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Huricane Juan
Toronto Star
  • UPX costs province $11 per ride

    The province is subsidizing rides on the Union Pearson Express (UPX) at much lower levels than it did last year, but it still costs the public about $11 every time a passenger boards the controversial air-rail link.

    According to figures that will be presented at the Metrolinx board on Wednesday, it cost the provincial government $62.8 millionto operate the train between Union Station and Pearson Airport during the fiscal year that ran from April 2016 to March 2017.

    Over the same period, 2.76 million people rode the service. With revenues from fares and other sources totaling $32.4 million, the government provided a subsidy of $30.4 million, or about $11 per rider.

    Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca called the new numbers “great news.”

    The subsidy is much lower than the $52.25 per ride it cost the government in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

    “I’m delighted to know that we’ve managed to drop the subsidy for the UP Express by 80 per cent year over year. I think that’s really critical,” the minister said.

    Although Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency that operates the UPX, has cast doubt on whether it will be possible for the service to break even under its new fare structure, Del Duca said that remains the goal.

    “I think it’s trending the right way, but we definitely have more work to do,” said the minister, who is also the Liberal MPP for Vaughan.

    Michael Harris, transportation critic for the Ontario PC party, said the new lower subsidy number is nothing to celebrate.

    “Only the Liberals can pat themselves on the back for jacking the subsidy at the beginning and then reducing it down to $11,” he said.

    Harris, who is the MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga, argued that Metroolinx should never have ignored warnings that its original fares were too high and that it was a mistake to attempt operate the UPX as a “premium” rail line.

    The UPX entered service in June, 2015, and initially charged $27.90 for a trip between the airport and Union, or $19 with a Presto card. Travellers found the price too high and the service failed to attract enough riders.

    In March 2016 Metrolinx finally decided to slash the fares to $12, or $9 with a Presto fare card. Ridership has surged since.

    In its first 10 months of operation, a little more than 750,000 people rode the line, less than half the number that rode last year.

    Aside from additional fare revenue from increased ridership, the UPX has also cashed in on corporate sponsorships.

    Revenue from partners like CIBC and Deloitte, which paid for naming and advertising rights, and Mill Street Brewery and the Drake General Store, which rent space at Union Station, made up almost 28 per cent of the service’s revenue.

    The Metrolinx board is expected to approve a 3 per cent fare increase to the UPX on Wednesday. It will only affect fares that cost more than $5.65, and won’t apply to shorter trips on the line that don’t make the full trip from Union to the airport.

  • Google must block search results of tech company worldwide, Supreme Court rules

    OTTAWA—In a 7-2 ruling that has broad implications for freedom of expression, the reach of courts to protect intellectual property, and for the operations of Internet-based businesses, the country’s top court upheld a sweeping injunction against Google’s ability to display commercial content that was at the heart of a court battle.

    Google is barred from displaying anywhere in the world the websites of a company accused of counterfeiting a Canadian technology company’s products, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.

    It ruled the worldwide search engine may not be the one causing the direct harm to a small B.C. tech company, but it was not a bystander. Rather Google is a key actor or player, said the court.

    Google, which controls 70-75 per cent of all global searches on the Internet, facilitated harm to Equustek Solutions Inc. because Google searches linked to the company’s competitor, which is accused of stealing its trade secrets. So the high court upheld the power of a Canadian superior court to make an order, even reaching beyond Canadian borders, to stop that harm.

    “When non-parties are so involved in the wrongful acts of others that they facilitate the harm, even if they themselves are not guilty of wrongdoing, they can be subject to interlocutory injunctions,” the court said.

    Where necessary, a Canadian court can grant an injunction to prohibit “conduct anywhere in the world,” the judges wrote. “The problem, in this case, is occurring online and globally. The Internet has no borders; its natural habitat is global.”

    The case drew interventions by 30 different advocates of free expression and intellectual property rights, as well as the attorneys general of Canada and Ontario.

    But the high court was unpersuaded that an injunction against Google would trample the rights of freedom of expression. Rather, it said there was a serious issue — theft of intellectual property — at stake, and that the courts have the authority to act to prevent irreparable harm until that issue was resolved.

    The only way to ensure that the injunction worked “was to have it apply where Google operates — globally,” Abella wrote.

    If the ban only operated in Canada alone or applied only to Google.ca, purchasers everywhere could easily continue buying the allegedly counterfeit products, she said.

