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‘I’m choosing not to be a victim,’ Danforth shooting survivor says

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daniforth shooting survivor

TORONTO — Danielle Kane struggled with depression in her 20s and even contemplated suicide.

But then she fell in love, enrolled in nursing school and felt she was finally on her way — until a summer night last year when a disturbed man went on a shooting spree in Toronto’s Greektown and a bullet tore through her body.

“Not now,” she thought as she lay on the ground in a pool of blood. “My life is not over.”

Kane, 32, was one of 13 people wounded in the July 22, 2018 rampage that left two dead — Reese Fallon, 18, and Julianna Kozis, 10 — and shocked the city.

That night Kane and her partner, Jerry Pinksen, were celebrating a friend’s birthday on a restaurant patio on Danforth Avenue when they heard what sounded like fireworks. A waitress urged everyone to go inside because there was a shooter on the loose. Kane was incredulous, but she took her glass of wine and followed Pinksen inside.

“We were safe,” she said in a recent interview.

Another patron said there was a victim outside, so Pinksen, an emergency department nurse, rushed out to help. Kane pulled on his arm, briefly worried about his safety, then decided to join him.

“We work in ER together and when there is an emergency, it’s all hands on deck,” she said.

Kane took two steps outside before she saw a dark figure standing on the street, just metres from the pair.

“I do remember thinking how odd it was he was just standing there,” Kane said.

Then she saw the gunman, 29-year-old Faisal Hussain, open fire. She turned slightly and the bullet grazed her left forearm, burning it, before entering her body. It ripped through her abdomen, missed her aorta by a few centimetres and her spinal cord by a millimetre then ricocheted off her spine and exited her body through her right shoulder.

She collapsed and broke her ribs on the fall. She couldn’t feel her legs, and she had trouble breathing — her diaphragm and one lung collapsed, the other lung started to fill with blood.

Pinksen heard her scream and rushed back, carrying her inside the restaurant.

He remembered the shock and anger he felt at that moment.

“Then it clicked, she doesn’t need this, she needs Jerry the nurse now,” he said. He helped stabilize her and they waited until paramedics arrived.

Kane spent the next 11 days in a medically induced coma.

“That was the hardest, her in a coma, on a breathing machine, looking at the screen hoping things get better,” said Pinksen, 35.

Doctors performed four surgeries on Kane.

The first was to fuse her spine after the bullet shattered her T-11 vertebrae. The doctors told her the bullet didn’t sever her spinal cord, but passed so close that the energy from the bullet transferred to the spinal cord, causing massive cell death and leaving her paralyzed from the waist down.

She had three surgeries to repair her abdomen. When surgeons went in to get a look inside, they found food — ceviche and lamb pasta from dinner — all over her chest wall.

“That would have been a huge source of infection,” Pinksen said. “Catching it early saved her life, too.”

The last year has been a journey for the pair.

She spent two months at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute learning to live as a paraplegic.

“Everything has changed for me,” Kane said.

Pain is her biggest problem now.

“The pain is more disabling than a lack of ability to walk,” Kane said. Her lower back hurts and she has a constant “tingly, burning sensation” in her legs.

“From a caregiver and a partner, sometimes it’s difficult playing those different roles and seeing someone you care about struggle with pain,” Pinksen said. “It’s such a preoccupying force in our lives.”

She said cannabis helps. Physiotherapy also helps, but she’s hit her OHIP-supported limit.

Fortunately, the couple received more than $200,000 from a GoFundMe campaign launched by a friend. With the money, they’re moving to Oshawa, Ont., to be closer to her school, where she hopes to take a few classes come January to ease back into the nursing program. She plans to join a centre where she’ll continue her physiotherapy.

The money has also allowed Pinksen to take a leave from work to help out at home.

“Without that money, I would have been stressed out and my recovery would have been more difficult,” she said. “Maybe that’s why I’m so relaxed. That and Jerry!”

They are renovating the house to make it accessible, the couple said.

Mentally, there have been ups and downs, Kane said. Depression rears its dark head from time to time. But she has found solace in meditation and the idea that life is suffering punctuated with moments of joy.

“I feel with all the suffering I’ve had, I have a great capacity for joy,” Kane said with a laugh.

She sometimes thinks about the past — what it was like to dance and run and jump — that can take her down to a dark place.

“I try to catch myself and distance myself from the thought and let it float away,” she said.

She also thinks about the shooter. Police said Hussain, who killed himself moments after the shooting spree, lived with severe mental health issues since childhood and had a history of harming himself along with a fascination with death and violence.

“I forgive him,” she said. “I definitely have moments where he’s not my favourite person, but I see him as a human being who struggled and didn’t get help. I can only imagine how awful his life must have been to be so isolated and tortured by violent thoughts.”

But she refuses to be kept down.

“I don’t feel traumatized because I’ve taken it back,” she said. “I feel like I don’t want to be a victim. I’m choosing not to be a victim.”

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press


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Military faces calls to train soldiers to identify neo-Nazis, hate-group members

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OTTAWA — The Canadian Armed Forces is facing calls to train its recruiters and other service members to identify and screen out members of hate groups.

