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Tensions rise in South Asian community in wake of Mississauga restaurant bombing

Posted on 30 May 2018 by admin

Wild speculation over possible motivations for Thursday’s bomb blast at a popular Indian restaurant in Mississauga has exacerbated tensions within local South Asian communities.

As police continued their manhunt Saturday for two suspects behind the audacious late-night attack, which injured 15 people at a Bombay Bhel restaurant, media and online commenters suggested a multiplicity of causes, from white supremacy to Islamic terror to Sikh nationalism.

Such speculation prompted the Ontario Gurdwaras Committee (OGC), a major Sikh organization, to take the unusual step of condemning both the attack itself and the rumours that followed — some of which it claims have been spread by “foreign media outlets,” in particular Indian media.

“Upon further investigation, we can verify that Indian media outlets have engaged in the spread of misinformation regarding this tragedy,” the committee said.

The written statement, co-signed by OGC spokesperson Amarjit Singh Mann and OGC member Bhagat Singh Brar, signals distrust within the Sikh community of Indian officials in Canada. It criticizes the Indian Consulate of Toronto for overstepping its diplomatic reach by establishing a hotline to gather information on the bombing.

People with possible information on the case should be contacting Peel police, the committee said, not the Indian Consulate. It called upon Indian officials “to stay within their diplomatic parameters when operating in Canada and to immediately end their continued interference in Canadian domestic matters.”

A spokesperson for the Indian Consulate of Toronto declined to comment on the Sikh statement.

One official with the Gurdwaras Committee, speaking to the Star on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized as an official spokesperson, said the statement reflected “deep — and unwarranted — anxiety within the community.”

 “If it were quote-unquote ‘trolls’ pointing fingers it wouldn’t bother us so much,” the source said. “The fact that an actual news broadcast in India, within minutes of the attack, pointed to Sikhs as possibly being involved sent us into panic mode,” the official said.

“There is obviously pre-existing tension. Many Sikhs in Canada feel they were dragged through the mud for two months after Prime Minister Trudeau’s India trip, in part because of an Indian media narrative that too many Canadian media seemed to have just copied-and-pasted, without realizing the media in India is mostly controlled by government parties.”

Rattan Mall, editor of the Indo-Canadian Voice, a leading forum for South Asian news in Canada, said the Sikh statement reflects ongoing tension within what is a “pretty divided community at the moment.” But he cautioned that there is nothing to suggest any link between that tension and the attack in Mississauga.

“Everyone needs to cool the baseless speculation and let the police do their job. It could be anything at this point,” said Mall. “Once they determine what this really was, then you can start pointing all the fingers you’ve got.”

Officials shed no new light Saturday on what prompted two masked men to ignite an improvised explosive device aimed at some 40 diners inside Bombay Bhel, a popular eatery on Hurontario St. near Eglinton Ave.

Peel police say there is no indication it was a hate crime or an act of terror, but nothing has been ruled out as the investigation proceeds. They confirmed “multiple agencies” are assisting in the probe and they vowed to collar the two suspects, who were captured on security video entering the restaurant, their faces obscured by hoodies and caps.

“We’re going to get these guys. They’re not going to get away with it,” said Const. Bally Saini, a Peel police spokesperson. She appealed for the public to be patient, decrying the rush to judgment.

“Our investigators are taking the time they need to comb through everything — and they are doing it with all the help they need from other agencies, including the RCMP,” Saini said.

Thursday night’s blast triggered international headlines focusing on the GTA as a site of attack, barely a month after 10 people were murdered in a van rampage on Yonge St. in North York.

Unlike April’s deadly attack, Thursday’s blast saw all 15 victims, who ranged in age from 23 to 69, released from hospital within a day, including three who had been critically injured — a 35-year-old Brampton man and two Mississauga women, 62 and 48.

It was a rare, non-lethal outcome for bombings that attract international attention.

“That is the one nice thing about this — everyone is out of hospital already,” Saini said. “That and the fact that while children were in attendance at the restaurant, none of the children were injured.”

