NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. – A man who confessed to killing the house manager at an addiction treatment centre New Westminster, B.C., has been found not criminally responsible for the death because of a mental disorder.Steven Rogers was charged with second-degree murder shortly after 38-year-old Jason Collett was killed with a hammer and knife on Sept. 16, 2014.Three psychiatrists gave evidence at his B.C. Supreme Court trial in New Westminster in February that Rogers was in a state of psychosis when he killed Collett because of underlying mental disorder.The trial heard that Rogers told police days after the murder that he believed he was guided by something and in order to save Collett’s soul and the souls of everyone else, he had until 2:26 a.m. that morning to kill the man.A Crown attorney told the trial Rogers didn’t like Collett, and several residents at the Last Door treatment centre where Rogers was being treated for addiction gave evidence of heated discussions between the two men.But Justice Elliot Myers ruled in a decision published Friday that Rogers was not criminally responsible because he was in a state of psychosis as a result of schizophrenia.“I have accepted, Mr. Rogers recitations of his state of mind — in spite of the inconsistencies — reflected his ‘reality’ and that he was not capable of knowing that what he did was morally wrong,” Myers wrote in his decision.Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the treatment centre was in Nanaimo, B.C.
PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – A woman shot by police three times in an armed standoff in eastern British Columbia has been given a conditional sentence because the Crown says she was also a victim.A Prince George Court heard that 24-year-old Shanna Buehler and her father, John, holed up in a trapper’s cabin near Valemount, B.C., for 10 days in September 2014, refusing to come out for police.RCMP shot and killed John Buehler when he turned his rifle on the officers.The B.C. Supreme Court heard on Monday that the man was violent and abusive to the young woman throughout her life and dragged her into the difficult and tragic situation.Crown counsel Geoffery McDonald told the court that the woman’s father beat her with a belt and forced her to hold liquid soap in her mouth.“In one instance, he apparently beat a pet to death with a hoe,” McDonald said.During the time they lived on a rented property in Valemount, John Buehler allowed her to leave the home just six times and only under careful supervision. She was denied access to newspapers, television and any outside contact, McDonald said.“Her only viewpoint of the world was the one given to her by her father,” he said. “It’s not surprising then that she came to believe that her father really was a prophet and that Armageddon was near and she was willing to obey his orders.”On Sept. 17, 2014, the Buehlers drove all-terrain vehicles about two kilometres away from a cabin they had been holed up in and an RCMP emergency response team moved in to prevent them from returning to the property.When police confronted the pair, the court heard, John Buehler was shot, while his daughter retreated and placed her .22-calibre rifle next to a log not far from her.Officers found her crouched behind the log and she initially complied with police orders to stand up, but then grabbed the rifle and was shot three times by police, the court heard.Two of the gunshot wounds were superficial but one entered her chest, striking her lung and her liver. She remained in hospital for six weeks and continues to suffer the effects as well as some post-traumatic stress, the court heard.After her release, she turned herself into police and was released on a recognizance which she has obeyed ever since. She pleaded guilty to three charges in connection to the standoff.Although Buehler participated in a lengthy armed standoff with police, “in many ways she is a victim of John Buehler as well,” McDonald told the judge.“We would not expect someone who had been abused and controlled and manipulated from early childhood to be able to exercise an independent mind and step clear,” he added.Justice Kenneth Ball accepted a joint submission from Crown and defence lawyers, and sentenced Buehler to 18 months probation. If she lives up to the terms and conditions, she will avoid having a criminal record.“This was obviously a very difficult and tragic incident brought about by what appears to have been the bizarre beliefs of John Buehler who unfortunately dragged his daughter along for the ride,” Ball said.“She was, as counsel had told me, abused and certainly under his control and now that this incident is over, her circumstances have clearly changed and I expect we’re seeing her true character come forward.”Buehler, who now lives in Alberta, remained quiet throughout the hearing, occasionally wiping away a tear as her mother looked on from the gallery.
