The city of Toronto will install closed-circuit cameras, retime traffic signals and add advance greens at 10 congested intersections, Mayor John Tory said Monday.
In the latest in a series of traffic-themed announcements, the mayor outlined what is being done to improve traffic flow at the “hotspot” intersections.
Tory first announced plans to tackle the 10 congested crossroads in January, as part of the city’s traffic management plan.
Standing at the corner of Finch Ave. W. and Victoria Park Ave., which is one of the hotspots, Tory said CCTV cameras would be used so transportation staff can remotely monitor road conditions.
He also said signals would be retimed during rush hours, and left-turn advanced green signals would be used. Four signs warning turning drivers to yield to pedestrians and cyclists have also been erected.
Tory said the hotspot plan was “not going to eliminate traffic in the city but it’s going to make it flow better, which is something I think people have a right to expect.”
He said the public wants officials to “do everything we can to try and alleviate the traffic that is causing a lot of social and economic and environmental issues for us.”
Miles Currie, director of transportation services, said the improvements to Finch and Victoria Park would cost about $50,000, and the entire hotspot project would cost about $1 million.
The 10 locations that have been identified as the worst, in terms of congestion, are:
• Black Creek-Lawrence
• O’Connor-Don Mills
• Finch-Victoria Park
• Eglinton-Martin Grove
• Mt. Pleasant-St Clair/Moore
Tory, who said Monday that to “get Toronto moving” was a “principal task” of government, has also championed anti-gridlock efforts like towing blitzes on downtown streets and coordinating road closures.
Last week he announced the return of police at seven congested locations to act as traffic assistant personnel. The officers will help direct traffic flow for four weeks next month, as part of the second phase of a $250,000 pilot project that was launched in June.
He said Monday that he couldn’t yet offer definitive data that showed the city’s efforts are alleviating traffic, but he asserted that they are having a positive effect.
“I am absolutely confident that things are a bit better, and so on, but I’m also very confident, like a hundred per cent confident, had we not taken all these measures, with the tagging and towing, with the construction speed up that we’re doing on road construction, the signal retiming, things would have been much worse. So I think we’re doing what we can to make it better.”
Ailing 65-year-old professor Homa Hoodfar is finally heading home, after being locked Tehran’s notorious Evin prison since June.
“Canadians are relieved that Dr. Hoodfar has been released from jail and will soon be reunited with her family, friends and colleagues,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a prepared statement on Monday.
News of her release from Iran follow reports of her rapidly declining health.
Trudeau’s comments came as IRNA and other Iranian news organizations reported that she had been freed and flown out of the country.
Her family in Montreal was not available for comment to confirm the reports.
Her family had said in late June that the Iranian probe into Hoodfar centred on her “dabbling in feminism” and security matters.
Hoodfar until recently taught anthropology and sociology at Montreal’s Concordia University.
Trudeau praised widespread international support for her release.
Canada has not had an embassy in Iran since 2012, when its then-Conservative-led government cut diplomatic ties over Tehran’s contested nuclear program and other issues.
“In the absence of diplomatic representation of its own in Iran, Canada worked closely with others who were instrumental in helping secure Dr. Hoodfar’s release – most notably Oman, Italy and Switzerland,” Trudeau said. “I would like to extend our sincerest appreciation for their support.”
“I would also like to recognize the cooperation of those Iranian authorities who facilitated her release and repatriation. They understand that cases like these impede more productive relations,” Trudeau said.
Hoodfar’s supporters had pressed diplomats to discuss her case during the recent United Nations General Assembly in New York. Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion met with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the meeting last Wednesday.
Amnesty International Canada had also called for her release, saying Hoodfar was “a prisoner of conscience.”
In July, Iran announced indictments for Hoodfar — who was born in Iran but has been living in Montreal for 30 years — and three others, without providing any details about the accusations.
Hoodfar has dual Canadian-Iranian citizenship. Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, meaning those detained cannot receive consular assistance.
“The Government of Canada has been actively and constructively engaged at the highest levels in Dr. Hoodfar’s case – since her ordeal began – working for her release and return to Canada,” Trudeau said.
“Our officials have also been providing consular assistance to her family and will continue to do so until their loved one has arrived home safely,” Trudeau said.
IRNA reported that her release was on humanitarian grounds.
Her family said last month that she had been hospitalized while in custody due to rapidly declining health after being held in solitary confinement in Evin prison.
“She was very disoriented, severely weakened, and could hardly walk or talk,” a statement by her family then said.
