London tenants seek rent control from next Ontario government

From groceries to gas, Canadians are paying more for just about everything these days — and you can add rent to the list of expenses that just keep climbing. Dan Spector reports on what’s being done to address affordability.

A group that advocates for tenants in London, Ont., who are struggling with affordability says rent control for all units is among its top demands for the next political party to form Ontario’s government.

The demands from London ACORN in the 2022 election come as the city experiences a sharp rise in average monthly rental rates, according to the latest national rent report from Rentals.ca.

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The report found average rent for all property types in London had increased by 18 per cent from March 2021 to March 2022, the highest increase observed in Ontario.

Across Ontario averages, London was followed by Hamilton, Toronto and Etobicoke, which saw annual increases of 15.9 per cent, 14.3 per cent and 9.5 per cent, respectively. Nationally, Vancouver, B.C., saw the largest yearly hike, with average rents rising 29.9 per cent since 2021.

A graph pulled from Rentals.ca's national rent report, which found London has the largest yearly increase in average rents among Ontario cities.

A graph pulled from Rentals.ca's national rent report, which found London has the largest yearly increase in average rents among Ontario cities.

Rentals.ca

Pauline Salisbury, who rents a home in northwest London, was subject to two rent increases last year, both of which were above provincial guidelines.

The province currently has a set of guidelines for each year that dictates how much rent can be increased. This year’s guideline is set at 1.2 per cent, while last year’s was set at zero per cent, due to the rent freeze issued by the Doug Ford government amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, landlords can implement an above-guideline rent increase so long as they successfully apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board.

In 2018, the Ontario government introduced legislation that scrapped rent control on new builds that are occupied for the first time after Nov. 15, 2018.

As a senior, Salisbury said that she receives about $1,100 each month through the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security, but that her monthly rent now exceeds that amount, meaning her fixed income can’t keep up.

“Seniors only get so much money from Canada Pension and Old Age. It doesn’t cover all of our rent and what little bit of savings we have, we have to dip into it, so if I live another 10 years, I’ll be a bag lady,” Salisbury said.

“I’d like to buy new clothes, but I can’t. Every now and then, I wouldn’t mind having a treat, take myself out for something to eat, but those things you just can’t do.”

Salisbury is scheduled to attend a Landlord and Tenant Board hearing at the end of the month as part of her landlord’s application to implement an above-guideline rent increase, but finds herself intimidated with the hearing’s virtual format, adding that she doesn’t have a cellphone. In-person board hearings were closed in response to the pandemic.

“I do have a computer, but the only reason I got it was because my son moved away and we used to FaceTime each other. I play games on it and I have email, but other than that, I don’t know anything about it,” Salisbury said.

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Issues surrounding rent affordability have also been experienced first-hand by Betty Morrison, 47. She was renting in southeast London before her landlord decided to sell the house she lived in. The new buyer wouldn’t let her stay and Morrison was given two months before she’d be kicked out, leaving her in a time crunch to find a new place.

Through the help of a local non-profit and other various supports, Morrison was able to move into a new place, but not after being homeless for about a week.

Before leaving her old home, Morrison said she also had trouble paying for rent, which exceeded her monthly allowance from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) by more than $1,000.

“It’s hard to even support when your shelter doesn’t get covered fully and you’re having to take that out of your basic needs,” Morrison said.

“There’s a lot of times where you have to decide whether you’re paying the bills or going without food. It’s not easy.”

Read more:

Ontario Liberals and NDP offer different rent control promises

Since its launch in October 2020, Morrison has been the leader of London ACORN, the local chapter of a national tenant advocacy group, as she looks to help others in her shoes. Since then, she said she’s lost count of how many people she’s met who are going through issues with rent affordability, including her own children.

Salisbury joined the group when she received a notice for her board hearing at the end of May.

On Wednesday, the group will take part in a national day of action, being held by other ACORN chapters across Canada, where they’ll voice their demands. It’s scheduled for 2 p.m. outside the homes at 295-321 Westminster Ave.

“What we’re asking for is vacancy control, so that landlords cannot increase rent exponentially between tenants, bring all units under rent control so that everybody is covered and ban above-guideline rent increases,” Morrison told Global News.

London ACORN leader Betty Morrison delivers a demand letter to an ODSP office during a rally in London, Ont.

London ACORN leader Betty Morrison delivers a demand letter to an ODSP office during a rally in London, Ont.