RICHMOND, B.C. – An RCMP officer in Richmond, B.C., has been fired after a conduct review board found he used a police database to track down and send “flirty” text messages and suggestive photos to a teenage complainant in a sex-assault case.The decision, released Nov. 8, says former constable Brian Eden’s behaviour undermined public confidence in the force. A RCMP spokeswoman said Eden has been dismissed.“The subject member’s decision to pursue contact with (the woman) via sexualized text messages (was) fundamentally at odds with the duties he clearly knew he owed a 17-year-old sexual-assault complainant,” John McKinlay wrote about the officer on behalf of the RCMP’s conduct board.“It was despite this knowledge that the subject member then transmitted the egregious generic image involving a bed cover-obscured erection, and later, in what I find a highly manipulative manner, expressed his willingness to receive a picture of (the woman) while she was wearing a bathing suit.”Neither Eden nor his lawyer could be immediately reached for comment and it is unclear whether an appeal is planned.The conduct board decision says Eden, 40 at the time, first communicated with the 17-year-old woman in January 2015 to collect a witness statement related to a sexual assault investigation.He accessed the police database two days later to look up the same investigation “for unauthorized personal reasons,” the document says.Eden reportedly sent about 280 texts to the young woman between Feb. 1 and 11, including a shirtless photo of himself and a generic picture of a man, waist down, wearing boxer shorts, accompanied by the message: “Shhhh.”Other texts copied verbatim in the decision include Eden calling the woman a “Saucey little thing,” and telling her “send a pic,” “im a fan of yoga pants … hint lol.”The exchange ended only when the woman’s messages began to suggest she was thinking of killing herself and Eden was forced to call for help and identify himself, the decision says.The document also confirms a second incident around the same time in which Eden used police records to track down and ask a woman for coffee after issuing her a traffic ticket earlier that day.Staff Sgt. Annie Linteau, a spokeswoman for the RCMP, said Eden was suspended in February 2015 shortly after the misconduct occurred and was dismissed following last month’s decision.Eden admitted to two counts of using police data systems for personal reasons and pursuing a relationship with an underage woman he knew was the victim in a sex assault investigation. He denied that his conduct in reaching out to a woman he issued a traffic infraction violated the RCMP’s code of conduct.Mitigating factors listed in the decision included the short period of time over which the misconduct took place, Eden’s otherwise positive work history as well as his devotion to the job and willingness to rehabilitate.McKinlay dismissed Eden’s argument that a “persistent depressive disorder” that began in 2010 was not adequately treated by early 2015, when the breaches occurred. The document also discusses how Eden was experiencing strain around that time due to money problems following the breakdown of a previous relationship.The powers granted to police are considerable and the public is justified in expecting officers to observe the highest ethical and professional standards, McKinlay wrote.“This necessarily includes the bedrock expectation that members shall only act to protect the health and safety of Canada’s youth, and shall never deliberately and repeatedly exploit any vulnerable young person,” he said.— By Geordon Omand in Vancouver
WINNIPEG – A trial is set to begin in Winnipeg today in the death of an Indigenous teenager whose body was found wrapped in the Red River.The death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine in 2014 renewed calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.Tina had only been in Winnipeg a couple of weeks after leaving her great-aunt’s home on the Sagkeeng First Nation, about 70 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.She was in the care of Child and Family Services, but police said Tina became an exploited youth in the Manitoba capital.Raymond Cormier, who was 53 when he was arrested in December 2015, is charged with second-degree murder.Court documents allege Tina was killed around Aug. 10, 2014 — 10 days after she was first reported missing from foster care.Winnipeg police encountered Tina two days before it’s believed she was killed, but did not take her into custody. She was later taken to hospital where she was picked up by social workers.She was put in a downtown hotel but ran away again shortly before she was killed.The trial is scheduled to last for five weeks.
