Archive | April, 2018

Suspected van driver Alek Minassian charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder, 13 counts of attempted murder

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

The Richmond Hill man, 25, stands accused of jumping the sidewalk with a rented van and ramming pedestrians along a 2.2 kilometre-stretch of Yonge St.

The man accused in the deadly van carnage on Yonge St. has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.

Alek Minassian, 25, appeared briefly in court at 1000 Finch Ave. W., on Tuesday, wearing a white jumpsuit and with his hands cuffed behind him in the prisoner’s box.

He gave his name very quickly in court. Minassian’s eyes darted around as he listened to what the duty counsel was saying, but he wore a poker face expression.

Minassian’s next court appearance is via video May 10. He needs to find a lawyer and, given the seriousness of the charges, the justice of the peace told court that he was required to detain the accused.

Minassian was ordered not to have contact with any of the 13 attempt murder victims and when asked if he understood, he sharply said, “Yes.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if he had any family members in court.

A court documents didn’t identify the names of the murder victims, referring to each as an “unknown person.”

The document, known as the information did, however, include the names of the attempted murder victims.

Court records show he has no criminal record prior to these charges.

Toronto police are expected to update the media at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

The Richmond Hill man is accused of jumping the sidewalk with a rented van and ramming pedestrians along a two-kilometre stretch of Yonge St., between Sheppard Ave. and Finch Ave. on Monday afternoon. Ten people were killed, while another 15 remain in hospital.

The suspect behind the wheel of the van later ditched the vehicle and got into a standoff with a police officer on Poyntz Ave. south of Sheppard Ave. Eyewitness video of the confrontation shows him asking the officer to “shoot me in the head,” claiming he had a gun in his pocket.

The officer arrested the suspect at the scene. The arresting police officer widely praised for his handling of the situation is Const. Ken Lam, the Star has confirmed.

Details are trickling in on the victims who were hit by the van.

The South Korean government confirmed on its official Facebook site that two of its nationals were killed, and another was injured.

At a special city council meeting Tuesday, Councillor Cesar Palacio rose to speak about one of the victims, Anne Marie D’Amico, the daughter of constituents Rocco and Carmela, who live in his Davenport ward.

D’Amico was one of three children and a friend of Palacio’s daughter.

 “When my daughter called me last night to share that particular news, it was so devastating,” Palacio said in the council chamber as he offered condolences to the family.

The councillor said he spoke to D’Amico’s father, Rocco, on Tuesday morning.

“It was clear that part of his life is gone,” Palacio said. “As he noted, he’s living the worst nightmare ever in his life.”

Earlier on Monday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Minassian’s name did not trigger any red flags relating to terrorism.

Goodale had described the incident as a “horrific attack” in an afternoon tweet offering praise to the Toronto police and condolences to the victims and their families. By nightfall, Goodale tempered his language.

“This incident that happened here on the street behind us was horrendous but it does not appear to be connected in any way to national security,” Goodale told reporters.

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said the rampage “definitely looked deliberate.”

“There is nothing in our files, we’ve looked right across, and there’s nothing that we have on him right now,” he said.

The exact motive behind the horror remains unclear.

A source confirmed to the Star that a Facebook post from an Alek Minassian circulating on social media talking about “incel” and invoking U.S. mass murderer Elliot Rodger was indeed legitimate and published on Minassian’s profile before his acount was deleted.

“Incel” refers to an online community of the “involuntarily celibate,” or men who feel frustrated by their inability to find romantic relationships or sex.

Online community forums often feature misogynistic rhetoric and an online forum of 40,000 “incels’’ — which had posts like “all women are sluts” and “reasons why women are the embodiment of evil” — was banned in November by Reddit. The online community prohibits content that “encourages, glorifies, incites or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or group of people.”

A spokesperson for Facebook Canada said it immediately deleted the suspect’s account Monday afternoon.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders says a 25-year-old named Alek Minassian is in custody, after a van drove on busy sidewalks on Monday. Saunders says it appears to be a deliberate act. At least ten people were killed and 15 were injured. (The Associated Press)

“This is a terrible tragedy and our hearts go out to the people who have been affected. There is absolutely no place on our platform for people who commit such horrendous acts,” spokesperson Meg Sinclair said in an email.