London ACORN

Morrison said the group also wants to see increases in the money doled out by social assistance, such as ODSP and Ontario Works.

London ACORN also wants the LTB to resume in-person hearings to help folks like Salisbury.

“There’s a lot of tenants out there who either do not have internet, (or) do not have time to sit on the phone waiting, and it’s making it very difficult to get to the hearings at the Landlord and Tenant Board,” Morrison said.

So far, the Ontario Liberals, the Ontario NDP and the Green Party of Ontario have promised to reinstate rent control on all units.

In an email to the Canadian Press last week, a spokesperson for the Progressive Conservatives defended the decision to remove rent control on new units, saying it actually served to spur more building.

“We made changes to stimulate the construction of new rental housing, and our approach is working. In 2020, the year after our government’s housing supply action plan was released, Ontario had over 11,000 rental starts. Last year rental housing starts were the highest in 30 years,” Gillian Sloggett said in an email.

A full list of promises made so far on the campaign trail can be found on Global News’ promise tracker webpage.

The Ontario election will take place on June 2.

– with files from The Canadian Press’ Liam Casey.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Cricket hot dogs, 'bad breath' lemonade, KD ice cream: 2022 Stampede food revealed

Calling all food lovers! The 2022 Calgary Stampede has unveiled its midway food lineup for the year.

More than 40 new food items will be able to be gobbled up during the 10-day event.

New for this year?

  • Waffle cookie dough ice cream sandwiches
  • Honey habanero ice pops
  • Lemon meringue lychee lemonade
  • Pig-kle sandwiches
  • Cookie dough-nut cookie dough
  • Bao baos
  • Unagi sushi tacos
  • Octopus rangoon
  • Glazed donut grilled cheese
  • Kraft dinner soft serve
  • Deep fried oreo mini donuts
  • Bad breath lemonade (a fusion of garlic and caramelized onion with refreshing ice cold lemonade)
  • Meal worm hot dogs
  • Cricket hot dogs

“The spectacular and inventive dishes brought to the Midway every year truly makes the Calgary Stampede experience fun and memorable,” said Kyle Russell, director of Stampede programming.

“The culinary experience is a ‘must do’”

As always, the crowd favourites will also be there which include corndogs, cotton candy, funnel cakes and mini doughnuts.

The Calgary Stampede is less than two months away, as it kicks off on July 8, 2022.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Confusion over RCMP leadership roles marked early investigation of N.S. mass shooting

The director of Nova Scotia's Emergency Management Office says the RCMP did not consider issuing an emergency alert the morning of the Nova Scotia mass shooting until it was too late. Graeme Benjamin has more.

When a man disguised as a Mountie started killing people in northern Nova Scotia two years ago, there was considerable confusion over who was in charge of the RCMP operation, newly released documents show.

The public inquiry investigating the tragedy also heard about the “chaos in communications” that ensued on April 18-19, 2020, when 22 people were killed in the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.

In a summary of evidence about the RCMP’s command decisions, released Tuesday, the inquiry was reminded that the first indication of trouble came at 10:01 p.m., on April 18, 2020. That’s when Jamie Blair, a resident of rural Portapique, N.S., called 911 to report that her husband had just been shot by a man with “a big gun.”

Read more:

Document details initial response to N.S. mass shooting by RCMP tactical team

As the gunman broke into her home, Blair reported just before she was shot dead that the attacker had a “decked and labelled” police car but was not a police officer.

At the time, Staff Sgt. Brian Rehill was the RCMP’s risk manager at its Operational Communications Centre in nearby Truro, N.S.

Following RCMP protocol, he immediately assumed command.

Within the next 30 minutes, as reports came in about more fatal shootings, Rehill engaged the RCMP’s critical incident command structure and he reached out for help from four other staff sergeants: Steve Halliday, Addie MacCallum, Al Carroll and Jeff West.

The 130-page document includes excerpts of an interview with Halliday, who made it clear that he believed he was in charge of the “overall operation” when he arrived at the RCMP detachment in Bible Hill, N.S., at 11:30 p.m.

But Halliday, the district’s operations officer, told an inquiry investigator that he decided to leave Rehill in control of resources as “ad hoc incident commander.”

“I decided to leave Brian in that role,” he told an inquiry investigator.

Read more:

Lawyers frustrated with mass shooting inquiry in Nova Scotia as deadlines loom

Meanwhile, Al Carroll — district commander for Colchester County — was telling officers that Rehill “has command” as late as 11:45 p.m.