Victims have yet to be officially identified, but details continue to emerge about the chaotic moments as two separate birthday parties were interrupted by the bomb blast.

One woman told reporters how a group of revellers, feting a woman who had just arrived from India that day, initially thought the bomb was a birthday cake with lit candles that had somehow gone awry. They hadn’t noticed the attackers enter the restaurant because their backs were to the door.

“They literally got up to cut the birthday cake, and she had the candles lit and she was about to blow them out and there was a huge bomb sound … They were laughing about it, being like, ‘Oh my God, that was like some birthday cake!’”

They quickly realized it was something far more serious, the woman said, in an interview broadcast on the Tag TV news channel and other outlets.

“Some people had fallen on the floor. People hadn’t realized how badly injured they were, but the bomb was right behind them. The person whose birthday it was was probably the least injured because she had rows of people behind her … They’ve been injured very badly on the back of their legs, everyone.”

A sense of normalcy was returning to the stricken Mississauga neighbourhood Saturday afternoon, with most of the plaza housing the still-shuttered restaurant and other nearby shops open for business. A large section of the parking lot remained cordoned off and forensic investigators could be seen working behind the restaurant.

Frank Sgro works at Sleep Country two doors away from Bombay Bhel. He’d closed up shop at 9:30 p.m. Thursday and didn’t notice anything unusual as he left through the back door. Saturday was the first day his store had reopened following the bombing.

“Yesterday everything was shut down,” Sgro said. He noted the store was quieter than usual Saturday afternoon.

“When I drove up I wasn’t even sure if we (had) access to our store,” Sgro said. “There’s been a couple people in, but most of them have been trying to get to Service Ontario.”

Service Ontario is the only store in the bustling strip mall that has not reopened its doors following Thursday’s incident.

Kim Rule, who owns a Pet Valu store opposite Bombay Bhel, said business was quieter than a typical Saturday. But one thing all of her customers had in common was curiosity.

“We’ve been steady, but it’s quieter today for sure,” Rule said. “Everyone that comes in asks (what happened).”

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Posted on 17 May 2018 by admin

          High Commissioner Tariq Azim Khan inaugurated the first ever Muhammad Ali Jinnah Park at Winnipeg, Manitoba today. Hundreds of people across Canada attended the ceremony.

In his address, the High Commissioner said that credit goes to the vibrant Pakistani-Canadian community in Manitoba for succeeding in naming of first ever Public Park in North American to be named after Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan. He said that this is the moment for us to pay tribute to the great sacrifices rendered by our founding fathers in order to have a separate homeland for Muslims in subcontinent.

          The High Commissioner, while appreciating the struggle of the Pakistani community referred to the quote of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, “With faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile you cannot achieve”. He said that the community in Winnipeg is promoting and showcasing Pakistani culture and soft image through holding of cultural galas and they are acting as a bridge in promoting understanding between communities.

          Dr. Rashid Bahri, Community leader who led the campaign for Jinnah Park said in his opening remarks that Muhammad Ali Jinnah is closer to the heart of people of Pakistan and this park will remind our future generations about our great leader.

 Masrur khan President PSA Manitoba said that today is historic day for Pakistanis in Canada  and naming a park in Jinnah’s name shows how much migrant Pakistanis love the founder of Pakistan.

          Terry Duguid and Iqra Khalid Members of Canadian Parliament also addressed the ceremony and congratulated the Pakistani community in achieving this milestone.

          City Councillor Janice Luke said on the occasion that she is very happy to work with the Pakistani community for the maintenance of the Park and to make it worthwhile for the families to visit and hold cultural galas in the Park. She announced preparing a cricket ground within the park area for holding of local cricket tournament.

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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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Sikh-Canadians Deserve Better Treatment

Posted on 18 April 2018 by admin

Coretta Scott King, a great civil rights leader and the wife of Martin Luther King Junior, once said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”  The Sikh-Canadian community epitomizes this value; we embrace the communities that we live and work in, through selfless acts of service and compassion.