Hoodfar had been questioned and barred from leaving Iran in March after travelling to the country to visit family following the death of her husband.
Earlier this month, the outlook for her release appeared to have darkened with news that a hardline judge has dismissed her lawyer and chosen another to represent her without her consent.
Her niece, Amanda Ghahremani told The Star’s Olivia Ward less than two weeks ago that Hoodfar had been denied access to her lawyers and her family and placed in solitary confinement in Iran’s Evin prison.
Hoodfar was first arrested in March by the counter-espionage service of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which is in a power struggle with President Hassan Rouhani.
She was released on bail after interrogation and re-arrested in June.
Details of the exact charges against the retired Concordia University professor are unknown and no trial date had been announced.
Hoodfar’s work has focused on dispelling stereotypes about Muslim women in Canada and in the West.
She was hospitalized last month and according to her family, “could hardly walk or talk.”
Hoodfar was one of a number of dual nationals targeted by the Revolutionary Guard in past months. It arrested Canadian permanent resident Saeed Malekpour in 2008, and he was sentenced to life in prison.
Ghahremani, who spoke with Hoodfar before she went to Iran in February, said that after the death of her husband she “wanted to go back to visit Iran and to grieve there. She wanted an opportunity to reconnect with her roots. Iran was her beloved country.”
However, Hoodfar’s Tehran residence was raided, and her personal computers, cellphone and passport seized to prevent her from returning to Canada.
— With files from the Associated Press and Olivia Ward
The old man was moving at a glacial pace, shuffling and limping through the front doors of a stand-alone TD bank on a busy stretch of Kingston Rd. in Scarborough.
Despite the late June heat, he wore a dark jacket over his plaid shirt, a Gilligan-style bucket hat covering his head.
In his hand was a black attaché case containing a note.
“Stay calm. Have gun. Withdraw $4,000, large bills. No, no games. 60 seconds. Go.”
Outside the bank, undercover Toronto police readied for a holdup by a criminal equally gifted in robbery and disguise.
For eight months, Brett Ryan had stymied police while collecting a total of $28,000 in a rash of bank robberies across the GTA, thanks to his elaborate — and, as it turned out, professional — costuming.
Moments before, officers had watched as Ryan climbed into his Ford vehicle a youthful 28-year-old. He drove to the bank, then emerged from his vehicle an old man, having donned what had become his trademark accessory: a high-quality fake grey beard.
Once inside the bank, however, Ryan abruptly changed course. He did not approach the till, did not silently slide his holdup note towards the teller, as had been his practice.
Instead, he stood inside the bank for a few moments, then, still aping the gait of an old man, walked right back out the doors and into police custody.
Ryan’s sudden change of heart at the end of that chain of bank robberies was just one mysterious dimension of a case that, for investigators, prosecutors and an Ontario court judge, was unlike any other.
Transcripts from the January 2009 court proceedings in the so-called Bearded Bandit case detail how both court staff and Ryan’s friends and family were blindsided by his behaviour.
Last month, seven years later, Ryan would be accused of strangling his mother and slaying two brothers in a bizarre triple homicide possibly involving crossbow bolts. .
Just as those close to Ryan are now questioning how he could be charged with murdering his family just days before his Montreal bachelor party and three weeks before his wedding, relatives and friends had struggled in 2009 to reconcile the Ryan they knew with a prolific bank robber.
“The offences … were a shock to the people who know Mr. Ryan,” Cynthia Fromstein, Ryan’s lawyer, told a Scarborough court on Jan. 26, 2009, the day Ryan pleaded guilty to 16 charges in connection with his robberies.
His crimes were entirely out of character, according to friends and family, who knew him as a bright university student, a kind and generous young person who volunteered at Sick Kids, Fromstein said.
The “intelligent young men” who wrote letters in support of Ryan could never, “in their wildest of imaginations,” have believed their friend was a bank robber, Justice Paul Robertson said in court.
He understood their shock. For someone with “a stellar background” and no criminal record to commit a series of bank robberies was, Robertson said, “virtually unheard of.”
According to a summary of the facts provided in court, Ryan’s robbery spree began at 11 a.m. on Oct. 20, 2007, when he held up a CIBC bank on Old Kingston Rd. His inaugural disguise was a hooded sweatshirt, with white hospital bandages covering his face and his arm in a sling.
Arriving at the counter, he slipped the teller a note demanding money and warning he had a gun. She handed over $1,155.
