The clear-cutting of two thickly treed Bayview Ave. lots has “horrified” Mayor John Tory, who says he hopes any resulting prosecution results in fines of at least a million dollars to send a message to Toronto developers.
Tory visited the site south of York Mills Rd. on Thursday after the Star and other news outlets chronicled the fury of neighbours and local Councillor Jaye Robinson over the removal of trees at the north and south corners of Bayview and Bayview Ridge, including a Linden tree thought to be 150 years old.
Neighbours estimated 30 trees were torn down. In fact, Tory said, “several dozen” were removed to make way for townhouses — “the biggest (alleged) single infraction of its kind that we’ve ever seen in the city” — without any application to the city.
City forestry has a tree inventory that developer Format Group submitted to the Ontario Municipal Board which authorized the developer, over the city’s objections, to replace single-family homes with multiple townhouses. OMB building approval doesn’t exempt developers from Toronto’s tree bylaw aimed at preserving a healthy city canopy.
“We can’t be serious about trees to the point where we have debates about a single tree at the entire city council and then just let somebody come here, under not-quite cover of darkness, and take down dozens of trees, some of them a 100-plus years — it’s not acceptable . . . ” the mayor said, standing beside the mud fields strewn with logs.
“If people see you can just do that, everybody will start to do it.”
Format Group, which describes itself as a partnership of Terracomm Group and Pegah Construction, with more than 40 years combined experience, released a statement after Tory’s afternoon visit.
The developer noted it has OMB site plan and construction approval in principle. Its arborist submitted a “complete report,” including the number and location of trees to be removed, that has been “accepted and approved by the city’s urban forestry department,” the company said.
Format said it was told arrival of a city building permit was “imminent,” and assumed it could begin excavation, but then was told the city wants another inspection. “We assumed we were allowed to follow the report and prepare the site in anticipation of the building permit,” Format said, adding that is now co-operating with the city investigation.
City parks staff said in a statement that “during the development review, Urban Forestry has been clear that applications to injure or destroy trees would be required.”
Tory earlier called the notion that a developer smart and experienced enough to hire a lawyer to win at the OMB wouldn’t understand explicit requirements of the tree-removal bylaw “not really believable.”
The bylaw states anyone removing any tree with a trunk larger than 30 cm, about the size of a telephone pole, requires city approval. The bylaw has a maximum fine of $100,000 per tree and allows for a separate extra $100,000 penalty which has not been levied.
City staff say convictions in provincial offences court usually yield fines of about $5,000 per tree. That’s not enough in this case if a prosecution proceeds, said Tory.
He would like to see the maximum penalty plus the extra fine totalling a “seven-figure” penalty.
And if developers don’t get the message, or see such fines as a cost of building in Toronto’s hot real estate market, the maximum fines should rise, the mayor said, noting many neighbourhoods are feeling development pressures.
City staff say 94 per cent of tree removal requests are approved. However, developers often initially ask to remove a large number of trees and officially ask for a smaller number after city staff inspect the site and show how they can build while maintaining as much of the canopy as possible.
The tableau was exceptionally rare: A Toronto police officer, arms pulled behind his back, being handcuffed in court.
Led away, a few minutes later, to the holding cells downstairs at 361 University.
These would not be the cells with which Const. James Forcillo was once intimately familiar as a court constable at the beginning of his law enforcement career. He’d served in a different courthouse. But he’d certainly know the procedure. The clang of the cage door slamming shut, the jangle of turnkeys, the indignity of being deposited behind bars.
Whether he submitted a DNA sample, as is routinely ordered of convicted and sentenced felons, is unclear.
And, as a cop — the first in Canada to be convicted and sentenced for attempted murder, “an egregious breach of trust which is an aggravating factor" — he was placed in protective custody, not simply flung into the bullpen with everybody else.
Forcillo’s incarceration might last for all of one night.