VANCOUVER – British Columbia’s Liberals turned to a former cabinet minister with a blue blood intellectual pedigree and deep rural roots to lead them Saturday night, as Andrew Wilkinson appealed to his caucus colleagues to help him expand and broaden the party’s membership.Wilkinson, 60, a doctor, lawyer and Rhodes Scholar, said leadership candidates who pushed the party to widen its support should be listened to after losing its 16-year grip on power last year.“Take those Liberal values, build out this party,” he said after defeating former Conservative MP Dianne Watts in a fifth round of vote counting.He stood on the stage after his victory with his wife Barbara Grantham, members of the Liberal caucus and Watts, who resigned as a federal Conservative MP to seek the party leadership in a field of six candidates.Wilkinson said the Liberals must unite as a party and get back to the days and values of former Liberal premiers Christy Clark and Gordon Campbell.“We have to respect that work and understand those values that got us here,” he said. “We are the party that doesn’t spend our children’s money.”He also began to galvanize the party to fight a referendum this fall on proportional representation, saying it would benefit the NDP and Greens who support changing the province’s voting system.“So let’s get ourselves organized because we have work to do this summer,” he said. “We have a challenge in front of us.”Prior to his political career, Wilkinson worked as a lawyer in Vancouver and before that he was a doctor in different parts of B.C., including Campbell River, Lillooet and Dease Lake.He served in a number of cabinet positions, among them attorney general, minister of advanced education, and minister of technology and innovation.The hotel ballroom erupted with cheers of “Andrew, Andrew” when he defeated Watts.He won with just over 53 per cent support after the final round of vote counting, while Watts had just under 47 per cent. Watts led the contest after four rounds of voting.Watts indicated she wants to play a role in B.C. politics in the future.“I’m not going anywhere,” she said. “I’ve committed myself to being part of the party.”Barinder Rasode, a two-term Surrey councillor and former mayoral candidate, said Wilkinson will bring the Liberals back from their low point following last year’s election.“Andrew Wilkinson has the support of all the caucus,” she said. “He’s well qualified. I couldn’t have hoped for better.”New Democrat Ravi Kahlon congratulated Wilkinson on behalf of the governing party.“Right now, the stakes couldn’t be higher for British Columbians. People are counting on us to make life more affordable, protect the services they count on and keep investing in a sustainable economy,” Kahlon said in a statement.“We look forward to working with you on legislation that works for all the people of this great province.”Green party Leader Andrew Weaver also congratulated Wilkinson. The two men have engaged in testy debates in the legislature.Former transportation minister Todd Stone, one-time finance minister Mike de Jong and Liberal caucus members Sam Sullivan and Michael Lee were eliminated from the leadership contest earlier in the evening.An estimated 60,000 party members were eligible to vote online and by phone to replace Clark, who resigned after the New Democrats formed a minority government last summer with support from the Greens.The Liberals used a preferential ballot that allowed its members to rank the candidates, and points were awarded based on their support.The B.C. Liberal party is not affiliated with the federal Liberals. It describes itself as “a made-in-B.C. free enterprise coalition” that includes members of the federal Conservative and Liberal parties.Getting the party back to power after a lacklustre election campaign last May was the main focus of the leadership campaign.There was finger-pointing in debates over who was to blame for the Liberal downfall, despite B.C. boasting the strongest economy in Canada.Some candidates criticized the party’s old guard for failing to address transportation, housing and social policy issues that led to losses in seat-rich Metro Vancouver, once a Liberal stronghold.Wilkinson ran his campaign on four priorities: security, opportunity, prosperity and sustainability.His promises included selling government-owned liquor stores, establishing a junior kindergarten pilot program, improving skills training for Indigenous youth, providing tax incentives to increase the supply of rental housing and taking regulatory steps that would allow municipalities to increase the supply of new housing.Watts, who is a former mayor of Surrey, was the only candidate who was not part of the Liberal caucus in the legislature. She resigned her House of Commons seat to seek the party’s leadership.Wilkinson, Stone and de Jong were longtime members of Clark’s cabinet. Sullivan, a former Vancouver mayor, was appointed to Clark’s cabinet in her government’s final weeks in power.
