Local Journalism Initiative
Integrity commissioner’s exoneration of Patrick Brown’s hockey excursions riddled with inconsistencies
Over the summer, Rebel News aired a video of Mayor Patrick Brown at an indoor ice rink at Brampton’s Earnscliffe Recreation Centre without a mask on. The August 4 video shows Brown standing next to a hockey bag with his name on it. Rebel News reporter David Menzies was there with a cameraman after someone tipped off the outlet about Brown’s weekly attendance at the arena to play hockey with his friends while the general public was not allowed to play under pandemic restrictions at the time. The camera eventually zooms in on Brown and Menzies is seen in the video asking the mayor, standing right next to the bag with his name on it filled with equipment, if he was there to play a game. Brown appears surprised and slightly frazzled before saying he was only there to check on the facility. Brown claimed the hockey bag filled with equipment, with his name on it, was not his. The video and subsequent ones taken by Rebel News in the following weeks showing Brown at the arena to play hockey went viral, with hundreds of thousands of views. On YouTube and other social media Brown was widely criticized for playing hockey with friends while children and others were not allowed to do the same. Previously, the mayor had repeatedly taken to social media asking residents to socially distance and respect directives to avoid situations where viral transmission in the community could occur. Rebel News, through lawyer Aaron Rosenberg, filed a complaint to Muneeza Sheikh, Brampton’s integrity commissioner, against Brown’s actions. It states Brown “may have violated” numerous rules in the City’s Code of Conduct, including number 4 (use of city property) rule 7 (improper use of influence) rule 15 (discreditable conduct) and rule 18 (failure to follow council policies and procedures). The complaint also suggests Brown might have violated the City’s mandatory face covering bylaw, provincial reopening guidelines, and that he might have been involved in altering rules outlining the use of City facilities by the public on the City’s website, days after he was caught on video by Rebel News. Sheikh ruled that Brown did not violate any aspects of the Code of Conduct she was allowed to consider. She was unable to investigate whether Brown violated provincial restrictions or Brampton’s mask bylaw because those are not part of her jurisdiction. She states her mandate is to oversee issues applying to the Code of Conduct, City bylaws, and the procedures that cover the ethical conduct of council members. Examining if a member of council did something illegal or breached a City bylaw that doesn’t relate to the Code of Conduct is not under her purview, she writes in her report. “I conclude that I was expected to infer that if Mayor Brown had violated the Mask Bylaw, the Emergency Orders, and/or had ordered the website to be altered, he was also guilty of violating the above Rules of the Code.” It’s unclear why she excluded the application of rules 7 and 15 of the Code of Conduct, which prevent council members from using undue influence and from behaving in a discreditable way. The Province’s framework showed indoor recreational activities were limited during Stage 2 and were reserved for amateur or professional athletes. Scrimmage games were not allowed. “Indoor recreational activities are not permitted except for indoor driving ranges and rod and gun clubs,” the framework said. Despite this, Brown admitted he had been attending the arena since late June to play hockey. The video taken about six weeks later clearly captured a game being played. In her report, Sheikh implies it’s not her jurisdiction to investigate if the City opened arenas before the Province allowed certain types of use at the indoor facilities. What she could examine, for example, was if Brown abused his powers to open the arena for his own use. Given the complaint is focused on activities that happened on August 4, a time when the city was in Stage 3, she believes the City was allowing all residents to rent out arenas on that day for private use. But Brown admitted he had been using the facility with friends since June 24 when the city was still under Stage 2 restrictions. It’s unclear why Brown played games during Stage 2 when use of indoor facilities was extremely limited and ice rinks weren’t open for public use. Sheikh does not address this in her report. Sheikh also accepts Brown’s position that he wasn’t there to play hockey but just to drop in “to see his friends”. But that is not what he claimed in the video, which captures him saying he was there “just coming to check on our facility”. Moments earlier a player in full equipment is asked in the video where Brown is. “He hasn’t showed up yet,” the man tells Menzies, who then asks if the mayor plays in the game that’s going on. “He does,” the player says. But Sheikh, who says she viewed the Rebel News video, chose not to accept what was said in it, and instead accepted what Brown told her when he was interviewed for her probe. If Brown was there to play a game, he would have showed up before the group’s time on the ice started, the report states. The bag with his name on it was being borrowed by a friend, Brown claimed, a statement Sheikh states she confirmed with that friend. However, this is not what Brown said at the time, when he claimed he must have gifted the bag to someone as he frequently receives hockey bags. This did not make sense, as the name card on the bag was removable, inserted into a plastic slip, and it was unclear why someone would keep Brown’s removable name card. Despite the key piece of evidence, Sheikh does not include the name of this individual in the report and there is no explanation for why the hockey bag sitting next to Brown in the video is completely full with equipment, while all the other players are already on the ice playing. There is no explanation by Sheikh as to why the friend would have left a full bag of equipment with Brown’s name on it, sitting next to the ice, while the others were already playing. Nowhere in Sheikh’s report does it state Brown was there to check on the facility, as he told Menzies in the video. She also does not mention the name of the staffer who accompanied Brown and drove him to the arena that day, and it does not appear he was interviewed, despite being a key