Children

Man Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison for Impaired Operation of Canoe

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Last summer, David Sillars (“Sillars”), became the first Canadian to be convicted of impaired driving charges while paddling a canoe.  He was recently sentenced to six years in prison for the April 2017 death of an eight-year-old boy.

We have previously blogged about a landmark ruling by an Ontario judge who decided that a canoe is a “vessel” for the purposes of the definition of vessel found in the Criminal Code of Canada, which includes the criminal charges of impaired operation of a vessel causing death, operation of a vessel over 80, and the dangerous operation of a vessel.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On April 7, 2017, Sillars took his girlfriend’s son, Thomas Rancourt (“Rancourt”), for a canoe ride down the Muskoka River to teach him how to paddle a canoe.  Sillars was intending to paddle in the direction of and to retrieve a blue barrel, which appeared to be wedged against a barrier by debris.  The canoe capsized and Rancourt was swept downriver and went over a waterfall at High Falls, and then drowned.  Sillars, on the other hand, swam safely to the shore.

In his lengthy decision, Justice Peter C. West set out the following key findings of fact based upon the evidence presented in court:

  • Temperatures were between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius on April 7, 2017;
  • School buses were cancelled due to slush and ice, resulting in poor road conditions on April 7, 2017;
  • The majority of the ice on the river had melted, although small chunks were visible, resulting in a reasonable inference that the river water was extremely cold;
  • The water levels of the river were very high on April 7, 2017;
  • The current in the river was fast-flowing and extremely strong;
  • The yellow barrier is a warning to caution boaters of the danger created by the water flowing towards the High Falls;
  • Sillars was cautioned by two experienced individuals who warned him of the dangerous water conditions;
  • Sillars did not agree to take or wear an adult sized lifejacket;
  • The PDF worn by Rancourt was too small for him, especially given that he was wearing three layers of clothing beneath it, including his winter jacket;
  • Sillars had consumed alcohol and THC prior to operating the canoe on April 7, 2017;
  • Sillars intention was to paddle to the yellow barrier to retrieve a blue barrel, which was clearly wedged in debris and partially submerged; and
  • Rancourt looked up to Sillars as a father figure, and this relationship created a duty of care for Sillars towards Rancourt.

Based upon the evidence, the court ruled that:

David Sillars’ decision to canoe towards the yellow warning barrier, during the spring run-off with the described dangers and risks…, with the sole purpose to retrieve a blue barrel, partially submerged and wedged against the yellow warning barrier by other debris, was a significant contributing cause of Thomas Rancourt’s death.  …[B]ut for the decision of Mr. Sillars to go to the yellow barrier, Thomas Rancourt would not have fallen out of the canoe and wound not have gone over the waterfalls and drowned. 

With respect to the issue of impaired paddling, the court considered whether Sillars’ drinking impaired his ability to operate a canoe (Sillars’ minimum blood-alcohol content was 128 milligrams of alcohol in 100 mililitres of blood and he had 14 nanograms of THC in his blood).  The court concluded that Sillars’ intellectual abilities, specifically his reaction time, decision making abilities and his ability to respond to an emergency situation, were impaired by his consumption of alcohol.

The fact that Sillars ignored warnings by two individuals as to the potential danger of canoeing in the conditions on the river, refused to wear an adult lifejacket and failed to bring the required safety equipment in the canoe demonstrated to the court that he overestimated his canoeing abilities and underestimated the level of risk he was enduring, which further demonstrated how the alcohol and marijuana impaired his decision making abilities.

THE SENTENCING

Justice West found Sillars guilty of all four charges he was facing and was sentenced in October, 2019.  The Crown asked the court for a jail sentence of six to eight years and an order prohibiting Sillars from operating a vessel for 20 years.  Sillars’ defence team asked the court for a two-year jail term.

Justice West described numerous aggravating factors that he considered when deciding on the terms of Sillars’ sentence.  The fact that Sillars was in a position of trust and authority in relation to Rancourt was one such factors, as well as his previous criminal record. 

