January 26th, 2017


[PHOTO] Je me souviens, Papineau metro station, Montréal

Je me souviens (2)

Montréal's Papineau subway station is named after the nearby avenue Papineau which in turn is named after Joseph Papineau, an early politician known for his advocacy of the interests of the Canadiens under British rule. The murals in the station, by Jean Cartier and George Juhasz, all deal with the 1837 rebellion against British rule led by his son Louis-Joseph Papineau.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • blogTO notes that Uniqlo will be giving away free thermal clothing tomorrow.

  • James Bow shares his column about the importance of truth.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly shares with us her mid-winter walk.

  • Centauri Dreams reports about cometary water.

  • Dangerous Minds shares German cinema lobby cards from the 1960s.

  • Language Hat talks about dropping apostrophes.

  • Language Log reports about lexical searches on Google.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on the latest from Trump.

  • The NYRB Daily shares a review of an Iranian film on gender relations.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes the ongoing gas price protests in Mexico.

  • Spacing links to some articles about affordable housing around the world.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes Germany's abolition of a law forbidding insults to foreign heads of state.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests that stable Russian population figures cover up a wholesale collapse in the numbers of ethnic Russians, and looks at the shortages of skilled workers faced by defense industries.

[URBAN NOTE] "Vancouver, Toronto take different approaches to policing pot shops"

The Globe and Mail's hosts Mike Hager's report contrasting the willingness of Vancouver pot shops to report crime to the unwillingness of Toronto's, tracing this to the considerably more permissive police policies in Vancouver.

David Malmo-Levine has had numerous run-ins with Vancouver police in more than two decades fighting for the legalization of marijuana, the most intense being the time he says he was dragged by handcuffs while attempting to block a raid of a downtown cannabis seed store in the mid-1990s.

So, he said he was pleasantly surprised in May, 2015, when police returned several thousand dollars worth of bongs and cannabis products that had been stolen by a man who smashed a stolen minivan through the storefront of his illegal East Vancouver dispensary.

“It was the best they had ever treated me in my entire life of pot activism – in fact, they returned the pot and all the edibles, the hashish and everything [that was stolen],” said Mr. Malmo-Levine, who spent time in prison after losing a Supreme Court of Canada case stemming from being charged for running an underground cannabis vapour lounge more than 20 years ago.

[. . .]

Vancouver’s approach to regulating – not raiding – its 95 dispensaries stands in stark contrast to Toronto, Canada’s other largest market for these illegal stores, where police and politicians say an ongoing crackdown has become more urgent as these pot shops have become a magnet for violent thieves.

Earlier this week, Toronto police announced there had been 13 armed robberies of dispensaries in the past eight months – six of which were not reported by employees or owners of the businesses. Investigators said they believe additional robberies have gone unreported and that employees and operators of some of the targeted dispensaries have refused to answer questions or to hand over surveillance footage.

[URBAN NOTE] "Tenants seek heritage designation for 140-year-old house near U of T"

The Toronto Star's Sammy Hudes describes how the status of 15 Glen Morris Street, a home 140 years old, is currently being contested by the tenants who live there and are seeking heritage designation for the house and the owners whose repairs--if they can be called them--seem more a prelude to demolition for the apartment tower they say they want to build. Clarity is clearly needed.

Adam Wynne woke up Saturday to find his home shaking and was startled by what he saw.

“We look outside and there’s a crew that says ‘demolition,’ ” said Wynne, one of 12 tenants of the house near Harbord St. and Spadina Ave. “They were up on the roof, they were outside the window, the whole building was shaking. It was absolutely terrifying.”

Now when it rains or snows, he said, the inside of the house gets wet even though they’re still living there.

Located at 15 Glen Morris St., surrounded by University of Toronto buildings, Wynne is fighting to preserve the 140-year-old house as a relic of the city’s past.

The house is the oldest in the neighbourhood and has a unique architectural style, said Julie Mathien, co-president of the Huron-Sussex Residents’ Organization.

[URBAN NOTE] "Why does Toronto give more protection to trees than it does to buildings?"