Over the next three months, five more banks were robbed in a similar manner. The robber was a lone, limping man who disguised his face, initially with bandages, then with a beard. He typically got away with approximately $2,000 each time.
Toronto police officers investigating the separate robberies were able to link them through fingerprints and holdup notes. Except for small variations, the notes were virtually identical: clipped demands for a few thousand dollars in 60 seconds, and terse instructions: “Stay calm.” “No games.”
Police also noted the robberies were taking place at branches close to Highway 401, presumably to aid in a quick getaway.
But while they knew it was a serial robber, police did not have a suspect. With little else to go on, investigators set up surveillance at a selection of banks along the 401, hoping to catch the bandit in action. At its height, the operation saw between 20 to 25 police officers stationed outside various banks.
The surveillance was called off when the Bearded Bandit hit up a west-end bank that hadn’t been on police radar.
Investigators got creative. Surveillance video footage from the banks showed that underneath the beard and old man shuffle was a youthful face. So police began researching companies that sold theatrical supplies in the Toronto area, and — after consulting with experts in the movie industry — determined the bandit’s high-quality disguises could only be obtained at one major supplier in Toronto.
A search through six months’ worth of sales receipts for relevant items turned up two pertinent sales, but in both cases the customer paid in cash. The clerk remembered selling the items to a young man who claimed they were for his brother and said he would return for further purchases. Police set up surveillance cameras outside.
Around the same time, the Bearded Bandit struck again, robbing a Bank of Montreal on Pharmacy Ave. This time, surveillance footage captured what police believed could be the bandit’s vehicle.
The licence plate number was impossible to make out, but officers noticed it was a newer Ford model. When they sent pictures to Ford Canada, they were told the car had unique features only available at certain dealers.
As officers were attempting to determine where the car was obtained, police caught a break. An on-duty officer spotted what he believed was the same car used in the robberies. When police ran the plate, they got Ryan’s name.
Teaming up with Durham officers to help cover the hours, Toronto police started running surveillance on Ryan. They followed him as he led what was, largely, the life of a young, average, single guy. He went to the gym, practised martial arts, went out to eat, socialized with friends.
Then came evidence that investigators were on the right track. On June 9, 2008, police followed Ryan as he cased a handful of banks in the Toronto area — slowly driving by, then briefly entering and looking around, among them the TD branch on the busy stretch of Kingston Rd.
It was the same bank that, 11 days later, Ryan had shuffled into in disguise, only to abandon the robbery once inside.
What caused Ryan to lose his nerve later became the subject of debate. Police suggested that, upon entering the bank, Ryan noticed some construction out front and worried it would threaten his getaway.
Fromstein, Ryan’s lawyer, offered another explanation. Citing a conversation Ryan had with a psychiatrist, she said he had been guilt-ridden and wanted to give himself up.
Regardless, police arrested Ryan as soon as he left the bank, ultimately charging him with a slew of robbery and disguise charges.
Executing search warrants, officers found in Ryan’s car a Ziploc bag with hair and some glue. Inside his house, they found dark-rimmed glasses holding lenses without a prescription; a sling and some bandages; $200 in a closet; two dye packs — a device used by some banks to foil robberies by staining cash — and a holdup note: “Stay calm. Gun under sling. Use envelope. 60 seconds. Go.”
For his spree of bank robberies, Ryan faced a possible 15 years in jail.
All parties agreed it was an extreme sentence for someone with no criminal record. But there was no precedent to help guide sentencing.
“I couldn’t find a single case,” Crown prosecutor Miriam Saksznajder told the court, “where someone of Mr. Ryan’s prior background, no police involvement, no history — there wasn’t even a 208 card on him — would embark on this type of spree and offences … with this degree of severity.”
Ryan’s obvious premeditation, evidenced by the disguises, called for a harsher sentence, as did his repeated threats to use a gun during the robberies. On the other hand, no one was harmed and no gun was ever found in his possession.
Saksznajder noted the sentence should also reflect that Ryan was entering a guilty plea, thus avoiding a trial — though she noted Ryan had been “caught red-handed,” and the evidence against him was so strong conviction was likely even without the plea.
In her sentencing submissions, Fromstein gave some context for her client’s crimes. Ryan “ran into some significant difficulties at university” that caused him to drop out, she said. That included a battle with depression that he chose not to share with his family, for fear of burdening them.
(Documents later filed with the Parole Board of Canada go into greater detail, suggesting Ryan had also gone into significant debt through “unhealthy intimate relationships.”)