The former 14 Division cop — suspended without pay Thursday by Chief Mark Saunders — could be sprung by early Friday, when a decision is expected on his application for bail pending appeal of both conviction and sentence. A new set of lawyers assembled, in front of a different judge, just down the street, at Osgoode Hall, mere hours after Forcillo learned of his fate. Except fate is an elastic concept, and the judicial system sometimes responds with more alacrity with some supplicants than others.
So, possibly and rapidly at liberty again, as Forcillo had been since a jury found him guilty of attempted murder in January. Since he was arrested three years ago charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death on a downtown streetcar of knife-wielding teenager Sammy Yatim. Since he was charged two years ago with attempted murder in the same fusillade of gunshots.
Three years and one day after Yatim was struck by nine bullets discharged from Forcillo’s service weapon, the cop who killed him could be in and out of jail lickety-split. That’s what a top-notch legal team can get you. Though most of us don’t have our legal bills covered by the police association.
“I don’t want to see a criminal on the street,” Sammy’s father, Nabil, said afterwards outside the courthouse. “But the system we have . . . we might have him out on the street.”
Forcillo didn’t even look at the family that continues to grieve their profound loss, Nabil admitting he spent the third-year anniversary of his son’s death just staring at the wall, wondering, as always: “What if this had happened, what if that happened. All the ifs."
A sorry, even a fleeting acknowledgment from Forcillo that he understands the family’s pain, would have been precious for the boy’s parents and sister. They searched Forcillo’s face for remorse and saw only a stony expression.
“Not much,” said Nabil. “Not much of a man."
If no more than a single night in jail, for now, perhaps a taste of what’s to come — six years in penitentiary, the sentence handed down Thursday morning by Justice Edward Then. Or at least whatever part of six years would be served until parole eligibility.
Not the eight to 10 years urged by the Crown. But a far cry from the house arrest — just send the guy home — which defence lawyer Peter Brauti had been seeking. Because, you know, he’s a cop who was just doing his job that summer night, as sworn to duty, justified in the use of lethal force. An argument which found some traction with a jury because Forcillo was acquitted of second-degree murder — the fatal result arising from the first volley of three bullets. But rejected by jurors on the separate charge of attempted murder for continuing to fire in a second volley at the 18-year-old lying prone and mortally wounded just inside the streetcar stairwell.
Forcillo’s account of events, from the witness stand, did not square with the multiple pieces of video evidence played in court at trial, his “misperceived’ assessment — six seconds between volleys — of the continuing danger that Yatim posed. The youth, spine shattered, paralyzed from the waist down and heart pierced, was definitely not attempting to stand by up, not lifting his torso at a 45-degree angle as Forcillo testified and not an imminent threat to Forcillo or any of the many officers standing outside the streetcar’s open door. “Based on the video which proves conclusively that Mr. Yatim made no attempt to get to his feet to renew the attack and based on all of the evidence, I have found as a fact beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Forcillo was not under a misperception that Mr. Yatim was attempting to get to his feet by raising himself 45 degrees to renew the attack,” Then said in his reasons for sentencing.
Then does not dispute that Yatim, who was high on ecstasy that night, had reached for the switchblade dropped when hit by the first volley. But “I find as a fact beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Forcillo knew from his training that Mr. Yatim in rearming himself with the knife was only a potential threat. Accordingly, I conclude that Officer Forcillo shot Mr. Yatim precipitously contrary to his training at the commencement of the second volley and throughout the second volley.”
That was the attempted murder, unjustified, of a dying young man.
Facts remain fluid, however, in the ongoing legal resistance to the case’s outcome, and rejection of the constitutional challenge mounted at trial against a mandatory minimum four-year sentence for attempted murder with a restricted weapon.
It’s nowhere near over.
That might explain Forcillo’s deadpan expression when he was manacled. Not a flicker of reaction from either the felon or his wife.
Not a trace of remorse offered either.
Then made note of that too, sitting back down on his bench after rising to leave, as if remembering something that needed saying.