In an interview with the commission last year, Rehill said it was his understanding that he would be the “initial critical incident commander” until a trained critical incident commander — Jeff West — arrived later that night.

As well, there was another RCMP officer providing direction that

night: Sgt. Andy O’Brien, the Bible Hill detachment’s operations non-commissioned officer. Though he was off duty and had consumed four alcoholic drinks, O’Brien later retrieved his portable radio from the detachment — with the help of his wife — and joined in offering direction to investigating officers.

The question of who was in charge in those crucial early hours was addressed in an earlier occupational health and safety report, which found the RCMP had breached the federal Labour Code by failing to ensure employees had necessary supervision.

In a March 29 report, investigator Lorna MacMillan said general duty officers were operating in an “environment of confusion as to who had command and control of the situation.”

MacMillan concluded the supervisors’ training “did not provide the competencies required to allow supervisors to manage an unfolding critical incident such as an active shooter in a large outdoor, rural environment.”

Tim Mills, the RCMP corporal in charge of the tactical response unit at the time, testified Monday that he and his 12-member team received limited direction as they attempted to find the killer on the second day.

Roger Burrill, senior counsel for the inquiry, asked Mills: “As you’re responding, and the perpetrator is on the move, is anyone directing your response locations?”

“No, no,” responded Mills, who has since retired from the force.

Read more:

RCMP claims that emergency alerts cause public panic are unfounded: N.S. inquiry

As for the more senior Mounties involved, the latest document mentions Supt. Darren Campbell and Chief Supt. Chris Leather. But few details are provided, aside from confirmation that Campbell had approved deploying a critical incident commander at 10:46 p.m. and followed up with an email indicating there had been a “multiple shooting.” The document says it remains unclear who received the email.

At 11:08 p.m., Leather sent a text to Campbell indicating he was aware of a “double homicide and an active shooter north of Truro.”

Campbell responded by confirming he had approved a critical incident commander but had no further details to offer.

At 1:19 a.m. on April 19, 2020, Staff Sgt. Jeff West took over as the critical incident commander at a command post in Great Village, N.S., about 10 kilometres east of Portapique. But due to heavy traffic on the RCMP’s radios, he was unable to announce the change until five minutes later.

The inquiry has heard that police communication via two-way radio was a mess during most of the initial investigation, mainly because the system couldn’t handle the number of calls coming in. RCMP Cpl.

Trent Milton, an emergency response team member who testified on Monday, said there was “chaos in communications.”

Under questioning by Robert Pineo, a lawyer who represents the families of 14 victims, the RCMP officer said, “Too many people were trying to chime in over the radio, and it was leading to confusion.”

And when Staff Sgt. Dan MacGillivray took over as critical incident commander at 10:20 a.m. on April 19, 2020, he was unable to broadcast the change of command until 11:21 a.m., again because of the clogged airwaves.

The inquiry has heard the gunman, 51-year-old denture technician Gabriel Wortman, was shot dead by two Mounties just before 11:30 a.m. when he stopped at a gas station north of Halifax to refuel a stolen car.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Finland votes overwhelmingly to join NATO military alliance

WATCH: Finland, Sweden apply for NATO membership

Finland‘s parliament on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a proposal to apply for membership of the NATO military alliance in a historic policy shift prompted by Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine.

President Sauli Niinisto and the government decided officially on Sunday that Finland would apply for membership but the decision was pending parliament’s approval.

Read more:

As Finland, Sweden move to join NATO, Turkey says it will veto bid

Of the 200 lawmakers, 188 voted in favour and eight against the application, Speaker Matti Vanhanen said.

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said the decision was no reason to celebrate because “there is war in Europe.”

“Finland’s membership in NATO will not change our basic thinking that we will always seek peaceful solutions and we are a peace-loving nation that will first and foremost seek diplomatic solutions to every conflict,” he said during the debate.

Opponents to the application included some lawmakers from the Left Alliance, part of Finland’s five-party coalition, among them Markus Mustajarvi who challenged the decision with a counter-proposal resulting in it being put to the vote.

“Our border would become the border between the military alliance and Russia. New tensions would not be a risk only during the application process but rather a new and permanent condition of our foreign and security policy,” he said.

Early on Tuesday, the foreign affairs committee decided to join the state leadership in proposing to parliament that the Nordic country should apply for membership.