A LinkedIn profile for a man of the same name states he is a student at Seneca College. According to Joseph Pham, 25, who took a computer programming class with Minassian at Seneca, he was at school just last week. He described him as “socially awkward.”

“He kept to himself. He didn’t really talk to anyone,” Pham said.

Friends of Minassian say he attended Sixteenth Avenue Public School in Richmond Hill, and then Thornlea Secondary School in Thornhill.

The Armenian Community Centre of Toronto released a statement saying it was “deeply saddened and disturbed by the senseless deaths and injuries.”

“We unequivocally condemn this and all acts of violence,” the statement said. “We commend the bravery and dedication of our first responders who, despite being faced with an unprecedented tragedy, saved lives with their heroic actions and rapid response.”

TTC subway trains will continue to bypass North York Centre station as the investigation continues. Beecroft Rd., which runs parallel to Yonge St. has been reopened.

U.S. President Donald Trump, at a ceremony outside the White House with French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters, “Our hearts are with the grieving families in Canada.”

“I want to express our deepest sympathies to the Canadian people following the horrendous tragedy in Toronto that claimed so many innocents lives,” Trump said.

With files from Sabrina Nanji, Jennifer Yang, Wendy Gillis, Daniel Dale, Alexandra Jones, Julien Gignac and Nicholas Keung.

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Toronto is in the ‘hearts and prayers’ of Canada, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

Trudeau offered condolences to the victims of Monday’s “senseless attack and a horrific tragedy” and said it will prompt reviews on how to better protect Canadians from such incidents.

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered condolences to the victims of Monday’s “senseless attack and horrific tragedy” and said it will prompt reviews on how to better protect Canadians from such incidents in the future.

A subdued Trudeau addressed reporters in the Commons’ foyer Tuesday morning, offering comfort for those affected by the incident, praise for those who responded while acknowledging the many questions that still exist.

“On behalf of all Canadians I offer my deepest heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of all those who were killed and we wish a full recovery to those injured and stand with the families and friends of the victims,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister also singled out emergency personnel who responded for handling an “extremely difficult situation with professionalism and bravery.”

“They faced danger without a moment of hesitation and there is no doubt their courage saved lives and prevented further injuries,” he said.

Trudeau said he spoke with both Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor John Tory Monday night. The prime minister said he would visit Toronto “as soon as it makes sense.

 “But right now, it’s very much an active ongoing situation and I wouldn’t want to distract or remove any personnel or focus away from the important work that is being done,” he said.

He said Canada’s biggest city has shown “strength and determination” and that all Canadians “stand united” with Toronto today.

 “I think all Canadians are with Toronto today, in our hearts and our prayers and our thoughts,” he said.

He said there are many unanswered questions but repeated the statement by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale that officials have no reason to suspect a national security motive was behind it.

“Obviously all Canadians . . . will continue to have questions about why this happened, what could possibly be the motive behind it,” Trudeau said.

“At this time we have no reason to suspect there is a national security element to this attack. But obviously the investigation continues,” he said.

He underscored what he called the “excellent collaboration” among governments and law enforcement agencies. “We’re continuing to monitor this closely.”

In their own statements, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also offered their thoughts for those killed and injured.

“I can only imagine the horror, fear and pain that this has caused to all those who were victims of the attack or those who witnessed it,” Scheer said.

“To those recovering in hospital, you are in our thoughts and we are praying for a fast and full recovery,” he said.

Scheer also highlighted the quick reaction of emergency personnel and singled out the police officer who faced off against the alleged driver of the van.

“The stories of bravery, selflessness, and kindness that have emerged have been an inspiration to an entire nation,” Scheer said.

Singh said he was “sickened” by the scene of violence in a part of the city he said he knows well.

“My heart breaks for the families of those murdered, who I can only imagine must be completely overwhelmed by this sudden and senseless loss,” Singh said in a statement.

“We will not let this attack sow hate or division amongst ourselves,” Singh said.