Ryan was genuinely remorseful, specifically regarding the impact on his family, who had supported him “despite their shock at what has taken place,” Fromstein said.
In his address to the court, Ryan was articulate and forthright.
“I would like to say how sorry I am for the trouble and trauma I’ve caused everyone,” he said. “I do realize that regardless of my problems, there is no excuse or any sort of justification for my extreme and selfish, selfish actions.”
Justice Robertson was moved. Few individuals who come before him “have the understanding of the impact of their crimes that you have indicated to me,” he told Ryan.
Though he initially believed a 10-year jail sentence was appropriate, Robertson accepted a joint submission of three years and nine months in jail. The sentence struck the right balance of acknowledging the seriousness of Ryan’s crimes without crushing all hope of rehabilitation, the judge said.
Warning Ryan that jail was going to be depressing, Robertson told him his intellect would be an asset to him and fellow prisoners. To fight off institutionalization, Ryan should seek the help of prison psychologists and keep reading the books his friends were sending him in jail “to keep your mind sharp.”
In his parting words, Robertson expressed hope that Ryan could move beyond his crimes, because he wouldn’t have to do it alone.
“You’re a lucky man, Mr. Ryan, you have a family behind you. I think that family will stick with you.”
Ryan, now represented by lawyer John Rosen, made a brief court appearance Friday on the three first-degree murder charges. He is due back in court Oct. 14.
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A man in his 40s remains in critical condition after a vat of extremely hot tar tipped over on him in an accident at Logan and Danforth Aves. in Toronto’s east end, Monday morning.
Emergency responders were called just before 8 a.m., and worked frantically to extricate the man who was trapped in several inches of molten tar, which police estimated was as hot as 400C.
Initially, crews reported that he was wearing a protective suit that may have saved him from serious injuries, but according to police, he remains in critical condition as the initial injury report was “inaccurate,” constable David Hopkinson said.
Investigators say that the truck was travelling on Danforth Ave., and stopped suddenly near Logan Ave., apparently causing the vat of hot roofing tar to overturn on the worker.
“This is very unusual,” the Toronto Fire platoon chief told media. “He was partially encased, it required pretty significant extrication.”
Danforth Ave. was closed at Logan Ave. for investigation.
The Ministry of Labour has assigned two inspectors to the scene. The province’s labour ministry has also assigned a hygienist and and engineer to assist with the investigation.
Premier Kathleen Wynne is signalling the end to an era of austerity by lifting the “net-zero” provision on public-sector contracts.
With the Liberals set to balance the books in the 2017-18 budget, Wynne on Monday confirmed that negotiations with public servants will no longer be conducted under the constraint of net-zero bargaining.
“We recognize that we’ve had very good co-operation and challenging discussions with . . . public-sector workers. We’ll continue to work to make sure that we are financially responsible, fiscally responsible,” the premier said at the South Riverdale Community Health Clinic on Queen St. E.
“We’re on track to balance and we, at the same time, will be working with our public-sector employees to support them in the work that they do and make sure that they continue to be able to deliver the terrific service — just like the service that’s delivered here at South Riverdale,” she said.
“Net zero has been a parameter of negotiations for some time and so now . . . we’re going into a new round of negotiations recognizing . . . we need to continue to find ways to make decisions on compensation, on service delivery, that recognize the needs of the system — and the needs of the individuals who work in the system.”
Wynne stressed there will be a new “set of parameters in place” to protect the treasury while rewarding employees — such as teachers — who have had wages frozen for years.
Treasury Board President Liz Sandals noted that since 2012, provincial collective agreements have had an average of 0.6 per cent annual increases compared with 1.7 per cent for federal workers, 1.8 per cent for municipal employees, and 1.9 per cent for those in the private sector.
But Sandals emphasized the province’s newfound largess doesn’t mean the purse strings will be loosened that much.
“Oh, I didn’t say we were going to make it rain . . . don’t put words in my mouth,” she joked with a reporter.
Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said “they never followed it so it seems pretty meaningless” that the age of zero per cent increases is over.
“They hadn’t been acting on it so it’s not really news,” said Brown.
NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh (Bramalea-Gore-Malton) accused the Liberals of messing up public-sector negotiations for years.
“They’ve been colossally horrible. Look at the way they treated the teachers and they dealt with that and they created chaos in our education system,” said Singh.
“Look at the way they’re currently negotiating with doctors,” he said.
“They simply don’t know how to negotiate properly or effectively.”
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