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – A Newfoundland mother says the school system re-victimized her daughter and at least two other girls by allowing a male student who allegedly sexually assaulted them to briefly return to school.The sexual assault allegations have shaken Stephenville High School, where students held a protest Wednesday.At least three girls say the same boy attacked them in separate incidents offsite. The mother said she wants to make clear the seriousness of the accusations because they underscore how harrowing it was for alleged victims to face him in class or in the hallways.“We want the word out so that this changes. Victims should not be expected to be re-victimized in a school setting,” said the mother, who can’t be named to protect her daughter’s identity.Her daughter was the first student to come forward, she said. The boy had picked her up from a babysitting job a few days before Christmas, she said.“Instead of taking her home, he took her parking at a remote location here in Stephenville and basically confined her to the car. The rape occurred there.”Her daughter’s allegations also include attempted choking, said the mother. She confirmed the RCMP were notified and charges laid in December. Two more girls at the school came forward after her daughter, she said.“Sexual assault in itself can mean a whole gamut of things. Some of the comments I’m hearing in the public, they’re not understanding the seriousness,” of the allegations, she added.The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District confirms the boy is accused of sexual assault involving at least one female student “and possibly others” but says his name and other details are safeguarded under youth justice laws.Officials say they’d need a court order to remove the male student, who has chosen not to go back to the high school — at least for now. They’re also working with the RCMP and status of women advisers to improve what they call “deficiencies in the process.”The boy was allowed to return to write mid-term exams last week in an area separate from other students.The mother of the first complainant said he had also returned in mid-January for classes. She only found out when another daughter, who also attends the school, texted her.School officials weren’t aware of the allegations until the mother told them, she said.“They asked him to leave while they investigated.”Newfoundland and Labrador’s youth advocate said Friday the situation has exposed outmoded policies.“We have children in school saying: ‘We don’t feel safe’,” Jackie Lake Kavanagh said in an interview. “When you have young people that are prepared to stand up and courageously speak to that, I think it’s really, really important that collectively we all listen.”St. John’s lawyer Lynn Moore, a former youth court prosecutor who has worked extensively with sexual abuse survivors, said the problem isn’t policy.“Under the Schools Act and the English School District’s bylaws, the school and the school board have the authority to suspend a person that they believe poses a danger to other people in the school,” she said Friday.“It seems to me what they’re doing is they’re preferring the comfort and wishes of the alleged aggressor over the comfort and wishes of the three survivors.“We know that one in three women and girls are subjected to sexual violence. And the refusal to deal with it as a serious matter, I think, is a reflection of a culture which does not trust the word of women and girls.”Many social media users who’ve criticized how the situation was handled note team sports at Stephenville High were swiftly suspended last fall to protect students while police investigated alleged hazing reports.Moore said it’s mystifying that conditions weren’t imposed to keep the boy accused of sexual assault out of the building.“Normally when somebody is charged with an offence involving serious personal violence, that person is released on bail conditions not to have contact with or be in the same place as the complainant,” she said.Such restrictions were apparently imposed but then subsequently changed by the court, Moore said.“I find that very disturbing.”The Crown attorney who presided over the matter could not be immediately reached.The mother of the girl who first spoke out said her daughter is struggling.“She can’t sleep through the night. She’s having nightmares,” she said.“There’s a sacred trust that a community has with education institutions. When we send our kids to school, we are expecting them to be in a safe environment.”Follow @suebailey on Twitter.
