BEHIND THE CRIMES: Three daughters left without a mom, a family without closure

This would have been a big year for Deidra Ann Smith. The St. Catharines woman and fiercely proud mom would have watched her oldest daughter graduate high school and her middle daughter take her first steps toward independence by getting her G1 driver’s licence. For a young woman who loved building blanket forts at home with her daughters when they were kids, these would have been huge moments for the family. But instead, Smith missed them all. A few days into 2018, a year Smith thought was going to be a turning point for her, she and her boyfriend, Ghislain (Justin) Robichaud, were killed and three years later her family is still fighting for justice. “She’d be bouncing around on a cloud about her oldest graduating this year,” said Tammy Hulme, one of three older sisters to Smith who have maintained a fight they call Justice for Deidra. While sentencing for those responsible for the deaths is underway, the family has been thoroughly disappointed with the process so far. “Bottom line is there’s no closure for the three girls,” said Hulme. “It’s not even just the murder, it’s what they did after,” added Tasha Davidson, another sister of Smith’s. Parts of 2017 hadn’t been easy for Smith, her sisters say. Drug culture had brought struggles to the young woman’s life. But late in the year she met someone, Robichaud, and Smith’s sisters said there was hope and optimism every time they talked o […]

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Hold health-care workers, teachers to the same vaccination standard as your own MPPs, Del Duca tells Doug Ford

Premier Doug Ford should apply the same standard to unvaccinated health-care and education workers as he did to one of his own MPPs, who was booted from the Progressive Conservative caucus for refusing to get a COVID-19 shot, says Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca. Del Duca and New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath used to turn up the pressure on Ford to toughen for hospital, long-term-care and school workers. Any of those workers who refuse to be vaccinated by Sept. 7 will be required to undergo regular COVID-19 testing. Opposition parties have said that alternative is not strict enough, given the risks of transmitting infections to patients and pupils. “We need him, Ontario families need him, to show the same kind of urgency that he did for his own caucus,” Del Duca said Friday. “Let’s protect our kids … in particular, those who are vulnerable, those below the age of 12 who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine,” added the former cabinet minister, who has a daughter who is too young to be vaccinated. With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Ontario, better protections are the best bet for keeping schools open, Del Duca said. The province reported 650 new infections Friday, the highest daily number in more than two months. The seven-day average of new cases reached 518, up about one-third in the last week and more than double the 214 reported two weeks ago. Nicholls defied a deadline of 5 p.m. Thursday to get vaccinated, saying it was a “p […]

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Dr. David Fisman resigns from Ontario’s COVID-19 advisory panel

Ontario’s science table is promising new modelling next week after an outspoken member quit as he alleged “grim” projections on the pandemic’s trajectory are being withheld for political reasons. The science table — a volunteer body of doctors, epidemiologists and other experts advising Premier — flatly denied the accusation, saying the modelling work is not complete and that to release it prematurely would not be “rigorous science.” But the resignation by University of Toronto epidemiologist Dr. David Fisman heightened tensions for parents, students and teachers as the highly contagious Delta variant propels the number of new COVID-19 infections to daily levels six times higher than they were a year ago — and just two weeks before in-class learning resumes Fisman, a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health who is known for pointed social media jabs at the government, on Monday morning. He called for “a public health system that is arm’s length from politics.” “I do not wish to remain in this uncomfortable position, where I must choose between placid relations with colleagues on the one hand, and the necessity of speaking truth during a public health crisis on the other,” Fisman wrote in the letter dated Friday. Over the weekend, he tweeted, “the Ontario science table has important modelling work that projects a grim fall … I don’t understand why they’re not […]

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Want to avoid the polling station? This is how you vote by mail

Here’s how you can vote by mail in the upcoming federal election. Voting by mail is called ‘special ballot.’ Voting by special ballot is different than voting on election day or at advance polls. You use the special ballot process when you vote: by mail, at any Elections Canada office across Canada, in a hospital, in a correctional institution, as a member of the Canadian Forces voting at a military poll.  An increase in mail-in voting is expected this year, given the COVID-19 pandemic.  Canada’s federal election is scheduled to take place Sept. 20. To , you must apply in advance. Your application must be received at Elections Canada by 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 14.  Once your application is accepted, you will be given a special-ballot voting kit. This kit includes: • A special ballot. • Two envelopes (they keep your vote secret). • Instructions on how to mark and mail in your special ballot. Your completed special ballot must arrive at Elections Canada by the election day deadline (Monday, Sept. 20), or it will not be counted. Once your application to vote by special ballot has been accepted, this is the only way you can vote. You cannot change your mind and vote at advance polls or on election day. You can get a special ballot application form from the Elections Canada website, by calling , at any Elections Canada office or at any Canadian Embassy, high commission or consulate. What if I’m homeless? Eligib […]

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Superior Propane fire in Barrie ruled ‘accidental:’ OFM

The massive fire at Superior Propane on July 30 has been ruled ‘accidental,’ said Aman Kainth, spokesperson for the Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM).  “The fire will be ruled accidental, as the actual source of the leak is not known. Due to the damage caused by the fire and explosions, it is difficult to narrow down,” Kainth said in an email. The damage estimate is approximately $1 million, he said.  Asked if a propane leak caused the fire, Kainth said: “That is what is currently under investigation.” Kainth did not share further information. Emergency crews were called to the scene at 789 Bayview Dr. around 2 p.m. on July 30, arriving to find the facility in flames. Video captured by a passerby showed the facility engulfed, and the sounds of explosions could be heard. Due to the potential for explosions, emergency crews evacuated a one kilometre radius around the site. By 3 p.m., Barrie Fire had the fire under control.  Barrie Fire and Emergency Service’s assistant deputy chief of fire prevention and public education Carrie Clark said there is a pre-set plan to address a fire at a propane facility, starting with on-site employees who initiate an emergency plan in the event one happens. Clark said that in this case, Superior employees undertook that plan, called 911, and the site was evacuated without any injuries. – With files from Ian Adams. 

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