witness. The only part of the complaint Brown agrees with is that he wasn’t wearing a mask while inside the facility on August 4. The director of enforcement and bylaw services claimed at the time that Brown didn’t need to wear a mask if a facility is rented for private purposes, and Sheikh accepts this claim in her report. Examining the City’s mask by-law and its amendments, The Pointer was unable to determine how this was the case. Bylaw 135-2020 states masks must be worn in all public establishments including “indoor community, sports and recreational facilities, and clubhouses”. Someone engaged in athletic or fitness activities doesn’t have to wear a mask, as long as their activity is within the Emergency Orders. There is no mention of private gatherings. In Sheikh’s report, Morrison states if Brown was in the building on August 4 and was a participant, he did not have to wear a mask. Brown reiterated many times in Sheikh’s report he was not there to play that day. It’s unclear why Sheikh accepted this but also used Morrison’s mask justification that only applies to “participants”. Section 12 (7) of the bylaw also stipulates employees of a municipality don’t have to wear a mask in an area not for public access. Morrison confirmed this in Sheikh’s report, noting “if Mayor Brown was not there as a participant but as an employee or agent of the City of Brampton, Mayor Brown was not required to wear a mask.” In no point throughout Sheikh’s investigation does Brown state he was there as an employee. He stated he “dropped in to see his friends before returning to his next scheduled event.” On August 8, the day Rebel Media published the video of Brown, the City’s website stated the following regarding regulations at facilities: “arenas are open for use by affiliates/major user groups for figure skating and ice hockey training and modified game play.” After the video quickly went viral on the 8th, which was a Saturday, the wording on the webpage was changed a day later, on a Sunday. The updated webpage stated, “City of Brampton Recreation Centers (sic) and indoor facilities are not open for walk-in public use for the safety of the community and to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Arenas are open for use for figure skating and ice hockey training/modified gameplay.” The complaint included the apparent cover-up through a changing of the stated rules that would excuse Brown’s use, citing it as a possible abuse of power. Sheikh called this evidence of having the website changed to cover Brown’s actions “circumstantial”. At the time, a City spokesperson told The Pointer the City regularly updates its website to mirror any changes to City amenities. The change to the website was made by someone on a Sunday, a day after the video was released. The complaint does not pin the alteration of the webpage to fit Brown’s excuse to anyone specifically. Brown said he didn’t ask for the website to be changed this way, a statement Sheikh accepted. Sheikh noted she was unable to examine if Brown broke any of the City’s rules in its Code of Conduct because the complainant didn’t provide “reasonable and probable grounds” on how Brown’s behaviour was a violation of the code. “It is not the Integrity Commissioner’s responsibility to attempt to construct a viable complaint when provided with minimal details and insinuated violations of the Code… The Complaint’s ambiguities and deficiencies inevitably affected my decision.” Sheikh suggested the inference of the complaint was “if skating in public arenas was not permitted on August 4, the only reason Mayor Brown could have done so was if he had abused his position to obtain ice time” or “improperly exercised his influence on city officials.” Sheikh does believe it would have been best for Brown to wear a mask while in the arena. “It would have been a small thing to model such socially conscious behaviour to his friends and acquaintances, and any city staff who may have been present.” While he didn’t apply the “exemplary” standards members are instructed to under the Code of Conduct, she doesn’t believe not showing “exemplary” behaviour breaks any rule. She did not apply the Code’s prohibition of discreditable behaviour in her findings, despite all the evidence that Brown changed his story, that he was at the arena to play hockey, despite his claims, and that he violated provincial rules that were in place. The report fails to address Sheikh’s previous ties with Brown and if this represents a conflict of interest. Sheikh’s husband’s company was paid to do work for the Ontario PCs when Brown was the party leader and she publicly came out in Brown’s defence when he faced allegations of sexual misconduct that led to his downfall from provincial politics (Brown denies the allegations). It’s unclear how Sheikh, who has no experience in municipal law or as an integrity commissioner, got the job shortly after Brown became mayor. Duff Conacher, a legal scholar and director with Democracy Watch who is an expert in government accountability, was adamant that Sheikh’s ties to Brown taint her credibility as Brampton’s integrity commissioner. “An integrity commissioner is essentially a judge for members of council on ethics issues and cannot have even the appearance of bias. And her relationship with Patrick Brown crosses the line, and as a result she will have to step aside and let someone else be the decision maker if there’s any complaints filed about him,” Conacher told CBC News after she was hired. Brampton’s previous integrity commissioner, Guy Giorno, resigned in the weeks after Brown’s election stating that because the two knew each other and had worked together in the past, the connection could be perceived as a conflict. Sheikh’s report was not discussed at Wednesday’s council meeting. Council voted to discuss matters relating to the integrity commissioner at a council date next month when she would be present to answer any questions. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @nida_zafar Tel: 416 890-7643 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Nida Zafar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
New species of crested dinosaur identified in Mexico
A team of palaeontologists in Mexico have identified a new species of dinosaur after finding its 72 million-year-old fossilized remains almost a decade ago, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said on Thursday.