“Having heard a very large number of experts and having received the opinions of 10 (parliamentary) committees, the foreign affairs committee agrees with the government that Finland should apply for membership in NATO. This decision is unanimous,” chairman Jussi Halla-aho told reporters.

© 2022 Reuters

OPP say 2022 has so far been deadliest year on highways since 2012

WATCH ABOVE: Peterborough area police services ramp-up traffic patrols ahead of May long weekend.

The Ontario Provincial Police say 2022 has so far marked the worst level of highway fatalities in 10 years.

The OPP said it hasn’t seen the number of people killed in road collisions reach the 100 mark by the second week of May since 2012.

For 2022, the OPP said there have been 107 fatalities year to date.

Of that, the OPP said two driving behaviours stand out the most — driver inattention and alcohol or drug-related fatalities.

Driver inattention linked deaths are up 79 per cent over this time last year, the OPP said.

For alcohol or drug-related deaths, the OPP said it has seen a 36 per cent increase.

Read more:

OPP say traffic collisions down but fatalities up in 2020 across Ontario

When it comes to fatalities due to speeding, the OPP said the figures are not far off from last year’s mark with 27 deaths so far this year, but that they continue to take the greatest toll.

There were also 15 seat-belt-related deaths, a slight increase from last year.

The OPP said unsafe drivers and passengers who don’t buckle up are setting the stage for an exceptionally tragic year.

“The data is the latest reminder to road users that they are sharing the road with drivers who see the risks they take behind the wheel as inconsequential to themselves and those around them — something every Ontarian should take seriously,” OPP said.

The OPP released the data during national Canada Road Safety Week.

 

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Shortages of some baby formula in Quebec due to panic buying, U.S. supply issues

Greg Wilson of the Retail Council of Canada discusses how a shortage of baby formula in the U.S. is having an impact on supplies on this side of the border.

When Catherine Labrecque-Baker went to purchase hypoallergenic baby formula in mid-April for her six-month-old baby, her Quebec City pharmacist told her there was none left.

In response, Labrecque-Baker travelled to another pharmacy in the city and bought five times the amount she normally does. Then she started to stress as she fed her baby and watched her stockpile slowly shrink.

Her son has an intolerance to cow’s milk protein and relies on Alimentum, a product by American formula maker Abbott, which voluntarily recalled its products in February after four illnesses were reported in babies who had consumed powdered formula from its Michigan plant.

“What am I supposed to do?” Labrecque-Baker asked Monday in an interview. “I cried an entire night, wondering what will I do when I won’t have any more formula.”

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The disruptions at Abbott, the United States’ largest formula maker, are causing supply issues for specific hypoallergenic formulas across Canada, according to Retail Council of Canada spokeswoman Michelle Wasylyshen.

But in Quebec, parents are noticing shortages of other formulas on the province’s pharmacy shelves — a result of panic buying, Wasylyshen said.

“There’s a ripple effect,” she said in an interview Monday, referring to parents like Labrecque-Baker who are scooping up more formula than normal because they fear it will go out of stock.

“We don’t want to see a return to panic buying — that approach doesn’t help anyone,” Wasylyshen said. “Some of our retailers have put limitations in place in terms of what customers can purchase, just to make sure there’s enough for everyone.”

Abbott’s decision to shut its Michigan plant exacerbated ongoing supply chain disruptions among formula makers, leaving fewer options on store shelves across much of the United States. The company is one of only a handful that produce the vast majority of the U.S. formula supply, so Abbott’s product recall — involving brands Similac, Alimentum and EleCare — wiped out a large segment of the market intended for babies with allergies or intolerance to cow’s milk protein.

On Monday, Abbott said it has reached an agreement with U.S. health officials to restart production at its Michigan factory, a key step toward easing a nationwide shortage.

Quebec is not facing the same kind of shortages as in the United States, but Wasylyshen said images of empty pharmacy shelves in the province started circulating online, causing anxiety.

The province’s Health Department on Monday said it’s working with Quebec’s association of pharmacy owners, the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires, to minimize the shortage’s impact.

“We are looking as far away as Europe to counter this lack of supply,” department spokesperson Marjorie Larouche said, adding that shortages are being noticed across Canada.

Marilie Beaulieu-Gravel of the pharmacy owners association said that after Abbott’s Alimentum formula disappeared from shelves, parents rushed to purchase Nutragimen, another hypoallergenic formula, made by Mead Johnson & Company.

