Archive for the ‘RECENT EVENTS’ Category

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By Jason Sutcliffe

Nancy Kelly and her entire family stormed the beaches of Ashbridges Bay Sunday morning to do their part in the fight against cancer. There were about 20 of them in total, and all of them wearing matching T-sirts honouring Christopher Kelly who died of cancer in November 2009.

This is a battle that from the start, Nancy has never had to take on alone. When asked if the run is something she does every year she said, “Yes, yes ever since 2010, which was the year after he passed away. We… I decided I was going to do it, and I thought okay I want to see if my family—and they all showed up and have been showing up ever since.”

Nancy Kelly’s son Christopher battled Osteosarcoma the same form of cancer that Terry Fox battled 33 years ago. Both Terry and Christopher lost their battles, and both were young men when they did. It was clear to me almost immediately that this event was one that Nancy held close to the heart. During our almost 15 minute conversation, she drew on the parallel numerous times.

There were a number of times during the interview where I was amazed at her strength, family and story, but at no point was she more sincere than when she spoke of Christopher’s final days, Nancy said:

“…What is pretty remarkable is that in 2009 when he got really sick towards the end, and I knew it was coming close, so he passed away in November 2009, and so just as it happened it wasn’t planned but everybody started showing up at the door. We had a house full of people, and like I don’t have a big house, but we had a house full of people. I think we had about…I’m trying to remember. It is a bit of a blur, but probably as many as what are here of family stayed over for two nights in a row with us in support. Because they new it was obviously the end—it was immanent you know his passing.”

From those comments, it was clear to me that while Christopher was robbed of time and a long healthy life, he was blessed with more family, friends and love than most people get in a lifetime. He experienced the most beautiful things life had to offer in his short time with us.

His mother is one of the most, lovely compassionate people I have had the pleasure of speaking with. In the midst of everything she was going through she recalled her feeling for other kids that were going through the same issues as her son:

“…You watch babies you know who have been sick, some kids were diagnosed with cancer right after birth they don’t even remember being home, they haven’t been home for like two years. Like leukemia they have to treat constantly, and I remember one kid who was just three years old and he had been in the hospital since birth getting treated for Osteo…sorry for cancer. I think it was leukemia, and he went home he was in remission and then he…it came back again, so he had to come back into the hospital. It was even harder for him then because he didn’t really understand because he liked being at home, he didn’t really understand why he was back in the hospital. So, it is really tough watching other people with cancer…”

The Kelly family is everything that a family is supposed to be. They support each other, they are close during the best of times and get even closer during the worst of times. As far as Nancy Kelly goes, she is the definition of strength. When life kicked her in the gut and dropped her to her knees she refused to stay down, she got back to her feet and stared it right in the face. I commend her and anyone else faced with this same situation. I only hope that in life I can carry myself with the same strength and dignity as she.

R.I.P. Christopher William Kelly

 

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By Jason Sutcliffe

Cancer has no preference, it does not discriminate against age, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation, and nobody is immune to its wrath. However in return there is no discrimination in the fight against cancer, anyone and everyone is asked to take part in the battle to abolish this horrific disease.

As a Journalism student, I was asked to cover the Terry Fox run this past Sunday, September 15th at Ashbridges Bay in the Toronto Beaches.

I had the chance to meet a lot of great people and interview some participants with very inspiring stories. Stories of triumph, memory, celebration and sadness. One common theme amongst everyone I spoke with was the fight to cure cancer and save lives.

I have to say I found myself at one point thinking, who knew on April 12th, 1980 when Terry dipped his right leg in the Atlantic Ocean and began his run that 33 years, and 600 million dollars later, this event would be going so strong. The support is coast to coast and is phenomenal.

I think one of the best things I observed while covering the event was the diversity of people taking part. The age range of participants was astounding I had the pleasure of speaking with two sisters, Kay Sibbert (86) and Margret Blair (84) who have been taking part in the event for 27 and 25 years respectively.

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On the other end of the spectrum, I saw a number of children participating in the run as young as 7-8 years old. Children even younger were walking half way and being pushed in strollers the other half.

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It is really great when you see young children who know about Terry, what he did and its importance to Cancer research. There were a number of people who were making a family day of the event with parents and kids all running together.

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It was truly an amazing experience I am so glad that I was there to cover it because I met a number of great people. My encounter with the Kelly family had the greatest impact on me by far. A great family! Nancy Kelly took the time to talk with me about the tragedy of losing her son to his battle with cancer, and the love and support of her family who were there 20 strong to run in memory of their fallen family member Christopher Kelly.

