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‘Words cannot describe our grief’: Two police officers killed in Ontario shooting

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INNISFIL, Ont. — An officer who worked with outreach and mental health teams and a veteran constable who was a trained crisis negotiator were identified Wednesday as the two police officers who died after a shooting in Innisfil, Ont. – an event that left residents of the quiet community in shock.

The South Simcoe Police Service said the officers had responded to a disturbance at a home in the town north of Toronto around 8 p.m. Tuesday when the shooting took place.

“Words cannot describe our grief,” acting police chief John Van Dyke said at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon. “This is a heartbreaking time for our police service, the families impacted, our emergency services personnel and our communities.”

Van Dyke identified the officers as Const. Devon Northrup, 33, and Const. Morgan Russell, 54.

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Northrup was a six-year member of the service and worked with the community mobilization and engagement unit. He also served as a member of the mental health crisis outreach team and the emergency response unit. He is survived by his partner, parents and many friends, police said.

Russell was with the force for 33 years. He was a trained crisis negotiator and was assigned to uniform patrol. He is survived by his wife and two teenage children, said Van Dyke, who grew emotional for a moment while describing the officer.

“This is personal for me. I went to police college with Morgan 33 years ago,” he said.

Ontario’s police watchdog, which is investigating, said the two officers were involved in a shooting with a 23-year-old man inside the home they were called to. The young man died at the home, the Special Investigations Unit said.

“There was an exchange of gunfire between two officers and the man,” said SIU spokeswoman Kristy Denette. “The investigation is ongoing.”

Denette said police were called to the home by family members at the residence and that the 23-year-old man lived there.

She said it’s believed he used a “rifle-type” gun, although she later said she could not confirm details of the weapon. The SIU later said the gun was an SKS semi-automatic rifle.

The SIU said it was not identifying the man since his family had not consented to the release of that information. His autopsy was set for Friday.

A source close to the investigation, who was not authorized to speak publicly, identified the man as Chris Doncaster.

Police said Northrup died at a local hospital while Russell died after being airlifted to a Toronto trauma centre in critical condition.

Yellow police tape cordoned off a portion of the street where the shooting took place. Several police vehicles could be seen in the area on Wednesday morning and a police helicopter was seen flying overhead.

John Ridge, who has lived in the area for 26 years, said he was heading to bed Tuesday night when he saw two police cars rush by his house with their lights on.

“Woke up this morning and two police officers were shot 10 doors from my house,” the 66-year-old said.

“I’m sickened by it. These guys go out and put their lives on the line for us every single day. And this is the kind of thanks they get?”

Ridge and other neighbours said an elderly couple who had an adult grandson lived in the house where the shooting took place.

“I had just met the grandfather, really nice guy,” Ridge said. “To have a police officer shot in your neighbourhood is just not acceptable.”

Cindy Le, who lives in a home across the street from where the shooting took place, said she had heard sirens on Tuesday night.

“It’s terrible,” she said of what had happened. “It’s sad. Really sad.”

Le, who has lived in the area for seven years, said the residential neighbourhood is typically a quiet, safe one. “I love the neighbourhood,” the 53-year-old said.

Archibald Torrance, who also lives in the area, said he was shocked by what had taken place.

“I don’t think it’s right,” the 82-year-old said. “These policemen are doing a job.”

The mayor of Innisfil said the community was more than devastated by the officers’ deaths.

“South Simcoe police are beloved in our communities. So well respected by everyone and well-loved,” said Lynn Dollin. “We’re just broken.”

Dollin said it would take a long time to process the community’s loss.

“They’re not just police officers, they’re friends,” she said, noting that she played in a golf league with Russell.

“This is not something that we are accustomed to here. It’s a safe place and this was a shock to all of us.”

Premier Doug Ford visited the South Simcoe police detachment in Innisfil, Ont., on Wednesday afternoon to show his support to the force members.

“It’s very sad. It’s senseless tragedy. My heart bleeds for his family, their families, I should say, the women and men that serve every single day,” Ford said.

“I come from a policing family and the sacrifices they make: They’re running into danger as everyone else is running out.”

Lana Heyd was among dozens of town residents who came to put flowers near the entrance of the police detachment.

“It’s just sad when two innocent people’s lives are taken trying to save everybody else, trying to look after our community. And this is their payback?” she said. “It’s brutal.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also sent his condolences. He said later Wednesday that the federal Liberal government was working to step up on gun control, noting a ban on assault weapons and a freeze on purchasing handguns among recent measures brought in.

The deaths of the two officers came a month after a Toronto police officer, Const. Andrew Hong, was killed on Sept. 12 while on break at a Tim Hortons in Mississauga, Ont.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 12, 2022.

 

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

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Immigration in Canada: Refugee's plea for housing answered – CTV News

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 In her past life Aziza Abu Sirdana has only known war, conflict, fear and isolation.

“If you are born in Gaza you don’t know what life is,” she told CTV National News.