“There isn’t a production issue with this product, but rather a domino effect,” Beaulieu-Gravel said Monday in an interview. “The demands for the products increase sharply and unexpectedly on the market.”

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While Nutragimen products are expected to be back on shelves by mid-June, Beaulieu-Gravel said her association isn’t expecting the supply of Alimentum to return before the end of summer.

Meanwhile, some parents, including Labrecque-Baker, are left searching for formula everywhere, even online.

“I looked on Facebook Marketplace, on Kijiji. Friends have been looking for me or giving me what they can,” Labrecque-Baker said. “This week, I spent $200 because I can’t wait and risk it. The more I can stock, the more days I can feed my child.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Amber Heard back on stand for 2nd day of grilling by Johnny Depp's lawyers

Amber Heard took the stand once again Tuesday to continue facing the intense cross-examination about her relationship with her former husband, actor Johnny Depp.

Heard faced the first hours of her cross-examination Monday, as Depp’s lawyers tried to poke holes in her earlier claims about alleged physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Depp.

The couple split in 2016, but have been battling it out in various courtrooms since, as each tries to paint themselves as the bigger victim in the relationship.

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Amber Heard cross-examination begins in defamation trial — ‘I could never hurt Johnny’

This particular trial stems from an op-ed piece Heard wrote for The Washington Post in 2018, in which she claimed she had been abused, but never mentioned Depp by name.

Depp is suing Heard for US$50 million, while Heard is countersuing her former partner for US$100 million.

Read more:

Amber Heard cross-examination begins in defamation trial: ‘I could never hurt Johnny’

As Heard returned to the stand Tuesday, she was asked about the beginnings of her relationship with Depp. Again, Heard told the jury the first year together was “magic.”

Actors Amber Heard and Johnny Depp watch as the jury comes into the courtroom after a lunch break at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 17, 2022.

Actors Amber Heard and Johnny Depp watch as the jury comes into the courtroom after a lunch break at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 17, 2022.

Getty

However, tensions in the courtroom quickly rose as one of Depp’s lawyers, Camille Vasquez, interrogated Heard about an alleged sexual assault in Australia in 2015.

In her earlier testimony, Heard claimed Depp forcibly penetrated her with a glass liquor bottle. She testified Depp had taken 8-10 MDMA pills at the time of the alleged sexual assault.

Depp, alternatively, claimed he was the victim of assault in Australia. He testified Heard severed the tip of his finger when she threw a glass bottle at his hand.

On Monday, Vasquez, attempted to paint Heard as a duplicitous witness, pointing to various photographs and television clips that were taken around the times of alleged abuse, arguing they did not show any visible injuries.

This combination of pictures created on May 16, 2022 shows US actress Amber Heard as she testifies in the courtroom at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia.

This combination of pictures created on May 16, 2022, shows U.S. actress Amber Heard as she testifies in the courtroom at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Va.

Steve Helber / Getty Images

Heard defended herself, saying that she was often able to cover up the markings with makeup and reduce swelling with ice.

Heard also denied leaking photos of said injuries, which made their way to the cover of People Magazine in 2016. She also said she was not the one who leaked — the day before the deposition in her divorce settlement — a video of Depp smashing cabinets in a drunken rage.

Throughout Monday’s testimony, Heard insisted she “never wanted to hurt Johnny,” and said she intentionally tried to hide any physical injuries she sustained at the hands of Depp in an effort to “protect” him.

“All I have is my name. All I have is my integrity, and that is what he tried to take from me,” she said. She added that, in the divorce, she was “not interested in Johnny’s money.”

However, Depp’s lawyers argued that Heard was, in fact, out for Depp’s money, highlighting the fact that she has yet to make good on the charity donations she promised from her $7-million divorce settlement.

Actor Johnny Depp arrives into the courtroom at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 16, 2022.

Actor Johnny Depp arrives in the courtroom at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Va., on May 16, 2022.

Getty

Heard had publicly promised to split the proceeds between two charities — the American Civil Liberties Union and a California children’s hospital.

“I use ‘pledge’ and ‘donation’ synonymously,” Heard testified.

“I don’t,” replied Vasquez.

Heard told the court she hasn’t been able to parcel out the money yet “because Johnny sued me.”

Earlier in the proceedings, which began on April 12 and will wrap up on May 27, Depp denied many of the allegations, insisting that he is a “Southern gentleman” and that he had not been addicted to alcohol or illicit drugs.