As a result of the uniqueness of our religion and our appearance, our brave community has been bearing the brunt of racism from the Komagata Maru incident, over one hundred years ago, to present day.

The negative narrative associated with the Sikh-Canadian community recently in the media is an example of this prejudice.  Sikh-Canadian shave faced these acts with significant courage and continue to emergeas shining examples of resilience and humility. Through numerous free community kitchens (langars), food drives, equality initiatives, youth outreach programs, and blood donations clinics, Sikh-Canadians bespeak the Sikh character of helping and supporting fellow human beings through selfless service. Sikh-Canadians believe that service to humanity is in fact service to God.

The attributes of Sikh-Canadians that I have mentioned are already very well known throughout Canada.  I write to express the sense of pain I share with my fellow members of the Sikh-Canadian community which has resulted from the baseless criticism of the Sikh-Canadian community over the course of the last month.

I have no intention of providing an opinion on the presence of Jaspal Atwal at the Canadian High Commissioner’s reception during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s state visit to India, the presence of Talwinder Singh Parmar’s pictures at events, the individual which orchestrated the Air India attack, or the politics behind these discussions.  I feel pain on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of peaceful, honest and hardworking Sikh-Canadians that have become unintentional subjects of these controversies, by no fault of their own.

I feel pain on behalf of the children that are bullied and criticized because the Sikh-Canadian community has been unfairly painted as a community of terrorists.

I feel pain for the Sikh-Canadians that volunteer to help the less fortunate by distributing free food to the homeless in downtown Toronto, that somehow are considered members of a terrorist entity, without basis. I know that countless Sikh-Canadians working in factories, offices and businesses are enduring the same emotions.  This is extremely unfair to Sikh-Canadians, and counter to the values of diversity and inclusion we celebrate as Canadians.

I have no sympathy for individuals guilty of perpetrating violence against humanity; I categorically condemn all acts of violence.  As a Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue, I have the privilege of interacting with people from all walks of life. Each community in Canada embodies unique and distinguished characteristics that help define them as Canadians; diversity is our strength. This applies to the Sikh-Canadian community in the same way it applies to other communities of Canadians.  As a Sikh-Canadian, I am particularly proud of the Sikh spiritual concept of selfless service to humanity.

We cannot deny that a deep sense of pain still exists within the Sikh community as a result of the deaths of innocent Sikhs in 1984. However, this pain is equally and genuinely felt by Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and individuals of all other faiths. Raising your voice to seek justice for the victims of senseless violence can never be termed as terrorism. This is precisely why the people from all walks of life including Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims have been asking for justice for the 1984 victims and their families. This has been my experience here in Canada.  This sentiment was reinforced during my recent visit to India, particularly in Delhi.

When we think of a long spell of terrorism in the Punjab region of India, the hard and painful fact is that it was Punjabis, both Sikhs and Hindus, who endured misery the most. I have grown up listening to so many discomforting stories about how Punjabis had to bear the cost of terrorism through loss of life and property.  No one would want this to happen to anyone in any segment of the world.

I feel that it is important to genuinely share the pain of the peace-loving, hard-working Sikh-Canadian community of which I am an integral part of. I will sum-up my feelings with a quote from Andrea Gibson,” You can have cold war with yourself, even in the summertime”.

About Ms. Kamal Khera – Kamal Khera is the Member of Parliament for Brampton West and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue.  She is a registered nurse, community volunteer and a political activist.  Ms. Khera serves on the National Finance Committee as a non-voting member.

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Ascend Canada recognizes five leaders at 5th Annual Leadership Awards Gala

Posted on 18 April 2018 by admin

Tina Lee, the Chief Executive Officer of T&T Supermarkets, was among five individuals recognized for their personal dedication, career achievement, and contributions to the community at the 5th Annual Ascend Canada Leadership Awards.

Earlier this month, Lee was named Executive of the Year by Ascend Canada, a non-profit organization with a mission to develop and advance Pan-Asian talent.