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In all, it was an inspiring, humbling and motivating experience which has reminded me to be grateful for what I have, and that I owe it to everyone who did not have the opportunity to see their goals through to work as hard as I can to accomplish mine.

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By Jason Sutcliffe

With the US on the brink of military action in Syria, we have heard Barack Obama and many other members of government preach about helping the Syrians, and that is great, but I have one question. What about helping Americans?

America is in huge trouble and its citizens even more so. Before they go into someone else’s backyard and start cleaning things up, there are a few messes in their own yard that need tending to.

Let’s start with Detroit; 60% of the cities children are living below the poverty line, that is three times the national average. As if that is not bad enough the city is on the brink of bankruptcy, and public services to aid these children are disappearing.

As of April of this year Detroit had an unemployment rate of 16 percent. This situation is not going to be resolved any time soon.

Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles all with unemployment rates of 10% or better (as of April 2013). Between the three cities there are approximately 7 million people, so, there are approximately 700,000 people in three cities who are without work. Across the country, reports show numbers as high as 90 million Americans without jobs. Other reports show that only 63% of working age Americans are employed. That is the lowest percentage in 35 years.

There are families starving, people going without meals, and in a country like the United States there are far too many of these people. The numbers are staggering. 14.5 million American households are unable to or are struggling to feed their families, and in 7 million of those homes at least one family member skips a meal or eats much less due to a lack of funds.

The truth is I believe what happened in Syria is disgusting, but it is not up to the United States to go there as the world’s security. They need to take care of their own before they even think of dumping all kinds of money into the Syrian conflict. There are people starving, and struggling to provide the basic necessities to their families. Help them! If there is one kid starving that is where your focus should be.

The United States is in trouble, and they need to take care of that. It is terrible what happened in Syria, but the rest of the world has not seen it as a major priority. They need to leave it alone and start aiding the people starving to death, and create jobs so they can raise their families. That is where your energy should be directed.

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By Jason Sutcliffe

Now I am trying to understand what has been, and is about to go on in Syria. It seems from the reading I have done that the UN and Britain have both said there is not enough evidence to support intervening in Syria.

The US, has decided that they do not care how the UN and Britain feel because in their eyes, someone needs to pay for what happened and it is going to be Assad based on their own evidence in their own reports, which does not unequivocally point to Assad and his regime.

Immediately in my head I thought about the war in Iraq, and remembered hearing on the news that the US had evidence that Saddam was creating weapons of mass destruction and that it was a slam-dunk. Only to find out after they went in and killed thousands of people, that was not the case, and 10 years later we are still trying to get our troops home, or are we? That is another story.

As I read on in the next paragraph, they mentioned Iraq, saying that they had learned from the altercation and would send no troops into Syria. Instead, they would use a series of missile attacks.

So let me try to understand the US plans to bomb Syria because the Syrian government bombed Syria. Where is the logic in that? Admittedly I do not know everything there is to know about what is going on, but it seems like neither does the US. I am puzzled by the lack of logic. It reminds me of when I would get suspended from school for skipping. So you are going to give me two more days off school because I did not come to school? Huh, interesting.

What bothers me is how easily the US is able to ignore the rest of the world and act on their own. Remember when the UN told good ol’ George W that they would not support his efforts to invade Iraq. On the wake of that decision George appointed his own cabinet that would okay the invasion. This sounds eerily similar.

Their plan is not even to overthrow Assad. It is just to “Teach him and his regime a lesson.”

There is only one thing that is more disturbing than the US being frighteningly close to setting off a war, and that is that over the past week, I have seen more people and heard more people concerned with the behaviour of Miley Cyrus at the VMA’s. than a possible war breaking out.

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By Jason Sutcliffe

I wrote an article the other day. It was pointing the finger at the SIU, Police force and our Justice system for the way criminal cases involving officers are handled by our justice system..

So I was reading the paper yesterday morning, and I read an article about James Forcillo. For those living under a rock he is the police officer charged with 2nd degree murder for the shooting death of Sammy Yatim.

Now there were a few people who had issues with the article I wrote. I pointed out that we treat officers of the law much differently than regular citizens when they are placed on charges.

Some people feel as though they do not receive special treatment, but more that they have a tough job, and we do not have all of the evidence to say what is fair and what is not. Okay fine!

