Man in critical condition after stabbing outside downtown Toronto residential building – Toronto

A man is in life-threatening condition after a stabbing in downtown Toronto Friday evening, officials say.

Emergency crews were called to a residential building on Bleecker Street, east of Sherbourne Street and Wellesley Street East, just before 7:45 p.m.

A Toronto police spokesperson told Global News the man was stabbed in the abdomen by what is believed to be a lone suspect.

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The circumstances leading up to the stabbing weren’t clear as of Friday evening.

A spokesperson for Toronto Paramedics said the patient was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Meanwhile, anyone with information was asked to call police at 416-808-5100 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-8477.

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© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Off-duty York Regional Police detective charged with sexual assault, sexual exploitation – Toronto

An off-duty York Regional Police detective has been charged with sexual assault and sexual exploitation.

The service says the charges were laid on Friday against one of their officers following an investigation by the Toronto Police Service.

They say the charges aren’t related to any of the officer’s on-duty activities.

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Police say the officer cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the victim.

However, they say he has worked with York police since 2004.

The force says the officer will be suspended until the court process is over.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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Coronavirus: Chaotic scene at Newmarket COVID-19 vaccination site prompts change – Toronto

After a chaotic scene unfolded at a Newmarket COVID-19 vaccination site on this week, local officials came together to pinpoint what went wrong and how to fix it.

On Thursday, seniors over the age of 80 attempted to get their vaccinations at the Ray Twinney Recreation Complex. Instead, many endured lengthy waits in bone-chilling temperatures.

“There had to be hundreds lined up outside,” recalled 84-year-old Crawford Heritage.

He accompanied his wife to her appointment that day. For at least half an hour, he said she waited in the cold. The couple arrived the prescribed 10 minutes before her scheduled shot.

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“She should not have been in that cold that length of time.”

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His wife’s appointment was supposed to take place at 2:40 p.m.

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“I asked the fellow at the door, I said, ‘What’s happening here to appointments?’” he recalled.

“I said it’s 2:40 right now. He said, ‘We’re disregarding all appointments and we’re letting anyone and everyone in.’”

When he inquired about the wait, he said he was told anywhere from four to five hours. Unable to withstand the blistering conditions any longer, they went home.

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Newmarket Mayor John Taylor was in a regional budget meeting when word began to trickle down about the excessive lineups and and delays.

“My mind thought of those seniors and what they were enduring. I thought, ‘That’s where I should be,” he told Global News on Friday.

Taylor said he left the meeting and went straight to the complex.

“I was with a woman who was probably in her late 80s, walking around with her, trying to find her husband outside. Neither of them had cellphones.”

Southlake Regional Health Centre, which oversees the site, said it was a combination of factors that led to the disarray.

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Speaking to Global News, Gayle Seddon apologized on behalf of her team to the entire community, adding their goal is to help.

The director of community programs for Southlake Regional Health Centre said one issue they were faced with was not enough staff on site. Many were brought in on Friday from the Town of Newmarket, to help direct vaccine recipients.

“The other thing we had happen yesterday was the electronic system that loads information up wasn’t working for us,” she said.

Seddon said issued a reminder to those with scheduled appointments to arrive 10 minutes beforehand.

She said they are also in the process of contacting residents who missed appointments on Thursday in order to re-book them.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Advocates, opposition slam Ontario government’s move to strengthen minister’s zoning power

A day after the Ford government introduced a bill in the Ontario legislature that could see processes changed for ministerial zoning powers, advocates and opposition politicians are slamming the move and allege it will benefit developers.

The proposed change was contained in Bill 257, which mainly deals with initiatives aimed at making it easier to expand broadband internet access through changes to different approvals.

In a joint statement by Environmental Defence, Ontario Nature and Ecojustice, the organizations said the proposed changes will allow the province’s minister of municipal affairs and housing to issue minister’s zoning orders (MZOs) that will give them powers to override principles contained in the Planning Act and the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS).

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The coalition said all lands outside of the Greenbelt and the PPS “will become vulnerable to development at the whim of the Province” and MZOs could be issued to speed up development projects that could destroy natural areas, including wetlands and farmland.

