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Companies that build temporary stages should be licensed, coroner’s inquest says

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TORONTO — A coroner’s inquest into the death of a drum technician who was crushed when a stage collapsed before a Radiohead concert in Toronto is recommending that companies that build temporary stages for events undergo licensing.

Jurors examining the circumstances surrounding the death of Scott Johnson also suggest that riggers who work on performance venues in Ontario go through a certification process similar to what’s in place for electricians.

The jury issued 26 other recommendations that largely echo those proposed at the inquest by the coroner’s counsel and other parties earlier this week, all aimed at preventing such deaths in the future.

The recommendations are not binding, but Johnson’s father, Ken Johnson, said Wednesday he will be monitoring the situation to ensure they aren’t simply shelved. He suggested Radiohead would also stay on top of the issue.

“I think I would be disappointed,” if the inquest didn’t lead to change, he said outside the coroner’s court.

He expressed some relief that after nearly seven years, a long and convoluted legal process over his son’s death has come to a close. But he said the inquest and the preceeding court case had also helped distract from his grief.

“For us, we sort of accept that life is different and we expect that emotional rollercoaster, we don’t see a way out for that,” he said.

“I think it just brings some closure, at least. There’s hardly a month gone by in the last seven years where I’m not involved in some dialogue about Scott and what’s happened, so I quite look forward to perhaps not having that dialogue.”

Scott Johnson was onstage when the structure’s roof, which bore tens of thousands of kilograms in equipment, came crashing down just hours before Radiohead was set to perform on June 16, 2012.

He died of a crushing injury to the brain and head, according to the inquest jury. Several others were injured.

Among the recommendations issued Wednesday was the creation of a provincially funded, permanent working group examining the processes involved in the live performance industry, including the construction of temporary stages like the one that collapsed.

The group, to be established by December, would include Ken Johnson and experts from the entertainment and staging industries. It would be tasked with addressing concerns raised during the inquest, such as the need to have a trained supervisor on site at all times during construction of temporary stages.

The jury also recommends changes to the building code and occupational health and safety laws as they relate to temporary stages. Those changes would include requirements that such structures be designed by an engineer and inspected by one before they are used.

There are also a number of recommendations aimed at the engineering profession, including the development of specialized criteria and educational opportunities for those working on temporary stages.

Over several weeks of testimony, the inquest has heard plans for the stage contained several errors, the wrong construction materials were used in building the roof structure and there was no independent oversight of the project.

Charges were laid under occupational health and safety laws against the show’s promoter, Live Nation, contractor Optex Staging and Domenic Cugliari, the engineer who signed off on the stage plans. They were later stayed because the matter took too long to get to trial.

Johnson’s family and Radiohead have been critical of the judicial process, saying they felt no one was being held accountable for the deadly incident.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

Agriculture

151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot

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VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.

The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.

The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.

“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.

He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.

An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.

A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.

James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.

Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.

“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.

James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.

“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”

James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.

Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.

The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.

“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”

James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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Education

School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar

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A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.

Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.

The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.

The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.

The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.

“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.

Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.

The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.

The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.

The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.

Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.

“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.

Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.

“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”

 

 

 

 

 

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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