A divorced dad wants his kids to be vaccinated. Their mom doesn’t. Now he’s taking the fight to court
Family law arbitrator’s decision to side with the mother was based on pseudo-science, father argues. And the chief science officer at Public Health Ontario says all the anti-vaccine statements made were “verifiably incorrect.”
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JERUSALEM — For 20 years, Hala Kashour has lived with her husband in what she called “paradise,” a bucolic meadow that rolls through a Palestinian neighbourhood of east Jerusalem.
The coveted pasture, which Israel calls the “Peace Forest,” lies in the crosshairs of a long-simmering conflict between the city government and its Palestinian residents that flared up on a recent spring morning as Kashour, 47, was jolted awake by the sound of bulldozers crushing her neighbour’s house.
Some 60 houses in the grassy quarter, known to its 500 residents as Wad Yasul, are facing demolition by Israeli authorities. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court declined to hear the residents’ appeal against demolition orders, saying the structures were built without required permits in a municipally designated green space.
“God willing, we won’t be next,” said Kashour, who claims she built the neighbourhood’s first house, a stone cottage ringed with rose bushes, on land her family has owned for 50 years.
Demolition of unauthorized Palestinian-owned structures in east Jerusalem is not unusual. The municipality contends it cracks down on zoning violations. Palestinians say it is nearly impossible to receive building permits, and that Israel is severely restricting their ability to build on land they claim for the capital of their future state.
But the Peace Forest demolitions have drawn particular attention because of accelerating construction by a nationalist Jewish organization in the same park.
With the support of Israel’s Tourism Ministry, the City of David Foundation has set up lodging structures, operates a Segway tour through the woodland and is advancing plans for several tourist attractions, including a visitor centre and what it bills as the country’s largest zip line. The foundation said it has leased 4% of the park’s total area from the government.
Although city regulations forbid construction of any kind in designated parks, the municipality confirmed it was working to alter zoning restrictions and retroactively authorize City of David’s construction and facilitate its expansion.
“The City of David hasn’t yet received final approval for everything, but its efforts to build up public space with sports and tourist facilities are being considered positively,” said an official in the Jerusalem mayor’s office, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. “We are not eager to evict Palestinian residents in a brutal way, but we have a green light from the highest court.”
Activists and Palestinian residents say the case of the Peace Forest highlights discriminatory Israeli policies that have propelled a housing crisis in overcrowded east Jerusalem.
“The government zoned this area in an intractable way to prevent Palestinian construction, and now we can see the designation being altered to serve Jewish settlement,” said Aviv Tatarsky from Ir Amim, an Israeli group that advocates equality in Jerusalem.
The Supreme Court’s dismissal of the case brought an end to the residents’ costly decade-long legal battle to get their houses, in many cases built decades ago on inherited family land, authorized by Israel.
Structures belonging to two families were destroyed immediately following the decision, and two more homes were demolished on Tuesday. Pending demolition orders for the rest of the area can go into effect at any time, said Zyad Kawar, lawyer for the Palestinian residents.
Many residents view the park zoning as a government ploy to force Palestinians out of east Jerusalem, which Israel considers an indivisible part of its capital.
“They don’t want to give us permits, that’s the bottom line,” said Nasser Burqan, 42, whose cousin owned a house demolished this month. “It’s displacement.”
Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast War and annexed it, a move not internationally recognized. Since then, Israel has boosted the Jewish presence there, building neighbourhoods where over 200,000 Jews now live.
The Peace Forest sits in the larger Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan, long a focal point of Jewish settlement for its proximity to some of the world’s most sensitive religious sites in the walled Old City.
The City of David Foundation runs popular archaeological and touristic sites in and around Silwan — spots it emphasizes as centerpieces of ancient Jewish civilization. The foundation says its sites “are situated upon King David’s once lost ancient capital,” referring to the biblical figure who is believed to have conquered the city and established Jewish Jerusalem thousands of years ago.
In the Peace Forest, “the City of David has transformed what was once a derelict crime-ridden site” into a space used freely by the public, said the foundation’s vice-president, Doron Spielman. “We are confident that it too will become a major tourist attraction.”
The City of David projects are not planned on the ruins of the demolished homes, and the foundation says the city’s demolition plans go back long before it became involved. But critics say the demolitions on one hand, and the green light to City of David on the other, illustrate two sets of standards for Jews and Palestinians in the city.
The organization has also drawn sharp criticism for helping to settle Jewish families in Arab neighbourhoods, fueling suspicions that its tourism projects mask efforts to erase the line between east and west Jerusalem, and with it, hope for an independent Palestinian state.
The two-state dream seems more distant than ever after newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised on the campaign trail to annex West Bank settlements. He is poised to form a governing coalition with right-wing parties that reject Palestinian sovereignty.
His re-election comes a year after the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the U.S. Embassy to the city. Though Trump says his move does not determine the city’s final status, it was seen by the Palestinians and others as recognizing Israel’s claim to the city, including its eastern sector.
With the Trump administration providing unprecedented support for Israel, there are fears in Jerusalem that the government could step up its pressure on Palestinian residents.
