances. About 1,220 cases of human trafficking were reported to police in Canada between 2009 and 2016, the government has said.Story continues belowThis advertisement has not loaded yet,but your article continues below.Statistics Canada reported that Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Nova Scotia led the way with the highest number of police-reported human-trafficking violations during those years.“This is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg,” Goodale told a news conference in Regina. He called human trafficking one of the most heinous crimes in society.“Human trafficking often seems to fly under the radar. Its victims and survivors are all too often simply hidden from view.”A final report from the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls highlighted a need for police agencies to address human trafficking, because Indigenous girls are often targeted by traffickers.Goodale said migrant workers and new immigrants are also victimized in Canada.He wants to see more reporting of human trafficking, he said, and believes the national strategy will do that.“I think we’ll have more people coming forward. I think we’ll have more successful prosecutions.“We will have those victims and survivors feeling less trapped, less hopeless and believing that the system’s on their side and wants to rescue them.”Opposition Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus, the shadow minister for public safety, said in an emailed statement that the Liberal government hasn’t done enough to combat human trafficking in the last 3 1/2 years.He said tougher legislation is needed.“A Conservative government will ensure that prosecutors have the strongest laws behind them to keep human traffickers off our streets and away from survivors and those they seek to harm.”A federal election is set for Oct. 21. read more