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Legal clinic challenges Ontario panhandling law as unconstitutional

TORONTO A Toronto legal clinic has launched a constitutional challenge against an Ontario law that targets panhandling. The Fair Change clinic argues that the Safe Streets Act violates the rights of people who beg for money, including freedom of expression, the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The clinic says the law enacted in 2000 to address aggressive panhandling and squeegeeing criminalizes poverty. It says people ticketed under the act are unable to pay the fines.

Gerry Williams, a former Fair Change client, says he faced nearly $10,000 in tickets for panhandling, which the clinic helped him appeal. Williams, who says he had a traumatic upbringing on a fly-in First Nation, says the fines he could never have paid added an extra burden to his homelessness, alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder. A previous constitutional challenge failed after the courts agreed the law infringed on individual charter rights, but said the infringement was justified in the interests of public safety.

A spokesman for Ontario s attorney general did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Eight stories in the news for today, June 22

Eight stories in the news for Thursday, June 22

SUSPECT IN MICHIGAN AIRPORT STABBING A CANADIAN: FBI

U.S. authorities have charged a Quebec man in the stabbing of a security officer at an airport in Flint, Michigan. Officials allege Amor Ftouhi, 49, yelled “Allahu akbar” as he stabbed the officer, who is in stable condition. Ftouhi’s longtime Montreal landlord told The Canadian Press Ftouhi was not a difficult tenant and is married with two or three children. Ftouhi will stay in custody until a bond hearing next Wednesday.

FEDERAL BUDGET BATTLE WITH SENATE ESCALATES

The Trudeau government’s budget is now a test of wills between the elected House of Commons and the appointed Senate. Senators are incensed that the government has swiftly rejected their amendments to the budget bill and must now decide whether to insist upon their amendments or defer to the elected chamber. The Commons has adjourned until Sept. 18, but if the Senate today insists on its amendments, MPs would have to be recalled to respond.

THRONE SPEECH TODAY AT B.C. LEGISLATURE

The B.C. throne speech will be delivered today, and it will start a countdown to the expected defeat of Premier Christy Clark’s minority government. The speech may be followed by a confidence vote that is expected to lead to an NDP government propped up by the Green party. NDP house leader Mike Farnworth said the party will table a motion on Monday to amend the throne speech, which sets the stage for a confidence vote on June 29.

BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY INVESTING IN HOME CAPITAL GROUP

Home Capital Group Inc. says Warren Buffett’s U.S. investment firm Berkshire Hathaway has agreed to indirectly acquire $400 million of its common shares in a private placement and provide a new $2 billion line of credit to its subsidiary, Home Trust Company. This agreement comes a day after troubled Toronto-based Home Capital said it was selling $1.2 billion in mortgage assets to KingSett Capital.

ONT. PREMIER DISAPPOINTED WITH N.Y. ‘BUY AMERICAN’ DEAL

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she’s disappointed that New York lawmakers have reached an agreement on legislation that would require state construction projects to use American iron and steel. Wynne says the decision will have an impact Ontario businesses. Her government had lobbied against the proposal in the spring and says the new plan is narrower and less punitive than the original.

JUDGE SET TO ISSUE VERDICTS FOR EX-SKI COACH ON SEX CHARGES

A Quebec judge will hand down verdicts today in the case of a former national ski coach accused of sexual assault and breach of trust involving some of his students. Bertrand Charest was tried this year on 57 charges involving 12 alleged victims who were between the ages of 12 and 19. The charges against the 52-year-old are in connection with alleged crimes from the 1990s in Quebec and other locations such as Whistler, B.C., New Zealand and the United States.

UNIVERSITY TO HOLD GRADUATION CEREMONY FOR BLACK STUDENTS

Organizers of a graduation ceremony for black students at Canada’s largest university say the event is meant to acknowledge the barriers that remain for people of colour pursuing academia. The ceremony is being held today at the University of Toronto after two students took it upon themselves to organize the event for black students completing degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate level. The event has the university’s blessing and financial support.