    Google had long argued that, first, it was not a party to the main dispute, and that a Canadian court doesn’t have that kind of broad jurisdiction. It said the Vancouver-based company alleging theft of its intellectual property should have obtained court orders in other countries to stop the website displays of its competitor. Google claimed its right to freedom of expression includes the right to make its own editorial decisions about what content to take down. It said the Canadian courts were violating that right.

    But a majority on the Supreme Court of Canada, which upheld two lower B.C. court orders, rejected all of its arguments.

    “This is not an order to remove speech that, on its face, engages freedom of expression values; it is an order to de-index websites that are in violation of several court orders. We have not, to date, accepted that freedom of expression requires the facilitation of the unlawful sale of goods,” wrote Justice Rosalie Abella.

    The chief justice, Beverley McLachlin, and five other judges agreed with her: Michael Moldaver, Andromache Karakatsanis, Richard Wagner, Clement Gascon, and Russell Brown.

    In a sharp dissent, Justices Suzanne Cote and Malcolm Rowe disagreed, saying the case called for “judicial restraint.”

    The two dissenting judges said although the original injunction was meant to stop immediate harm to the Canadian company until the counterfeiting and trademark infringement claim could be determined by the courts, “the order against Google . . . is final in effect.” It said the counterfeit claim had not been tested in court, and it might never be if the injunction stood, because there’d be no incentive to bring the case to court if a company’s ability to operate could simply be shut down by injunction.

    The decision involves Equustek Solutions Inc., a Vancouver-based manufacturer that designed networking devices to allow complex industrial equipment made by one manufacturer to communicate with the equipment of another, a kind of inter-linking technology. Its distributor was a company called Datalink Technologies Gateways Inc., headed by a man named Morgan Jack.

    Equustek says Datalink began to re-label one of the products and passed it off as its own, and, on top of that, Datalink acquired confidential technology and began to manufacture its own products using Equustek’s intellectual property. Sued by Equustek, Datalink first denied the counterfeit accusation, before fleeing the province, and continuing to carry on business, selling products all over the world from an unknown location.

    The Canadian company asked Google to drop Datalink from its search engines, but the giant search engine company said it would only comply with a court order to remove specific web pages.

    Google complied with the initial injunction by de-indexing 345 web pages, but not Datalink’s websites — so Datalink just moved content to new pages within its websites. And Google had only blocked the searches on Google.ca, not Google.com or its other country-search engines.

    The B.C. court then granted a broader order against Google displaying Datalinks websites from appearing in searches anywhere in the world, and Google challenged the order all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada.

    McCarthy Tetreault lawyer Barry Sookman, who acted for several groups representing publishers of literary and musical content, hailed the ruling as the “first global de-indexing order” that will be “extremely important” worldwide, because it gives a remedy against “gatekeepers” of information such as Google or Internet service providers.

    It will affect those who hold rights to intellectual property, trademarks, copyright and others who will be able to enforce their rights against owners of websites carrying on illegal activity who otherwise can’t be found, he said.

    “This decision will very likely have enormous implications around the world,” he said, saying it was a statement of general principles about the powers of the courts, and will influence decisions in other common law jurisdictions in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and elsewhere.

    Sookman projected it could be used to enforce orders against Google and other search engines who may be innocent third parties but are key to protecting the rights of others. In other words, court orders could be sought against Google or other search engines to safeguard an individual’s privacy rights, perhaps in the case of a major data breach where a corporation loses control over customers’ private information. He also pointed to the phenomenon of cyber-stalking, harassment or defamation cases where a person’s reputation is affected by global distribution of slanderous material.

  • Ontario commits $85 million to clean up ?gross neglect? at Grassy Narrows

    The Ontario government is committing $85 million to finally clean up the mercury-contaminated Wabigoon River that has poisoned the people of Grassy Narrows First Nation and nearby Whitedog First Nation for generations.

    The “comprehensive remediation action plan” will also involve finding all contaminated sites that could be leaking mercury into the river.

    At Queen’s Park, Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray did not mince words.

    “If you ask me when would I like to have done this? Fifty years ago,” Murray said in an interview Tuesday. “I have never seen a case of such gross neglect. I am embarrassed as a Canadian that this ever happened and I can’t understand how people for 50 years sat in that environment office knowing this was going on as a minister and simply didn’t do anything about it,” he thundered.