So let’s just throw this out there. Does anyone think that if they were charged with 2nd degree murder they would have 24 hours to turn themselves over? As opposed to the police coming to your door with the warrant and handcuffs in hand to arrest you.

How about being granted the ability to turn yourself in at your lawyer’s office and being processed there by the police, before being taken into custody? How about once you were officially arrested for 2nd degree murder you were granted bail a few hours later and back home in time for dinner. Sounds right, no?

I can not forget the best part. Even better than anything before it is when the police chief comes out, and publicly says, “I saw nothing in that process that I would have characterized as special treatment,” Is he seriously going to say that—seriously!

I am sure that is standard operating procedure for everyone charged with murder.

This disgusts me. Why is he treated any different from every other murder suspect? The SIU saw a sufficient amount of evidence to warrant a murder charge, so why is he not treated as they would treat any other murder suspect?

It seems as though the only time we truly see someone as innocent until proven guilty is if it is a Police Officer. Now that we know the Police are capable of viewing things in this light, is this not how everyone should be treated given that we are all innocent until a judge or jury proves us guilty? Should we all not be released the same day regardless of the charges?

That is my rant, and I am done now. I only hope more people like me are disgusted with the obvious special treatment of Forcillo that the chief was so quick to dismiss.

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By Jason Sutcliffe

St. Aubyn Rodney, Tahj Loor-Walters, O’She Doyles-Whyte and Kwame Duodu four friends, all dead. In the last 6 months, there has been 5 shootings in the Jane & Finch area 4 of them fatal, and none of the victims older than 17.

What do we do to bring an end to the senseless violence? There are a lot of things that need to happen in my opinion, and from all angels. We need to identify the real problem; how are these guns getting into the hands of children? They certainly did not bring them over the border, or walk into a store and buy them.

There needs to be a better relationship between the police and the people of the community. Also, the community needs to do a better job of working with the police.

As adults, we need to close the gaps that are young people seem to be falling through in our communities. We have children murdered in the street, and nobody is willing to step forward and provide information. Police have not done enough to create a positive relationship within the community. That is not going to happen over night, but we need to work towards it.

People in our city for the most part experience negative interaction with the police. Police are public servants. They should act like it. Say hello to people walking down the street. Smile and get involved in a positive way. Stop and talk to the neighbourhood kids on the corner instead of searching them, calling them names, or chasing them, Introduce yourself stop and talk to people sitting on their porch without having to be called there.

People do not trust the police—period. They have very little confidence that the police can keep them or their loved ones safe. It is funny to me that people bash the police, complaining that they are not doing their job, but when these kids get gunned down, nobody saw anything, no one has any information. They are literally on the news, begging people to come forward and get nothing.

It is a two way street, the police can not expect people to trust them, or work with them, without some positive interaction. We as citizens can not expect the police to solve crimes and clean up our neighbourhoods without our help. They are not magicians. So if we want something better than we have now we better acknowledge that there is work to do on both sides. Then maybe our “at risk youth” will not be so “at risk”.

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By Jason Sutcliffe

Oscar Pistorius A.K.A. “The Blade Runner” was a national hero and an inspiration when he fought with the Olympic Committee, and broke down barriers becoming the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympic games.

Everything he worked for is now tainted and may be lost as he finds himself in a courtroom fighting for his life

Oscar Pistorius will face first-degree murder charges in the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. In the early hours of Valentines Day 2013, Oscar Pistorius fired 4 shots through his bathroom door killing Reeva Steenkamp.

That is where it stands right now. Both sides have a very different story they will tell when the trial kicks off on March 3rd 2014, in South Africa’s capital city of Pretoria.

It is the prosecution’s contention that Pistorius after having an argument with Steenkamp fired four shots through the bathroom door murdering her in cold blood. They will call 107 witnesses in an effort to prove that is what happened on that fateful night.

There witnesses range from the family of both Steenkamp and Pistorius, to neighbours and employees of the gated community. It is said that many witnesses will claim to have heard a women scream, a pause, four gun shots and then more screaming.

The defence will try to convince the judge that Oscar Pistorius was in a vulnerable position with out his prosthetic legs, and mistook Reeva as an intruder hiding in the bathroom. At which time he fired four shots through the door. Their defence is as simple as that, or that is what it would seem any way.

