TORONTO — Hours of anticipation gave way to unbridled euphoria as a sea of Raptors fans greeted the newly crowned NBA champions with cheers, whistles and chants on Monday, but elation quickly turned to fear when gunshots interrupted the celebration in downtown Toronto.
Moments after the team emerged on stage during a rally at the end of a victory parade, the sound of gunfire sent dozens of panicked supporters running from the one end of Nathan Phillips Square, grabbing friends and children as they fled.
The festivities were briefly suspended as one of the hosts alerted the masses, most of whom had been there since the morning, that there was an emergency. Organizers urged the public to stay calm and the event resumed shortly afterwards.
Police later said four people had suffered injuries related to the shooting. Three people were arrested and two firearms were recovered, they said.
Some fans said they feared for their lives and remained shaken even after the situation returned to normal. Others said the shooting, though frightening, should not mar the festivities.
“It’s so horrible that that happened but we are united as a city and that shouldn’t define who we are or what today was about,” said Ahilan Sivakumar, 19.
Several had huddled near pillars in Nathan Phillips Square even as the team and several dignitaries — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford — remained on stage during the rally. Others dashed into a nearby hotel or leapt into bushes to get out of the way. The ceremony wrapped up a short time later.
Andrew Singh said he heard what appeared to be gunshots before people started scrambling.
“We just saw the girl drop to the floor and the guy running off,” the 29-year-old said. ” All I heard was bop bop bop.”
The rally — and the shooting that interrupted it — capped off a day that saw fans dressed in red and black — the Raptors’ colours — take over swaths of the city’s downtown. City officials said more than a million people were gathered in and around the area.
Supporters had spent several hours at Nathan Phillips Square waiting for the team. The site was quickly overflowing with fans of all ages and police worked to stop more people from entering the area.
The victory parade, which included five open top double-decker buses carrying the players, slowed to a crawl and at times halted completely due to the crush of people along the route.
Members of the Raptors smiled from the buses, some splashing the crowds with champagne. At one point, Kyle Lowry, the longest-serving member of team, was seen hoisting the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy while some of his teammates smoked cigars.
“This is unbelievable,” said Lowry, who later carried the trophy on stage for the rally.
Kawhi Leonard, one of the team’s star players, also marvelled at the fan response. “It’s been amazing,” he said. “Thank you Toronto, thank you Canada for the support, we did it,” he said.
Canadian rapper Drake, one the team’s most famous supporters, was alongside players during the parade, smiling broadly. He later took to the stage at the rally, urging fans to take in the moment.
Construction workers watched the festivities from scaffolding along the route, and as traffic ground to a standstill on a nearby thoroughfare, some motorists left their vehicles to peer at the activity.
Many fans said they decided not to go to school or work so they could attend the celebration.
Cypher Sabanal, 15, said his mom let him skip school to attend the parade.
“I actually have exams this week but being here is worth it,” he said, adding that he’s been a Raptors fan his whole life.
For several people, the parade marked a historic moment.
“I haven’t seen anything like this happen in the city before so it’s great to be a part of it,” said 28-year-old RJ Salvador.
Fans held up signs and enlarged heads of their basketball idols like Leonard and Fred VanVleet. Several hoisted signs urging Leonard, who will become a free agent in the off-season, to stick with the team he helped rise to the top.
Mayor John Tory declared Monday “We The North Day” in Toronto, after the NBA champions’ slogan. The mayor, dressed in his now-famous black-and-gold Raptors blazer, urged all fans to celebrate the team’s historic win.
Many who couldn’t make it downtown watched the festivities from afar. Several schools in the city showed the parade in classrooms and some held their own victory marches for students.
“Today’s history lesson in room 137! Watching the @Raptors first victory parade! I told them that one day their children will ask about where they were during the parade and to tell them that the awesome Miss Latchford put the parade on for them in class!,” one educational assistant tweeted.
The Raptors’ championship win last week came in Game 6 of a rollercoaster series that captured national attention. On Monday, the Golden State Warriors took out a full-page advertisement in the Toronto Star newspaper, congratulating their rivals for taking the title.
The last time the city held a sports celebration of this magnitude was after the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1993. That parade saw fans climbing trees and statues on city streets to catch a glimpse of a team that included Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar.
— with files from Lori Ewing, Gregory Strong and Colin Perkel.
Paola Loriggio and Alanna Rizza , The Canadian Press
Crime up, homicide down: Five things to know about the 2018 crime statistics
OTTAWA — New national crime data for 2018 was released Monday, courtesy of Statistics Canada, with big changes to some key indicators. Here are five things that stood out:
Crime up, but still near decades-long low
The national statistics agency says both the crime rate and its measurement of the severity of crime were up two per cent this year, the fourth straight year of increases since 2014.
StatCan cautioned the prevalence of crime and its severity remain 17 per cent lower than in 2008, reflecting a long decline in crime rates nationally. From its peak in 1991, the national crime rate declined more than 50 per cent until 2014.
The agency says the increase in the severity of crimes in 2018 was attributable to marked increases in fraud (up 13 per cent), one particular class of sexual assault (15 per cent), shoplifting (14 per cent) and theft of items worth over $5,000 (15 per cent).
Less homicide, but provinces may vary
The rate of homicides in Canada ticked down nationally by four per cent, with 15 fewer homicides in 2018 than in 2017.
But the statistics tell a different story when broken down by province. Much of the decrease in came from declines in Alberta (38 fewer) and British Columbia (30 fewer), but Ontario experienced an enormous increase in homicides — 69 more than last year.