Sponsored by TD, this award recognizes an individual who has made outstanding contributions to their organization; delivering business results, demonstrating leadership and being at the forefront of innovation. In 2014, Lee took the reins of the family business, the largest Asian grocery retailer in Canada. Under her leadership, the business has focused on growing their roots, and now set to expand its head office and open four new stores by the end of the 2018, bringing T&T’s total store count to 27. In February 2017, she was named to the Canada-US Council for the Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders.

“Leadership is about being purpose driven and people oriented. T&T is so much more than just selling bananas and bok choy,” she said as she accepted her award. “We work hard to identify and amplify the emotional connection we have with our customers, and to make ‘Celebrate the Orient’ come to life.”  On stage and eight months pregnant, Tina said she has much to celebrate. The award coincides with the birth of her third baby and T&T’s 25th anniversary.

Ascend Canada hosts the annual awards as a way to celebrate leaders, as well as showcase Pan-Asian talent. The organization is working hard, particularly with its 18 corporate partners, to ensure diversity and inclusion isn’t an afterthought.

As a 100% volunteer-driven non-profit organization, members of Ascend Canada are passionate about advancing inclusion. Ascend Canada reserves a spot on the gala stage for one of its own, and this year, the honours went to Avni Shah. She was recognized for her enthusiasm, passionate and generous dedication as part of Ascend Canada’s Operations group. She has worn several volunteer hats, one of which was to teach English to children in Guatemala. Avni is part of the TD Securities Internal Audit team.

Three other winners were recognized during the gala, each with extraordinary stories that inspire and make an impact to their communities:

•          Fahad Tariq was the recipient of the Rising Star Award. Sponsored by RBC, this award recognizes an individual under-30 years of age who has demonstrated early leadership qualities through personal performance and commitment to professional, volunteer, and educational opportunities. Tariq works as a Senior Associate in Equity Research at BMO Capital Markets, covering Fertilizer & Chemical stocks. He is also the Founder of Shift, a nonprofit energy initiative that converts animal waste into reliable, inexpensive energy in developing countries.

•          Samra Zafar was recognized as the Mentor of the Year. Sponsored by Manulife, this award recognizes a Pan-Asian individual who has provided significant guidance and leadership to an employee or several employees’ quality of life and professional development. Having fought her own battles of an arranged marriage, Samra has overcome major challenges to gain educational, personal and professional success and has become a source of inspiration to others. In addition to a successful career at RBC, she is Founder & Executive Director at Brave Beginnings, a Governor at University of Toronto, an author and international speaker.

•          Jahanzaib Ansari is the inaugural recipient of the Ascend Canada Innovator of the Year Award, which recognizes an individual who has used disruption and innovation to contribute to community and benefit the society in Canada. He is Co-Founder & CEO of Knockri, an IBM-backed artificial intelligence video recruiting tool that promises to disperse unconscious hiring biases. In 2015, Jahanzaib`s previous venture Sartoria Darzi, a fashion artisan tailoring house for men, was ranked as among the top 10 made to measure brands in Toronto.

Kelvin Tran, the president of Ascend Canada, says it’s important to celebrate leaders, particularly those of Pan-Asian descent, in order to create role models for tomorrow’s leaders now.

“We’re looking to shatter the barriers that limit us and provide leadership without ceilings. Leadership is about developing critical skills, sharing and solving challenges, and making diversity and inclusion a priority. It is important to recognize leaders and learn from their journey and be inspired. It takes a village and many years to develop leaders. I want the next generation to say ‘if they can do it, so can I.”

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Toronto parents say their son was bullied. The school board says he was the problem

Posted on 04 April 2018 by admin

The story of a Grade 10 boy at a Toronto public high school, charged by police with a flurry of offences from death threats to assaults with a weapon, is a rare glimpse into the pathway from a school’s first concerns to contact with police

A Toronto high school reported one of its students to police in 2014 with a list of allegations — that the Grade 10 student had threatened, assaulted and battered other students with scissors, an umbrella, or a slingshot.

Days later, Toronto police arrested the student on a litany of charges, from death threats to assaults. The boy and his parents say the charges were stayed just a few months later.