The new species, named Tlatolophus galorum, was identified as a crested dinosaur after 80% of its skull was recovered, allowing experts to compare it to other dinosaurs of that type, INAH said.
The investigation, which also included specialists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, began in 2013 with the discovery of an articulated tail in the north-central Mexican state of Coahuila, where other discoveries have been made.
“Once we recovered the tail, we continued digging below where it was located. The surprise was that we began to find bones such as the femur, the scapula and other elements,” said Alejandro Ramírez, a scientist involved in the discovery.
Later, the scientists were able to collect, clean and analyze other bone fragments from the front part of the dinosaur’s body.
The palaeontologists had in their possession the crest of the dinosaur, which was 1.32 meters long, as well as other parts of the skull: lower and upper jaws, palate and even a part known as the neurocranium, where the brain was housed, INAH said.
The Mexican anthropology body also explained the meaning of the name – Tlatolophus galorum – for the new species of dinosaur.
Tlatolophus is a mixture of two words, putting together a term from the indigenous Mexican language of Nahuatl that means “word” with the Greek term meaning “crest”. Galorum refers to the people linked to the research, INAH said.
(Reporting by Abraham Gonzalez; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)
Alberta family searches for answers in teen's sudden death after COVID exposure, negative tests – CBC.ca
A southern Alberta mother and father are grappling with the sudden, unexplained death of their 17-year-old daughter, and with few answers, they’re left wondering if she could be the province’s youngest victim of COVID-19.
Sarah Strate — a healthy, active Grade 12 student at Magrath High School who loved singing, dancing and being outdoors — died on Monday, less than a week after being notified she’d been exposed to COVID-19.
While two tests came back negative, her parents say other signs point to the coronavirus, and they’re waiting for more answers.
“It was so fast. It’s all still such a shock,” said Sarah’s mother, Kristine Strate. “She never even coughed. She had a sore throat and her ears were sore for a while, and [she had] swollen neck glands.”
Kristine said Sarah developed mild symptoms shortly after her older sister — who later tested positive for COVID-19 — visited from Lethbridge, one of Alberta’s current hot spots for the virus.
The family went into isolation at their home in Magrath on Tuesday, April 20. They were swabbed the next day and the results were negative.
‘Everything went south, super-fast’
By Friday night, Sarah had developed fever and chills. On Saturday, she started vomiting and Kristine, a public health nurse, tried to keep her hydrated.
“She woke up feeling a bit more off on Monday morning,” Kristine said. “And everything went south, super-fast.”
Sarah had grown very weak and her parents decided to call 911 when she appeared to become delirious.
“She had her blanket on and I was talking to her and, in an instant, she was unresponsive,” said Kristine, who immediately started performing CPR on her daughter.
When paramedics arrived 20 minutes later, they were able to restore a heartbeat and rushed Sarah to hospital in Lethbridge, where she died.
“I thought there was hope once we got her heart rate back. I really did,” recalled Sarah’s father, Ron.
“He was praying for a miracle, and sometimes miracles don’t come,” said Kristine.
Searching for answers
At the hospital, the family was told Sarah’s lungs were severely infected and that she may have ended up with blood clots in both her heart and lungs, a condition that can be a complication of COVID-19.
