It must be nice to claim your lawn is at the centre of Toronto.
That’s exactly what two families in the upscale Lawrence Park neighbourhood can do after the Star pulled co-ordinates for the city’s “geographic centre.” But are either of them right? It depends who you ask.
“It’s our only claim to fame,” jokes Judy Haust, who grew up in the supposed bull’s-eye at 33 Wanless Cres., where she now lives with her husband, Bill.
When the Torontoist launched search efforts in 2010 to locate Toronto’s geographic centre, co-ordinates led a University of Toronto maps librarian to a clump of cedars on the Hausts’ front lawn. But that may have been off, according to new analysis.
The city might not revolve around the Hausts’ front lawn after all. Instead, co-ordinates determined by running Statistics Canada border data through a mapping program called ArcMap now point to the backyard of Debbie Loduca, two doors down.
“I’d better put a sign up then and charge people to come in,” says Loduca with a laugh. Her twin boys have been running around on Toronto’s new crosshairs for years now. Whether the spot is in her backyard or on the Haust front lawn, Loduca said it’s appropriate that the centre of Toronto’s universe is in Lawrence Park. “It is the centre of the universe, actually.”
Nestled between the Haust and Loduca homes is one with a famous former owner — Canada’s first female astronaut, Roberta Bondar. Loduca’s sister, Lorraine Milne, has a theory on the Star’s new discovery: “Maybe when she was up in space, she pointed to the centre of the universe — she picked this spot.”
Since the original proclamation in March 2010, the Hausts have proudly touted their lawn’s status in the neighbourhood. Judy crafted a scrapbook for neighbours who moved away, featuring an aerial view of their homes captioned “The Geographical Centre of Toronto!” Friends had even suggested to the Hausts that they reach out to the city and have a plaque installed under the cedar trees.
So how is it that the city’s centre moved two doors down?
When Marcel Fortin, a geographic information systems and maps librarian at U of T, drew the circle around the Haust family lawn, he used Statistics Canada data from 2006. This time, he was able to draw from 2011 data, which may account for the shift. In those five years, data specialists further defined the city borders, particularly along the shoreline, which Fortin suggests may be one reason the city centre has moved from the Hausts’ cedar trees to Loduca’s backyard.
But Lawrence Park’s status as the centre of Toronto is relatively new. Before the birth of the amalgamated “megacity” in 1998, the centre of Toronto was the top right corner of Queen’s Park. That’s closer to the perception of many Torontonians that the city’s true heart is at Yonge and Bloor Sts.
For maps expert Fortin, the most interesting results come from digging into the archives. An 1877 volume refers to Toronto as “one of the most flourishing cities in the Dominion.” In the yellowed pages of Lovell’s Gazetteer of British North America — a kind of geographical dictionary — the co-ordinates listed for the city of Toronto don’t land in Toronto as we know it at all, Fortin points out. Instead, they lead to Thornhill’s German Mills Settlers Park, behind Dawn Hill Trail.
For now, Lawrence Park remains Toronto’s geographic nucleus. But which home can truly lay claim to the title? Other households nearby might yet become the rightful centre, depending on what data is used to pull co-ordinates. With the centre in flux, the Hausts’ claim to fame may be fleeting. Judy Haust heeds a warning she gives to the Star:
“You could cause some neighbourly wars doing this.”
GAZA, PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES—A senior PLO official proposed a 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire Tuesday in the Gaza war, saying he spoke in the name of Hamas, but was contradicted a short while later by a spokesman of the Islamic militant group.
In Gaza, a health official said at least 100 Palestinians were killed in Israeli airstrikes and tank shelling Tuesday, as Israel escalated its military campaign. The official, Ashraf al-Kidra, said the day’s death toll was expected to rise.
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There have been several instances in which the daily Gaza death toll in more than three weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting has surpassed 100.
Israel has lost 53 soldiers, along with two civilians and a Thai national.
Tuesday’s cease-fire offer was made by the Palestine Liberation Organization, of which Hamas is not a member. The largest group in the PLO is the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas’ main political rival.