In his reasons, Justice West commented on how this is a “unique” case as there are no precedent cases of criminal negligence causing death or impaired operation causing death in the case of a capsized canoe.  However, Justice West used precedent cases of those who have been found guilty of operating a motor vehicle while impaired and sentenced Sillars to six years in prison, an order requiring that samples of bodily substances be taken for the purposes of forensic DNA analysis  and an order prohibiting Sillars from operating a vessel for 10 years.

Justice West stated:

In my view general deterrence and denunciation are particularly important in cases where alcohol or drugs have impacted an offender’s ability, as in this case, to operate a vessel and the factor that a motor vehicle was not … involved makes no difference.

Sillars has already filed an appeal and has been released on $1,500 bail pending his appeal.  He must remain at home under house arrest and abstain from drinking alcohol. 

We will continue to follow any developments that may arise in this case and will report any updates in this blog.

In the meantime, if you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact Affleck Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.

Couple Found Not Guilty in Death of Son

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

We have previously written in this blog about the criminal case involving the Alberta couple, David and Collet Stephan, who were charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life to their 19-month-old son Ezekiel, who died in 2012.  At their second trial, a judge last week found the couple not guilty.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The Stephans testified that they believed their son was suffering from an upper airway infection (i.e. croup).  They treated him at home with natural remedies, which included a smoothie made of garlic, onion and horseradish.  They also used cool air and a humidifier to help with his breathing.  Ezekiel’s condition seemed to get better one day, then worse the next day, then better again.

On March 12, 2012, Ezekiel’s body remained stiff and he was unable to drink on his own.  Terry Meynders, a registered nurse, attended at the Stephans’ home and suggested to the couple that Ezekiel may have viral meningitis and that he should be taken to a doctor. 

On March 13, 2012, after Ezekiel stopped breathing a few times, the Stephans called for an ambulance.  The breathing equipment available in the ambulance was too large for a small child and he went without oxygen for nine minutes.  Ezekiel attended two area hospitals and was then transported to Alberta Children’s Hospital Calgary, where he was put on life support and died a few days later.

HISTORY OF THE CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS

At their original trial in 2017, a jury convicted the Stephans of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their son contrary to section 215(2)(b) of the Criminal Code.  David Stephan was sentenced to four months in jail and his wife was sentenced to three months of house arrest.

This trial decision was upheld on appeal and the ruling was further appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.  The highest court in Canada quashed the Stephans’ convictions and ordered a new trial (please see our blog regarding this decision).

A new trial began on June 3, 2019 before Justice Terry Clackson of the Court of Queen’s Bench, without a jury, lasting over three months. 

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE STEPHANS’ SECOND TRIAL?

Although it was established that Ezekiel had meningitis, the following issues were in dispute at trial:

  • Whether Ezekiel had bacterial or viral meningitis;
  • Whether Ezekiel’s death was the result of meningitis or hypoxic injury (damage to cells resulting from decreased oxygen tension);
  • Whether the Stephans knew Ezekiel had meningitis;
  • Whether the Stephans, knowing that Ezekiel had meningitis, ought to have sought medical intervention.

Based upon the evidence before the court, Justice Clackson came to the following conclusions:

  • Ezekiel had viral meningitis;
  • Ezekiel did not die from meningitis, but from the lack of oxygen;
  • The Stephans did not know Ezekiel had meningitis, but were aware of the possibility and were monitoring his symptoms.

Given these findings, Justice Clackson found that the Stephans were not guilty of the charge against them.

According to Justice Clackson, section 215 of the Criminal Code does not impose a duty on parents or guardians to seek medical attention for every sick child.  A duty is imposed when there is a risk to the child.  Justice Clackson found that, based on the evidence before him, the viral meningitis that Ezekiel suffered from did not constitute a risk to his life.

Justice Clackson ruled that there was no physical evidence that Ezekiel died of meningitis, thus the Crown had failed to prove its case.  The evidence before the court informed that there is no specific means to effectively treat viral meningitis.  Therefore, the Crown did not prove that medical attention could have or would have saved Ezekiel’s life.  Clackson stated:

I have concluded that the Stephans knew what meningitis was, knew that bacterial meningitis could be very serious, knew what symptoms to look for … They thought their son had some sort of croup or flu-like viral infection. … The physical evidence supports … [the] conclusion that Ezekiel died because he was deprived of oxygen.  That occurred because he stopped breathing and the resulting oxygen deprivation lasted long enough to lead to his death.

