News stories from the Star you should know about on Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Good morning. This is the Wednesday, May 3 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 the “World’s Worst McDonald’s,” a legal poison linked to suicides, and a new rental law in a Vancouver suburb.


How the “World’s Worst McDonald’s” became a symbol of downtown decay

The 24-hour fast-food restaurant in the heart of downtown Ottawa has long been a popular stop for people leaving the bar district in search of greasy food. Workers would struggle to keep up with cleaning, while customers would report seeing drug use and sex acts in the hall to the bathroom. It was often visited by drunk youth, tourists, homeless people seeking an affordable meal, gang members and a raccoon. Now, after nearly 40 years in business, the franchise at 99 Rideau Street is closing for good. Amy Dempsey lays out how the spot earned its legacy as the “World’s Worst McDonald’s” and how it exemplifies the challenges that downtown communities face amid a housing crisis and epidemics of homelessness, mental illness and addiction.

  • By the numbers: Over the last five years, the police received 800 calls for help from the restaurant on average each year. In 2017 alone, they received more than 900 calls.
  • more: In an attempt to intervene with the issues playing out at McDonald’s, Ottawa’s then-police chief Charles Bordeleau attempted to appeal to the corporation’s desire to protect its image. He wrote them a letter about the problems at the franchise — and gave it to the media.

A Mississauga man charged in the sale of sodium nitrite has been linked to two deaths in Peel

Peel police have arrested a Mississauga man who has allegedly been selling a lethal but legal poison involved in a number of suicides after two people in Peel Region were found dead. They say the suspect marketed and distributed sodium nitrate online internationally “targeting individuals at risk of self-harm.” After a month-long investigation, the police said they had been made aware of 1,200 packages shipped to at least 40 different countries, although they were part of the contents of all packages, Santiago Arias Orozco reports. Here’s what is known about the case.

  • Context: Sodium nitrite is a preservative salt used in deli-meat preparations for products such as ham, bologna and bacon; very small amounts are used to cure the meat and give it a reddish color. When intentionally consumed in high doses, it can be fatal because it reduces oxygen levels and impairs breathing. The chemical has been the focus of a soaring number of suicide cases abroad.
  • more: the Times of London the suspect in a person outside a GTA post office and reported that he confirmed he was approaching selling sodium nitrite, but said: “I’m not helping anything. I’m selling a product.” The Star has not independently confirmed the details of that investigation.

A victory for this rental law in BC has Ontario politicians calling for the same rules

A zoning bylaw in a Vancouver suburb has overcome another court challenge, preserving legislation that prevents owners from living in their properties in areas designated for rental use only. The intention for the bylaw in the City of New Westminster was to protect rental units by not allowing individual owners to move in or demolish them to build condos. “You don’t often hear good news about cities acting boldly to protect vulnerable renters,” Major Patrick Johnstone said. “It’s a good day for renters in New West and provincewide.” Jeremy Nuttall reports on the local reaction and the Ontario MPP eyeing the law.

  • The aftermath: Rental units in the city are now being built at a faster rate than anywhere else in the region, Johnstone said. Monday’s victory also “sends the message” the courts will protect the right of cities to rezone to rental-only, he added.


Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos looks around the room as he waits to appear at the Health committee in April.

  • Jeff “ODog” O’Neill is “on leave” from TSN’s OverDrive afternoon show. This is what we know.


Evolutionary biologist Dr.  Michael Worobey in Tucson, Ariz.  In May 2021, Worobey and 17 other scientists signed a letter that ran in Science in May 2021. It said the lab-leak and animal theories about the COVID pandemic "both remain viable.  But his further research led him away from that stance.

He nearly died pursuing HIV’s origins. Then this Canadian scientist sets his sights on the COVID lab leak theory.


Syrian children playing soccer by their tents at a refugee camp in the town of Bar Elias in the Bekaa Valley in July 2022.

LEBANON: Syrian children play soccer at a refugee camp in the town of Bar Elias in the Bekaa Valley on July 7, 2022. Now with a worsening economic crisis and political stalemate, Lebanese officials are slimming up deportations, spurring panic among Syrian refugees.

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