There is no death penalty in South Africa so if convicted of first-degree, premeditated murder he will serve life in prison, which carries a minimum of 25 years in South Africa. The prosecution also claims that even if Pistorius did believe it was an intruder, he fired through the door with the intention of killing whom ever was in there, so that in itself carries a sentence of 15 years.

Oscar Pistorius has also been charged with possession of unauthorized ammunition.

As the charges were read in court, Pistorius was holding hands with his siblings, and openly weeping. He was granted bail and is allowed to continue to travel and compete as long as he complies with the court stipulations.

I am sure as we get closer to trial more details will come to the surface in regards to what took place on that dreadful night.

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By Jason Sutcliffe

Newcastle is home to a whole different breed of degenerate. I thought I had seen it all. The grandparents of Maxwell Begley a 13-year-old autistic teenager had their world rocked Friday. An anonymous neighbour slipped a letter in their mailbox calling for them to euthanize the boy.

Whom ever it was that wrote the letter had a lot to say but did not have the backbone to stand behind their hateful comments. From top to bottom the letter is filled with disgusting insults and ignorant hatred.

For whatever reason the author felt it necessary to tell the family, “…No employer will hire him, no normal girl is going to marry/love him, and you are not going to live forever!!!! Personally, they should take whatever non-retarded body parts he has and donate it to science. What the hell good is he to anyone anyway !!!!”

My jaw hit the floor while reading this! To think that a mother could show this hatred to a young boy is disturbing. He is autistic, so he does not have the right to live? I would have to say this is right up their with some of the worst things I have ever heard—ever.

This conduct by an adult is reprehensible, and to think the Crown Attorney’s Office of Ontario says that it does not meet the requirements of a hate crime. If this does not meet the requirements, I am not sure what does. That tells me that anything goes in today’s world.

I can appreciate that they are doing everything they can in tracking down the author of the letter. Also that they are working to find a section of the criminal code that sees this as a crime. For the love of god, I hope that they do.

The author at an earlier point also says, “ The noise he makes when he is outside is DREADFUL!!!!!! He scares the hell out of my normal children!!!!!!” I see so instead of explaining to your children that some children are born with diseases, ailments or disorders that are not their fault, and they should never be teased—ever. You decided that best way to handle this was to write a letter filled with ignorance and hate.

Well, I feel sorry for this person’s “normal” children, because being raised by someone with this much ignorance and a faulty moral foundation is not going to pose well for their upbringing.

As if the first two paragraphs did not get the authors point across, the last two were probably the worst (In my opinion any way):

“Do everyone in the neighbourhood a favour and MOVE!!!! VAMOSE!!! SCRAM!!! Move away and get out of this type of neighbourhood setting!!! Go live in a trailer in the woods or something with your wild animal kid!!! No one wants you living here, and they do not have the guts to tell you!!![sic]”

“Do the right thing and move to euthanize him!!! Either way, we are ALL better off.”

I had to copy this from the original letter on the Internet, and as I was doing so it was making me sick. I will say it again, I have no idea how this does not sky rocket past the threshold of a hate crime. I hope the Crown Attorney of Ontario finds a section of the criminal code that sees this as a crime.

Before that, I hope that the police are able to figure out who wrote the letter and the media does what they do best and plaster her face all over the local news in every province, city, county and township across the country.

The only bright spot in this story is the support that this family has received from the people in their community. It is a beautiful thing and awesome that they know these thoughts do not represent the majority but instead one degenerate, piece of garbage.

I wish the best for this young man in life, and hope never again is he subjected to this ignorance and hatred.

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By Jason Sutcliffe

Officer James Forcillo will face the charge of 2nd degree murder in the shooting death of Sammy Yatim. The highly controversial shooting was caught on camera and caused an immediate uproar from citizens across the city and country.

The SIU following their investigation recommended Forcillo face the charge of 2nd degree murder. We should be ecstatic as citizens that Forcillo will be placed on trial and justice will be served, or will it?

I for one am not going to hold my breath. Since 1990, seven on duty police officers have been charged with manslaughter or murder, and none of them were convicted.

In fact, it is necessary to point out that the SIU, which is portrayed as a “Citizen watchdog” over the police department, is far from it. It is a department of ex-police over looking the police. 47 of the 54 SIU investigators are former police officers. This is like the wolf, supervising the wolf that looks over the sheep. It just does not work.

As of 2010 the SIU had investigated over 3400 cases. Out of those, charges were laid 95 times, with only 16 convictions and a mere 3 resulting in jail time. If I were to give you those stats in the form of a percentage it would be almost non-existent.