In response to the verdict, the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service issued the following statement:

We respect the decision of the court.  This has been a challenging case for everyone involved.  The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service will review the decision to determine the next steps.  As such, no further comment will be provided.

We will continue to follow the developments in this case and will provide updates on this blog when they become available.

In the meantime, if you are facing criminal charges or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service for your convenience.  We are available when you need us most.

Re-Trial Underway for Couple Charged in Son’s Death

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP


The re-trial for David and Collet Stephan has begun in Lethbridge Provincial Court, in Alberta.  The couple are each facing one count for failing to provide the necessaries of life to their 18-month-old son Ezekiel, who died of bacterial meningitis in 2012.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The Stephans were found guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their son at trial in 2016.  David Stephan was sentenced to four months in jail.  His wife, Collet, was sentenced to three months of house arrest.  She was only to be allowed to leave her home for medical appointments and to attend church.  They were also to be on probation for two years, and were ordered to complete 240 hours of community service.

The couple had used natural remedies to treat their son rather than take him to a doctor when he had become severely ill.  They made smoothies out of hot pepper, ginger root, horseradish and onion.  The Stephans finally called for medical assistance once their son stopped breathing.  Ezekiel was rushed to a local hospital, but died after being transported by air ambulance to a Children’s Hospital in Calgary. 

We have previously blogged about the outcome of the Stephan’s appeal to the Alberta Court of Appeal.  On appeal, the Stephans argued that their convictions should be overturned because the trial judge erred by allowing too many Crown experts to testify, the medical jargon used during the trial confused the jurors, and the defence expert’s testimony was restricted.

At that time, the majority of the Appeal Court dismissed all grounds of appeal, including the position that the Stephans’ Charter rights had been violated because of the unreasonable delay between the time they were charged and the date they were convicted.

However, Justice Brian O’Ferrall did not agree with the majority of the Appeal Court and wrote a dissenting opinion in favour of a new trial for the Stephans.  It was Justice O’Ferrall’s opinion that the trial judge’s charge to the jury was confusing and misleading. 

The Stephans were granted an automatic right to have the Supreme Court of Canada hear their appeal as one of the three judges on the appeal panel dissented. 

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE SUPREME COURT OF CANADA?

In an unusual practice, the Supreme Court of Canada, after hearing all arguments on appeal, provided an immediate ruling from the bench.  On behalf of the highest court in Canada, Justice Michael Moldaver ruled that the trial judge did not properly instruct the jurors and therefore allowed the appeal, quashed the convictions and ordered a new trial.

PRE-TRIAL PROCEEDINGS

Prior to the commencement of their new trial, the Stephans filed an application requesting $1 million to cover their past legal expenses and $3 million to be placed in trust for any future defence fees.  The Stephans claimed that they had liquidated their assets, owed money to their previous lawyer, and did not have the funds necessary to receive a fair re-trial. 

The couple also filed applications to have certain statements withheld from the re-trial.  All of these applications have been denied. 

During the couple’s pre-trial hearing, they attempted to have statements exempted that they made to police, hospital staff and child welfare workers at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.  They argued that they were tired, stressed and felt pressured by the presence of the police when they made those statements.  Justice J.D. Rooke denied these applications as well as he could not find any breaches of the Stephans’ rights.

The Stephans also submitted additional applications to delay their re-trial.  These requests were denied by the judge and the re-trial was ordered to proceed as scheduled on June 3, 2019. 

Prior to the commencement of the pre-trial, David Stephan posted a video on his Facebook page stating:

The deck is stacked against us huge.  … I don’t have high hopes.  I anticipate that we may just find ourselves again before the Supreme Court of Canada and hopefully find some justice there like we did the last time.

COUPLE SENTENCED IN A SIMILAR DECISION

Last fall, a jury found Jeromie and Jennifer Clark guilty of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life to their 14-month-old son, John.  They failed to seek medical attention until the day before he died from an infection in November 2013.