The 22-year-old Palestinian refugee fled to Canada after she learned about her father and grandfather’s plans to hunt her down and kill her.

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She arrived in Canada on March 24, 2022 full of hope for a new start in life. Her struggles only continued on Canadian soil.

CTV National News first sat down with Abu Sirdana at the beginning of November, after she stabbed herself in the stomach with a knife just below the ribcage while in a meeting with federal government officials with Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). She said she took the dangerous step in a desperate plea to find safe housing.

For more than seven months Abu Sirdana has been stuck living in a refugee hotel west of Toronto. While staying there she, and other refugees, say they were segregated and degraded by staff working for a taxpayer-funded resettlement agency. Strangers would also arrive at the hotel and prey on Abu Sidana and others, while trying to lure them into the sex trade, she said.

Sitting on a park bench a day after being released from hospital, Abu Sirdana told CTV National News: “I put a knife in my body because no one cares. Seriously no one cares.”

But it turns out there are Canadians who do care. After the 22-year-old shared her story with CTV National News, a family reached out to refugee advocate Mona Elshayal.

“A very kind woman reached out to me who was very concerned because she has a daughter around the same age. She felt bad because she thought, what would happen if this was my daughter? She just wanted to do what she could to help her out,” shares Elshayal. 

Just last week, Abu Sirdana moved into a two-bedroom condo with the family’s daughter in Ottawa. All the young refugee says she ever wanted was a space where she felt safe. An apartment with her own bathroom and washroom. She now has that and a sense of humanity and self worth that she’s never experienced. 

 

She can’t help but smile when talking about her new surrogate mother. “She gave me a chance at life. She said I’m here for you, if you need anything call me, if you’re sick I’ll be here the next day. Can you imagine anyone being so kind?” 

Abu Sirdana’s new Canadian family have asked to remain anonymous, but the mother shares that she just wanted “to give Aziza a safe place to live, in our Canada, the Canada my daughter lives in. I want Aziza to achieve her dreams.” 

Abu Sirdana is quick to share that she’s Muslim, and the family who’ve welcomed her as one of her own is Jewish. An unthinkable act of kindness amid the conflict back home is now a reality here on this side of the world. 

Abu Sirdana said she previously couldn’t “imagine that there’s a Jewish family, that would say ‘welcome’ (and open their doors to a Muslim from Gaza) but this is Canada. This is life in Canada.

“Here in this country you have all these people from different places all living together. You can walk where you want, speak to who you want, be friends with who you want,” she said.

Elshayal, who helped facilitate the life-changing move, said: “my hope is that she feels she’s in a safe place, that she has a family, that she has people that care about her and that she has every opportunity as she should when coming to Canada.” 

Abu Sirdana had to put her university education on hold and now hopes to continue her studies, and her life.

“I feel reborn,” she said, adding that previously, “I didn’t know what love is, I didn’t know what life is.

Thanks to the generosity of one Canadian family she can now look forward to experiencing it.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, here are some resources that are available.

Canada Suicide Prevention Helpline (1-833-456-4566)

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (1 800 463-2338)

Crisis Services Canada (1-833-456-4566 or text 45645)

Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868)

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Conservatives are ‘fearmongering’ over assault-style gun ban: public safety minister

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OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino accuses the Conservatives of “whipping up fear” that the Liberal government is outlawing ordinary long guns and hunting rifles.

In an interview, Mendicino says the government only wants to reinforce a regulatory ban on assault-style firearms like the AR-15 by enshrining a definition in legislation, and it is prepared to work with MPs to get it right.

He insists the government has no intention whatsoever of going after everyday long guns and hunting rifles, calling the notion “Conservative fearmongering.”

In May 2020, the Liberal government announced a ban through order-in-council on over 1,500 models and variants of what it considers assault-style firearms, such as the AR-15 and the Ruger Mini-14.

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The Liberals recently proposed including an evergreen definition of a prohibited assault-style firearm in gun-control legislation being studied by a House of Commons committee.

The Conservatives claim the government’s amendment amounts to the most significant hunting rifle ban in the history of Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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Joly seeks reprimand of Russian ambassador as embassy tweets against LGBTQ community

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OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has asked her department to summon Russia’s ambassador over social media postings against LGBTQ people.

In recent days, Russia’s embassy in Ottawa has posted on Twitter and Telegram that the West is imposing on Russia’s family values, and arguing that families can only involve a man, a woman and children.

The embassy has posted images of a crossed-out rainbow flag and Orthodox icons of Adam and Eve.

The tweets came as Russia expanded a ban on exposing children to so-called homosexual propaganda, meaning authorities can now prosecute Russians for doing things they argue might entice adults to be gay or transgender.

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Joly’s office says the posts amount to “hateful propaganda” that must be called out and “an attack on the Canadian values of acceptance and tolerance.”

If Global Affairs Canada follows Joly’s request, it will be the third time the department has summoned ambassador Oleg Stepanov this year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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