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DNA technology cracks two Toronto 1983 cold cases + Ford’s plan to add this town to the Greenbelt raises questions

Good morning. This is the Tuesday, Nov. 29 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 an arrest in two cold cases from 1983, the puzzling decision to add a town into the Greenbelt and urgency around flu vaccination.


Joseph George Sutherland has been arrested for the 1983 Toronto killings of Erin Gilmour and Susan Tice

Police admitted they had “no suspect at all” after the 1983 sexual assault and murder of Susan Tice, a 45-year-old mother and social worker. Four months later, the same was true when 22-year-old aspiring designer Erin Gilmour suffered the same grim fate. Now, thanks to DNA technology, police have finally identified a suspect for both cases: 60-year-old Joseph George Sutherland, who lives in a remote community far from where the Toronto murders took place. Wendy Gillis and Jennifer Pagliaro break down how genetic genealogy cracked the cold cases.

  • Word from the family: “This is a day that I — and we — have been waiting almost an entire lifetime for,” one of Gilmour’s brothers said, adding that for nearly four decades, his sister’s killer had been a “ghost.”
  • Watch for: The charges against Sutherland have not been proven in court. He is scheduled to appear on Dec. 9.
  • Meanwhile: Police are investigating Sutherland’s whereabouts from the past 39 years to determine if he is connected to any other crimes.

Doug Ford’s plan to suddenly add this small town to the Greenbelt puzzles critics and residents

When the provincial government announced the controversial decision to open up 7,400 acres of Greenbelt land for housing development, it also pledged to introduce 9,400 other acres into the Greenbelt in a land swap. Most of that land is part of Erin, a small farming town west of Caledon, where critics and town staff are now questioning: why this land? Due to existing municipal protections for farmland in the area, town staff said its addition to the Greenbelt is “unnecessary.” Noor Javed reports on the questions being raised around what critics say has been a decision with little consultation or scientific rationale.

  • Point: Ontario’s proposal says the land was chosen because it is in the Paris Galt Moraine, a 130-kilometre ecologically sensitive area, created by glaciers, that provides drinking water for thousands of Ontarians.
  • Counterpoint: “For the Paris Galt Moraine to be truly protected, the most recent discussion was asking for protection of at least 40,000 acres,” a Greenbelt West Coalition spokesperson said. Erin’s director of planning, meanwhile, said the province’s proposed Greenbelt expansion doesn’t match its own mapping of the moraine, while the leader of the provincial Green Party, who has twice brought in a private member’s bill to protect the moraine, said it’s unclear why only this “tiny sliver” is being added.

Flu vaccine uptake is “stubbornly low” as older Canadians miss targets

Across Canada each year, influenza is the cause of approximately 175,000 emergency department visits, 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths. Already one of the country’s leading causes of death, influenza poses a greater threat to the health of Canadians this year as the health system faces a “triple threat” of the flu, COVID and RSV. Still, vaccination rates for older adults for the past two flu seasons have only reached about 70 per cent — 10 percentage points lower than the Public Health Agency of Canada’s goal. Alessia Passafiume reports on the risk Canadians face at this moment in time and what steps advocates say would increase uptake.

  • More: “Getting vaccinated this flu season will be very important both to reduce the risk of being infected with influenza, COVID-19 and RSV at the same time — and experiencing the potentially severe complications that could arise,” reads a report by the National Institute on Ageing that is raising concern about vaccination rates.
  • Even more: “The best way to get people out of emergency rooms is to get them vaccinated to begin with. It’s the single most effective thing we can do,” said the CEO of CanAge, a national seniors advocacy organization.


United Conservative Party Leader and Premier Danielle Smith celebrated her win in a by-election in Medicine Hat, Alta on Nov. 8.


Rob Ford has a heated exchange of words with mayoral candidate John Tory asking for clarification of what Tory has said on a radio interview during the mayoral debate at the Royal Canadian Legion in Etobicoke in this 2014 file photo.

What would have happened if Rob Ford had “strong mayor” powers?


On the back of this photo:"The author's jolly companions at the floe: Pumook, David Ford, Kooshhoak and Tommy Bluce."

THE ARCTIC: The back of this photo — one in a collection that belonged to a man descended from British fisherfolk that lived among the Inuit — reads: “The author’s jolly companions at the floe: Pumook, David Ford, Kooshhoak and Tommy Bluce.” Now, the photo belongs to a Port Hope woman who shares how she came to own a collection of Inuit art and artifacts and why she wants to put it back into Inuit hands.

Thank you for reading First Up. You can reach me and the First Up team at

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