Syrian refugees are landing in Toronto, and the flow will increase very quickly, predicts Ontario’s largest immigration settlement agency.
“They’re starting to arrive,” Mario Calla, of COSTI Immigrant Services, told the Star on Friday. “I believe that it will really gear up very quickly over the next five to 10 days, because now it looks like the visas are coming through, the planes are coming. We expect it to ramp up very quickly.”
Toronto city staff are predicting that 2,000 to 2,500 refugees fleeing Syria’s brutal civil war will settle in the GTA between now and the end of March. Arrivals before January are expected to be primarily sponsored by private individuals and groups, with most of the federal government-sponsored newcomers arriving in the New Year.
But Calla, whose agency has the federal contract for government-assisted refugees in this region, says the estimate of GTA arrivals is a moving target.
Ontario has committed to welcome 10,000 of the 25,000 Syrians coming to Canada. With many expected to be drawn to existing Syrian communities in Toronto and Mississauga, the numbers that actually settle in the GTA could be double the 2,000 to 2,500 estimate, Calla said.
“We’re working with informed assumptions,” he said, adding resettlement preparations are going well.
While the numbers may seem daunting, Toronto should have no problem accommodating the influx, Chris Brillinger, Toronto’s executive director of social development, told a city committee this week.
“The migration inflows into Toronto have been steadily dropping for the last decade, and we are currently receiving about 50 per cent of the newcomers that we received 10 years ago, so there is some capacity within our systems,” he said.
“This city has a history of integrating far larger numbers of individuals,” Brillinger added. What is striking with the Syrian influx, he said, is that many will be traumatized by a treacherous flight from war and that they will be arriving in such a steady flow over a defined period of time.
He stressed that city staff have been busy for a month, co-ordinating with Toronto’s long-established resettlement agencies and looking for gaps to fill. That could include supporting Torontonians who sponsored Syrian families, and helping to match refugees with landlords.
Resettlement agencies, the three levels of governments, school boards and others are working well together to give the newcomers the best shot at success, he assured councillors.
Refugees will arrive, after full processing overseas including security and medical screenings, as “permanent residents” with all the rights of Canadian citizens except the right to vote.
Getting them into permanent housing will be the first priority, Brillinger said, noting that government-sponsored refugees will be financially supported for at least their first year.
“It is imperative that we do the absolute best job we can do in that 12-month period to see as many individuals (as possible) successfully on their own — in their own housing, with their own employment, to be successful overall,” he said.
Calla said that is because of the skyrocketing cost of housing in Toronto. Also, federal immigration changes favouring wealthier, better-educated immigrants saw newcomers able to buy a home in a community such as Markham rather than rent in Toronto.
That pattern probably won’t hold for the Syrians, he said, because most will not have significant financial resources and many will want to be close to the social and cultural supports offered by Syrians already settled here.
Emma Thompson’s view on global warming is, in a sense, fairly simple: “We change or we die.”
The two-time Oscar-winning British actor has thrown her weight behind a march planned for Sunday in Ottawa ahead of the United Nations climate change conference kicking off in France next week. Activists are pushing Canada’s newly minted Liberal government to adopt lofty fossil fuel reduction targets, with an end-goal of a completely clean, renewable economy by 2050.
The march is one of about 2,000 similar events taking place around the world.
“This is a very difficult turning point for the human race,” said Thompson. “We can’t continue on with the system we have. It’s not sustainable.”
Thompson, who’s known for her roles in Sense and Sensibility, The Remains of the Day and the Harry Potter series, is a long-time campaigner for humanitarian causes.
In recent years, she’s focused her efforts on climate change, which, she said, has major implications for problems like conflict, poverty and mass migration. Thompson teamed up with Greenpeace to rally against drilling for oil in the Arctic and to lend support to the community of Clyde River, Nunavut, that’s fighting plans to conduct seismic testing in Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait.
She will be doing the voiceover for an upcoming documentary about the Inuit community.
Thompson doesn’t profess to a deep knowledge of Canada’s climate-change politics, though former prime minister Stephen Harper was “an absolute disaster, of course.”