“Toronto, like Canada, is strong, diverse, loving and courageous, and this event will not change that. We will come together, we will mourn, we will seek justice, and we will remain strong,” the NDP leader said.

Trudeau called the incident an “attack” and said it would prompt discussions about “what we can do better, what we need to do.”

“Obviously we need to reflect on the change situations in which we’re in and do everything we can to keep Canadians safe but we cannot as Canadians choose to live in fear every single day as we go about our daily business,” Trudeau said.

“We need to focus on doing what we can . . . to keep Canadians safe while we stay true to the freedoms and values that we all as Canadians hold dear,” he said.

“We are pulling together and trying to find answers while keeping people safe,” Trudeau said.

Other cabinet ministers also reflected on Monday’s events as they arrived on Parliament Tuesday for a morning cabinet meeting.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who represents Toronto Centre, said the events hit home.

“As a Torontonian, I can tell you that my family was certainly scared yesterday, and we feel so much sympathy for the families that have been impacted by this really terrible tragedy. I want to let those families know that we’re thinking about them,” Morneau said.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau conceded the challenge of protecting residents against attacks when vehicles are used as the weapon.

“There’s no question that this is a situation that is very difficult to cover off that kind of situation, but you know, you cannot in life protect people against everything,” Garneau said.

“Our job is to try to do the best we can where we have some degree of control and that’s what we’ll continue to do in Canada,” he said.

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Toronto van tragedy bonds city in blood. But no one will say the word ‘terrorism’

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

How naive we have been, whistling by the graveyard as carnage was wrought in European and American cities, Rosie DiManno writes.

A sneaker. A purse. A tiny backpack. A cellphone.

Personal possessions scattered along the path of a rampaging, careering white van, the maniacal and homicidal man at the wheel purposefully mowing down pedestrians.

Heartbreaking artifacts now of a weaponized vehicle attack.

And the bodies. My God, the bodies.

Two near a pharmacy south of Finch, one at Yonge and Empress, one close to Parkview.

A trail of blood and wreckage stretching from Finch to Sheppard on a sunny spring afternoon in Toronto.

A day when apparent random terrorism struck in this city.

Any fanciful notion that we are far away from the dogs of war unleashed, from the seething corners of the world where hatred fulminates, buffered from European capitals, from American metropolises where mayhem has been inflicted down through these recent years — that comforting thought died on Monday.

Along with the 10, at least, killed in a mass murder, and the 15, at least, injured, ambulances racing to hospitals and sirens blaring.

An abomination of a day.

How naive we have been, whistling by the graveyard as carnage was wrought in Manchester, in Nice, in Paris, in Orlando, in London, in Madrid, in Toulouse, in Barcelona, in Istanbul, in Berlin, in Stockholm, in Boston. On and on in this new normal. When it’s not guns and makeshift bombs, it’s knives and axes and the thousands of pounds of lurching vehicle steel. Into a promenade crowd, into a Christmas market, into a pop concert, into the subway.

When it’s not a clash of civilization ideology or the desecration of a religion, it’s the madness of a nihilist shooter bristling with assault weapons — Las Vegas, Parkland, Sandy Hook, nursing a grudge.

Maddened or mesmerized or mentally ill. And how can you even sift the difference anymore?

On Monday, the horror rose on its hind legs in Toronto, up onto the sidewalk along the city’s main artery, the pulsing core of North York.

The bedlam began around 1:10 p.m., the van racing helter-skelter, banging into bus shelters and fire hydrants, mailboxes and benches, but mostly, according to stunned witnesses, mounting the curb and dead-aiming at people. Young people, including students. Old people, basking in rare April warmth.

Hours later, in ghastly scenes along the miscreant’s route, lifeless bodies still lay on the ground, tarps thrown over them.

How many fearful families, unable to reach loved ones, must have scoured those photographs of victims, straining to recognize a shoe, a hoodie, an outstretched arm. Please don’t let it be, don’t let it be …

And the countless many who saw it unfold, from the driver of a TTC bus who raised the first alarm, to other motorists who slammed on their brakes to avoid colliding with the erratic van, to scores of pedestrians jumping out of the way, running for their lives.

Another bystander: “It was indiscriminate. He was hitting whoever he could hit. He was hitting innocent people.”