Now, they’re tangled in a lawsuit against the school and the board over what happened. And while a national debate rages on across the border about school safety, the lawsuit provides a rare glimpse into how Toronto’s public education system responds to perceived warning signs of violence before involving police.

Documents filed in the case paint a picture of a student who struggled and wasn’t able to get the help he needed.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The boy and his parents, in their claim, say the boy had a history of being bullied; they say the school kept his parents in the dark at points, and that administrators took “no meaningful steps” to curtail the bullying he experienced over two academic years.

The school board and its administrators point to the boy as the problem — saying, in their defence statement, that his claims about being bullied are untrue, and listing allegations that he harassed, assaulted and threatened his peers.

The boy and his parents declined through their lawyer to comment on the case, and the school board declined to comment based on ongoing litigation.

In the fall of the boy’s Grade 9 year, his mother called the school, their statement of defence says. She told them her son had been bullied at a different school in Grade 8. The school and board deny that the previous bullying ever happened, according to their statement of defence.

In May 2013, late in his Grade 9 year, the school says the boy was accused of harassing three female students. The boy had been “throwing items at them,” their statement of defence says, and “spraying them with a water gun.”

He’d also shown them a drawing he’d made, they allege, in which the boy held “a gun or bazooka” and fired bullets at each of the three young women — who he identified by both “name and likeness.”

The boy and his parents wrote in their claim that the three girls had been bullying him. They denied in their response to the defence statement that the drawing was of their son shooting the girls — saying it was just two pages taped together, which he’d drawn in a previous year, depicting “a military tank and three stick figures, without descriptions.” They also say they were given “no clear reason” for why the school searched his locker in the first place.

It was only after school administrators confronted the boy about his “inappropriate conduct,” they wrote in their defence statement, that he said the girls had harassed him. The school found no “credible evidence” of that, they add in their statement. They say they launched their own investigation into the allegations against the boy, which involved searching his locker, and claim they found the drawing inside, along with a balaclava, black gloves, and a piece of rope.

School administrators met with his parents, along with the co-ordinator of the board’s safe schools department. After that meeting, the boy’s locker was moved where it’d be visible to an internal security camera.

Both sides agree that the request came from his family, but disagree as to why. “This was not done, as it is alleged, because (the boy) was being bullied,” the education officials wrote in their defence statement.

The boy and his parents’ claim says he continued to be bullied into the next year — at first by social exclusion and belittling, and later by a group of approximately six other male students who allegedly “called him names, made homophobic comments to him, threatened him, chased him, assaulted him and threw things at him.”

The school and board say the boy and his parents made no complaints about their son being bullied between May 2013 and Feb. 2014.

Then, in February 2014, everything boiled over. Administrators say in their defence statement that the boy had brought a slingshot to school, and had used it to “threaten and intimidate other students.” At this point, administrators say they learned of incidents wherein the boy had used scissors or an umbrella to threaten, assault, and batter other kids.

They also learned that he’d “verbally threatened students and vocalized references to others (sic) incidents involving mass shootings at schools,” the statement of defence says.

The school then contacted the police. They sent the boy home on a suspension. Days later, he was arrested.

He was charged with seven counts of assault with a weapon, one count of assault, three counts of threatening death, one count of threatening bodily harm and one count of possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

The board says their policies and the Education Act meant they had to report the incidents described that day to their School Watch Team — which is associated with Toronto police’s 14 Division. Peter De Quintal, a community school liaison officer with 12 Division who wasn’t involved in this case, explained to the Star that typically, it’s up to individuals schools to decide when they’ll contact police about a student.

“It’s up to their own decision making,” he said. “If there’s any criminality, in general they should be telling us immediately. But in some schools, they use restorative justice circles or other means before getting us involved.”

The Toronto public school board’s current protocols around police say that police have to be notified in cases of death, physical assault causing bodily harm requiring medical attention, sexual assault, robbery, criminal harassment, relationship-based violence, possessing a weapon or using one to cause or threaten bodily harm. Trafficking weapons, trafficking or possessing illegal drugs, hate or bias-motivated occurrences, gang-related occurrences and extortion are also on the mandatory police notification list.