The 56-year-old said her interest in the polar region and larger effects of climate change was piqued during a 2014 trip aboard a Greenpeace ship to the Arctic, where signs of human interference were “everywhere.”
“We’ve allowed ourselves . . . to turn the earth into a huge rubbish pile,” Thompson told the Star in the only English-language interview she did in Canada.
Leaders have dragged their heels on climate change, she argued, adding the world wouldn’t be in its current position if countries had followed the Kyoto Protocol, the binding international agreement to limit greenhouse gases that Canada withdrew from in 2011.
The Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization announced this week that 2015 will likely mark a global temperature increase of 1 degree Celsius over the pre-Industrial era. That’s halfway to the threshold that’s widely considered the point of no return on climate change.
“We really have painted ourselves into a corner,” said Thompson. “We are just bonkers, we’re on a complete collision course with utter disaster and we’ve got leaders who won’t admit it.”
Thompson said she’d like to see the Paris talks usher in binding international legislation to reduce the use of fossil fuels. “It’s just talk, it’s all bull---- until you actually walk (the talk),” said Thompson. “We’re perfectly capable of sorting this out, we just need to get it done . . . . If we don’t do that, we get what we bloody well deserve.”
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO.—A law enforcement official says one police officer has been killed in the shooting rampage at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.
The official said Friday the officer was with the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs.
The official, who has direct knowledge of the case, spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing and the official was not authorized to speak to the media.
Four other officers and six civilians were taken to hospitals.
Police say the gunman is in custody.
A shootout and standoff between the gunman and officers had transpired for several hours Friday at the clinic.
The gunman had planted unspecified "items" outside the building and carried bags inside, police Lt. Catherine Buckley said. Authorities planned to investigate the items once the scene was stabilized "to make sure they're not any kind of improvised device," she said.
Planned Parenthood released a statement that said it did not know the full circumstances or motives behind the attack, or whether the organization was the target.
The shots sent people inside the clinic racing for cover.
Jennifer Motolinia hid behind a table inside the clinic and called her brother, Joan, who said he heard multiple gunshots in the background.
"She was telling me to take care of her babies because she could get killed," Joan Motolinia said of his sister, the mother of three.
He rushed to the clinic but was frustrated because a police barricade kept him from getting close.
"People were shooting for sure. I heard someone shooting. There was a lot of gunfire. She was calm, she was trying to hide from those people," he said.
Police cordoned off the clinic, nearby medical offices and a shopping centre. Authorities ordered everyone in the area to take shelter where they were.
Denise Speller, manager of a nearby hair salon, said she heard as many as 20 gunshots in less than five minutes.
She told The Gazette newspaper that she saw a police cruiser and two officers near a Chase Bank branch, not far from the Planned Parenthood facility.
One of the officers appeared to fall to the ground and the other officer knelt down to help and then tried to get the officer to safety behind the car, she said. Another officer told Speller to seek shelter inside the building.
"We're still pretty freaked out," Speller said by phone. "We can't stop shaking."
In a move that likely signals the end to the club’s efforts to re-sign ace lefty David Price, the Blue Jays have signed left-handed starting pitcher J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million (U.S.) deal.
Happ, 33, pitched 2 1/2 seasons in Toronto from July 2012 through to the end of the 2014 season before he was traded last off-season to the Seattle Mariners for outfielder Michael Saunders.
Happ had a mediocre first half last season with the Mariners, posting a 4.64 ERA in 20 starts but turned his season around in the second half after he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was one of the National League’s top pitchers over the final two months of the season, pitching to a 1.85 ERA while dramatically increasing his strikeout totals in the final two months of the season.
Happ was acquired by the Jays midway through the 2012 season as part of a 10-player swap with the Houston Astros.
The Crown repeatedly suggested Const. James Forcillo abandoned or ignored his training for dealing with people in crisis when he interacted with Sammy Yatim, court heard Friday.
“This is not a case where you tried even once … to establish a connection through communication, to try to calm the person down in some way,” prosecutor Milan Rupic said during cross-examination.