And yet another driver who said he actually caught a glimpse of the suspect, through the window. “He looked really angry. But he also looked scared.”

Rebuking himself, the man admitted to reporters, for not ramming the vehicle when he had the chance. “I regret not doing that. I’m not sure it’s legal. But if I could have stopped him, I wish I would have.”

Screams, chaos, shattering glass raining. some rushing forward to perform CPR, others frozen where they stood with fear. Because you never know how you’ll react and Lord willing you’ll never have to find out.

At Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, which received 10 casualties, one victim was pronounced DOA; others were rushed into surgery. Those who were at the hospital for their own business were corralled into the trauma, distraught by what they were seeing in front of their eyes — mangled bodies and doctors frantically working on them in emergency.

The lucky ones, said John Flengas, EMS acting supervisor, suffered fractures.

“On the job for nearly 21 years, I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Most haven’t. Hardly anyone thinks of it happening in their midst. Which is the only way to be, when the odds are infinitesimally teensy. We put our faith in the vast apparatus of national security and shared intelligence agencies, but the lone attacker keeps slipping through, the very randomness of it near impossible to avert. The bitter and radicalized individual who never appears as even a blip on the radar. The mentally deranged loner. The freak fanatic. The angry young man who hates women.

But of course, as the hours wore on, not a single elected official, not a senior cop, allowed the word “terrorism” to cross their lips. Not Mayor John Tory, not the acting police chief. (Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Monday evening: “This incident that happened here on the street behind us was horrendous but it does not appear to be connected in any way to national security.”)

Promptly Tory leapt to the next phase, reminding that Canada is admired for its peaceful multiculturalism. Know what? We don’t need reminding, any more than we did collectively mourning the murder of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial in Ottawa in 2014 and the horrific mass shooting of Muslims at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City last year.

Condolences and assurances, of course. But mealy-mouthed non-speak. Even shorn of death-cult association, devoid of jihad affiliation or political messaging, it’s terrorism.

“From my point of view, it was a terrorist attack,” said the young man who wished he’d crashed the van.

The motive may be unknown, the suspect’s ideology unclarified, if such exists, and thus far the suspect may have been just one more male rejected by women — the Twitter chatter — taking out his grievances on innocents.

But we’ve seen the footage captured on phone video.

A remarkably composed cop, standing mere feet from the suspect where his battered van came to a halt near Sheppard, the man extending his arm, stiff, with something in his hand that could have been a firearm. (It was apparently a cellphone but wielded like a gun.)

“SHOOT ME! SHOOT ME! KILL ME!” he yelled.

All the fingerprints of suicide by cop.

But the officer didn’t shoot and the suspect dropped to his knees, flinging his arms in the air.

The cop de-escalated the melodrama, moving in to take the suspect down, cuffing him. On a day of many heroes, that brave cop is at the top of the list, along with the many first responders, paramedics and hospital resources stretched to the limits.

No identifying him, except that the officer is a veteran with 32 Division. Because this is a country, unlike the U.S., laggard in releasing any information.

“He’s shaken up by the whole thing, and shaken up by the magnitude,” Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, told reporters. “He said, ‘you know, I was just doing my job. I wanted to arrest this guy.’ ”

Police named the suspect as Alek Minassian, 25, taken into custody. Forensic teams are now faced with the monumental task of processing a crime scene that extends for two kilometres, numerous points of impact to meticulously cull for evidence, a frenzied attack to reconstruct, and that battered Ryder van.

For block after block, cops ministered to the shaken and comforted the traumatized, scared-witless kids, senior citizens, merchants who ventured cautiously outside.

We are often described as a cold-shoulder city where neighbours are strangers. But we are bonded in blood and tragedy now, as perhaps never before.

April 23, 2018: A day that will live in infamy, strewn with the dying and the maimed.


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Canadian home sales dropped 22.7% in March, national average price down 10.4%: CREA

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

The Canadian Real Estate Association said the level of sales activity marked a four-year low for the month of March and was seven per cent below the 10-year average. Still, national home sales were up from the previous month by 1.3 per cent, according to CREA’s latest statistics.