ELECTRIC CAR SUBSIDIES A WASTE, REPORT SAYS

Provincial subsidies to encourage the use of electric vehicles are the most expensive, least effective way to help cut greenhouse gas emissions, the Montreal Economic Institute says in a new report. The organization examined subsidies offered by the governments of Quebec and Ontario and says together they could cost those provinces more than $17 billion by 2030, while cutting emissions less than four per cent a year.

ALSO IN THE NEWS TODAY:

Statistics Canada will release April data on retail trade and employment insurance.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau will hold a media call from Italy to discuss the G7 Transport Ministers’ Meeting.

The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Katherine d’Entremont, will present her annual report.

A sentencing hearing will be held in Calgary for a woman found guilty of assaulting two orphaned nieces.

Also in Calgary, Daniel Nel will appear in court charged with second-degree murder in the death of his three-month-old son Cyrus.

The Fraser Institute will release a report examining which Canadian city has the most red tape.

The 2017 NBA Draft goes today. The Toronto Raptors have the 23rd pick in the first round.

Man who stabbed Michigan police officer a Canadian resident: FBI

A Quebec man entered an airport in Michigan on Wednesday, yelled Allahu akbar and stabbed a security officer in the neck, according to U.S. federal prosecutors who said they are investigating the incident as an act of terrorism. Amor Ftouhi, 49, was arrested shortly after the incident and was charged with committing violence at an airport, FBI special agent in charge David Gelios told a news conference. Gelios said the incident happened at 9:45 a.m. at the Bishop International Airport in Flint, about 80 kilometres northwest of Detroit.

Ftouhi entered the United States legally in Lake Champlain, N.Y., on June 16 and made his way to Flint on Wednesday morning, he said.

We do know Mr. Ftouhi entered the airport, he spent a little time on the first level, then he went upstairs he spent some time in the restaurant up there, Gelios said.

Then he came out, he was carrying baggage. He went into a restroom. He spent a little time in the restroom. Dropped both bags and came out, pulled out a knife, yelled Allahu akbar, and stabbed Lt. Neville in the neck. Lt. Jeff Neville with the Bishop International Airport police underwent surgery and his condition was upgraded from critical to stable, said Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw. Ftouhi appeared in federal court later Wednesday and heard the charge against him. He will get a court-appointed attorney and court spokesman David Ashenfelter said he will remain in custody until a bond hearing next Wednesday.

Authorities said there was no immediate indication Ftouhi was involved in a wider plot, but the investigation is in its early stages. The criminal complaint says Ftouhi stabbed Neville with a large knife and declared Allahu akbar, the Arabic phrase for God is great. The FBI, which is leading the investigation, said Ftouhi said something similar to you have killed people in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die.

As we progress and take this matter to grand jury for indictment, other charges could be pending later on, Gelios said. It s an ongoing investigation, there are joint operations going on in Canada as we speak. We want to thank our Canadian partners who are helping us further investigate this attack. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale called the incident a heinous and cowardly attack.

There is complete co-operation between the RCMP and other Canadian authorities and agencies with all of their counterparts in the United States and we will do everything we possibly can to assist in this matter, Goodale told reporters in Ottawa.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement he was proud of the swift response by authorities from both nations. He said the attack was being investigated as an act of terrorism and added it will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Canadian TV footage showed police escorting at least one person away from a four-storey Montreal apartment building where the suspect is believed to have lived. There was a significant police presence outside the building.

City police spokesman Benoit Boiselle said officers with the department were assisting the RCMP in a search of the apartment. He said the FBI requested the search after the attack. Meanwhile, witnesses in Flint described seeing the suspect led away in handcuffs by police, Neville bleeding and a knife on the ground.

The cop was on his hands and knees bleeding from his neck, Ken Brown told local media.

Cherie Carpenter, who was awaiting a flight to Texas to see her new grandchild, told a local TV station she saw the attacker being led away in handcuffs. She described the man in custody as appearing blank, just totally blank.

With files from The Associated Press

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