The boy was found to be malnourished and died from a staph infection. 

The Crown requested a sentence of four to five years for the couple, while their lawyers recommended a more lenient sentence in the range of probation to eight months in jail.

Earlier this month, the couple were each sentenced to 32 months in prison.  Justice Paul Jeffrey stated:

A period of incarceration is necessary to deter other parents who may similarly recklessly forgo proper and timely medical care for their child.

We will continue to follow the developments in the Stephans’ court case and will provide updates in this blog as they become available.

In the meantime, if you are facing charges or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  For your convenience, we offer 24-hour phone services.  We are available when you need us most.

Supreme Court Rules a Crucial Element of Child Luring Law is Unconstitutional

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Last month the highest court in Canada ruled that a provision in the law forbidding the luring of children over the internet is unconstitutional and ordered a new trial for alleged offender Douglas Morrison (“Morrison”).  This decision may result in a number of child luring convictions being overturned across Canada.

In this landmark decision regarding the validity of child luring laws in Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down two parts of the child luring laws found under section 172.1 of the Criminal Code.  The decision in R. v. Morrison will affect those cases where police officers pretend to be minors in an effort to apprehend suspected online predators.

WHAT IS THE CHILD LURING LAW IN CANADA?

The offence of child luring in Canada can be found in section 172.1 of the Criminal Code.  Child luring is defined as using the internet to communicate with an individual who is, or who the perpetrator believes to be, under the age of 18 for the purposes of committing the offence of sexual exploitation, incest, child pornography or sexual assault. 

You may also be charged with child luring if you communicate with an individual you know, or believe to be, under the age of 16 for the purposes of committing the offence of sexual exploitation, invitation to sexual touching, indecent exposure to a person under the age of 16 or abduction of a person under 16 years old.

If the Crown chooses to proceed by indictment (more serious offences) and you are found guilty of child luring, you will face a minimum of one year in prison, up to a maximum of 14 years in prison.  If the Crown chooses to proceed summarily (less serious offences), you will face a minimum of 6 months in jail, up to a maximum of 2 years less a day.

WHAT HAPPENED IN R. v. MORRISON?

Morrison was charged with child luring under section 172.1 of the Criminal Code.  He posted an online ad on Craigslist pursuing sexual conversations and stating he was interested in younger girls.  His ad was entitled “Daddy looking for his little girl”. 

Over the course of two months, police posed as a 14 year old girl named “Mia”.  Morrison began a sexual discussion with Mia, requested that she touch herself sexually, suggested she watch pornography, asked her for photographs, and arranged to pick Mia up after school (the encounter never occurred).  Consequently, Morrison was charged with child luring. 

During his trial, Morrison argued that he believed he was speaking to an adult online who was role playing as a character of a 14 year old girl.  He maintained that the rules on Craigslist require that users are to be 18 years old or older.  He was convicted at trial and the conviction was upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE SUPREME COURT OF CANADA?

On appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, Morrison brought three Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”) challenges pertaining to section 172.1 of the Criminal Code. The Charter arguments before the court were the following:

  • Section 172.1(3) violated his right to be presumed innocent under section 11(d) of the Charter;
  • Section 172.1(4) contains presumptions (requiring a person to take reasonable steps to ascertain the age of the individual they are contacting and to ensure he/she is not underage) that were not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice and violated section 7 of the Charter, which protects the right to life, liberty and security of a person; and
  • Section 172.1(2)(b) contains a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in prison which violated the guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment found in section 12 of the Charter.

The Supreme Court of Canada overturned Morrison’s conviction citing errors made by the trial judge.  The Court ruled unanimously that the government’s wording of the child luring law violates the presumption of innocence guaranteed by the Charter.  It is the role of the Crown to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an accused genuinely believed he/she was communicating with an individual who was underage.

Justice Michael Moldaver, writing for the majority of the Court, stated:

In short, there is but one pathway to conviction: proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused believed the other person was underage.  Nothing less will suffice.

The accused, in his/her defence, may prove that he/she took “reasonable” steps to determine if the alleged victim was underage.  If this cannot be shown, then the accused cannot argue that he/she believed the alleged victim was of legal age.