The most-affordable segments of Canada’s housing market are seeing the biggest price hikes as recent changes to mortgage regulations fuel demand for lower-priced homes such as condominiums, according to the country’s real estate industry organization.

The tighter mortgage lending rules, which make it harder for home buyers to qualify for uninsured mortgages, are also shrinking the pool of qualified buyers for higher-priced homes, said Gregory Klump, chief economist of the Canadian Real Estate Association.

“Given their limited supply, the shift of demand into lower price segments is causing those sale prices to climb,” he said in a statement as the association released its latest figures for the month of March. “As a result, ‘affordably priced’ homes are becoming less affordable while mortgage financing for higher priced homes remains out of reach of many aspiring move-up home buyers.”

Home sales across the country have dropped in the wake of several government policy measures, including a stress test for home buyers with a down payment of more than 20 per cent, that were implemented to cool the country’s hot housing market. Last March, national home sales activity had reached an all-time record for that month, according to CREA.

The number of Canadian homes sold in March plunged 23 per cent and the national average price was down 10 per cent from the same month last year amid double-digit plunges in most housing markets across the country, according to the latest monthly sales data released Friday.

CREA said Friday the level of sales activity marked a four-year low for the month of March and was seven per cent below the 10-year average. Still, national home sales were up from the previous month by 1.3 per cent, according to CREA’s latest statistics.

Sales prices are slipping too, with the national average price for all types of residential property down to about $491,000, down 10.4 per cent from March of last year — with the Vancouver and Toronto markets causing most of the drag.

Excluding Canada’s two most expensive real estate markets, the national average price would be $383,000 — a decline of two per cent from March 2017.

But a closer look at the different housing segments reveals a mixed landscape, with lower-priced homes showing the largest gains.

Apartment units posted the largest year-on-year price gains in March, up 17.8 per cent, followed by townhouse/row units at 9.4 per cent. One-storey single family homes saw price gains in March of just 1.3 per cent, and two-storey single family home prices were down two per cent from a year ago, CREA says.

“The housing market continues to adjust to stricter mortgage rules, recent Bank of Canada rate hikes and some provincial policy moves,” said BMO Capital Markets’ senior economist Robert Kavcic in a research note Friday. “While we’re seeing some signs of stability, the adjustment likely has some time yet to go.”

As of Jan. 1, home buyers with a down payment larger than 20 per cent seeking a mortgage from a federally regulated lender are now subject to a financial stress test. These borrowers now have to prove that they can service their uninsured mortgage at a qualifying rate of the greater of the contractual mortgage rate plus two percentage points or the five-year benchmark rate published by the Bank of Canada.

The new policy reduces the maximum amount buyers will be able to borrow to buy a home. An existing stress test already requires those with insured mortgages to qualify at the Bank of Canada benchmark five-year mortgage rule.

In turn, home sales activity was pulled forward to the end of 2017 as homebuyers tried to lock in a mortgage before the new rules took effect.

Sales in the first quarter slid to their lowest quarterly level since the first three months of 2014.

March marked the third consecutive double-digit decline compared with the same month last year, when prices in the Greater Toronto Area soared to record highs.

CREA said activity was below year-ago levels in more than 80 per cent of all local markets, in all major urban centres except for Montreal and Ottawa, with the vast majority of year-over-year declines well into double digits.

Phil Soper, chief executive of real estate company Royal LePage, said the new stress test for uninsured mortgages introduced by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions has “interrupted” the flow of move-up home buyers looking to upgrade from their entry level home or move to a more desirable location.

“That cycle has been interrupted with the OSFI stress test, because it impacts the ability to move up,” he said. “The question is, is it temporary, or will it actually take demand out of the market permanently? I believe it’s temporary.”

Markets are likely to remain under pressure from recent changes to mortgage lending guidelines, higher mortgage rates, and provincial regulations in some regions, TD’s senior economist Michael Dolega said in a research note Friday.

“However, lower-priced markets where affordability is good should generally outperform in the current environment.”

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Patrick Brown sues CTV for $8M over sexual impropriety story

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

Former Progressive Conservative leader was forced to resign just hours after broadcast containing allegations from two women.

