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From the Raptors to Doug Ford: Canadiana references abound at Rolling Stones

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ORO MEDONTE, Ont. — For a bunch of British chaps, the Rolling Stones sure know a lot about Canada, and Mick Jagger didn’t hesitate to flaunt his wisdom at their Canada Day weekend concert in Ontario.

The frontman for the iconic rock band doled out handfuls of Canadiana on Saturday, pausing to reference everything from the Toronto Raptors’ historic NBA championship win to the “buck a beer” policy of Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

Standing before a crowd of roughly 70,000 concertgoers, it didn’t take long before Jagger wished a simple “Happy Canada Day” to the receptive crowd, who didn’t seem to mind it was technically two days early.

The concert at Burl’s Creek Event Grounds in Oro-Medonte, Ont., about 30 kilometres north of Barrie, was the only Canadian date on their North American tour. And for many people in attendance, it seemed a miracle that Jagger was even on stage, given his recent heart surgery.

None of that was referenced in the 75-year-old singer’s tireless performance, which included swapping out one glittery jacket for another before eventually donning a hat and T-shirt emblazoned with the band’s famous tongue logo.

Armed with his flamboyant swagger, Jagger zig-zagged across the massive stage — and strutted down the catwalk — for two hours, playing 20 of the band’s greatest hits.

Popular classics “Paint It Black,” “Gimme Shelter,” and “Honky Tonk Woman,” were balanced with a selection of fan favourites, including “Before They Make Me Run,” a song Keith Richards wrote in response to his 1977 arrest for heroin possession in Toronto.

And beneath four towering digital screens, Jagger played right into the audience’s hand at nearly every turn.

“What about those Raptors?” he shouted, as the “We the North” logo flashed overhead. He poked a bit of fun at Toronto Mayor John Tory’s famous black-and-gold Raptors jacket, which he’s enthusiastically worn around town for weeks.

“He’s still wearing his dirty blazer,” the singer said to Tory, who was in the audience.

Jagger later introduced the band’s drummer Charlie Watts as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ mascot, seemingly for no particular reason.

He also took a jab at Ford’s “buck a beer” election platform, telling the crowd at one point that “for the next 15 minutes it’s a buck-a-beer — courtesy of Doug Ford.”

The comment elicited some boos in parts of the crowd, and no apparent discounts at the beer tents.

But the Stones’ fans didn’t seem to mind, so busy caught in a moment that would be a little piece of history, and perhaps even a farewell.

Earlier this year, Jagger underwent emergency heart surgery, putting the single Canadian date on hold, and raising questions about whether the British rockers would ever tour again. When the singer got the all clear, the date was back on.

“The heath scare was kind of an indication this might actually be the last one,” said Marc Fielding, who joined about 30 of his friends on a road trip from Toronto.

“They’re such an iconic band, so you don’t want to risk them maybe not coming back.”

For others in attendance, seeing the Stones live came with an extra significance.

Jackie Morin’s father, a longtime fan, died shortly after the Stones most recently played Toronto. So this night was an especially poignant moment.

“This is a big deal,” she said. “Never will you ever see a concert like this — it’s history.”

Dino Bruno landed tickets when his sister-in-law surprised him. He last saw the Stones in the mid-1970s at Maple Leaf Gardens where he said the local news captured him playing Frisbee with police in the street.

“The Stones were the bad boys of rock,” he said. “I wanted to be here because I want to die happy.”

Jayne Sidey first caught the Stones at a Canadian National Institute for the Blind benefit concert over 40 years ago in Oshawa, Ont. It was part of a court-ordered performance for Richards ‘after he was arrested for heroin possession.

She said she was forever changed by Jagger and his buddies and has gone to at least 20 Stones concerts since.

“I saw them three times in the U.K. last year, and we’re booked for two shows on this tour,” she said. “The 2013 show in Toronto was so good we all jumped in a car to Montreal and saw them there.”

Several homegrown acts performed before the Stones took the stage, including Saskatoon-formed One Bad Son, the Glorious Sons from Kingston, Ont., Toronto four-piece the Beaches, and longtime favourites Sloan.

Toronto cover band Dwayne Gretzky played a late-night show of other rock and pop classics, ranging from Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

The day-long festival marked the third concert on the Rolling Stones tour, which kicked off with two dates in Chicago a week ago.

After the Stones finished their set, they offered a hint of the resilience that’s kept them going for more than half a century.

“See you soon,” the digital screens read, alongside the band’s trademark tongue logo.

 

—Follow @dfriend on Twitter.

David Friend, The Canadian Press



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International

People planning to attend AIDS conference in Montreal still struggling to get visas

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MONTREAL — International AIDS organizations say people from Africa, South America and Asia who are planning to attend a major AIDS conference in Montreal are still struggling to get visas from the Canadian government.

The groups say a growing number of activists — including some who were scheduled to speak at the conference which begins at the end of the month — are having their visa applications denied, often on the grounds that the Canadian government doesn’t believe they’ll return home after the event.

Tinashe Rufurwadzo, the director of programs, management and governance at Y+ Global, an international organization of HIV+ youth, said the chair of his organization’s board and another of its employees, who are based in Malawi and Kenya, are among the young activists who have been denied visas to attend the conference.

He said both have travelled extensively to speak at AIDS-related events.

“Personally, I’m sick and tired of seeing young people from Africa mostly portrayed on PowerPoint slides as pictures, as photos on banners, as footnotes on case studies. Why can we not have them at conferences to share their lived experiences of what exactly is happening?” he said in an interview Friday.

Rufurwadzo said representatives of populations most at risk of HIV — such as people who inject drugs, transgender women, sex workers and gay men — need to be able to participate, as do adolescent girls, who are increasingly affected by HIV.

