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Raptors fans far from home adjust plans to watch pivotal playoff game

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Toronto Raptors fans were delayed entry into Jurassic Park, the NBA team’s outdoor fan zone, after a thunderstorm rolled into the city Saturday evening.

Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference final between the Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks saw fans lining up to pack the space on the west side of Scotiabank Arena.

But a severe thunderstorm warning and heavy rain prompted Toronto police to post on Twitter just after 6 p.m. that they wouldn’t open Jurassic Park on schedule because of safety concerns.

That ban was lifted just before 7 p.m., after the rain let up. Toronto police tweeted that they had assessed the situation and decided it was safe to open the square.

By then, a long lineup of fans had snaked around Scotiabank Arena and past neighbouring Union Station in downtown Toronto.

Earlier in the day social media was abuzz with talk of organizing viewing parties, blowing off long-held plans to tune in the game, and finding ways to modify previously scheduled events to include their favourite team.

The Raptors currently lead the best-of-seven playoff series 3-2, and a win on Saturday night would vault the team into the NBA finals for the first time in franchise history.

Calgary native Braden Lunn is hoping his friend’s birthday festivities can turn into a Raptors victory party instead.

The 26-year-old software developer says he and his Ontario-born girlfriend will be the only Raptors fans at the party, held in honour of an avid Bucks booster.

Lunn says he intends to make sure the game is aired at the Seattle-based winery where the party is taking place, adding the drinks expected to flow would make the perfect celebratory touch.

“We’re going to roll it into a Raptors win,” he said.

But Lunn’s confidence is tempered by what happened the last time he and his girlfriend spent time with the birthday girl and her partner. The two couples got together to indulge their friendly rivalry during the first two games of the Raptors-Bucks series, both Toronto losses.

“I’m pretty superstitious, so I’m worried that now that I’m watching games with them again the Raptors are going to lose,” he said. “So we’ll see how that goes.”

Closer to the Raptors’ home base, fans were already laying plans to flock to Jurassic Park.

Others mused on Twitter about ways they could alter their previous engagements to accommodate what they hope will be a date with destiny.

“My daughter’s wedding is Saturday, do you think she would mind if I missed it?” quipped one Twitter user.

“Gonna be streaming Raptors game while DJing Saturday’s wedding,” wrote another.

Others are getting ready for the game by placing bets on the prospective antics of Drake, the Toronto rapper who’s become a vocal and polarizing ambassador for his home team.

SportsBetting.ag began taking bets on Friday over the Drake-related shenanigans that could unfold during Game 6.

Possible options included whether Drake touches Raptors head coach Nick Nurse like he did in Game 4, and whether Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo will speak to Drake.

Other wagers on offer include: Will Drake step onto the court? Will the NBA publicly warn Drake regarding his on-court behaviour? Will Drake be removed from Game 6 by security?

Michelle McQuigge and Alanna Rizza, The Canadian Press


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Chief military judge’s court martial in limbo after deputy recuses himself

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OTTAWA — The court martial for Canada’s chief military judge is in limbo after the judge overseeing the trial, who happens to be deputy to the accused, agreed not to hear the case over conflict-of-interest concerns.

Lt.-Col. Louis-Vincent d’Auteuil also outlined the reasons why he felt the military’s other three sitting judges would not be able to preside over Col. Mario Dutil’s trial in an impartial manner.

That has left the fate of Dutil’s court martial, seen by some as a critical test for the military-justice system, up in the air.

Dutil was charged with eight counts in relation to allegations he had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate and knowingly signed a travel claim for $927.60 that contained false information.

Four of the charges were dropped at the start of the court martial last week, where Dutil’s lawyer challenged d’Auteuil’s impartiality and asked the presiding judge to recuse himself. A publication ban on details of that portion of the hearing has since been lifted.

In agreeing to the request, d’Auteuil said it was reasonable to believe he would be biased because of his relationship to several witnesses — which he believed also applied to other military judges.

The Canadian Press

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Lighthizer agrees to do whatever it takes to get new NAFTA passed

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OTTAWA — U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer says he will work with Democrats to do whatever it takes to ratify the new North American free trade deal.

Lighthizer made the pledge in testimony today before the U.S. Senate finance committee as part of the Trump administration’s push to get the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement ratified by a divided Congress.

Lighthizer’s appearance on Capitol Hill comes two days before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets President Donald Trump at the White House to give impetus towards ratifying the deal.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the committee, says the new deal has “weak enforcement” provisions on raising labour standards in Mexico that he and his party want to fix.

Lighthizer says USMCA has stronger enforcement provisions than the old North American Free Trade Agreement, including improved labour rights in Mexico, but he’s open to making it stronger.

Lighthizer says he has had good discussions with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and suggests that getting a ratification bill introduced in the lower house of Congress — a necessary first step towards U.S. ratification of the pact — might be weeks away.

The Canadian Press

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