An “emotionally devastated” former Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown has filed a lawsuit seeking $8 million in damages from CTV News.

Brown, who was forced to resign on Jan. 25, just hours after CTV broadcast a story alleging sexual impropriety with two women, filed a statement of claim Monday at the Barrie courthouse.

If the action is successful, it would be the largest libel award in Canadian history.

The lawsuit names CTV News president Wendy Freeman, anchor Lisa LaFlamme, reporters Glen McGregor, Rachel Aiello, and Travis Dhanraj, and four unnamed producers and editors.

It argues the network “falsely, maliciously, unfairly and irresponsibly broadcast” the stories that ended Brown’s tenure as the PC leader.

Brown has denied the allegations since an 81-second news conference held just 15 minutes before the Jan. 24 broadcast.

But his senior aides resigned en masse that night and he stepped down as party leader early the next morning, triggering a leadership race that ultimately saw Doug Ford take the party helm.

Bell Media’s director of communications, Matthew Garrow, said “CTV News stands by its reporting and will vigorously defend it in court.”

Brown’s 35-page statement of claim says that the Simcoe North MPP, who now sits at Queen’s Park as an independent, “continues to suffer from stress, anxiety, hurt, humiliation and embarrassment and was and is emotionally devastated.

“The swift demolition of his personal and professional reputation on national television left Mr. Brown in a complete state of shock and disbelief,” the suit said.

“Mr. Brown did not want to leave his home. He felt his world was crashing in on him,” it continued.

“Shunned in the political community, Mr. Brown was abandoned by his campaign team, forced to resign as leader of the (Ontario) PC Party, ejected from the Tory caucus, and cast aside from his political party.”

The lawsuit, which contains claims that have not been proven in court, also cites CTV’s “interference with the democratic process,” because Ontarians are voting in a June 7 election.

“Until the defendants destroyed his personal and professional reputation and demolished his political career, Mr. Brown was expected to become the next premier of Ontario.”

His lawyers charge that Brown “had no reasonable time to respond,” because he was “ambushed … mere hours before the scheduled Jan. 24 broadcast.”

The lawsuit says Brown’s chief of staff, Alykhan Velshi, first received an email from McGregor citing the allegations at 4:24 p.m. on the day of the broadcast, which aired at 10 p.m.

CTV reported that one of the women who alleged misconduct against Brown said she was in high school at the time she met him at a bar.

The woman later revised that recollection, telling CTV that she was 19, not 18, at the time of the encounter.

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The Case for a National Pharmacare Program in Canada

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

By Sonia Sidhu, Member of Parliament for Brampton South

In 1921, it was a Canadian who discovered insulin, but a century later, it is Canadians who cannot afford the insulin they need. Before being elected to represent Brampton South, I worked in health care for a long time, and I worked as a diabetes educator for 13 years. As someone who has been engaged with the Canadian healthcare system in the past, I know too well the importance, and lifesaving capabilities, of prescription drugs. Unfortunately, 23% of Canadians reported in a 2015 Angus Reid Survey that someone in their household failed to take their prescription medications as prescribed in the last twelve months, because of the cost. Ten per cent of uninsured Canadians do not fill their drug prescriptions because they cannot afford them. The Liberal Party of Canada is even talking about it on a national policy level. Just last weekend it was rated the number one prioritized resolution at their 2018 National Liberal Convention.

I sit on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, and we have recently concluded and presented 2 years’ worth of consultations, witnesses, and written submissions on the topic of a national Pharmacare plan – a single payer system of public insurance coverage for prescription drugs. It is important to me that we make necessary drugs more affordable, and I believe that the solution we found, to expand the Canadian Health Act (CHA) to also require coverage of out of hospital drugs, is the best way to do it. I am very proud of this report, and believe that it is comprehensive, and can provide a permanent solution to many problems in Canada’s current healthcare system. This action would not be unprecedented, given that although the CHA does not currently require provinces and territories to cover drugs provided out-of-hospital, the provinces and territories do provide some degree of public drug coverage, usually targeted to those with the highest ratio of drug costs to income.