If people from the most affected countries aren’t able to attend, he said he doesn’t know how realistic the learning at the conference will be.

While those whose applications are denied will be able to attend the conference virtually, Rufurwadzo said that won’t allow the same level of participation. He also said young people, especially those from rural areas, may not have consistent access to the internet.

Last week, almost 250 organizations from around the world sent a joint letter to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser calling on him to take action to ensure participants can attend the International AIDS conference.

Aidan Strickland, a spokesman for Fraser, said in response to earlier questions from The Canadian Press that the department has been working closely with event organizers and that applications “have been assessed in a timely manner.”

“While we cannot comment on the admissibility of any particular individual, we can say that, in general, all visitors to Canada must meet the requirements for temporary residence in Canada, as set out in Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,” Strickland said in an email. “All applications from around the world are assessed equally against the same criteria.”

Javier Bellocq, an Argentine who runs a community journalism project called the Key Correspondent Team which focuses on people living with HIV and high-risk groups, said from the stories he’s heard, it seems like each Canadian consulate is applying different rules.

In some places, he said, applicants have been required to pay for medical examinations as part of the visa process.

“The conference, in theory, arranged with the Canadian government that there will not be medical examinations, but there are, there are many medical examinations.”

Of a group of 40 Argentines, including Bellocq, who are planning to participate in pre-conference activities, only two have received visas so far, he said.

Tumie Komanyane, who runs programs for international NGO Frontline AIDS in South Africa, said groups she works with were planning to help more than a dozen young people attend the conference, but decided not to even bother applying for 10 visas after the first four applications were rejected.

Komanyane said she’s aware of other young people from the region, including some who had scholarships to attend the conference funded by the Canadian government, who have had their visa applications denied.

“It’s incoherent,” she said in an interview Saturday. “With the strides that Africa is making in the HIV field, all the lessons and evidence that could be coming from the beneficiaries directly is going to be lost.”

While she works with young people, she said, she doesn’t want to speak for them.

“They have agency, they have voice, and they shouldn’t be represented by people like me. They should be able to go and share what this work means for them,” she said.

Bellocq said he’s not worried about himself, noting the Argentine passport is relatively powerful and he’s a professional who has been travelling internationally form more than 30 years. But he worries about people  from countries with less passport privilege and members of marginalized groups who are at high risk of HIV.

With pre-conference events starting in just over three weeks, he said, “time is not on our side.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2022.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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Sports

Blue Jays deal with 2 losses to Rays, off-field personal matters

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TORONTO — Back-to-back losses in a doubleheader paled in comparison to off-field concerns for the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.

Francisco Mejia had a two-run homer in the second inning and a solo shot in the fifth to lead Tampa Bay to an 11-5 rout of the Blue Jays hours after Isaac Paredes and Wander Franco each had a solo home run as the Rays won the first game 6-2.

Toronto first base coach Mark Budzinski left the second game early, with manager Charlie Montoyo repeatedly leaving the dugout for the clubhouse during the game. Bench coach John Schneider filled in as manager during Montoyo’s brief absences.

The Blue Jays closed their clubhouse after the game and cancelled their post-game media availabilities.

“As many of you are aware, Mark Budzinski left early in the game tonight,” read a statement from the team. “He is dealing with a personal matter and Charlie and our coaches are with him.

“Out of consideration for Bud, we ask that you please respect his privacy at this time. Thank you.”

The Blue Jays also had a scary moment in the second inning of the first game when starting pitcher Kevin Gausman took a sharply hit ball off of his right ankle.

He lay prone on the turf in front of the mound as catcher Gabriel Moreno completed the play. After the out trainers came to examine Gausman on the field before helping him to the clubhouse.

His X-rays came back negative and Montoyo said between the games that the pitcher had a contusion.

“Just like everybody else, I was hoping that it wasn’t anything worse than a contusion and that’s what had happened and that’s good news,” said Montoyo, who said Gausman would be considered day-to-day.

Paredes added a three-run homer and an RBI double in the late game as Tampa (42-36) earned back-to-back wins.

Starter Drew Rasmussen allowed two runs — one earned — on five hits and two walks over 4 2/3 innings. Reliever Dusten Knight allowed three runs over 2 1/3 innings and Ralph Garza Jr. earned the win, pitching scoreless ball the rest of the way.

Bradley Zimmer had a two-run homer for Toronto (44-35) and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. added a solo bomb.

Thomas Hatch (0-1) coughed up 10 runs on 12 hits and two walks in 4 2/3 innings. Matt Gage, Sergio Romo, Tim Mayza and Adam Cimber came on in relief, with Gage allowing a run.

Tampa had lost four straight heading into Saturday’s doubleheader, including losses in Toronto on Thursday and Friday.

“That was an exciting day. We had to find a way to bounce back, we did,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “It kind of all came together for us through the course of a long day.

“It’s tough to win both games of a doubleheader, so really proud and impressed with the guys.”

EXTRA HELP — Casey Lawrence was recalled from triple-A as the 27th man for both games of the doubleheader. He pitched 5 2/3 innings of relief in Saturday’s first game, allowing six runs to take the loss. Relief pitcher Max Castillo was sent down to triple-A between games to make space for Hatch on Toronto’s roster.

PIRATES TRADE — The Blue Jays announced a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates for left-handed pitcher Anthony Banda during the first game of the doubleheader. Toronto sent cash considerations to Pittsburgh in return. Righty Julian Merryweather was transferred to the 60-day injured list.

UP NEXT — Ross Stripling (4-2) will start for Toronto in the finale of the rare five-game series against Tampa Bay. Shane Baz (0-1) will take the mound for the Rays.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2022.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

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