Edward Keenan's recent column in the Toronto Star, drawing from the recent and most unexpected demolition of a historic building in Yonge and Eglinton, wonders why Toronto's protocols for protecting old buildings are weaker than those used to protect old trees.

If you want to remove a tree from your property in Toronto, you need to submit an application, which will then prompt a site visit from an arborist to examine the tree. Unless it is seriously sick or already dead, a sign will be posted on your property alerting your neighbours, so they may submit comments on the tree and its proposed removal over a period of two weeks. There are more bureaucratic twists and turns to it, but at the end of the process, you may need city council to hold a vote specifically debating the merits of removing or protecting your tree. It’s easy to mock this, the mayor and 44 councillors from across the city weighing in on the fate of a single Silver Maple in someone’s backyard. But clearly, protecting the tree canopy is considered important.

If, on the other hand, you want to remove a building — say, a 110-year-old Beaux Arts landmark bank from a main street in Toronto, you just get a pro-forma demolition permit and then get your crew working as fast as you can to rip the thing down. Think about what will replace it later, deal with the public’s complaints after it’s gone, just get rid of it before anyone has a chance to tell you not to. Because clearly, historic preservation is considered not so important in this city of constant rebuilding.

That was the apparent message, delivered again, this week, when the former Bank of Montreal at 2444 Yonge St. — a building under official review as a property of heritage interest and value for inclusion on the list of heritage properties protected from change and demolition by the city — was unceremoniously torn down on Saturday morning Jan 21. A demolition permit had been granted by the city three days before.

Now, getting a “demolition permit” might sound like a formidable obstacle, but it is actually more of a formality. The city has almost no grounds to deny a commercial building owner a tear-down license, and in fact must grant one within 10-30 days of receiving an application. The only way to deny a developer such permission is if the building is officially listed in the “Inventory of Heritage Properties,” and getting a building listed there takes a lot of time and effort, since the city lacks the staff to review applications on their merits in detail.

[URBAN NOTE] "Pot dispensaries demand to be licensed, city says it's not possible"

CBC News notes the official response of the City of Toronto that any sort of licensing system municipally has to wait for the legalization of marijuana sales by the federal government. I do acknowledge that the Toronto pot shops are in a bad position, but this is also one of their own making. Why are they selling a product if they can't do so legally and they choose to expose any number of people to the risk of being attacked by criminals?

A group representing pot dispensaries in Toronto is calling on the city to regulate their businesses, but city staff say that under current drug laws, "there is no authority for the city to implement a licensing regime" for the sale of pot products.

The Cannabis Friendly Business Association and the Toronto Dispensary Coalition said Thursday they are facing "unhelpful stigmatization" in the wake of a series of police raids targeted at the storefront operations in recent months.

The group contends that the raids have left their shops vulnerable to violent thefts because would-be thieves believe the stores' owners don't have the support of police.

"Violence begetting more violence. The better approach is for police to work collaboratively with dispensaries, and for the city to regulate dispensaries," Michael McLellan, spokesperson for the Toronto Dispensary Coalition, said in a statement ahead of a Thursday news conference.

But the city's head of licensing and standards dismissed that suggestion, noting that the sale and distribution of cannabis is prohibited under federal laws, with exceptions allowed under medical marijuana legislation.

[URBAN NOTE] "A King Street with no cars? City may consider a car-free corridor pilot project"

CBC News' Ramna Shahzad looks at a whole range of proposals that may see a broad stretch of King Street partially or even entirely closed off to car traffic.

The city is considering a number of options for a King Street pilot project, including making it solely a transit, pedestrian and cyclist zone in the downtown core, Toronto's chief planner told a conference Wednesday.

At a Green Cities conference Wednesday morning, Jennifer Keesmaat,announced the launch of a website that will look at a range of pilot options for King Street along the six- kilometer corridor from Dufferin Street in the west to River Street in the east.

"We want to make sure that the areas of the city that we are directing growth to in fact have excellent transit service and the King Street corridor can be a big win," she said.

The idea of King Street going car-free is just one possibility floating around. Keesmaat won't confirm what the options are yet but says the city will propose them at a public meeting Feb. 13.