This week, the jury will also hear from Heard’s sister, Whitney Henriquez, as well as actor Ellen Barkin, who was in a brief relationship with Depp during the 1990s.

Depp is also expected to be called back to the witness stand as part of Heard’s case.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Average gas price tops $2 a litre in Canada for the 1st time

Montrealers are feeling the pinch at the pump as gas prices jumped again, surpassing $2.15 per litre. Global's Brayden Jagger Haines reports.

Gasoline prices are showing no signs of letting up as the average price in Canada tops $2 a litre for the first time.

Natural Resources Canada says the average price across the country for regular gasoline hit $2.06 per litre on Monday for an all-time high.

The average was a nine-cent jump from the $1.97 per litre record set last week, and is up about 30 cents a litre since mid-April.

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Prices averaged about $2.34 a litre in Vancouver on Monday, while in Toronto the average was almost $2.09 per litre. Edmonton, in contrast, averaged just under $1.69 per litre.

Gasoline prices have been elevated since late February when oil spiked to around US$100 a barrel after Russia invaded Ukraine, while the price jumped to over US$110 per barrel last week.

Prices have also been spiking more recently as the reopening of the economy, and the start of the busy travel season, have led to high demand for gasoline that refiners have limited capacity to meet.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Woman dead following stabbing in Halifax, homicide investigation launched

The online edition of Global News Morning with Paul Brothers and Alyse Hand on Global Halifax.

Halifax police say a 37-year-old woman died following a stabbing that occurred overnight.

According to Tuesday release, police say a stabbing happened just before 1 a.m. in the area of Sylvia Ave and Herring Cove Road in the city.

“Patrol members located a single victim who had been stabbed,” it read.

The victim was taken to the hospital where she later died from her injuries.

Halifax police say they are investigating the incident as a homicide.

Read more:

Police charge teenager after alleged Dartmouth knife chase

In an 8 a.m. release, police said they remained in the area of the 500 block of Herring Cove Road where the stabbing allegedly occurred and traffic was closed.

However, as of 9:50 a.m., traffic in the area has reopened.

Investigators said they do not believe this to be a random incident and investigation is in early stages.

Police are asking anyone with information about the incident to contact them at 902-490-5016.

— With files from Karla Renic.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Joe Biden to visit Buffalo in wake of mass shooting

WATCH: Racist 'white replacement' conspiracy theory breeding new domestic terror threats

When Joe Biden talks about his decision to run against President Donald Trump in 2020, the story always starts with Charlottesville.

He says it was the men with torches shouting bigoted slogans that drove him to join what he calls the “battle for the soul of America.”

Now Biden is facing the latest deadly manifestation of hatred after an apparent white supremacist targeted Black people with an assault rifle at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and left 10 people dead, the most lethal racist attack since he took office.

Read more:

Canada must confront white supremacist ‘trash’ after racist Buffalo shooting: experts

The president and first lady Jill Biden are to visit the city on Tuesday, where their first stop will be a makeshift memorial outside the supermarket. They’re also expected to meet privately with families of the victims, first responders and local officials before the president delivers public remarks.

In a speech at a nearby community centre, Biden plans to call for stricter gun laws and urge Americans to reject racism and embrace the nation’s diversity, the White House said.

It’s a message that Biden has delivered several times since he became the first president to specifically address white supremacy in an inaugural speech, calling it “domestic terrorism that we must confront.”

However, such beliefs remain an entrenched threat at a time when his administration has been preoccupied with crises involving the pandemic, inflation and the war in Ukraine.

“It’s important for him to show up for the families and the community and express his condolences,” said Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP. “But we’re more concerned with preventing this from happening in the future.”

It’s unclear how Biden will try to do that. Proposals for new gun restrictions have routinely been blocked by Republicans. In addition, the racism that was spouted in Charlottesville, Virginia, appears to have only spread.

The White House said the president and first lady will “grieve with the community that lost 10 lives in a senseless and horrific mass shooting.” Three more people were wounded. Nearly all the victims were Black.

Read more:

Security guard who died confronting Buffalo mass shooter hailed as ‘a true hero’

Biden was briefed about the shooting by his homeland security adviser, Liz Sherwood-Randall, before he attended church services on Saturday near his family home in Wilmington, Delaware, according to the White House. She called again later to tell him that law enforcement had concluded the attack was racially motivated.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, told a Buffalo radio station that she invited Biden to the city.