The military is also being accused of failing to take the issue seriously by adopting what several experts say is a wait-and-see approach rather than actively weeding out such individuals.

The criticism follows an internal military report and several high-profile incidents linking some service members to right-wing extremists and hate groups.

That includes an investigation this week into a reservist in Manitoba who is suspected of being a recruiter for a neo-Nazi group.

The Defence Department says the military already uses interviews and background checks to screen recruits for hateful beliefs and behaviour and takes very seriously any reported incidents by current personnel.

But several experts tell The Canadian Press that is not good enough, and that the military must launch a campaign similar to efforts to stamp out sexual misconduct to truly root out extremist beliefs and behaviour.

The Canadian Press

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Liberals unhurt, Tories not helped by scathing SNC-Lavalin report: Poll

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Justin Trudeau

OTTAWA — A new poll suggests a scathing ethics report on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair hasn’t so far hurt the Liberals’ chances of re-election this fall — and it hasn’t helped the Conservatives.

Indeed, the Leger poll suggests the two parties were locked in a dead heat, with the support of 33 per cent of voters, as they jockey for position at the starting gate for the Oct. 21 vote.

Liberal support was unchanged from last month, despite last week’s damning report from federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion, who concluded that Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by pressuring his former attorney general to halt a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

Conservative support was down three percentage points from last month, despite the party’s best efforts to re-ignite public outrage over the SNC affair, which propelled the Tories into a commanding 13-point lead over the Grits at the height of the controversy last April.

The poll put support for the Green party at 13 per cent, up one point and ahead of the NDP at 11 per cent. Maxime Bernier’s fledgling People’s Party of Canada stood at four per cent.

The online survey of 1,535 eligible voters was conducted Aug. 16-19 for The Canadian Press and weighted to reflect the makeup of Canada’s population. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque said the latest results suggest voters have largely put the SNC-Lavalin affair behind them and moved on to issues that affect them more directly — at least for now.

The two main parties are back in a “neck-and-neck race,” which is where things stood in February before the SNC controversy rocked the Liberal government, costing Trudeau two cabinet ministers, his most trusted aide and the country’s top public servant.

“I think that those who changed their mind on the PM and turned their backs on him did that in the spring already,” Bourque said in an interview.

But he said other Canadians appear to be fatigued with the issue and may be thinking “regardless of what I think of the behaviour of the PM, at the end of the day how does this change my life and that of my children, which is nil.”

Still, Bourque warned that “doesn’t mean that it won’t come back to haunt the prime minister” during the campaign, particularly should the RCMP decide to investigate, as Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has repeatedly pressed the Mounties to do.

The Conservatives and New Democrats tried to revive the controversy at a meeting Wednesday of the House of Commons ethics committee, where they moved to invite Dion, Trudeau and others to testify about the ethics report.

However, the Liberals used their majority on the committee to block the bid to magnify the report just a couple of weeks before Trudeau officially fires the starting gun for the election.

The poll put the Liberals back into a solid lead in the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. The Conservatives enjoyed a commanding lead in Alberta and Manitoba/Saskatchewan, with 55 per cent support in both regions.

The Liberals had the advantage in the two most populous provinces, where more than half of the country’s 338 seats will be up for grabs.

In Ontario, home to more than one-third of the seats, the Conservatives appear to be suffering a “spillover effect” from the unpopularity of Doug Ford’s provincial Progressive Conservative government, Bourque said. The Liberals enjoyed the support of 38 per cent of Ontarians, compared to the Conservatives’ 30 per cent, the Green’s 14 per cent, the NDP’s 13 per cent and the People’s party’s three per cent.

In Quebec, home to SNC-Lavalin, the Liberals stood at 34 per cent, compared to the Tories’ 27, the Bloc Quebecois’ 18, the Greens’ nine, the NDP’s eight and the People’s party’s four per cent.

Dion concluded that Trudeau broke ethics law by improperly pressuring former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene to stop the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin on corruption charges related to contracts in Libya.

Trudeau has acknowledged that he wanted Wilson-Raybould to reconsider her refusal to overturn a decision by the director of public prosecutions, who decided last fall not to invite the Montreal-based engineering and construction giant to negotiate a remediation agreement. Such an agreement would have allowed the company to avoid the risk of a criminal conviction, which would result in it being barred from federal contracts for 10 years.

While he has taken full responsibility for the mistakes that were made, Trudeau has refused to apologize. He has insisted that he was only standing up for the interests of SNC-Lavalin’s 9,000 employees, pensioners and suppliers, who stood to be negatively affected by the potentially crippling cost of a conviction.

Scheer maintains Dion’s report suggests the prime minister’s conduct went beyond a violation of ethics law and warrants a criminal investigation into possible obstruction of justice.

Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet over the affair in late February, followed shortly by cabinet ally Jane Philpott. Both women were subsequently booted out of the Liberal caucus and are running for re-election as Independent candidates.

Joan Bryden , The Canadian Press



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