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Canada Morning Update: Toronto police search for clues to killer’s path; Canada seeks united front with Mexico in NAFTA talks

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These are the top stories:

Toronto police are searching for clues to trace the Danforth killer’s path

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In the final moments of a mass shooting on a crowded Toronto street, attacker Faisal Hussain came face to face with a frightened resident. Armed with a handgun and moments from his own death, he told the man his life would be spared. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to shoot you," he said. Neighbourhood resident Jaspal Singh was cutting through a laneway on his way to his restaurant on the busy Danforth strip when he ran into the gunman.

Investigators documented the chance encounter on Tuesday as they went door to door, interviewing witnesses of Sunday’s attack that left 18-year-old Reese Fallon and 10-year-old Julianna Kozis dead. Thirteen other victims, ranging in age from 17 to 59, were injured as Hussain, 29, crisscrossed Danforth Avenue around 10 p.m., firing at pedestrians and businesses. It’s unknown how Hussain selected his victims or what motivated the attack. His family has said in a statement that he had “severe mental-health challenges,” including a lifelong struggle with depression and psychosis.

In response to Toronto’s shooting problem, all the other answers come after fewer guns, writes Denise Balkissoon: “Eliminating weapons – particularly handguns, which are designed to do nothing but murder people – has the immediate effect of less murder. That’s the place to start.”

To catch up on what happened, this is how the Toronto shooting unfolded.

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Canada is seeking a united front with Mexico in upcoming NAFTA talks

Three top Canadian cabinet ministers are heading to Mexico City in a bid to ensure Canada and Mexico maintain a united front amid NAFTA negotiations with the United States.

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Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and new International Trade Minister Jim Carr will plot strategy and try and get a feel for leftist president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who takes power Dec. 1. Formal NAFTA discussions stalled in May over sticking points such as auto-manufacturing rules and Washington’s demand for an expiry clause in the deal. Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump mused publicly – not for the first time – about striking a deal with Mexico separately from Canada. Mexico and the United States are scheduled to hold one-one-one talks Thursday in Washington without Canada present.

U.S. trade lawyer Daniel Ujczo said he believes the Trump administration wants to negotiate with Mexico alone right now – and then Canada separately – in a two-stream approach. This doesn’t herald the beginning of a split into separate bilateral deals but an effort by the Americans to take a different tack in negotiations. “This is tactical not transformative,” Ujczo said.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the Trump administration said it would provide up to US$12-billion in aid for U.S. farmers to shield them from the repercussions from trade spats between the United States and China, the European Union and others.

The White Helmets rescue from Syria is a triumph for Canadian diplomacy rivaled only by the famous ‘Canadian caper’

Canada is being widely hailed for its leadership in the operation that saved more than 400 people from Syrian forces loyal to the regime of Bashar al-Assad. They were members of the famed White Helmets, a group of volunteers who help victims after attacks. The details of how it all happened are reported for the first time by The Globe and Mail – and sources say much of the credit belongs to a Canadian diplomat, Robin Wettlaufer, as well as to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, and Canada’s ambassador to Jordan, Peter MacDougall.

This second Canadian caper was not the unqualified success that the Iran operation was, in which staff at Canada’s embassy in Tehran helped six U.S. diplomats evade capture after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. While more than 800 people were approved for rescue from Syria (and eventual resettlement in Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany), only 422 made the journey to Israel and on to Jordan on the weekend. That number consists of 98 rescue workers and their families. The route to safety for more than 400 others was blocked when Islamic State fighters suddenly appeared near the crossing to the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights amid the rescue operation. The fate of the other White Helmets is unknown. “The regime already took all the area now, and our volunteers [are] still there,” said Majd Khalaf, one of the founders of the White Helmets, adding that it was difficult to communicate with those still trapped in southern Syria. Asked in a WhatsApp conversation whether those left behind are in danger, Khalaf replied: “Yep.”

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Data show cannabis-possession charges decreased by 25 per cent in 2017

Charges for cannabis possession dropped about 25 per cent across the country last year, continuing a steady decrease ahead of legalization.

New Statistics Canada figures show 13,768 people were charged with possession of as much as 30 grams of cannabis in 2017, down from almost 18,000 a year earlier and 26,000 in 2013. But legalization advocates say even the lower figures are far too high and argue that Ottawa will need to implement mass pardons for the thousands of people saddled with criminal records for using a drug that will soon be legal.