When the school contacted police, the boy’s parents believe that his school provided false information that their son was on medication and suffered from mental illness. They allege that the school “acted maliciously and for ulterior motives,” including sanctions for a perceived disability or reprisal for his reports of being bullied.

The charges against their son were stayed two and a half months later, they allege, because the board had not provided surveillance video. The Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General was not able to confirm the status of the charges against the boy, as “information about outcomes in (Youth Criminal Justice Act) matters is not publicly accessible.”

After his arrest, the boy completed his Grade 10 year from home, and was later enrolled in a private school. After the experience, he was left with what his parents described in the lawsuit as “anguish,” “humiliation,” and a “loss of self esteem.”

His trust in the school, they write, was “irrevocably shattered.”

Furthermore, they allege, the school and board “failed to take adequate steps … to ensure the safety and well-being of (the boy) were protected, that any threats were addressed promptly and that all reasonable steps were taken to prevent recurring risks to (the boy)’s well-being.”

The lawsuit is ongoing.


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Imran Mian wins Mississauga–Erin Mills Ontario Liberal nomination

Posted on 21 March 2018 by admin

MISSISSAUGA—Imran Mian, a local business executive, won the Ontario Liberal Party nomination in Mississauga–Erin Mills today. The nomination race had over 6500 Party members.

“Under Premier Kathleen Wynne’s bold leadership, we have seen a great deal of progress,” said Mian. “I am honoured to be joining a team that has fought for fairness and opportunity, including investing in Mississauga transit, providing free tuition for nearly a quarter of a million students and free prescription medication for all children and youth under 25. My singular focus will continue to be on improving the lives of families.”

Imran Mian is currently Vice-President, Sales of mobileLive Inc, an award-winning GTA technology company. He has held a variety of other managerial roles over a twenty-year career in business and technology, including with companies such as Bell Canada, the Info-Tech Research Group and Samsung Canada. He earned his Bachelor of Business Administration at York University. A dedicated community volunteer, he is a member of the campaign committee for the United Way of Peel Region and served as the founding co-chair of the United Way of Peel Region’s South Asian Advisory Council.

Under the leadership of Premier Kathleen Wynne, the Ontario Liberal Party has a plan that is creating opportunity and fairness during this period of rapid economic change and uncertainty. Ontario’s economy is growing, but too many families are not experiencing the benefits of that growth and feel they can’t get ahead. That’s why the Ontario Liberal plan has stepped up to make tuition free for 225,000 students, provide free prescription drug coverage for children and youth, build 100,000 affordable child-care spaces, and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The Conservatives have vowed to undo the minimum wage increase because no matter who their leader is, it is the same old Conservative Party. While a Liberal government is focused on investing in care and providing better supports for caregivers, the Conservatives remain focused on cutting health care and education and jeopardizing the services Ontarians rely on by firing 40,000 workers.

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Mississauga teen who admitted to NYC terror plot asks for ‘second chance’

Posted on 07 March 2018 by admin

In the letter filed to a New York court on Friday, Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy outlined his personal history with addiction and mental illness, and explained that he felt American airstrikes against the Middle East drove him to jihadism.

A Canadian who admitted to plotting a terrorist attack on New York City is pleading for “a second chance” in a letter submitted to the court ahead of his upcoming sentencing.

In the letter filed to a New York court on Friday, Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy of Mississauga outlined his personal history with addiction and mental illness, and explained that he felt American airstrikes against the Middle East drove him to jihadism.

The 20-year-old wrote that he felt that Americans were trying to disrupt the lives of people in the Middle East with airstrikes and he thought “it was appropriate to use similar methods back until and unless they stop.”

The 24-page handwritten letter, addressed to the judge in his case and partially redacted, is part of a package his lawyers submitted ahead of his sentencing for multiple terrorism-related charges that he pleaded guilty to last year.