Statistics Canada analyst Greg Moreau notes that several incidents in Toronto, including the Danforth shooting one year ago (in which two people were killed), the discovery of eight victims of serial murders, and the North York van attack (in which 10 people died) all elevated the number of homicides recorded in 2018.
The data also shows decreases in firearm-related (by eight per cent) and gang-related (by five per cent) homicides across the country, the first time they have decreased since 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Statistics Canada further notes Indigenous people continue to disproportionately be the victims of homicide. Though they make up five per cent of Canada’s population, Indigenous people were 22 per cent of homicide victims.
Sexual assault is up, and more left unreported
The rate of “Level 1” sexual assault — defined statistically as sexual assault without a weapon and without other physical harm — was up 15 per cent in 2018 over 2017. And in his article, Moreau says that rate remains “likely an underestimation of the true extent of sexual assault in Canada.”
This is the fourth consecutive year this class of sexual assault increased, and it usually makes up around 98 per cent of all police-reported sexual-assault incidents. But since these types of crimes often go unreported, the actual incidence is likely not reflected in the statistics.
In 2014, another Statistics Canada survey estimated only five per cent of sexual assaults were reported to police.
Prince Edward Island reported an increase in sexual-assault reports by over half (55 per cent, though with the number of incidents provincewide in the dozens) while Nova Scotia (42 per cent), Yukon (20 per cent) and Ontario (18 per cent) all reported increases above the national average for 2018.
Hate crimes down from 2017 peak
After the rate of hate crimes spiked in 2017 by almost 50 per cent, there was a reduction of 13 per cent in 2018. Still, hate crimes occurred at a higher rate last year than in any other year since 2009, Statistics Canada says.
Statistics Canada notes the decline is almost completely attributable to reductions in Ontario, and the number of hate crimes against Muslims halved year-over-year.
Both violent and non-violent hate crimes decreased, and hate crimes that targeted black people and hate crimes targeting people over sexual orientation both fell by double digits. The share of hate crimes aimed at Jews also fell, by four per cent.
More fraud, more extortion
Statistics Canada notes the world of scams and extortion is increasingly moving online, with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre flagging schemes in which scammers pretend to be from the Canada Revenue Agency as well as gift-card scams.
Overall, the rate of fraud increased by 12 per cent, and sits almost 50 per cent higher than in 2008, after growing for seven years in a row. There were over 129,400 incidents of fraud reported to police in 2018, StatsCan says.
StatCan does say the increasing ease of reporting fraud online could have contributed to the higher numbers.
There was an even more dramatic increase in extortion from 2017 to 2018 — a 44-per-cent leap, Statistics Canada says. The dynamic is the same across the country, and the rate has been increasing since 2012.
Christian Paas-Lang, The Canadian Press
Court dismisses challenge of deal that helps U.S. nab tax cheats in Canada
OTTAWA — A Canada-U.S. deal allowing Canadian financial institutions to send customer information to U.S. authorities to help find tax cheats does not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a judge has ruled.
Federal Court of Canada Justice Anne Mactavish dismissed an appeal from two American citizens, Gwendolyn Louise Deegan and Kazia Highton, who now live in Canada and have no real ongoing connection with the United States.
The U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, requires banks and other institutions in countries outside the United States to report information about accounts held by U.S. individuals, including Canadians with dual citizenship.
Deegan and Highton challenged the constitutionality of Canadian provisions implementing a 2014 agreement between the countries that makes the information-sharing possible.
They argued the provisions breach charter guarantees that prevent unreasonable seizure and ensure the equality of people under law.
Mactavish concluded in her decision released Monday that although the provisions do result in the seizure of the banking information of Americans in Canada, the affected people have only “a limited expectation of privacy” in their data.
She also ruled that the provisions do not violate the charter guarantee that every person is equal under the law without discrimination based on national origin.
Under the tax arrangements, Canadian financial institutions are legally required to provide the Canada Revenue Agency with data concerning accounts belonging to customers whose information suggests they might have American citizenship. The revenue agency then hands the information to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.
Nearly all countries levy income taxes based on residency, while the U.S. system is based on citizenship.
The U.S. considers all American citizens to be permanent tax residents in the United States for federal income-tax purposes, taxing the worldwide income of “specified U.S. persons” regardless of whether they live, work, or earn income in the United States.
“The result of this is that every Canadian resident who is an American citizen is subject to U.S. federal taxation on all of their income from all sources, wherever that income may be derived, even if he or she is also a Canadian citizen,” Mactavish says in her decision.
“Canada clearly found itself in an extremely difficult position as a result of the enactment of FATCA by the American government.”
U.S. law requires extensive financial and asset reporting, with the threat of significant penalties for failure to meet the obligations.
However, Mactavish notes, the U.S. government estimates that fewer than 10 per cent of all people who file American tax returns from outside the United States ultimately owe any taxes to Washington.
In addition, a tax treaty between Canada and the United States allows residents of Canada to receive credit for some taxes paid to the federal and provincial governments that would otherwise have been owed to the U.S. revenue service.
Deegan and Highton unsuccessfully argued the provisions require Canadian banks to transfer the information of potentially hundreds of thousands of people annually to the federal revenue agency in Ottawa without judicial authorization or any state oversight.
They said this amounts to “a massive fishing expedition and a seizure that offends every core precept of the citizenry’s … right to a reasonable expectation of privacy.”
Mactavish pointed out that the Supreme Court of Canada has found that taxpayers’ privacy interest in records that may be relevant to the filing of income-tax returns is “relatively low.”
The method used to collect this information is “minimally intrusive” and the data shared with the U.S. revenue service is afforded protection under the tax treaty between the two countries, she added.
— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter
Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press
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