“Mr. Brauti, your client has not specifically expressed any remorse, and I want to make it clear that his failure to do that is not taken to be an aggravating factor. It is his right to maintain his innocence. But on the other hand, because there is an absence of remorse, he is not entitled to leniency.”
There is a legal dimension to staying silent, of course, as Forcillo also declined Then’s invitation to make a statement before the judge began reading his reasons for sentence. Remorse, an apology, could be construed as admission.
Sammy Yatim’s parents wanted to hear it, though, needed to hear it.
“Admitting he was wrong,” said Sammy’s mother, Sahar Bahadi, “instead of trying to hide behind a whole bunch of other things.
“I noticed since it start, the trial, Forcillo didn’t show any kind of remorse, and that hurts a lot. He destroyed our family. He will destroy our life, but he didn’t show any kind of remorse."
Her anguish hasn’t dimmed nor her anger diminished.
“I’m always angry since I lost my son, I’m always angry. I have screams inside me. And I have to control myself. But it’s a very big loss, and it’s a disaster for us."
Both parents expressed gratitude for justice done, for the wide support received and hope no other family will ever have to go through a similar horror. “It’s not about vengeance,’’ insisted Nadil. “It’s about no other family should suffer what we suffered.”
They want the wider public, as well, to know that Sammy was so much more than the muddled teenager who made ruinous mistakes that night. “A kind boy, not the way he was portrayed,” said his father. “A kind, nice, beautiful, talented young boy, really. He hasn’t made it to man."
Police union president Mike McCormack described Thursday as a “tragic day for the Forcillo family, for the Yatim family, for the community and policing. There’s never going to be any good outcome from this, and it’s tragic all the way around.”
But that’s a false ledger of loss. The suffering on both sides is not equal.
Forcillo may eventually go to prison, for a period of time. His family can see him, though, hear his voice, know that he will be restored to them.
The mother of a dead son can only kneel by his grave and weep.
“Sammy will never be coming back to us. I want him back.”
Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
There’s been an outpouring of sympathy and support from Ontario’s antique car community after the victims of Sunday’s Hwy. 407 crash were identified.
David Harpley, his wife Karen and their son Chad — celebrating his 43rd birthday the day of the accident — were pronounced dead at the scene.
Bill Robbins, a family friend for the past 45 years, was driving with his wife from a car show in Trenton, Ont. on Sunday behind the Harpleys before the incident.
“We waved, they waved, and Dave yelled out the passenger window, ‘See you Tuesday at cruise night!’” said Robbins.
It was the last time he would see his friends alive.
“This is worse than terrible,” Robbins told the Star. “(They were) just wonderful people . . . it’s the worst case scenario.”
Robbins is on the executive committee of the Brampton Street Rods, where Dave was acting treasurer and one of the original members when the car club started up 27 years ago. Chad joined the group when he was old enough and purchased his first antique car, a ’48 Chevy.
“One thing that I want to make very clear . . . is that it may have been a (classic) body on the car but underneath all the suspension, steering, tires and brakes were modern,” said Robbins, adding that all members of the club are adamant about proper maintenance.
“Because they’re summer hobby cars, we’re constantly checking things,” continued Robbins. “Both of us, before we left Trenton, did a walk around, checked tire pressure, fluid pressure, lights . . . we even made sure our horns were operating.”
Black and painted with purple flames, Chad’s car was on display in Trenton on Sunday for a classic car show, Wheels on the Bay.
According to police, the 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster Coupe experienced a mechanical issue with the right rear tire and lost control, swerving from the far right late into the highway’s left-inner lane around 3 p.m. A motor coach bus, travelling westbound, T-boned the classic automobile and sent it rolling into the ditch, where it caught fire.
Sgt. Kerry Schmidt confirmed that the preliminary investigation found “a tire deflation (and) failure of the tire itself caused the driver to lose control,” but that a full examination is still underway.