    The province’s historic commitment follows a Star investigation that probed the impact of the poisoning and decades-long lack of action by government.

    And it comes after decades of activism by Grassy Narrows community members, from chiefs to mothers to youth. Most recently, “River Run” protests in Toronto have been led by the younger generations.

    Between 1962 and 1970, the paper plant in Dryden, Ont., then owned by Reed Paper, dumped 10 tonnes of mercury into the river about 100 kilometres upstream from Grassy Narrows.

    The mercury, a potent neurotoxin, contaminated the fish, which poisoned the people of Grassy Narrows and nearby Wabaseemoong (Whitedog) Independent Nations.

    The mercury contamination still plagues these Indigenous communities in northern Ontario. Recent key findings by the Star, environmental group Earthroots and top scientists have shown high levels of mercury in soil, fish and river sediment — all strongly suggesting the site of the mill is still leaking mercury, about 50 years on.

    There is no suggestion that Domtar, the current pulp mill operator — several owners removed from Reed Paper — is responsible for any source of mercury.

    Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister said: “This river is the lifeblood of my people. For too long we have suffered from this preventable tragedy. May this be the beginning of a new era of hope for my people, and may justice flow at long last.”

    Speaking outside the cabinet room moments after Premier Kathleen Wynne and her executive council approved the plan, Murray said the day Wynne appointed him minister three years ago, she said: “You’ve got to get this done and it better get done before the next election.”

    With voters headed to the polls on June 7, 2018, there is political pressure to tackle the cleanup.

    The major announcement came the day before environmentalist David Suzuki was scheduled to visit Grassy Narrows. He was expected to hear strong concerns from the First Nation over the government’s progress on its commitment to clean up the mercury.

    Murray hailed both Fobister for his commitment to the issue and the Star for its relentless coverage.

    “The Toronto Star, which is the journal of record, actually shone a light on it and didn’t give up. The Star was persistent and drove the agenda,” the minister said.

    “It just horrifies me that we actually allow these things to happen and it speaks to the systemic racism and the colonialism of our society,” he said, noting such dumping would never have been permitted in Toronto.

    The projected $85-million cost of the cleanup was pegged by top scientist John Rudd, who has experience with mercury cleanups in the U.S. and who initially recommended the Wabigoon be cleaned back in 1983. Despite the then environment minister making that recommendation, it was ignored by the government of the day, which chose to let the river clean itself naturally.

    The Star began its investigation into mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows last year with the story of retired mill worker Kas Glowacki, who said that in 1972 he was part of a group who “haphazardly” dumped drums filled with salt and mercury into a pit behind the mill.

    Late last year, near where Glowacki recalls the 1972 mercury dump happening, Star reporters and volunteers from Earthroots dug holes in a clearing behind the old mill and found significantly higher-than-normal levels of mercury — nearly 80 times the level expected to be found in soil from that region of the province.

    “We have all of the clearance and approvals from the Treasury Board,” Murray told the Star, adding that the fund will be managed by the province and Grassy Narrows and Whitedog,

    Chief Fobister said he hopes “this promise is fulfilled no matter who is in power.”

    “I am really happy that Ontario has finally made this historic commitment to fund the cleanup of our river,” he added. “Now we need to put the funds into a trust.”

    When asked if the $85-million commitment will survive future elections and governments, Murray told the Star the “joint governance” model of the fund, as well as language that can be added to remediation work contracts, “makes it very hard for someone in the future to mess with.”

    “We want to get contracts out the door as soon as we can. We have to start this work,” he said.

    Before this fund announcement, the province said it has spent $2.5 million for sampling and analysis work to determine the extent of the mercury contamination and which remediation options may be most appropriate for each contamination site. The province said it will be adding another $2.7 million this year to support that ongoing pre-cleanup work.

    “I’m feeling like this is a landmark day,” Murray said. “I was very proud of (the premier) today.”

    Physical symptoms of mercury poisoning include loss of muscle co-ordination and tunnel vision. Fetuses are particularly vulnerable to cognitive damage, according to recent research. A recent study by Japanese experts concluded that 90 per cent of people tested in Grassy Narrows and Whitedog have a symptom of mercury poisoning.

    “One of the most toxic things about mercury is it has held back the (communities) from the future they should have,” Murray said. “Let’s get on with it.”

Arts & Letters
Trudy
Sunday, 12 August 2007