Forcillo responded: “What happened in this case is I used lawful techniques that are part of Toronto police training try and establish control over the situation.”
Forcillo has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and attempted murder. He was charged by the SIU after shooting at 18-year-old Yatim nine times in two volleys of shots on an empty Dundas streetcar on July 27, 2013. Yatim was holding a 4-inch switchblade at the time. The jury has heard that the entire stand-off took less than a minute from Forcillo arriving at the streetcar to the shots being fired.
Rupic challenged Forcillo on his attitude towards verbally de-escalating a situation by asking questions.
“If you are pointing a knife and are refusing to do what I say, why will things magically be okay if I ask if he wanted a glass of water?” Rupic said Forcillo testified Thursday.
“When you said that your voice was dripping with scorn as if real officers don’t negotiate, don’t ask a visibly troubled person what their name was, if there was anything wrong, if they need a phone,” Rupic said. “That was not part of your job as you saw it.”
Forcillo said he disagreed completely.
Rupic said Forcillo’s comment reflects his mindset at the time of the shooting as to “what your job was and what duty you owed Sammy Yatim, a drug-addled teenager.”
(The jury has heard that Yatim had moderate to moderately high levels of ecstasy in his system.)
Forcillo replied that the comment reflected what he felt when communicating with Yatim, not his general mindset.
“You did not internalize your training, that the most effective way to resolve a situation, the most likely way to resolve a situation without force, is verbal deescalation,” Rupic said.
“What I internalized,” Forcillo replied, “is that if I am faced with a person armed with a weapon, the best approach is to issue loud, clear commands to drop the knife.”
Forcillo later testified that the time and place for a conversation “is not 10 feet away from a person holding a knife.”
Once Yatim was secured and no longer a threat, then “obviously there would be no need to be screaming at him,” Forcillo said.
Rupic suggested Forcillo was trained that issuing threats, ultimatums or barking commands can escalate a situation or can undermine the potential of a successful de-escalation. Forcillo disagreed.
“Pointing a firearm is considered a form of de-escalation. Loud, clear verbal commands are considered a form of de-escalation,” Forcillo said.
Rupic replied that the definition of de-escalation given by deputy chief Mike Federico and the one used in Toronto police training centred on negotiation and rapport-building, not pointing a firearm.
Forcillo said that an officer has to choose what form of de-escalation is appropriate in the circumstances but disputed that Toronto police de-escalation training only focuses on communication.
Forcillo agreed with Rupic that an officer needs more than a hunch or suspicion that someone is going to attack before shooting them.
“Shooting Sammy Yatim was in the category of maybe he was going to attack you,” Rupic said. “Until Sammy Yatim started to run down the stairs you didn't know what he was going to do.”
Rupic suggested Yatim might have taken his last two steps forward to de-escalate a situation with two men pointing guns at him.
“That’s unreasonable in these circumstances,” Forcillo replied.
Rupic also questioned Forcillo about whether he could have used pepper spray as a reasonable alternative to shooting Yatim.
Forcillo said he didn’t think pepper spray was an option because it would be ineffective and might enrage Yatim.
“Pepper spray is considered ineffective against people who are highly intoxicated, who are high on drugs, mentally ill, panicked, in excited delirium,” Forcillo said. “There is a saying among us that pepper spray only works on cops.”
Rupic objected to this, saying Federico testified pepper spray may not be effective against people on drugs or in crisis – not that it was ineffective or rarely effective.
“What I am suggesting to you is that your answers here on pepper spray really not being effective against people in crisis on drugs…that’s a false self-serving explanation as to why you did not think of using pepper spray at all whether at the time of first volley or the second volley when Yatim was on his back on the floor of the streetcar,” Rupic said.
Forcillo responded: “No I’m giving you the reality of the situation. I don’t believe it would be effective.”
Earlier Friday Forcillo testified that he did not think about whether the nine shots he fired at Yatim would kill him or cause him serious bodily harm.
“In my mind, when I’m firing the shots, I was not considering whether or not these bullets are going to kill him; I was considering whether or not they will stop the threat,” Forcillo said.
The trial continues.
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