But a second test at the hospital came back negative for COVID-19.
“There really is no other answer,” Ron said. “When a healthy 17-year-old girl, who was sitting up in her bed and was able to talk, and within 10 minutes is unconscious on our floor — there was no reason [for it].”
The province currently has no record of any Albertans under the age of 20 who have died of COVID-19.
According to the Strate family, the medical examiner is running additional blood and tissue tests, in an effort to uncover the cause of Sarah’s death.
‘Unusual but not impossible’
University of Alberta infectious disease specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger, who was not involved in Sarah’s treatment, says it is conceivable that further testing could uncover evidence of a COVID-19 infection, despite two negative test results.
However, she hasn’t seen a similar case in Alberta.
“It would be unusual but not impossible because no test is perfect. We have had cases where an initial test is negative and then if you keep on thinking it’s COVID and you re-test, you then can find COVID,” she said.
According to Saxinger, the rate of false negatives is believed to be very low. But it can happen if there are problems with the testing or specimen collection.
She says people are more likely to test positive after symptoms develop.
“The best sensitivity of the test is around day four or five of having symptoms,” she said. “So you can miss things if you test very, very early. And with new development of symptoms, it’s always a good time to re-test because then the likelihood of getting a positive test is a little higher. But again, no test is perfect.”
Sarah deteriorated so quickly — dying five days after she first developed symptoms — she didn’t live long enough to make it to her follow-up COVID-19 test. Instead, it was done at the hospital.
‘An amazing kid’
The Strate family now faces an agonizing wait for answers — one that will likely take months — about what caused Sarah’s death.
But Ron, who teaches at the school where Sarah attended Grade 12, wants his daughter to be remembered for the life she lived, not her death.
Sarah was one of five children. Ron says she was strong, active and vibrant and had plans to become a massage therapist after graduating from high school.
She played several sports and loved to sing and dance as part of a show choir. She was a leader in the school’s suicide prevention group and would stand up for other students who were facing bullying.
“She’s one of the leaders in our Hope Squad … which goes out and helps kids to not be scared,” he father said.
“She’s an amazing kid.”
Sarah would often spend hours helping struggling classmates, and her parents hope her kindness is not forgotten.
“She’d done so many good things. Honestly, I’ve got so many messages from parents saying, ‘You have no idea how much your daughter helped our kid,'” said Ron.
“This 17-year-old girl probably lived more of a life in 17 years than most adults will live in their whole lives. She was so special. I love her so much.”
China launches key module of space station planned for 2022
BEIJING (Reuters) -China launched an unmanned module on Thursday containing what will become living quarters for three crew on a permanent space station that it plans to complete by the end of 2022, state media reported.
The module, named “Tianhe”, or “Harmony of the Heavens”, was launched on the Long March 5B, China’s largest carrier rocket, at 11:23 a.m. (0323 GMT) from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan.
Tianhe is one of three main components of what would be China’s first self-developed space station, rivalling the only other station in service – the International Space Station (ISS).
The ISS is backed by the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. China was barred from participating by the United States.
“(Tianhe) is an important pilot project in the building of a powerful nation in both technology and in space,” state media quoted President Xi Jinping as saying in a congratulatory speech.
Tianhe forms the main living quarters for three crew members in the Chinese space station, which will have a life span of at least 10 years.
The Tianhe launch was the first of 11 missions needed to complete the space station, which will orbit Earth at an altitude of 340 to 450 km (211-280 miles).
In the later missions, China will launch the two other core modules, four manned spacecraft and four cargo spacecraft.
Work on the space station programme began a decade ago with the launch of a space lab Tiangong-1 in 2011, and later, Tiangong-2 in 2016.
Both helped China test the programme’s space rendezvous and docking capabilities.
China aims to become a major space power by 2030. It has ramped up its space programme with visits to the moon, the launch of an uncrewed probe to Mars and the construction of its own space station.
In contrast, the fate of the ageing ISS – in orbit for more than two decades – remains uncertain.
The project is set to expire in 2024, barring funding from its partners. Russia said this month that it would quit the project from 2025.
Russia is deepening ties with China in space as tensions with Washington rise.
Moscow has slammed the U.S.-led Artemis moon exploration programme and instead chosen to join Beijing in setting up a lunar research outpost in the coming years.
(Reporting by Ryan Woo and Liangping Gao; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Simon Cameron-Moore and Lincoln Feast.)
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