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
151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot
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
School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar
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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