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The Cult of Pastor Song: a religious sex scandal in Toronto’s Korean community

The sex scandal consuming Toronto’s Korean community began when six international students said they were repeatedly gang-raped by members of their small church. The accused allege that their eccentric pastor brainwashed the women to deflect attention from his own transgressions

The Cult of Pastor Song

Holy orders: Jae Kap Song, the founder and pastor of Jesus First, encouraged his flock to wear church uniforms and live together in six shared apartments

One July day in 2007, an 18-year-old woman checked into her Toronto-bound flight at South Korea’s Incheon Airport. She was travelling light—she had with her one suitcase containing clothes for a range of seasons, some books and a favourite brand of face cream. She had been living with her grandparents in South Korea and was joining her mother, who had split with her father and moved to Toronto to study acupuncture three years earlier.

A court-ordered publication ban prevents me from identifying the woman, but I’ll call her Yeri. Her plan was to learn English at one of Toronto’s hagwons, Korean-run cram schools that cater to the thousands of young men and women who come to Canada on student visas each year. With command of the language, she would get into a better college in South Korea and ultimately, her family hoped, receive coveted job offers at multinationals.

From the airport, Yeri headed to a Bloor and Islington apartment building where her mother lived in one of six units leased by members of Jesus First, a Korean Presbyterian church run by a pastor named Jae Kap Song. Her mother belonged to the church and expected her to join, too. They’d share one of the apartment’s bedrooms. A second bedroom was shared by two male members of Jesus First.

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Remember when Perez Hilton was assaulted in Toronto? He’s coming back to visit!

Some people consider Perez Hilton to be obnoxious, but he made waves recently when he decided to wear a blazer with no shirt in an effort to show off his new body, so he’s become relevant on the Internet again. And now, presumably because of his beach bod, his popular website that people are embarrassed to admit they read and his new children’s book, he’ll be in town for a party he’s calling “One Night in Toronto” at XS Nightclub on June 17. His “One Night In” party tour has included performances from Lady Gaga, Snoop Dogg, Courtney Love, Katy Perry and more. We’re fairly confident that Toronto will have to settle for local pop acts like Hedley, Keshia Chanté and Kreesha Turner. There’s definitely no way Will.I.Am is showing up.

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GALLERY: some of our favourite signs, outfits and marchers at the second annual SlutWalk

Hundreds of marchers—in outfits ranging from jeans and tees to bondage gear to not much of anything—cheered, chanted and marched from Nathan Phillips Square to Queen’s Park on Friday evening for the second annual SlutWalk. Started last year after a local cop made some ignorant and misogynistic comments to students at York University in January 2011 (specifically, that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”), the march against victim-blaming and slut-shaming has gone global, with SlutWalks taking place in 200 cities around the world, including New Delhi, London, Rio de Janeiro, Berlin and across the U.S.  In other words, the organizers turned an embarrassing moment for Toronto into a global movement in support of sexual assault victims.

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How bullying became the crisis of a generation

Kids are committing suicide, parents are in a panic, and schools that neglect to protect students are lawsuit targets

The Bully Mob

Mitchell Wilson had a short life. He was born in March 2000 at Markham-Stouffville Hospital to Craig and Shelley Wilson. From the age of three, he had trouble running and jumping. He climbed stairs slowly, putting both feet on each step before moving up. He fell often, and sometimes he couldn’t get up on his own. His doctors thought he had hypermobility syndrome—joints that extend and bend more than normal.

When Mitchell was seven, his mother was diagnosed with an aggressive melanoma. Her treatments left her distant, sometimes testy and mean, and in so much pain that she rarely left her bedroom. “I sort of kept Mitchell away,” Craig Wilson told me.

“He basically didn’t talk to his mother during the last four months of her life.” Wilson often left his son to his own devices while he took care of his dying wife and ran his family’s industrial knife business. Mitchell spent most of his time in his bedroom, playing video games. He comforted himself with food, and by the time he was four feet tall he weighed 167 pounds. Once, in a Walmart, he fell to the ground and his grandmother had to ask store employees to help her lift him.