However, the PLO’s secretary-general, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said the offer came after consultations with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant group in Gaza. Palestinian officials said Abbas has been in touch in recent days with Khaled Mashaal, the top Hamas leader in exile.
“The Palestinian leadership, following consultations with the leadership in Hamas and Islamic Jihad, announces in the name of all of these our readiness for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire for 24 hours,” Abed Rabbo said in the West Bank.
A Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, said that “the remarks of Mr. Abed Rabbo are not true and have nothing to do with the positions of the factions at the moment.”
It was not clear if Abu Zuhri reflected the views of the Hamas leadership in exile.
In Israel, government spokesman Mark Regev declined comment.
Tuesday’s strikes came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday warned of a “prolonged” campaign against Hamas. It was not clear if this meant Israel has decided to go beyond the initial objectives of decimating Hamas’ ability to fire rockets and demolishing the group’s military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border.
Already, the intensity and the scope of the current Gaza operation is on par with an invasion five years ago, which ended with a unilateral Israeli withdrawal after it hit Hamas hard.
Gaza’s power plant also was forced to shut down Tuesday after two tank shells hit one of three fuel tanks, said Jamal Dardasawi, a spokesman for Gaza’s electricity distribution company. He said the damage would take months to repair.
Even before the shutdown, Gaza residents only had electricity for about three hours a day because fighting had damaged power lines.
WASHINGTON—The U.S. should investigate whether Facebook Inc.’s tracking of users’ Web browsing activities violates an agreement with the government to ensure people’s privacy, an advocacy group said.
Facebook, the biggest social networking site, began monitoring the Web habits of its users following a June 12 announcement. That’s contrary to the company’s prior representations, according to a letter sent to the Federal Trade Commission by Kostas Rossoglou, senior legal officer of the European Consumer Organization and Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.
The non-governmental organizations, joined in a grouping they call the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue, petitioned the FTC to open a probe into Facebook’s practices. Facebook last month said it would try to deliver more targeted advertising by viewing what its users do on sites other than Facebook.
“We are writing to express deep alarm,” the group said in its letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez.
Jodi Seth, a spokeswoman for Menlo Park, California-based Facebook, said users can choose not to receive advertising that’s based on the websites they visit and apps they use.
“The level of control people have over advertising on Facebook exceeds industry standards,” Seth said in an email.
Facebook in late 2011 agreed to settle complaints by the FTC that it failed to protect subscribers’ privacy or disclose how their data could be used. It later entered into a 20-year agreement with the agency that requires the company to get clear consent from users before sharing material posted under earlier, more restrictive terms.
If the FTC finds Facebook has violated the agreement, the privacy groups would ask the agency to compel the company to stop the tracking, Chester said in an email.
Facebook has been giving people more control over their settings after years of criticism over its privacy policies. In May, the company said that the posts of new members who begin sharing on Facebook will only be visible to their friends, as opposed to the public. The company also added options for users to decide what Facebook information they share with third-party applications.
OTTAWA—A Senate committee is debating what — if any — sanction to level against a Quebec Conservative who was found to have breached parts of the upper chamber’s conflict-of-interest code.
Sen. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu got a chance Monday to testify behind closed doors about why he continued to employ his girlfriend as an assistant, even though it violated Senate guidelines.
Boisvenu renewed a job contract for his girlfriend twice, and tried to ensure a two-week special leave for her as she moved from one job to another in Senate administration.
A few weeks ago, the chamber’s ethics officer Lyse Ricard found that even though he broke the rules, the actions were “an error of judgment made in good faith.”
She recommended no sanctions against Boisvenu, a former victim’s rights advocate appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2010.
Ricard says Boisvenu first met Isabelle Lapointe in 2010 at a charity event and eventually hired her to work as his executive assistant.
Shortly afterward, they began having an affair and during that time he renewed her contract twice before she moved to another job within the Senate.
Liberal Sen. Celine Hervieux-Payette filed a complaint against Boisvenu, claiming he’d violated the Senate’s ethics code by using Senate resources to benefit a family member, but Ricard’s report concluded Lapointe was not family.
Boisvenu was found to have acted inappropriately by not only renewing the contract but also by lobbying Senate leadership over how time off Lapointe had taken was to be counted.