“Bill 257 illustrates the Ontario government’s willingness to go to great lengths to ensure developers can destroy even the most environmentally sensitive lands and do so without public consultation or comment,” the statement said.

“It represents an attack on the public’s constitutional right to seek judicial review of unlawful decisions. Moreover, the government is using the pandemic as a cover for its environmentally destructive actions, hiding this legislative amendment in a bill unrelated to the environment or land use planning.”

The Ontario NDP said in a statement on Friday the bill is “retroactively rewriting planning laws” that will give “unchecked power” and will benefit developers.

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The government’s legislative initiative comes at a time when concerns are being raised over the proposed, controversial development of a warehouse project located near Bayly Street in Pickering that many say would affect the Duffins Creek wetlands.

Advocates have said the lands are important for water filtration and support other parts of the ecosystem, including migrating birds.

The opposition party officials also said Bill 257 coincides with warnings contained in a part of a document containing advice from government lawyers that said the courts could potentially order the project stopped based on the process taken to date.

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The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) was in the process of reviewing a request to clear cut some of the lands for the development. It’s a process that normally takes three to six weeks, but a recent order from the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski directing it be approved by March 12.

The TRCA issued a statement on Friday and it said the organization has been “forced” to “interfere with and develop within a Provincially Significant Wetland and place fill and site grade” at the project site.

“TRCA’s Board of Directors and staff, using a science-based approach to decision making and TRCA’s living city policies, would ordinarily decline permission of such a permit,” the statement said.

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“TRCA’s Board of Directors must now, under duress, adhere to the Province’s legally mandated directive which conflicts with TRCA’s mandate to further the conservation, development, and management of natural resources in watersheds within our jurisdiction.”

Pickering city council voted to request a MZO in 2020, a process that avoids appeals and public consultations.

Set against the recent actions, the Ontario government showed a willingness in mid-February to include part of the Duffins Creek watershed under the provincial Greenbelt as part of a consultation on expansion. However, it’s not entirely clear how much of the watershed would be protected.

Municipal Affairs critic Jeff Burch highlighted a claim first raised in December that 19 out of 38 MZOs approved by the government will have benefits for developers with links to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.

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“Doug Ford snuck an anti-environment, anti-municipality clause into an unrelated bill. We want it out. The Ford government must be stopped from bulldozing over our environment, ignoring their constitutional obligations, steamrolling over the will of municipalities and First Nations,” he said in the statement.

In a message on Twitter, the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation issued a statement Friday afternoon condemning the decision to speed up approvals.

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“We are alarmed by the Ford government’s attacks on wetlands and environmentally sensitive areas across Ontario,” Chief Kelly LaRocca wrote, highlighting concerns raised by community members.

“The Province’s efforts to change the rules to help a developer demonstrate an absolute disregard for our Indigenous and Treaty Rights.”

In Toronto, a controversial MZO was issued in connection with the Dominion Wheel and Foundries Company property, located on Eastern Avenue near Cherry Street. In January, there was an attempted demolition of four historic buildings by the provincial government. Officials cited the need to conduct environmental remediation. It was temporarily halted through a court order and the government held a public consultation after that decision, which closed on Thursday.

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Documents obtained by Global News indicated there was a purchaser for the coveted downtown parcel of land. However, Minister Steve Clark subsequently insisted a final sale hasn’t occurred. To date, the purchaser cited in an Infrastructure Ontario heritage impact assessment hasn’t been revealed publicly and a definitive plan for the site hasn’t been widely shared despite multiple requests for information from members of the community and reporters.

Global News contacted Clark’s office to ask why the changes to the MZO process were contained in a bill on broadband internet, why it’s being done now, and what’s the goal of enacting the changes. However, a spokesperson largely ignored those questions.

“Our proposed change will ensure that priority projects that play a key role in our province’s economic recovery, located outside of the Greenbelt, do not face unnecessary barriers and delays after an MZO has been made,” Adam Wilson, Clark’s director of communications, said in a statement, noting a 30-day online consultation was posted on the Environmental Registry of Ontario on Thursday.

