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National

Massive crowds, security concerns prove to be issues at Raptors parade

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TORONTO — A shooting that sparked a stampede at a massive rally celebrating the Raptors’ historic NBA title highlighted the challenges of organizing a large celebratory event in a sprawling metropolis such as Toronto, authorities said Monday.

Officials had to balance the fan experience with safety concerns as they planned for a kilometres-long victory parade and ensuing public party, said city spokesman Brad Ross. The biggest logistical challenge, he said, was the estimated two million fans who turned out — about a million of which were gathered at the rally outside city hall.

“How do you keep back more than a million people on the parade, when really this is all about a celebration and not security,” Ross said. “You try to make the players and the team accessible because the fans want to thank the players and players want to thank the fans.”

Barriers had been set up along parts of the parade route, but fans hopped those fences in many areas, crowding the floats that carried the team and other dignitaries. The parade itself was significantly behind schedule, leaving fans packed into Nathan Phillips Square — the site of the ensuing rally — waiting hours to see the champions.

The public party at the square, once it finally got underway, was briefly suspended due to the shooting before carrying on even as fans on one end pushed and shoved while scrambling for cover. Some parents were separated from their children, other fans lost backpacks and purses and several screamed amid the chaos.

Police said four people suffered injuries related to the shooting. Three people were arrested and two firearms were recovered, police said.

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders defended the city’s role in the massive Raptors’ party.

“We’re not going to turn it in to a security event, we’re not going to transition to that, we didn’t feel there was a need for that,” Saunders told reporters after the celebration. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime for so many people.”

Ross said the city had begun planning for the parade while the Raptors played the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, using experience the team’s owners — Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment — and police had gleaned from the numerous events at Jurassic Park, the fanzone outside the Raptors’ arena.

Security during the parade and rally was tight around the team, Ross said, noting that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other high-profile guests such as Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor John Tory were all on stage when the shooting occurred.

“Given the time we had to pull this together and the size of the crowd, I’d say it was a special event overall,” Ross said. “There are things that are going to happen you can’t control for, but that’s why we had such a heavy police and security presence.”

Tory said he wanted to thank the Raptor fans who showed up and celebrated peacefully as well as the police for their efforts after the “unfortunate” shooting.

“It is disappointing and I’m sure a source of anger for more than just me that anyone would carry a gun and discharge it at what was otherwise a joyous celebration,” he said in a statement.

Toronto’s transit commission closed down three nearby subway stations due to overcrowding as fans congregated downtown for the festivities. It also cut power to the overhead streetcar lines nearby at one point “due to unsafe behaviour and people climbing TTC infrastructure.”

Toronto EMS spokeswoman Kim McKinnon said besides two people taken to a trauma centre with gunshot wounds, paramedics transported about 10 people to hospital, most with minor heat-related illnesses.

“This is a very, very large crowd, so this is not out of the ordinary for us,” McKinnon said.

Toronto Fire district chief Stephan Powell said firefighters dealt with about a dozen calls for dehydration in the square.

Liam Casey, 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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