13 of the week’s best long reads from the Star, June 19-25, 2021

From the horror of residential schools to the plight of garment workers, we’ve selected some of the best long reads of the week on thestar.com.

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1. ‘We will not stop until we find all of our children’: Discovery of 751 unmarked graves only the beginning, say Saskatchewan Indigenous leaders

With reporters from around the world turning their attention to his small community on Thursday, Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme stared calmly into his computer screen and delivered a message for all to hear.

Echoing the words of residential school survivors across the country, he told a virtual news conference, “We always knew that there were graves here.”

This was Cowessess First Nation’s moment to tell its story.

But Delorme knew it was also only one point at the beginning of what will be a very long road, as his community of 4,300 in southeastern Saskatchewan and so many others across Canada reckon with this country’s brutal legacy of residential schools.

“There’s going to be many more stories in the future,” the chief acknowledged.

2. A luxury-home builder tore down a Toronto heritage home without a permit. What happens next could test Ontario’s heritage rules

There’s a large pile of rubble — wood and cladding jutting out at all angles — where a handsome heritage home recently stood in the leafy, picturesque neighbourhood of Hoggs Hollow.

The owner started the demolition on the 1912 Tudor Revival-style home in the northern enclave of the city over the May long weekend without a permit, he admitted to the Star in an interview this week, and just months after the city council listed the building as a heritage home.

He disputes the property being listed as heritage by the city, citing independent assessment by an architecture firm he hired.

The sudden demolition has dismayed the local community after city staff and council recognized the home at 19 Plymbridge Cres. as a “rare and unique” conversion of a stable from the time of horse and carriages on Toronto streets.

3. Unpaid wages. Abuse. Restrictions on bathroom breaks. Inside the worsening conditions of the garment factories that make the clothes in your closet

Mimi’s workday sewing t-shirts in an Ethiopian garment factory begins in the early afternoon.

Six days a week, the 19-year-old leaves the single-room apartment she shares with three roommates and heads to her 10-hour shift where she sits alongside more than 3,000 other workers sewing garments bound for North American closets.

Mimi said the pandemic has made working conditions at her factory worse than ever, and has devastated her economically. Her already meagre salary of $1 (Canadian) a day for producing 1,000 shirts has been cut by as much as 30 per cent.

“We are making these garments for you,” said the teen. “We are working hard without a break … We should get a better wage.”

4. Bullying, cultural insensitivity and the threat of police involvement contributed to Toronto boy’s suicide, coroner’s report finds

Bullying, missed opportunities by educators and social workers to address it, a lack of cultural knowledge and the threat of police involvement over a missing gaming console contributed to a 12-year-old Toronto boy’s death by suicide, according to a coroner’s report.

Arka Chakraborty, a child with “exceptional breadth of knowledge,” died near his Toronto home in 2019, just days before the end of the school year.

For the past two years, his mother, Durba Mukherjee, had been seeking answers and accountability for what went wrong. In the coroner’s report, completed by a local death review table last month, Mukherjee said she has finally felt heard — the problems and gaps that likely contributed to Arka’s death have been identified, and her son portrayed as the loved boy that he was.

“He loved his family, books, video games, playing with his friends, his community,” reads the 32-page report. “After his mother, it was his school, teachers, and classmates that were the centre of his world. He cared a lot about what others thought of him because like all youth, he wanted to be included.”

5. Arrest made in 2015 death of toddler Nathaniel McLellan

An arrest has been made in the five-and-a-half-year-old case involving the mysterious death of a toddler who collapsed at a home daycare in Strathroy.

Meggin Van Hoof, 42, who ran the unlicensed daycare, was charged with manslaughter Wednesday morning. She was to appear in Strathroy court for a bail hearing later Wednesday.

The case of Nathaniel McLellan, a 15-month-old toddler, was investigated by the Star and profiled last week in Death in a Small Town, a five-part series.

6. Why the closed Canada-U.S. border has this landlocked U.S. community at a ‘crisis point’ — and asking for help

Boat owners have mostly pulled out of the marina.

The handful of restaurants, such as Kiniski’s Reef and the Saltwater Cafe, are closed or open for limited hours.

The golf course remains shuttered, except for one lonely maintenance person.

And now, the only supermarket in town says it could be out of business in a matter of weeks.

Normally at this time of year, business in Point Roberts, Wash., the quirky American enclave south of Vancouver, cut off from the U.S. mainland, is booming. The town’s population swells from about 1,000 to 5,000 people, due largely to an influx of Canadian visitors and seasonal residents drawn to the area’s ocean breezes, beaches and cheap gas.

But local leaders say the ongoing closure of the Canada-U.S. border due to the pandemic has led to a dire situation in their community.

“We’ve reached a crisis point,” says Brian Calder, the president of the local chamber of commerce.

7. ‘All of us are very afraid’: TDSB staffers describe culture of fear after board suspends a student equity adviser who shared resources on Palestinian human rights

For the past 12 years, Javier Davila has shared resources on anti-oppression with teachers and community members who opt in to his mailout service, with no known problems.

Last month, after the equity educator was repeatedly attacked by a Toronto Sun columnist, and a pro-Israel advocacy group called for him to be fired, the Toronto District School Board placed him under investigation and an indefinite suspension. The action ignited an uproar from teachers, principals and other staff who framed it as an “all lives matter” approach by the board that has put a question mark on its stated commitment to anti-oppression.