Despite the many benefits to Canada’s healthcare system, there are some ways in which we fall behind; drug prices in Canada are amongst the highest in the world. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), the expected expenditures on all drugs dispensed outside of hospitals in 2017 is $39.8 billion. That means that on average, Canadians spend about $1,086 per year on drugs that they need to live their life to the fullest.

I also Chair the All Party Diabetes Caucus, where we work on supporting Canadians who live with diabetes with concrete action on Parliament Hill. Last year, I went on a national tour and held consultations on healthy eating and diabetes. I heard from Canadians living with diabetes from coast to coast who overwhelmingly expressed the need for more accessible treatments. A national Pharmacare program would provide that support, and our report is the first step for the national framework.

In the past, we have seen incremental and incomplete solutions to the issue of Pharmacare. Currently, 43% of out-of-hospital drug expenses are payed for by public insurance, though 22% is still out of pocket. This spending comes from various places, but includes many targeted programs, such as those for First Nations, Inuit, veterans, and federal inmates, as well as provincial programs such as catastrophic prescription drug coverage, which protects residents from drug expenses that would threaten their financial security. These targeted programs, despite providing needed services, are inefficient, and fail to provide coverage for many who need it, as well as being unable to effectively control drug costs for Canadians.

No Canadian should ever be without the medication they need to ensure the standard of life that we expect from this country. Despite the health care we currently enjoy, too many Canadians have to suffer without the prescription drugs they need simply because they cannot afford them. The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) estimated that establishing a national Pharmacare program would increase drug consumption by 12.5%. Our recommendations will ensure that Canadians are able to access the health care that they deserve, and that reflects the values of our country.

Sonia Sidhu is the Member of Parliament for Brampton South. She was elected on October 19, 2015 in a wave of hope, inclusivity, and positivity across the country. She sits on the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Health, and also was appointed to sit as a member of the Special Committee on Pay Equity. She has a passion for diabetes awareness and prevention which she champions as the Chair of the All -Party Diabetes Caucus. MP Sidhu is also the General-Secretary of the Canada-India Parliamentary Friendship Group and an executive member of both the Canada-Poland and Canada-Portugal Parliamentary Friendship Groups.  She further sits as a member of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group, and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.


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Ontario Liberal Party under investigation for campaigning on taxpayers’ dime

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

The Ontario Liberal Party is officially under investigation from Elections Ontario following allegations they’re campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime. Last week, the Ontario PC Party filed a formal complaint to Elections Ontario detailing how the Liberals have been holding campaign style announcements with government resources.

On Friday, April 20th, Elections Ontario replied to the Ontario PC Party’s complaint in a letter, saying “we will contact you if we require any further information and will advise you of the result of our investigation.”

“Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals are untrustworthy. They will do, say or promise anything to cling to power,” said Ontario PC advisor and former cabinet minister Frank Klees. “That includes abusing the taxpayer as a piggy bank for their own re-election campaign.”

Klees announced that in the last three weeks, the Wynne Liberals have held a total of 39 campaign style announcements. At an estimated cost of $7,500 each event, that brings the total amount spent campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime by the Liberals to $292,500.

“This is a government so desperate that they will stoop to never before seen lows,” added Klees. “There’s no amount of tax dollars off limits to this politically corrupt government, and they will continue to launch personal fear and smear attacks against their opponents and their opponents’ supporters.”

“It’s time for change. It’s time for a government that respects the taxpayer, and a government that looks out for the people.”

The letter from Elections Ontario reads:

I’m writing to acknowledge receipt of your letter of complaint to the Chief Electoral Officer dated April 16, 2018…

In your letter, you have expressed your concern regarding numerous events at which the Premier of Ontario and various government Minister have, in your and your client’s opinion, “conducted campaign style events…[and] used public assets and materials to advance the Liberal Party’s partisan message, and attack the Ontario PC Party and [its] Leader Doug Ford”.

Thank you for your letter and the information you have provided. We have advised the Ontario Liberal Party of the details of your complaint, in accordance with our Complaints Investigation and Enforcement Policy, which is attached for your reference.

We will contact you if we require any further information and will advise you of the result of our investigation.