El Bahnasawy described his disenfranchisement with western society, including “so-called democracy and freedom.”

He said he chose to go to the U.S. to carry out the plan because Canada had recently stopped its airstrikes, “and it didn’t make sense to transgress back against them in such a way.”

Police secretly arrested El Bahnasawy, then 18, in what they said was a plot by Daesh sympathizers to attack New York City concert venues, subway stations and Times Square. He was arrested after travelling from Canada to New Jersey in 2016. The records in his case were sealed for more than a year as police tried to hunt down his accomplices.

Authorities announced the charges against him after two other suspects were arrested in Pakistan and the Philippines.

The Canadian didn’t discuss the specifics of the plot in the letter, instead focusing on why he decided to go to such extremes.

“My detailed reasons about this is in no way a justification for it, I merely am explaining my thought process at the time,” he wrote, adding that he no longer believes extremism is the answer.

“There are many issues in this world but I don’t want to lose my life or freedom to try fixing them, and I definitely do not want to resort to violence or harm to fix them. I sincerely apologize for my (behaviour) and I only ask for a second chance.”

El Bahnasawy also used the letter to outline his struggles with addiction and mental illness, including several trips into hospital psychiatric wards and rehab centres. He said he spent a month in a psych ward in Kuwait, and eight months in rehab in Egypt. Court records show he also spent time at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

“I want to experience life away from drugs and away from war and violence,” he wrote.

He wrote that he wondered where he would be if anyone who knew about his plans had encouraged him to find a more productive way to fight the injustice he saw in the world.

The young man’s lawyers, in a submission included in the package with the letter, requested the judge impose a sentence “no greater than necessary to comply with (the law).”

They suggested that his release might coincide with “the onset of Abdulrahman’s mid-twenties when his cognitive development will be complete.”

El Bahnasawy’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 9.


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Member of Parliament Iqra Khalid, along with community elder Mehmood Khan, nomination candidates Imran Mian and Hifza Musa..

Posted on 22 February 2018 by admin

On February 17th, 2018, Member of Parliament Iqra Khalid, along with community elder Mehmood Khan, nomination candidates Imran Mian and Hifza Musa, along with their spouses sat together to discuss how to reinforce positivity and strength within the Mississauga – Erin Mills community.

It was a very positive meeting discussing the way forward after a very heated nomination campaign that has lasted over twelve months. Both candidates have worked very hard for the Mississauga community in their careers. Both have put in countless hours to strengthen community ties amongst Mississauga residents. “Both candidates are very deserving of becoming MPP for Mississauga Erin Mills” said Mehmood Khan.

“As leaders in the community we must put aside our differences and find ways to work together and reinforce a positive message for the residents of Mississauga – Erin Mills. A positive message must be backed by the action of collaborating with one another on projects that help our community.” said Iqra Khalid. “Both Imran and Hifza are good friends of mine and strong members of Team Iqra”

In this meeting, both Imran Mian and Hifza Musa committed to one another that regardless of who wins this nomination, they will work together to win the general election for the Ontario Liberal Party in Mississauga – Erin Mills, alongside Iqra Khalid.

“At the end of the day we are all one liberal family. We need to win this seat” said Hifza Musa. “We must carry ourselves with principles and conviction” said Imran Mian.

The nomination election will happen on March 18th, 2018. All Ontario Liberal Party members are encouraged to come out and vote.


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Justice of the peace slams Toronto Community Housing for latest fire code violation

Posted on 28 December 2017 by admin

An Ontario justice of the peace called a fine levied against TCH “outrageous” and “unacceptable” after the landlord pleaded guilty to fire code violations.

A justice of the peace has slammed Toronto Community Housing after the landlord pleaded guilty to fire code violations related to a blaze at its 275 Shuter St. building.

“There’s an expectation entities such as Toronto Community Housing are on top of these things, are responsible, are following the law and are monitoring the requirements of the law,” justice of the peace Ana Christina Costa said in provincial offences courtNov. 24. “This is outrageous and if this were not a joint position on penalty, Toronto Community Housing would be getting a much higher amount because I think it’s unacceptable.”