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He went on to say all MZOs issued by Clark and the government for non-provincially owed land have been made at the request of municipal councils.

With respect to the project in Pickering, he said it was among those requested and that the project will result in more than 10,000 jobs and bolster the Durham Region economy.

Wilson also went on to cite an environmental study for the project site. He said it found the existing wetland “is dominated by invasive species, is likely to continue to decline over time, and provide limited ecological functions.”

“The proponent and TRCA have entered into an agreement that will ensure the creation of ecological benefits that meet or exceed any loss to the natural system,” he said.

The TRCA statement said staff have identified conditions based on previously raised concerns and that the board will hold a hearing on the morning of March 12 to discuss the matter.

— With files from Frazer Snowdon

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Coronavirus: Ontario doctors ‘frustrated’ by Ford government’s vaccine rollout plan

Ontario family physicians say they’re frustrated by a lack of communication and clarity around the province’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan, as their clinics continue to be flooded with phone calls from patients asking for details about inoculation.

“The staff is being overwhelmed by it,” said Dr. Yoel Abells from his Toronto clinic on Eglinton Avenue West.

“There’s tremendous frustration amongst doctors, there’s uncertainty about communication issue, there’s uncertainty about what to tell patients, and the impact of that is more than just on us. People in the community are worried.”

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“Our phones have been ringing off the hook with inquiries of the COVID vaccines,” added Dr. Farah Jetha of Crosstown Family Health Team.

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“We have yet to be given guidance on vaccine supply in our office, but we’re also expected to provide this guidance to our patients as they’re hearing it on the news.”

Abells believes the fault lies with the Doug Ford government, which he said had months to prepare and relay a distribution plan for the province’s physicians, but is only now releasing details on the role doctors will play in the vaccination process.

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“It’s reactive instead of proactive,” said Abells. “The biggest mistake is that we knew the vaccine was coming three to four months ago and three to four months ago they should’ve started to effect a plan.”

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He said his patients are now signing up at multiple sites, unsure of which location will guarantee them the vaccine, which is also creating a major backlog in the system.

Abells also claims the confusion could have been avoided if the province had included a family physician on the vaccination task force announced in early December of last year.

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“We’re the ones who gave most flu vaccines, most of the general vaccines,” he said. “We know how it works, we know what patients are going to ask, we know what patients are concerned about. We were not brought to the table, to the discussion, until relatively recently.”

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On Friday, retired general Rick Hillier, the head of Ontario’s vaccination distribution task force, gave some clarity to family physicians looking to begin vaccinations.

“They will be part of the AstraZeneca rollout starting literally next week,” said Hillier.

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He added that physicians will be able to vaccinate patients in three ways: either at their own clinics, at a mass vaccination site while teaming up with several other doctors, or through what he referred to as a ‘SWAT team’ approach, where doctors go directly to residences to vaccinate people with chronic care conditions.

Hillier didn’t specify when doctors would learn which inoculation process they’ll get to partake in or who decides for them. He also didn’t provide an exact date for when physicians would receive doses to administer to their patients.

“Family doctors are part of the rollout here,” he said. “They will have more and more information in the next days and weeks as the vaccines roll in.”

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Abells said the government is now moving in the right direction by providing some clarity this week, but wonders why vaccination plans at family doctors’ clinics weren’t already firmly in place before the vaccines arrived.

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In the meantime, he’s imploring his patients and others to not register at multiple vaccination clinics out of panic.

“Find out which hospital is responsible for your region and then register there,” he said. “Do not register at multiple places. Not only is it not going to increase your chances to get the vaccine — or if it does, it’s minimal — it’s also going to overload the system.”

Meanwhile, neither Abells nor Jetha have heard when their clinics will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, even though Hillier said in his press conference that it would be next week.

“We are hoping with the new approval of the AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson vaccines that we will be more involved in the roll out process and be able to vaccinate our patients soon,” said Jetha.

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Regulators caution Ontario doctor for ‘irresponsible’ COVID-19 tweets

Regulators caution Ontario doctor for ‘irresponsible’ COVID-19 tweets

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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