Going into Monday’s closed-door hearing before the Senate ethics committee, Boisvenu offered no comment on the report’s findings.
Conservative Sen. Raynell Andreychuk said the committee will want to reflect on Boisvenu’s arguments before making a decision.
OTTAWA—Canada’s airlines and aviation organizations are pressing Ottawa to make shining a laser at an aircraft a criminal offence, warning that the threat is “too great to ignore.”
In a joint letter to Transport Minister Lisa Raitt and Justice Minister Peter MacKay, aviation representatives say tough action is needed to stem what they call a “genuine and growing safety and security concern.”
The June 20, 2014 letter is signed by the country’s largest airlines, including Westjet, Air Canada, Porter, Jazz and Air Transat, along with pilot unions and helicopter and general aviation associations, some 14 groups in all.
It’s a rare united front for an industry where competition is fierce but the signatories say Ottawa must act now on a problem they say is increasing “exponentially.”
They are seeking tough new laws and a public education campaign — similar to one launched earlier this year in the U.S. — to alert people to the dangers of shining a laser at an aircraft.
“We want this covered under the criminal code where police officers have the authority, something that has teeth to act. We feel this is the only deterrent,” said Craig Blandford, president of the Air Canada Pilots Association.
The proliferation of small, handheld lasers has spelled trouble for pilots, who can be startled by the brilliant beam of light, suffer flash blindness, temporary and even permanent injury to the eye.
“We’ve had people that have had to go to emergency after they’ve landed because they’re vision has still been affected by the cockpit flash,” Blandford said in an interview.
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Westjet is pushing for changes to protect the health and safety of its pilots, spokesperson Brie Thorsteinson Ogle said.
“Shining a laser in a manner that could result in injury or serious damage is not a smart thing to do,” Ogle said.
“It’s amazing how little apparent thought these people put into their actions. They don’t understand that what they’re doing is not a joke — it’s potentially very dangerous, most notably from an occupational health and safety perspective,” she said in an email.
Yet despite the dangers, more and more, pilots are being targeted by the devices.
In 2013, the number of laser strikes on Canadian aircraft jumped to 461, up 30 per cent over the previous year. So far this year, Transport Canada records show there have been 184 incidents as small planes, big jets, even air ambulance helicopters are in the crosshairs, including:
In addition to the risk to a pilot’s eyesight, there are other dangers. Many of the strikes happen when aircraft are landing — when they are low and slow. A distracting laser could have devastating consequences, Blandford said.
“They need to understand that they are jeopardizing that flight at its most crucial point in the flight profile,” he said.
Transport Canada says that directing a bright light into an aircraft cockpit is already an offence under the Aeronautics Act and carries a $100,000 maximum fine and prison term of up to five years.
Elements of the Criminal Code could come into play, such as charges for mischief endangering life or criminal negligence causing bodily harm or death, the department says.
Jana Regimbal, a spokesperson for Raitt, says that the department investigates incidents along with law enforcement agencies and once sufficient evidence is obtained, the case is referred to crown attorney for legal action.
“Aiming a directed bright light source into the cockpit of an aircraft jeopardizes aviation safety and these light sources are also hazardous to pilots and threaten passenger safety,” she said in an email to the Star.
As well, Transport Canada launched an awareness campaign in 2010 among law enforcement agencies and astronomical societies — which use lasers to point out stars — to highlight the risks.
The aviation representatives say Ottawa must take a tougher stance. Making it a criminal offence “will put the public on notice that shining a laser into an aircraft cockpit is a serious offense that will be met with serious consequences,” the letter states.
The letter points to deterrence efforts in the U.S., where the Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched a public awareness campaign and where shining a laser at an aircraft is a felony that carries a jail sentence of up to five years.
The FBI is offering up to $10,000 (U.S.) for information leading to the arrest of any individual who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft.
“The Americans are dealing with it. I mean, when the FBI gets involved, it’s a serious event,” Blandford said.
“We need regulation, we need education and we need punishment and deterrence,” he said. “I hope the ministers receive the message that this is an important issue.”
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