While no was hurt in the Feb. 8 fire in the seventh-storey unit, a fire investigator discovered Toronto Community Housing knew the fire alarm system wasn’t working, and did not inform tenants, the on-site supervisor or the fire department, said prosecutor Amanda Cahill. At least two of the building’s supervisors were not trained in fire emergency procedures and did not receive the proper training for another six and a half months after the fire occurred.

In all, Toronto Community Housing was fined a total of $25,000 for two fire code violations. The maximum fine for each violation is $100,000.

It was the latest round of fire code violations faced by Toronto’s largest landlord.

During the fire on Feb. 8, it fell to tenants to raise the alarm. Joan Harvey was one of the first to respond. She was standing outside the 16-storey, 300-unit building at about 6:30 a.m. when she heard a window shatter. She looked up and saw flames and smoke billowing out of her apartment window.

She ran into the lobby, alerted security, took the elevator up to the seventh floor and pounded on tenants’ doors.

“I’m not a hero,” Harvey told Star. “I just did what everyone would do.”

Toronto Fire Services said it has responded to more than 300 fires at Toronto Community Housing buildings in 2016 and 2017, several of which were fatal.

In 43 of these fires, Toronto Fire Services laid charges, some of which are still before the courts. From January 2016 to Dec. 21, 2017, Toronto Community Housing has paid more than $230,000 in fines related to fire code violations, its spokesperson Anne Rappe said. In those 43 fires, Rappe would not say how many charges were laid or provide information as to their status.

“Tenant safety and fire life safety, in particular, are top priorities for Toronto Community Housing,” Rappe said. “Toronto Community Housing is committed to taking all reasonable measures to make (our) buildings as safe as possible for tenants, employees and the public.”

But one housing advocate called the violations “pure discrimination.”

“If these apartments were for people who were wealthy, (city officials) would be running to fix the problem. But because it is community housing it’s like, ‘who cares?’” said Alejandra Ruiz Vargas on behalf of Acorn Canada, an advocacy group for low-income families.

Justice of the peace Costa could have raised the fine amount in the Shuter St. fire but such a move is unusual, when a deal is reached, said one Toronto lawyer.

“The fact the justice of the peace accepted the fine doesn’t surprise me because it takes a lot for them to not do that… the joint submission has to be so manifestly so unfit for the circumstances it would shock the public,” said Antoinette Raviele, a former assistant Crown attorney, now a Toronto defense lawyer.

She said she was surprised, however, that the prosecutor agreed to a $25,000 fine.

“What do you think the reaction would have been with a $100,000 fine (for each charge)?” Raviele said.

Toronto Community Housing is a city-owned, non-profit corporation that houses 110,000 low-income and oftentimes vulnerable residents across 2,100 buildings. The agency faces a massive repair backlog totaling more than $2.5 billion.

Many of Toronto Community Housing’s fire code problems may relate to the repair backlog. Fire code violations can include a wide-range of issues, some big, some small, including: holes in walls and ceilings, door latches that don’t work, fire doors that don’t close, inoperable alarm systems and lack of fire safety training for staff.

“There has been a huge effort from Toronto Community Housing and fire services to have better performance in this area,” said Councillor Ana Bailao, chair of the city’s affordable housing committee. This “effort” was rolled out this year and will continue next year and its impacts are yet to be determined.

Toronto Community Housing said in 2018 it plans to hire two fire prevention inspectors to regularly review all its buildings.

Toronto Fire Services spokesperson Cpt. Dave Eckerman said it has inspected Toronto Community Housing’s high-rise buildings over the past two years and has also trained 500 Toronto Community Housing staff of their responsibilities under the fire safety plan.

However, due to budgetary pressures from city hall, Toronto Fire Services has not requested money to inspect the remaining Toronto Community properties, nor to “properly address the Toronto Community Housing portfolio-wide issue” in 2018, Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said at a recent Toronto budget committee meeting.

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