NAIN, N.L. – Health authorities are saying the death of a Labrador youth is likely due to tuberculosis.The Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Health and Community Services issued a statement Thursday stating there is a “strong indication” the bacterial illness caused the death.An obituary said a 14-year-old youth from Nain died on Sunday, March 18, but health officials aren’t confirming the age or name.Authorities are now tracking down people who had close contact with the youth and a public health nurse is contacting those individuals to offer them testing for the presence of the bacteria.Tuberculosis can be spread through the air by coughing, sneezing, sharing of smoking devices or talking to another person.People exposed to the bacteria may find that their lungs, kidneys, spine or other parts of their body are affected.Labrador-Grenfell Health and the Nunatsiavut Government say they are in contact with the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Indigenous Services Canada about the death.
TORONTO – This isn’t the first time incoming Soulpepper Theatre Company executive director Emma Stenning has faced the fallout of a sexual-misconduct scandal that rocked the arts world.The U.K.-based theatre veteran, whose hiring was announced Thursday, comes to Toronto by way of the Bristol Old Vic, where she has served as the company’s chief executive for the past nine years.Housed in a 250-year-old building, the Bristol Old Vic bills itself as the oldest continuously working theatre in the English-speaking world. But the present company traces its origins back to 1946, when it was established as an offshoot of the esteemed Old Vic in London.London’s Old Vic was thrust into the #MeToo spotlight last November after the theatre said it had received 20 allegations of inappropriate behaviour against its former artistic director Kevin Spacey.While the theatre companies are separate, Stenning said the Bristol Old Vic worked closely with its London counterpart to develop a program in which staff members are trained as “guardians” who their colleagues can turn to for confidential counsel about workplace concerns.Across the pond, Soulpepper has shown a similar commitment to culture change in the face of a now-resolved legal battle over sexual-misconduct allegations against its former artistic director, Stenning said, and she plans to build on this progress as both a leader and a listener.“You’ve got to walk the talk … Policies that sit on bits of paper in people’s drawers are no good,” Stenning said in a recent interview in Toronto.“We have to have an active culture of listening, of learning, of supporting each other. I hope to embody that, to lead from the front, just as I have in Bristol.”Having overseen a 25-million-pound ($42 million) overhaul of the 18th-century theatre, Stenning said she felt her tenure at the Bristol Old Vic was coming to a natural close, and she could leave with confidence that she had restored the company from a “wobbly” financial position into a thriving cultural institution.And as she looks towards Soulpepper’s next chapter, Stenning said the theatre’s standing is not as “wobbly” as one might think.“My vision for the company is just to continue to work with the team on this process of stabilization, I suppose, and make sure that we are really ready to deliver a bold future.”When she assumes her full executive duties this November, Stenning will work with Soulpepper’s yet-to-be-appointed artistic director to develop a five-year strategic plan for the theatre and review its training academy, which has been placed on a one-year hiatus.Her predecessor in the position, Leslie Lester, parted ways with the company in January after four actresses filed separate lawsuits against Soulpepper and her husband, founding artistic director Albert Schultz, accusing him of sexual misconduct. Schultz also stepped down from his position and vowed to vigorously defend himself against the allegations.Earlier this month, all parties in the case said they had reached an out-of-court settlement, the terms of which have not been disclosed.Vanessa Morgan, chair of Soulpepper’s board of directors, said in an email that all costs relating to the lawsuits will be accounted for in its 2018 financial statement and have not had a “material impact” on the non-profit theatre’s financial position or operations.After reporting a $556,000 deficit for 2017, Soulpepper said in a March statement that the theatre was projecting further deficits this year due to “extraordinary” one-time costs and revenue reductions, as well as the loss of a planned funding increase from the Canada Council for the Arts.In order to help its financial situation, earlier this year the theatre launched a “Transition Campaign” that has since raised $825,000, a Soulpepper spokesperson said Wednesday.Stenning said with the strong support of donors, whom she called Soulpepper’s “rocket fuel,” she feels optimistic about the company’s financial future.The theatre has maintained financial support from all three levels of government during its months-long legal battle, which she sees as a vote of confidence in the steps Soulpepper has already taken to create a safer workplace, including providing crisis counsellors, setting up a whistleblower hotline and adopting a new code of conduct.With connections to theatre festivals around the world, Stenning said she hopes to raise Soulpepper’s profile on the international stage.But Soulpepper’s true potential lies at home, she said, in a theatre that was founded by artists, and puts artists first. And she said those artists will be her guides as she steers Soulpepper forward.“I think it’s a very strong statement of values to say that we start with the art,” she said. “Artists are people that see around corners. You have to trust an artist’s vision of what … stories they want to tell.”