Davila declined to comment to the Star. But in a Medium blog where he describes his work, he said he has received hundreds of emails over the years from teachers, principals and even directors of other school boards who asked permission to use his resources.

‘The situation was so devastating’: How Sick Kids transformed to treat gravely ill adults with COVID 

8. The pandemic labour shortage should drive up wages — but it’s not going to happen, here’s why

Canada’s working class is poised to enjoy a golden era of above-average wage gains, according to an emerging consensus of employers and economists.

Don’t believe it, writes Star business columnist David Olive.

Yes, the rules of supply and demand should dictate a labour shortage like the one we’re now experiencing will drive up wages.

Indeed, some forecasters venture a 40-year stagnation in Canadian wages is finally at an end. And about time, after decades of offshoring, downsizing, automation and union-busting has kept the buying power of real working-class wages, after inflation, unchanged since the early 1980s.

The Canadian job vacancy rate in March, the latest month for which data is available, was 4.1 per cent, or about 633,000 jobs going begging. Yet the Canadian unemployment rate was at 8.3 per cent in May, as reported by Statistics Canada earlier this month.

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At least in the labour market, the law of supply and demand appears to have been turned on its head.

9. Stressed and tested: How the mortgage stress test is hurting first-time buyers while house prices continue to soar

Shahzeen Jiwani had been saving for years, and finally, toronto condo prices were within reach. The only number that mattered now was “20.”

With a 20 per cent down payment on a home, the 32-year-old would finally be eligible for an uninsured mortgage. That meant smaller monthly payments, a longer time frame to pay off the loan and none of those pesky insurance costs.

Since graduating university nearly a decade ago, Jiwani had been saving to buy a single-bedroom unit in Toronto’s downtown. The eight years she spent living with her parents, commuting to and from their Scarborough townhouse would pay off, and Jiwani could start a new chapter in her life. As of April, she was in a position to buy.

But then the rules changed.

In June, Canada’s banking regulator, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, introduced tougher measures on mortgage applications, requiring buyers seeking an uninsured mortgage to prove they could handle higher interest rates so as not to default on payments.

10. Doug Ford as premier of a minority government? Not on our watch, opposition leaders say

Premier Doug Ford’s prospects for clinging to power after the 2022 election are unravelling rapidly, writes columnist Martin Regg Cohn.

In a series of Toronto Star interviews, Ontario’s major opposition leaders have publicly declared for the first time they will not prop up Ford’s Tories in any post-election minority government scenario next year.

Unless he hits the numbers needed for an outright majority — not less than 63 seats — Ford’s days as premier may be numbered.

Even if his Progressive Conservatives win the most seats on June 2, 2022, yet fall short of a majority — achieving a plurality but still merely a minority of the 124 seats — Ford would need the backing of opposition MPPs to stay on as premier. Now, his rivals vow they’ll do everything in their power to stop that from happening.

11. Their Canadian dream turned into a nightmare. Now they face deportation, despite claiming they’re victims of human trafficking

A church volunteer, Alice Scott used to run an English conversation circle for new immigrants and would see Ajshe Shala drop by each week to use the food bank and occasionally pick up donated clothing for her family.

Scott would invite the newcomer to join the group and they would communicate through pictures, picture books, hand gestures and facial expressions. The woman from Kosovo was always courteous and smiling, Scott said.

Then, one day after the church program closed for the summer in 2015, Scott took Shala and another newcomer for a day trip to their local library in Kitchener.

During a computer session, Scott, a retired teacher, looked over Shala’s shoulder to check out a text on the screen translated from Albanian into English.

It said: “I need a lawyer.”

12. The mystery of Carmine Lapello’s photograph: Was the Toronto cabbie killed for double-crossing Canada’s top bootleggers?

The uneasy feeling started decades ago when Joe Lapello was tidying up his parents’ basement and he opened a shoebox full of family photos. He found himself staring at a face that looked much like his own. It was his great uncle Carmine Lapello from a century ago, who drove a cab in Toronto’s downtown when he was murdered.

The photo brought back painful memories to Joe’s father, who remembered playing with Carmine every weekend. Joe’s dad was only seven years old when he was lifted up to Carmine’s coffin to say a last goodbye.

Carmine’s body was found by the road in Etobicoke’s Humber Bay neighbourhood on the morning of July 20, 1917. He had been stabbed 14 times. He was just 20 years old.

When Joe, now 67, became an adult, he set out to try to make sense of the murder.

In time, he started to think he could perhaps even solve it.

13. ‘She just kind of dropped me.’ As COVID-19 recedes, can we heal the rifts in families and friendships over following health rules?

The email subject line, ‘They’re coming for your grandbabies,’ told Steve Joordens he was in for another week of head and heartache.

During the pandemic, Joordens has been in a dispute with a family member who is a staunch anti-vaxxer and anti-masker. Over time, he’s watched their positions on COVID-19 conspiracy theories grow more extreme.

“Every time I see an email from them in my inbox, I start to feel like I’m in for about four or five days of being really messed up,” Joordens said. “Because I know I’m not going to be able to resist replying.”

And so the tug of war begins.

The pandemic has altered every aspect of life and in some cases has created a rift in families and relationships, especially when one person is known for their pandemic policing while the other refuses to follow public health guidelines.

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