“What’s next? What will we do?” said Kashour, standing in her rose garden among some of the recently evicted children from the neighbouring Burqan family. “I don’t have anywhere else.”
Isabel Debre And Areej Hazboun, The Associated Press
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It’s the battle of the stickers.
Gas stations now have the option to display a “Climate change will cost us more” decal on pumps, a design released Thursday by Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner. It’s a play on Premier Doug Ford’s soon-to-be mandatory sticker warning about the perceived cost of the federal carbon tax.
“It’s outrageous that the premier is forcing businesses to be complicit in his anti-climate misinformation campaign. We’re inviting gas stations to make use of the stickers if they want to inform the public about the full costs of the climate emergency,” said Schreiner in a statement.
The Green Party stickers will be available to any gas operator for free. However, Ford’s legislation threatens gas corporations with a maximum $10,000 fine a day if the provincial stickers aren’t displayed on pumps.
Slamming the federal carbon tax has been a rallying cry for Ontario Progressive Conservatives.
“The Prime Minister says the carbon tax will be good for us,” Ford said at a news conference last month. “But then I sit back and say really? Why should anybody believe what he says anymore.”
On the sticker, the provincial government says the carbon tax is pushing up gas prices, but doesn’t mention the federal carbon tax rebate.
The carbon tax is expected to cost a typical household $258 in increased living costs this year, and residents get a rebate of $307 for a family of four, according to the federal government.
Watch: How to claim carbon tax credits. Story continues below.
Schreiner said the Green Party stickers display “the latest research on climate costs for Canada,” as high as $91 billion a year by 2050 and temperatures rising 6.3 C by 2100.
“The extreme flooding across the country should compel us to have an urgent discussion about reducing pollution and preparing our communities,” Schreiner said.
“Yet the Premier wastes millions of taxpayer money to sabotage solutions. And he is cutting funding for programs that protect us from extreme weather by axing tree planting and cutting flood preparation programs.”
Schreiner is not the only critic.
Earlier this week, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association lawyers Steven Sofer and Sandra Barton wrote in a letter to the province that the mandatory sticker legislations constitutes “compelled political speech,” and is a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
If the legislation is passed, the association will challenge the province in court, the letter said.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has also requested the province to remove the proposed sticker legislation from the Federal Carbon Tax Transparency Act.
“Our members – including gas station operators – have expressed concerns regarding the political nature of the stickers, viewing them as a violation of their rights and freedoms,” Rocco Rossi, chamber president, said in a letter to the province. “In addition, this initiative is an example of unnecessary red tape: it is both a new administrative burden and an increased cost to business thanks to the punitive and out-sized fines for non-compliance.”
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ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A $20-million ruling against a website accused of pirating obituaries and photos of dead people in order to profit from grieving families will deter other sites from doing the same, according to the lawyer who led the lawsuit.
Erin Best, a civil litigator based in St. John’s, N.L., said the class action suit launched last year by her client, Dawn Thomson, against the defunct online site, Afterlife, has achieved its purpose.
“The decision acts as a deterrent,” she said in a telephone interview Thursday. “Anybody else in the future who copies an obituary and puts it on a website ought to expect that a claim could be brought against them.”
The strongly worded decision by Federal Court Judge Catherine Kane, dated April 30, called the operations of Afterlife Network Inc. “high-handed, reprehensible and … a marked departure from standards of decency.”
The representative plaintiff’s father, Denis Trainor, died in January 2017. Thomson wrote an obituary for her father and gave permission to a funeral home and the Green’s Harbour Community Channel to publish it, along with a photograph she’d taken.
She later discovered that Afterlife was displaying her father’s obituary and photograph on its website alongside options to buy flowers and virtual candles — all without her permission.
“Thomson described her outrage and mortification that others would think she sought to profit from her father’s death,” noted Kane. Her reaction was echoed by other class action suit members, the judge said.
“The evidence of many … is that they had written the obituaries in a personal way and that their discovery that the obituaries had been reproduced with the addition of sales of candles and other advertising was an emotional blow,” Kane wrote.
Company didn’t contest allegations
The judge found the company had repeatedly violated copyright rules by using photographs and details of dead people to market flowers and other gifts to people.
Best said she will begin the process of collecting damages from the website’s owners. It’s still unclear, however, how many people will claim money. She said there are potentially hundreds of thousands of claimants.
The method of administering the damages will eventually be presented to court for approval, Best said.
The ruling says the firm didn’t contest the allegations brought forward in proceedings filed in Ottawa.
Pascal (Paco) Leclerc, who is named in the lawsuit as an investor in the firm, wrote in an email that “the day we heard that publishing obituaries on the internet similar to that of newspapers and … using photos and original text was not acceptable, we immediately stopped operating the company.”
He said he was not an owner of Afterlife, but was “a silent investor” in a tech company.
“It was not until we received feedback that people wanted to send flowers to the family and other products, that they made these options available,” Leclerc wrote. “The income received never covered the cost of creating and operating the website.”
Leclerc said that after Afterlife was closed he set up a fresh website which only posts “basic facts of the deceased and does not post original text or photos unless given direct permission by the family.”
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