OTTAWA — Contentious wording in Ottawa’s summer jobs program that tied pro-abortion beliefs to funding eligibility is being dropped after a backlash to what was styled last year as a values test.Instead, the federal Liberals have re-tooled the 2019 version of the Canada Summer Jobs program to require applicants to declare they don’t work to infringe on any Canadian’s legal rights.Wording on the application for the 2018 version of the program required groups to say neither their core mandate nor the jobs being funded actively worked to undermine constitutional, human and reproductive rights.Labour Minister Patty Hajdu says the change — made after informal consultations over the past few months — should clear up concerns from faith-based groups who expressed outrage over this past year’s requirements.“They felt this was about their values and beliefs and not about the jobs and the performances of the students in particular roles and we took that to heart,” Hajdu said in an interview.“We’ve been working on making sure we do what we intended to do, which is to stand up for the rights of Canadians…but that we also work closely with faith-based groups and others so that they can see how they themselves would fit into this program.”Additional changes have been made to the program’s eligibility criteria to disqualify any project or summer job that tries to restrict access a woman’s ability to access sexual or reproductive health services. Other disqualifying traits include jobs that restrict the exercise of human rights or that discriminate based on sex, religion, race or ethnic origin.“This is a program about quality jobs for kids, so we shouldn’t be asking kids in any circumstance to do work that would put them into a position to have to undermine or restrict the rights of others,” Hajdu said.“That’s not the kind of job experience we would want young people to have, especially for, often times, their first (job).”The change is one of several made to the popular program to be outlined today to MPs. Employers can begin to apply later this month.The Liberals are opening the program to any young person age 15 to 30, no longer requiring them to be students in order to have their position qualify for funding.Widening eligibility is a step towards a revamp of the summer jobs program that a government-struck expert panel called for last year.The panel’s final report recommended the Liberals expand eligibility for the Canada Summer Jobs program to include those who are not in post-secondary studies and make funding accessible throughout the year and not just during the summer months.Available positions will also be posted on a newly released mobile app that lets users search through the federal government’s job bank.At the end of the summer, employers and employees will be required to fill out a survey so the government can get better feedback about their experiences to help fine-tune the program going forward. Hajdu said employers will also be required to follow mentorship plans for their workers as part of efforts to ensure only “quality” jobs are funded.The data collected won’t be used to screen out employers in subsequent funding years, but to evaluate the program overall, Hajdu said.“This is a really great jobs program for kids, they make some money, they get that experience, but we want to make sure it is actually resulting in quality experience,” she said.— Follow @jpress on Twitter.Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Preliminary numbers show the federal government posted a deficit of $1.6 billion over the first four months of the current fiscal year as program spending increased $9.1 billion — 9.5 per cent — compared with the year before.In comparison, the Finance Department’s fiscal monitor says the government ran a $4.4-billion surplus during the same April-to-July period last year.The report says the boost in federal spending was largely due to increases in direct program expenses and transfers to other levels of government. The spending includes $1.9 billion as part of an agreement to send funds from the federal government’s share in the Hibernia offshore oil field to Newfoundland and Labrador.Year-over-year, public debt charges increased by $1.1 billion — or 13.3 per cent.Government revenues were up $4.2 billion — or 3.9 per cent — compared with the same period in 2018-19, an increase mostly due to higher tax revenues and other revenues.The Liberal government’s spring budget forecasted a deficit of $19.8 billion for the 2019-20 fiscal year.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2019.The Canadian Press