“Everyone was really shocked,” said Don Postma, the Wheels on the Bay event organizer and member of Innisfil Beach Cruisers. “A number of us plan to go (to the viewing). We are such a tight community. People have families, blood families, but then there are car families. When it comes down to car families, and something tragic on the road happens, everyone comes together.”
The Brampton Street Rods cruise night, which normally hosts around 120 vehicles each Tuesday night, had over 300 cars show up to support them following the accident. Jaclyn Duggan, the winner of the 50/50 draw that day, donated her $520 prize back to the Harpley family. A donation jar collected an additional $865.
Dave, Karen and Chad were described by friends and acquaintances in the car community as “Salt of the Earth people,” always willing to help a friend in need.
“Everybody should try to be as good of people as what they were,” said Robbins. He recalled many times Dave and Chad would help others with car trouble and the huge cake Karen baked two years ago for the car club’s 25th anniversary.
Brampton’s Over ‘N’ Under Car Club, which has a regular cruise night on Sundays, will also be donating proceeds from their 50/50 to the family. The Woodbridge Cruisers Hwy. 27 club also paid tribute to the Harpleys on Wednesday following the accident, donating their draw to the family as well. Car club members from across the province say they plan to attend the memorial services.
“The car club community, boy, I’ll tell you: I’m so proud to be a member. We’ve all banded together,” said Robbins, his deep voice slightly wavering. “It’s amazing how people have rallied around us. The remaining members in the car club and our wives are just devastated, but we really appreciate the support from the car club community.”
Nine months after Justin Trudeau’s government was sworn in, it’s becoming clearer which cabinet ministers have begun to distinguish themselves from the rest. I’d recommend keeping an eye on Jane Philpott, the health minister.
I’ll admit that’s a bit of a challenge. She moves around a lot. Here is how Philpott stayed busy during only the second half of July.
In five days at the World AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, she delivered eight speeches, on topics ranging from mother-to-daughter HIV transmission to the “undeniable and unacceptable gaps” in health outcomes between indigenous and non-indigenous populations in Canada.
Canadian health ministers usually attend the annual World AIDS Conference. But Philpott brought a rare level of sustained intensity to her visit — as befits a woman who has been fighting AIDS in Africa for 30 years, as a family doctor, a health-care administrator and a private fundraiser.
On her way home from Durban she stopped at Addis Ababa University, in Ethiopia, to check up on the family-health program she helped establish nearly a decade ago.
Philpott was back in Ottawa for all of a day before she headed to the northern Quebec Inuit village of Kuujjuaq to announce a suicide prevention program for Inuit communities. The national Inuit association, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, designed the program; Philpott was on hand to announce $9 million in federal funding. These programs are more effective if the affected populations take the lead in designing them, she said.
Just before her burst of travel — two long weeks ago now — Philpott deftly defused a nasty dispute between Canadian health scientists and the federal body that provides most of their funding, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
Funding for the CIHR has stagnated in recent years, even as the number of applications for funding skyrocketed. The CIHR responded by streamlining peer review, the mechanism by which researchers themselves decide which projects will be funded. The goal was to save on workload and travel costs by having peer-review panels discuss proposals online instead of meeting face-to-face.
Jim Woodgett, director of research of the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, wrote a letter protesting that the quality of funding decisions was deteriorating under the new system. He posted the letter online. In a week 1,300 researchers had signed it.
Philpott could have ignored the little rebellion as an intramural turf fight among eggheads. A government-appointed panel is already wandering around the country reviewing science policy. It was safe to assume they’d recommend the sort of changes Woodgett and his colleagues wanted, say six or eight months from now.
Philpott refused to wait. She ordered CIHR brass to meet the disgruntled researchers immediately. She sent her deputy minister and a senior staffer to attend. By the end of the meeting, the CIHR had suspended the controversial peer-review process. Woodgett told me Philpott’s emissaries played a key role in ensuring the changes would be immediate.