Mike Serr, deputy police chief in Abbotsford, B.C., said the declines are largely a result of police forces pivoting to focus on more dangerous drugs such as opioids, which are killing thousands of people each year across the country.

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U.S. franchisees are suing Tim Hortons' parent over alleged price gouging and equity theft

A Tim Hortons franchisee group that operates over 300 stores in the U.S. is suing parent company Restaurant Brands International Inc., alleging they are being overcharged for a slew of items such as bacon and vinyl gloves, which they are required to buy from the company’s designated suppliers. The lawsuit also contends that franchisees are facing “equity theft” because those looking to sell their franchises are forced to first offer their restaurants to Tim Hortons for the price of their depreciated furniture, fixtures and equipment. RBI said in an e-mail that the lawsuit is not based on facts. The company also disputed the fact that the association represents 300 stores. There are almost 700 Tim Hortons restaurants in the United States and 3,900 in Canada.


Markets mixed

A three-day worldwide stocks rally was threatening to stall on Wednesday, as investors waited for a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and the President of the European Commission to see where the global trade war was heading next. Tokyo’s Nikkei rose 0.46 per cent while the Hong Kong Hang Seng was up 0.90 per cent. The Shanghai Compite was down marginally at 7 a.m. ET. In Europe, London’s FTSE was down 0.62 per cent and Germany’s DAX 0.2 per cent. The Paris CAC 40 was up slightly. New York futures were down. The Canadian dollar was at 76.16 US cents.


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Toronto should be defined by more than horrible events

“The neighbourhood square at Danforth and Logan where a lot of teenage nights ended, the dessert place I’d go on dates before I was old enough to get into bars, the little Italian restaurant my wife and I occasionally sneak to – that had been shot into. It didn’t feel like they would, or should, ever be the same. Something sinister had infected them. Then the Danforth reopened and you could feel the darkness being forcibly lifted by locals determined to show that tragedy would only strengthen their community’s fabric, not rend it.” – Adam Radwanski

In the wake of tragedy, signs of hope along the Danforth

“It’s only after something awful happens that you stop to notice certain things. The park is dedicated with a plaque and a spark from the eternal flame in Marathon. It is meant to represent the spirit of that flame: ‘courage, dedication, determination, democracy and world peace.’ Watching the people of Toronto brought together by the opposite of those things on Monday, you felt in it a prophecy and something that seemed like hope.” – Cathal Kelly

Why Trump wants to break up the European Union

“At the heart of this diplomatic discord is Mr. Trump’s disdain for the European Union, which goes significantly beyond that of any president since the bloc’s establishment. While he has concerns with Europe’s low levels of defence spending vis-a-vis Washington, it is on the economic front that the Brussels-based club is the deepest source of frustration for him with its large goods surplus with the United States.” – Andrew Hammond, an associate at LSE IDEAS at the London School of Economics

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Is it Tea Party time for the Democrats?

“Ocasio-Cortez is more than the flavour of the month. A rash of other strong left candidates have been doing well in nomination fights for the midterm elections by touting a similar agenda. Donald Trump has energized the Democratic Party, particularly the youth. If they’re not motivated by the outrage-a-day President, they never will be.” – Lawrence Martin


The subtle ways restaurants get you to spend more

Ever go out for dinner and spend twice what you planned? It turns out there’s a key aspect of restaurant dining that we consistently underestimate: the menu. Every detail of a menu’s design is calculated to influence what you eat, how it makes you feel and which information you share with others to ensure you come back and bring your friends. Take a look at these subtle tactics so you and your wallet can both enjoy your next meal out on the town.


July 25, 1976: In 1975, NASA sent Viking 1 to Mars to search for signs of life. As the spacecraft circled the red planet looking for a future landing site for its much larger sister ship, Viking 2, it snapped a photo of what appeared to be not only proof of life, but of intelligence. The photograph, taken on July 25, 1976, showed what looked like a human face on the surface of the planet, nearly three kilometres long. NASA made the image public a few days later, hoping to stoke interest in the mission, saying that shadows were “giving the illusion of eyes, nose and mouth.” Since then, the face has become a major point of interest in pop culture, even appearing on The X-Files. Conspiracy theorists and others said there was no way that it was an illusion, it had to be proof of some ancient Martian civilization. NASA photographed the area twice more, in 1998 and 2001. The sharper images, thanks to better cameras, showed it to be nothing more than land formations. The conspiracy theory of the “face on Mars” lives on to this day, and some still believe that NASA is hiding the truth. – Dave McGinn

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