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News stories from the Star you should know about on Monday, March 6, 2023

Good morning. This is the Monday, March 6 edition of First Up, the Star’s daily morning digest. Sign up to get it earlier each day, in your inbox.

Here’s the latest on Here’s the latest on Ontario’s controversial license suspension program, paths to permanent residence for former Crown wards, and the public health battle against alcohol.


We asked the Ontario government about its controversial license suspensions. Staff prepared answers. Then they were told to withhold them.

Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney’s office blocked the release of information about a controversial provincial program that routinely suspends the licences of safe drivers based on alleged health conditions. Emails from the province obtained through freedom of information requests reveal that ministry staff prepared a thorough set of answers to over 30 questions from Toronto Star and Investigative Journalism Bureau (IJB) reporters, ending up with over 2,000 words on a dozen pages. However, Mulroney’s office revised its directions and requested the ministry send a single statement of fewer than 300 words to reporters. Robert Cribb, Declan Keogh and Max Binks-Collier break down what information the ministry withheld, and why some say the government’s “cloak of secrecy” is “egregious.”

+ Why it matters: License suspensions using medical condition reports (MCR) take tens of thousands of drivers off the road each year. In many cases, they can help make our roads safer. But experts have criticized Ontario’s system as sweeping and harsh, saying it punishes people for seeking help.

+ By the numbers: According to information revealed through the freedom of information request, Ontarians had their licences suspended more than 280,000 times for medical reasons between 2011 and 2020.

+ ICYMI: Here’s the four-part Toronto Star/Investigative Journalism Bureau (IJB) investigation into the controversial program and MCRs.

They were put in child protection, but never got legal immigration status — now advocates are speaking up

As a young teen, Fili attempted to flee the Dominican Republic by sea before he and a friend successfully swam aboard an Egyptian ship that would drop them at the harbour of Quebec City in 2002. At 14, he became a Crown ward. Now, more than two-decades later, Fili continues to fight to obtain permanent residence in Canada. Legal experts say Fili’s case highlights the failure of child welfare agencies to address the unresolved immigration status of Crown wards in their care, reports Nicholas Keung. Here’s why advocates say the experience of former Crown wards is “a story about systemic racism in various systems.”

More: A coalition of advocacy groups has launched a campaign to push for an end to deporting those who came to Canada as minors and spent time in the child-welfare system. It wants to create a pathway for permanent residence.

Context: The overrepresentation of Black children in the child welfare system is well documented, including in a 2018 Ontario Human Rights Commission report, which found the number of Black children admitted into care was 2.2 times higher than their proportion in the child population.

What we know: This summer, the province is expected to bring in new regulations to require all 50 children’s aid societies to review and identify a client’s immigration issues within the first 30 days of a child coming into care


Will alcohol go the way of cigarettes? What one public health battle can tell us

Many have responded dismissively to new drinking guidelines released in January by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, which stated Canadians should stick to a maximum of two drinks per week. The dismissal is familiar to the public health establishment, which is slowly setting its sights on alcohol after successfully slashing smoking rates. Kieran Leavitt reports on the possible lessons to be gleaned from the campaign against tobacco use as focus shifts to alcohol. Here’s why one expert says addressing alcohol consumption is shaping up to be a tough battle.

Why it matters: Alcohol sales, as measured by volume, decreased by 1.2 per cent last year in Canada, the largest drop in over a decade. And alcohol is becoming more widely known as being associated with cancer.

By the numbers: About 80 per cent of Canadians over the age of 15 reported having at least one alcoholic drink in 2019. It’s the most commonly used drug in the country, and contributes to roughly 15,000 deaths per year.


Newly elected Ontario Liberal Party president Kathryn McGarry speaks during the party's 2023 Annual Meeting at the Hamilton Convention Centre in Hamilton, Ont., on March 5, 2023.

Ontario Liberals want to take on Doug Ford in 2026. Here’s how they plan to do it.

Toronto is blaming food delivery riders for possible increases in Bike Share fees.

The UN is looking to Canada for more help tackling the “enormous” need around the world as the number of refugees doubles.

A CSIS analysis reveals climate change poses a profound, ongoing threat to Canada’s national security and prosperity.

This affordable housing building for seniors was closed two years ago. That may be about to change.

Survey results show some Alberta doctors have anti-Indigenous biases. Here’s why it’s “really worrisome.”

Here’s where you’re most likely to be attacked by a wild animal in Canada, according to a new report.

Making one new friend is hard enough. Here’s why this woman is on a quest to make 52.

Millions of empty homes in Japan are being sold for a song or even given away. Foreigners are taking notice.

March break on a budget: Here are cheap ways to make each day special for your children if you can’t afford much.

POV: Downtown Toronto is already stumbling. How many more blows like this can it take?

Nordstrom's departure from Canada will leave a 250,000 square foot hole in the Eaton Centre in Toronto.

CLOSE-UP: TORONTO: Bill Lynn, 88, is now a full-time caregiver to his 89-year-old spouse Marg, who has dementia. Like tens of thousands of aging Canadians with limited support, Bill is spending his later years in a life of devotion and isolation. Here’s a look at Bill and Marg’s daily life.

Bill Lynn is an 88-year-old former fighter pilot who lives with his wife, Marg, a former school teacher and author who is 89 and has serious dementia in Toronto.

Thank you for reading First Up. You can reach me and the First Up team at firstup@thestar.ca

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