"There are a series of options that we will be bringing forward to the public looking at how we can essentially get cars out of the way," Keesmaat said. "We'll get the public's response and then we'll try it so we can see how it works in practice."

[LINK] "Trump's rift with Mexican president sets off worries about future of NAFTA"

The Los Angeles Times' Don Lee is one of the many, many sources to note the potential for a complete implosion of the Mexican-American economic relationship. What else can be said but that this risks the long-term economic future of North America?

"I think it's very dangerous -- dangerous economically and dangerous politically," said Timothy Wise, a globalization and Mexico-economy expert at Tufts University, referring the possible pullout.

Under NAFTA, which also includes Canada, any of the three countries can exit from the agreement after giving six months' notice. Trump had threatened during the campaign to walk away from NAFTA and to impose tariffs of 35% on Mexican goods coming into the U.S.

On Thursday, the White House proposed a complicated 20% tax on sales by U.S. companies of imported goods from Mexico and other nations to help pay for the wall.

Since his election, Trump and top economic officials have spoken frequently about their desire to renegotiate the 23-year-old pact, which many across the political spectrum believe needs to be revised and updated.

But Trump's early actions as president to crack down on illegal immigration and his insistence that Mexico pay for a wall across the southern border were met with tough responses from Peña Nieto and other Mexican officials, some of whom indicated that Mexico was prepared to leave NAFTA if there weren't clear benefits for their nation.

[LINK] "Iranians Raise Cry As They Brace For U.S. Immigration Ban"

Radio free Europe/Radio Liberty's Golnaz Esfandiari covers the reaction in Iran to the prospect of a ban on the issuing of new visas to Iranian citizens. Esfandiari is correct to note that these visa restrictions will not help the Islamic Republic's position and will in fact also hurt American soft power. That by far the most successful anti-American terrorists come from Saudi Arabia, a country not subject to the proposed ban, also deserves mention.

The United States is a leading destination for students from all over the world, with international student enrollment at public and private U.S. institutions totaling more than 1 million young people in 2015-16, according to the Institute of International Education, with roughly one-third of them coming from China and Iranians well outside the top 10 places of origin.

Hengameh, a mother of two in Tehran, told RFE/RL via Telegram she was offended by the U.S. decision. "I don't have plans to travel to America, but I know many who have relatives there. This will make things harder for them," she said, adding that obtaining a U.S. visa is already difficult for Iranians.

[. . .]

"The adoption of this [executive order] and similar laws will hurt only the Iranian people, and it won't have any impact on the travels of government [officials] to America," a comment on Radio Farda's Facebook page said.

"It's clear that [Trump] doesn't have a proper understanding of terrorists. Most of them are from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and other countries," another comment said.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who used passenger jets to carry out coordinated terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, were from Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden, the leader of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network blamed for the attack, was a Saudi citizen.

[LINK] "Trump will turn on Canada, warns former Mexican congressman"

CBC News' Katharine Starr and Tyler Buist report on the warnings of former Mexican congressman that Trump is bound to turn on Canada, and that Canada and Mexico should not allow themselves to be divided in maintaining a common front. His rationale makes sense, but I fear the ensuing trade war.

A former Mexican congressman and founding member of the Mexico based think tank; the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations, is warning Canada that while Trump may look on Canada favourably now, it won't last.

"It's just a matter of time before this administration turns its eyes towards Canada. [Trump] will find some excuse to turn on Canada," Agustin Barrios Gomez said Wednesday in an interview on CBC News Network's Power & Politics.

Barrios Gomez made his comments the same day President Donald Trump moved on his campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S., Mexico border. Trump signed executive orders to jump-start construction of a border wall and block federal grants to immigrant-protecting "sanctuary cities."

[. . .]

When it comes to those talks on reworking NAFTA, Barrios Gomez said Canada should not cut Mexico loose to strike its own trade deal, but rather both nations must present a united front to the Trump administration.

"I don't think appeasement is the way to go [for Canada]," he said, calling it "the Neville Chamberlain approach" in reference to the British prime minister's appeasement policy towards Hitler's Germany.

"I think it would be a grave mistake if Canada did not act on principle, because when you sacrifice your principles for short-term gain, you end up losing both," said Barrios Gomez.