“I said, `Mr. President, it would be so powerful if you came here,’” Hochul said. “’This community is in such pain, and to see the president of the United States show them the attention that Buffalo doesn’t always get.’”

On Monday, Biden paid particular tribute to one of the victims, retired police officer Aaron Salter, who was working as a security guard at the store. He said Salter “gave his life trying to save others” by opening fire at the gunman, only to be killed himself.

Payton Gendron, 18, was arrested at the supermarket and charged with murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

Before the shooting, Gendron is reported to have posted online a screed overflowing with racism and antisemitism. The writer of the document described himself as a supporter of Dylan Roof, who killed nine Black parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, and Brenton Tarrant, who targeted mosques in New Zealand in 2019.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Gendron is “someone who has hate in their heart, soul and mind,” and he called the attack on the store “an absolute racist hate crime.”

So far investigators are looking at Gendron’s reported connection to what’s known as the “great replacement” theory, which baselessly claims white people are being intentionally overrun by other races through immigration or higher birth rates.

The racist ideology is often interwoven with antisemitism, with Jews identified as the culprits. During the 2017 “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, the white supremacists chanted “Jews will not replace us.”

“Many of those dark voices still exist today,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday. “And the president is determined as he was back then . . . to make sure we fight back against those forces of hate and evil and violence.”

Read more:

‘Copycat’ shootings becoming deadlier, experts warn after Buffalo attack

In the years since Charlottesville, replacement theory has moved from the online fringe to mainstream right-wing politics. A third of U.S. adults believe there is “a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants who agree with their political views,” according to a poll conducted in December by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Tucker Carlson, the prominent Fox News host, accuses Democrats of orchestrating mass migration to consolidate their power.

“The country is being stolen from American citizens,” he said Aug. 23, 2021.

He repeated the same theme a month later, saying that “this policy is called the great replacement, the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from faraway countries.”

Carlson’s show routinely receives the highest ratings in cable news, and he responded to the furor Monday night by accusing liberals of trying to silence their opponents.

“So because a mentally ill teenager murdered strangers, you cannot be allowed to express your political beliefs out loud,” he said.

His commentary reflects how this conspiratorial view of immigration has spread through the Republican Party ahead of this year’s midterm elections, which will determine control of Congress.

Facebook advertisements posted last year by the campaign committee of Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said Democrats want a “PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION” by granting amnesty to illegal immigrants. The plan would “overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.”

Alex DeGrasse, a senior adviser to Stefanik’s campaign, said Monday she “has never advocated for any racist position or made a racist statement.” He criticized “sickening and false reporting” about her advertisements.

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Stefanik is the third-ranking leader of the House Republican caucus, replacing Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who angered the party with her denunciations of Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Cheney, in a tweet on Monday, said the caucus’ leadership “has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse.”

Replacement theory rhetoric has also rippled through Republican primary campaigns.

“The Democrats want open borders so they can bring in and amnesty tens of millions of illegal aliens – that’s their electoral strategy,” Blake Masters, who’s running in the Republican Senate primary in Arizona, wrote on Twitter hours after the Buffalo shooting. “Not on my watch.”

A spokesperson for Masters did not respond to a request for comment.

Jean-Pierre indicated that the White House would speak more broadly about racism than singling out specific people for criticism.

“Once you get into calling out people’s names, then you get away from that issue,” she said.

Although Biden has not spoken directly about replacement theory, his warnings about racism remain a fixture of his public speeches.

Three days before the Buffalo shooting, at a Democratic fundraiser in Chicago, Biden said, “I really do think we’re still in the battle for the soul of America.”

Biden said he hadn’t planned to run for president in 2020 – he had already fallen short in two previous campaigns, served as vice president and then stepped aside as Hillary Clinton consolidated support for the 2016 race – and was content to spend some time as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

But he said he was disgusted “when those folks came marching out of the fields in Charlottesville, Virginia, carrying torches” and repeating the “same anti-Semitic bile chanted in the streets of everywhere from Nuremberg to Berlin in the early ’30s.”

And he recalled how Trump responded to questions about the rally, which resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, a young woman who was there to protest the white supremacists.

“He said there are very good people on both sides,” Biden said.

He added, “We can’t let this happen, guys.”

Johnson, the NAACP president, said the country needs to “finally chart a course so we can as a nation begin to address domestic terrorism as we would foreign terrorism – as aggressively as possible.”

He added, “White supremacy and democracy cannot coexist.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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