Why meddle in the lab-coat uprising, I asked Philpott. “I think when a health minister gets a letter from 1,300 researchers, there’s obviously a breakdown,” she told me. “What they were asking for was not unreasonable.”
Woodgett, who is not shy about complaining about politicians, came away deeply impressed. “She acts quickly before things get out of hand or fester,” he said. “I think she has deep respect from the medical community — in large part due to her irreproachable background and genuine care for people, whether in isolated African villages or Canada. It’s that breadth of experience that must give her confidence.”
Philpott’s confidence is getting noticed within the Trudeau government. Early on, she chaired a cabinet committee designed to meet Trudeau’s target of 25,000 Syrian refugees, and led her new colleagues with the assurance of a political veteran.
At 55, she is older than some of her colleagues in this young government. She counsels them informally on work-life balance, on management techniques, and on policy across a range of topics extending outside her own portfolio. She is said to work well with Katie Telford, Trudeau’s chief of staff, whom she has known for less than two years. When a colleague needs help or simple encouragement, Philpott helps make it happen.
Like everyone else in this hyperkinetic government, Philpott has a tough year ahead, including potentially bruising negotiations with the provinces on health funding and reform. It will be a sustained test for someone who is still new to the federal arena. But I suspect she’ll continue to impress.
Is there a retirement home on Sesame Street for cast-off cast members?
The beloved children’s show is in the midst of a major retooling, heading to HBO from PBS — where it first premiered in 1969 — and slimming down to a half-hour format from its current hour-long episodes.
As part of the revamp, the show is also axing three beloved veteran actors: Bob McGrath, who has played Bob the music teacher on the show since it premiered; Roscoe Orman, who plays Gordon the science teacher; and Emilio Delgado, who plays Luis, affectionately known as Mr. Fix-it.
Delgado joined the show in 1971 with his wife, Sonia Manzano, who played Maria until she retired in 2015. Orman joined the show in 1974.
McGrath announced at the Florida Supercon July 2thathe’d been “graciously let go” from the beloved show, the Muppet Cast podcast reported in its July 27 episode.
“I have completed my 45th season this year. The show has gone under a major turnaround, now going from an hour to a half-hour,” McGrath, 84, said at a question-and-answer session recorded by the podcast.
“HBO has gotten involved also, and so they let all of the original cast members go, with the exception of Alan Muraoka (who plays Alan, the owner of Hooper’s store), who is still on the show and who is probably 20 years younger than the rest of us, and Chris Knowings (who plays Chris), who is also young, and they are terrific, wonderful people,” McGrath added.
In a statement on Twitter, Sesame Workshop said Thursday the actors “remain a beloved part of the Sesame family and continue to represent us at public events. To us, and for millions of people worldwide, they are a treasured part of Sesame Street.
“Since the show began, we are constantly evolving our content and curriculum, and hence, our characters, to meet the educational needs of children. As a result of this, our cast has changed over the years, though you can still expect to see many of them in upcoming productions,” the statement added.
Sesame Workshop, a non-profit organization, also saidHBO was not involved in the decision to retire the actors: “Sesame Workshop retains sole creative control over the show. HBO does not oversee the production.”
HBO became the Sesame Street’s new home in a deal announced in August 2015. Under terms of the deal, new episodes of the show began airing in January 2016 and will be rebroadcast nine months later on PBS.
At the Television Critics Association press tour on Thursday, the U.S. public broadcaster’s CEO, Paula Kerger, was quick to point out it had no involvement in the decision regarding the veteran actors.
“As you know, Sesame Street is produced by Sesame Workshop, an independent production company. The casting decision was made by them. We did not know about it beforehand. We found out about it after,” she said.
With its blend of beloved Muppet characters like Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Elmo, and human characters — including guest stars — Sesame Street has become one of the best known and regarded children’s educational shows on television, winning 167 Emmy Awards over its long tenure.
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