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Pakistani singer Meesha Shafi accuses Ali Zafar of sexual harassment

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

Pakistani singer cum actress Meesha Shafiaccused Pakistani actor Ali Zafar of sexual harassment. Yesterday, when she shared her story in the #MeToo Campaign, it created ripples in the media. However, a day after Meesha accusation against Zafar, more women came forward claiming the same about Ali Zafar.

The 36-year-old singer took to her social media handle to share her story of sexual assault.

She captioned her statement, “Sharing this because I believe that by speaking out about my own experience of sexual harassment, I will break the culture of silence that permeates through our society. It is not easy to speak out.. but it is harder to stay silent. My conscience will not allow it anymore #MeToo”

Her post read, “As a woman, a public figure and a mother, I have always felt strongly about using my voice to encourage and support our youth who look up to me especially girls, who dream of carving their own path in Pakistan.”

She added, “I have been subjected, on more than one occasion, to sexual harassment of a physical nature at the hands of a colleague from my industry: Ali Zafar. These incidences did not happen when I was young, or just entering the industry. This happened to me despite the fact that I am an empowered, accomplished woman who is known for speaking her mind! This happened to me as a mother of two children.”

“No woman is ever safe from sexual harassment. In our society, we hesitate to speak up and choose to stay silent and this emboldens sexual harassment to flourish. We must collectively use our voices to share stories so that we break this culture of silence and so that young women today are safer.

“It has been an extremely traumatic experience for me and my family. Ali is someone I have known for many years and someone who I have shared the stage with. I feel betrayed by his behaviour and his attitude and I know that I am not alone.”

She concluded by saying, “Today I am breaking this culture of silence and I hope that by doing that I am setting an example for young women in my country to do the same. We only have our voices and the time has come to use them.”

Post Meesha’s allegation against Ali Zafar, many more Pakistani women came forward and shared their side of story of sexual harassment by Ali Zafar.

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Priyanka Chopra too congratulates her ‘friend’

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

Deepika Padukone has entered the coveted TIME Top 100 list and she couldn’t be happier. Her fans have gone berserk on social media, congratulating the fact that their queen has finally arrived on the international scene. Amongst this hoopla, her boyfriend Ranveer Singh took to Instagram and made their relationship official in one word: QUEEN. DeepVeer fans went into a tizzy, of course, after they saw this and married the couple for the millionth time, yet again. But this is not all for her so called rival Priyanka Chopra too took to Twitter to exclaim, “So happy and proud to see my friends  @deepikapadukone and @imVkohli on the #Time100 list.. Big congratulations and so well deserved #DesiPower #Represent.”

She calls Deepika her friend and also wishes Virat Kohli in the same tweet. This is not the first time that PC has quashed the rivalry rumour between her and the Padmaavat actress. There was a pretty warm social media exchange between the Bajrao Mastani actresses during DP’s xXx: Return Of Xander Cage release where the Quantico star wished the Tamasha babe all the luck.

But all said and done, this truly is a big deal for Deepika Padukone. This year has started with a BANG for her with her film Padmaavat doing record breaking business at the box office and she emerges to be the only Indian actress TIME 100 Influential People of 2018 List. This year truly belongs to her as she enjoys a huge fan following, a testimony of which is seen on her social media platforms with a follower base of more than 75 million. Deepika is also the most followed Asian Woman on Twitter.


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Anushka Sharma’s new look leaves everyone confused

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

Anushka Sharma has a lot on her plate right now. She is currently shooting for Aanand L. Rai’s Zero with Jab Tak Hai Jaan co-stars Shah Rukh Khan and Katrina Kaif. While we have seen glimpses of SRK and Katrina’s looks from the film, Anushka’s look has been kept under tight wraps. She will be seen playing a scientist and will be using prosthetics for her look and that is all the information about her character from Zero that has been released till now

But wait, to add to out excitement, a picture of Anushka dressed up as an old woman just surfaced on the internet and has raised many eyebrows. Whether it’s her look from Zero or an ad or a look test for another film, we yet don’t know the story behind this picture. With no comments about the look from the cast and crew of the film, we have no choice but to keep guessing. Whatever the case maybe, Anushka does look convincing in her old avatar.

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