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Activist arrested after penning a blog post calling out a “screw-rat infiltrator” 

Activist, journalist and blogger Dan Kellar was arrested last week after he named and published a picture of a man he believed to be an undercover police officer infiltrating activist groups. Kellar told his readers in a blog post on peaceculture.org to “spit in [the alleged informant’s] footsteps and scoff at his existence” (yikes!). The Toronto Media Co-op is reporting that Kellar’s charges include criminal defamation and counselling his readers to commit assault, among others. Kellar is also a member of an anti-war group that saw several of its members arrested before the G20 summit. The blog post has since been deleted—but Google Cache seems to have snagged it. Remember Officer Bubbles, anyone? Read the entire story [Toronto Media Co-op] »

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TTC to ban passengers who assault transit staff 

In the aftermath of a particularly vicious assault on a TTC worker last Monday, the TTC is going to try to lower the boom on passengers who attack transit operators by banning them from using Toronto public transit. This is something that could be imposed by the courts, and we have to admit we’re curious as to why this hasn’t happened sooner. Whatever issues this city has with its transit, we’re pretty confident that we can all support the position that TTC riders who assault TTC workers probably shouldn’t be allowed on the bus. But considering that on average, the TTC reports two assaults on its workers per day, maybe that’s not as obvious as we hoped. Read the entire story [Toronto Sun] »

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How the G20—with its burning cars, broken storefronts, violent beatings and mass arrests—ruined Bill Blair’s popularity

Bill Blair

Family business: Blair planned on becoming a lawyer, but followed his dad into the TPS.

On June 26, 2010, Bill Blair was in the middle of the most complicated week of his career. The G20 summit had transformed the peaceful city that Blair had spent most of his life protecting into something closer to a police state. Protesters filled the streets. Steel fences sliced through the downtown core, guarded by black-masked riot police. Busloads of officers had arrived from across the country—cops who didn’t know Toronto’s streets and were technically not even accountable to Blair. Decisions about G20 security were being made by the Integrated Security Unit, a coalition of police and armed forces. The RCMP was responsible for controlling the area within the summit fence. The Toronto Police Service, assisted by officers from 21 provincial police detachments, was left with the rest of the city. The division of responsibilities was so unclear that as the summit began, even the head of the police board was confused about exactly where the ISU’s job ended and the TPS’s began. Blair was worried. International summits like the G20 rarely ended well. The chief had studied recent summits in preparation for the event, and what he found wasn’t encouraging. In Genoa in 2001, police had shot a protester to death. In 2009, rioters looted stores in Pittsburgh. Blair hoped to learn from history’s mistakes, but with tens of thousands of protesters meeting thousands of police officers, there were plenty of opportunities to make new ones.

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SIU closes investigation into the Adam Nobody assault—again

Image: Jeff Denberg

The total number of police officers who will be charged in the beating of Adam Nobody at last summer’s G20 summit will, apparently, be one and only one. Yesterday, the Special Investigations Unit announced that it was closing the investigation into Nobody’s beating for the second time (the SIU reopened the case when Rosie DiManno decided to take over the investigation on the Toronto Star’s front page), after finding grounds to charge only a single officer—Babak Andalib-Goortani—with assault. In what’s becoming a familiar refrain, the SIU says it can’t identify any other officers that might have been involved in the Nobody incident.

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Another front-page treatment on the Star, another officer charged with G20 offenses

Unidentified police officers at the G20 summit last summer (Image: James Schwartz)

The Toronto Star continued to do the investigative work the Toronto police would prefer it didn’t, managing once more to splash its front page with a story about a cop accused of abuse at the G20 summit. And, once more, with the spotlight shining brightly on n allegedly misbehaving officer, charges were promptly laid. It’s pretty much a replay of the Babak Andalib-Goortani case, only this time the Star had someone other than Rosie Dimanno do the honours.

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UPDATE: Toronto Police Service reopens G20 assault case after the Star makes it look bad

Well, that was fast. This morning, the Toronto Star reported that even the roommate of the cop who allegedly assaulted Dorian Barton at the G20 summit failed to identify him; then, this afternoon, the Special Investigations Unit announced that it’s going to reopen the case. Turns out the Toronto Police Service is willing to provide some more information after all. We’re sure it’s just a coincidence that it came out on the same day as the Star’s front-page story—just like the last time.