If you look at some of the cases that have been dismissed it just leaves you shaking your head. In 2009, an OPP officer shot a mentally challenged Douglas Minty while standing in front of his mother’s house. After taking a step toward the officer with a pocketknife, the officer who had on a bullet proof vest, was armed with a taser and pepper spray, found it necessary to shoot Minty 5 times—the charges were dropped, and he walked free

Mei Han Lee, a 67-year-old grandmother, was on her way home when a police cruiser struck her. She was tossed 30 meters; her brain stem was severed, and she was killed instantly. Officer Quijada-Mancia, the driver of the patrol car was not on his way to an emergency call, never had his sirens on, and had slammed the gas crossing over 3 lanes before striking Mei Han Lee—He was cleared by the SIU, their reasoning; he had only been driving 24 km/h at the time of impact.

Those are just two of the cases where officers of the law have avoided all accountability for their actions.

The point? It is great that James Forcillo has been arrested and charged, but it is only great if the system is willing to hand out justice. If it is willing to stand-up and hold people accountable regardless of their profession, or social standing. Rather based on the evidence and their actions. This is a significant opportunity for the judicial system to show the citizens of the city, province and country that the justice system does work. That nobody is exempt from justice.

Only time will tell, but I hope for the Yatim family, and all the citizens of the city, that the justice system finally says enough is enough. Police will no longer be able to hide behind a badge, and are accountable for their crimes like everyone else.


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By Jason Sutcliffe

Try and imagine for a second that at 18-years-old you are arrested for the murder of 3 eight year old boys. A crime of which you were completely innocent. Then not only are you arrested but you are convicted and sentenced to the rest of your life in prison.

Convicted with zero physical evidence, but rather on your choice of clothing, music, reading material and a manipulated confession from a suspect with a mental handicap (Jessie Misskelley), which has more holes in it than Swiss cheese, Sounds like your worst nightmare, right? Well for Jessie Misskelley, Jason Baldwin, and Damien Echols this was their reality.

In 1994, the three were convicted in the murder of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. During the trial, the young men appeared very relaxed and sure of their innocence. At one point during the trial, a reporter asked Damien Echols what he thought of the charges brought against him and his friends. He replied, “They are bullshit, and I can not wait for this to be over”.

Well, it would not be over for 18 years. It would take 18 years, numerous advocacy groups, documentaries, and a group of unexpected Hollywood celebrities including Johnny Depp, Henry Rollins, Eddie Vedder and the Dixie Chicks, before the judicial system would acknowledge they had made a catastrophic error in sentencing these three to life in prison.

The courts were not willing to admit they made a mistake. Instead, the three were forced into using an obscure law known as the Alfred Plea. The plea would require them to maintain their innocence and acknowledge that the courts had enough evidence to convict them.

One of the most significant things to remember about a situation like this where people get railroaded by the justice system, is put best by Henry Rollins when he said, “It could be have been anyone of us.” I believe this is the reason these groups reached out to help.  They identified with these young men, and the fact that they were targeted due to their taste in fashion, clothes and music with zero physical evidence.

Since their release, the three men have worked hard to put their lives back together. Misskelley has moved back to Arkansas in the same area he grew up in and has been doing some carpentry work, Baldwin is working towards his law degree, but has had difficulties with a triple murder on his record and Damien Echols has written a book, but has issues travelling due to his record.

The justice system did not only let down these three men, but also Michael Moor, Christopher Byers and Steven Branch—the three young boys that were found dead in the woods. For those boys there has been no justice, instead more tragedy.

The justice system’s failure to re-open the case, and attempt to bring justice to the cold blooded killer(s) who still walks the street is a slap in the face to the three young boys, their families, and the three men wrongly accused.

Many lives were destroyed by these events; from the victim’s family to the wrongly accused and their families. Damien Echols had an infant son when he was sentenced to life, one he never got to know.

His son had recently found himself in trouble with the law; charged with Shoplifting and failure to appear in court. I can not help but feel like he is just another victim in the ripple effect of this case. All we can do is hope all the people involved are able to find peace and happiness in their life.

This story has inspired the recently released motion picture the West Memphis Three, and the soundtrack titled West Memphis Three: Voices of Justice, with music by Eddie Vedder, Marilyn Manson, Bob Dylan and more. Without all of these people and their willingness to fight for justice, Jessie, Jason and Damien would still be sitting in a cell, serving a life sentence for something they never did.