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CBC reporter Mellissa Fung was abducted, stabbed and held captive in the Afghan desert for 28 days—and she wants to go back

Portratit of Melissa Fung

Image: Adam Rankin

In your new book, Under an Afghan Sky, you describe being taken hostage by Taliban sympathizers. Tell us about the abduction.
I had just finished an interview in a refugee camp in Kabul when a car sped through the gates and three men with guns jumped out, grabbed me and threw me into the vehicle. We drove for hours, and then they led me at gunpoint into the desert and forced me into a hole in the ground. It was a little taller than an elevator on its side. I could barely stand up.

You were stabbed in the shoulder and hand on the day you were taken. Do you have permanent injuries?
I have no feeling in part of my hand, and I have a scar on my shoulder. A friend calls it my Harry Potter scar because it itches sometimes, which she says means something bad is going to happen.

You were raised Catholic. In captivity, you felt alternately close to and abandoned by God. How has your faith been affected?
It’s complicated. I have a hard time reconciling the fact that I was praying to my god while my kidnapper was praying to his god after he stabbed me.

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Yesterday’s arrest means Parkdale can breathe a little easier—but the treatment of the mentally ill remains an issue

After a disturbing series of assaults that targeted residents with mental illness—some of whom were elderly—in the city’s west end, it looks like the cops got their man. The Toronto Police Service announced yesterday that it had arrested Ricardo Morrison, charging the 32-year-old with two counts of assault and naming him as a “person of interest” in the murder case of 62-year-old George Wass.

While Parkdale didn’t become a fear-gripped ghost town in the last month, the attacks have certainly been on people’s minds. The issue surfaced during interviews with the riding’s election candidates, local residents organized marches, and some people in the community spoke out against the discrimination and neglect that victims of mental illness have to face. In a number of interviews with reporters after the arrest, locals described a palpable sense of relief—but they also weren’t entirely put at ease.

From the Toronto Sun:

“I’m relieved, but if he’s only responsible for mine and not the others, then that’s not good,” Dan Chiarelli, 45, the most recent victim, said Tuesday.

He was shocked to learn the man accused of attacking him is his neighbour.

“It’s scary,” Chiarelli said. “I don’t even know him.”

We hope police have the right person—and also that the awareness of the challenges confronting those with mental illness won’t fade with the headlines.

Suspect in Parkdale attacks often complained about neighbors [Toronto Star]
Parkdale residents relieved after arrest [Toronto Sun]
Charges laid in assaults on mentally ill in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood [Globe and Mail]

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Toronto cop reportedly tells students to avoid sexual assault by not dressing “like a slut”

A chair at Osgoode Hall (Image: Tsar Kasim)

A word of advice to women from a Toronto police officer: to avoid sexual assault, don’t dress “like a slut.” This according to York University’s community newspaper, Excalibur, which is reporting that the cop made his comment during a January 24 campus safety information session at, of all places, Osgoode Hall. The assistant dean of the Juris Doctor Program Ronda Bessner remembers being surprised by the officer’s comments. “One of the safety tips was for women not to dress like ‘sluts.’ He said something like, ‘I’ve been told I shouldn’t say this,’ and then uttered the words,” she told Excalibur.

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SIU charges Toronto officer in Adam Nobody beating, as poll shows confidence in police slipping

In a YouTube video, Nobody is shown being tackled by police during a G20 protest at Queen’s Park (Image: SIU handout)

Breaking news today as the SIU—the body looking into police behaviour during the G20—announces it has finally, after the second attempt, managed to find an example of lawbreaking among the cops. Constable Babak Andalib-Goortani is being charged with assault with a weapon and will appear in court January 24, 2011. This is all a result of the now-infamous assault on Adam Nobody, whose case is one of the more obviously questionable ones to come out of that weekend.

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Toronto Leonardo DiCaprio slasher sentenced to time in U.S.

The Toronto woman who slashed Leonardo DiCaprio in the face with broken glass at a house party in 2005 has been sentenced to two years in an American prison. Former model Aretha Wilson pleaded no contest to assault with a deadly weapon and will likely serve around six months in state prison, once time served has been factored in; she’s been in a Los Angeles jail since last July. Wilson came to Canada after the attack but was extradited to the U.S. earlier this year.

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