The Supreme Court was also asked to consider the appeal by the Crown that Morrison was not given the mandatory one-year minimum sentence.  The trial judge gave Morrison a four month sentence, and ruled that the one year mandatory minimum sentence found in the Criminal Code was unconstitutional as it violated the guarantees found in the Charter against cruel and unusual punishment. However, the majority of the justices did not rule on this issue.

Given the potential ramifications resulting from the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R. v. Morrison, we will continue to follow any developments in the news and the case law and will report any updates that become available in this blog.

In the meantime, if you are facing child luring charges or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service.  We are available when you need us most.

Canada’s Highest Court Finds Teacher Guilty of Voyeurism for Secretly Recording Students’ Cleavage

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled last week that an Ontario high-school teacher, Ryan Jarvis (“Jarvis”), is guilty of voyeurism for using a pen camera to secretly take videos of female students.

The highest court in Canada decided that the teenage students were entitled to a reasonable expectation that they would not be surreptitiously recorded by their teacher.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Jarvis was charged with the criminal offence of voyeurism (section 162(1)(c) of the Criminal Code) after it was discovered that he had taken videos of female students’ faces, chests, and cleavage area with his pen at a high school in London, Ontario.

These videos were recorded during 2010 and 2011 and took place throughout the school, including the hallways, classrooms, cafeteria, staff offices, and even outside of the building. The 27 students who were filmed by Jarvis ranged in age from 14 to 18 years old and did not know that they were being recorded.

At trial in 2015, Jarvis was acquitted as the trial judge held that while the students had a reasonable expectation of privacy, it was not clear that the videos were taken for a sexual purpose.

As we have previously blogged, the Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed the Crown’s challenge of the trial judge’s ruling and upheld Jarvis’ acquittal. The majority of the appeal court found that the videos were taken for a sexual purpose, however, the court found that the students should not have an expectation of privacy in areas of the school where they congregate or learn.

At the Court of Appeal, there was one dissenting judge who was convinced that the students were entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy in the circumstances and would have entered a conviction on that basis.

This dissenting opinion at the appeal court level allowed the Crown prosecutor a right to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. Therefore, the issue before the Supreme Court was whether the Court of Appeal erred in finding that the students recorded by Jarvis should not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the circumstances and for the purposes of section 162(1) of the Criminal Code.

The offence of voyeurism as set out in the Criminal Code is committed when a person surreptitiously observes or makes a visual recording of another person who is in “circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy”, and in Jarvis’ case the observation or recording is done for a sexual purpose.

WHAT DID THE SUPREME COURT OF CANADA DECIDE?

The nine judges of the Supreme Court of Canada all agreed that Jarvis should be found guilty, although there were two different lines of reasoning followed by the judges in coming to this decision.

The majority of the Supreme Court emphasized that the offence of voyeurism was predicated on concerns of rapidly developing technology, which may be abused for the purpose of secret viewing or recording for a sexual purpose and involving a breach of privacy.

Chief Justice Richard Wagner, writing for the majority of the court, provided a non-exhaustive list to assist a court in determining whether a person was observed or recorded in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy, including:

  • The location the person was in when he/she was observed or recorded;
  • The nature of the conduct (either an observation or recording);
  • Awareness of or consent to potential observation or recording;
  • The manner in which the observation or recording was made;
  • The subject matter or content of the observation or recording;
  • Any rules, regulations or policies that governed the observation or recording in question;
  • The relationship between the person who was observed or recorded and the person who did the observing or recording;
  • The purpose for which the observation or recording was made; and
  • The personal attributes of the person who was observed or recorded.

The majority of the court was satisfied that the students that had been recorded were in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy based upon the following considerations:

  • the location of the recording;
  • the fact that the impugned conduct was a recording rather than mere observation;
  • the manner in which the videos were recorded;
  • the fact that that these students were unaware that they were being recorded;
  • the content of the videos which focused on intimate parts of the students’ bodies;
  • a school board policy prohibiting this type of recording;
  • the fact that the recordings were made in breach of a relationship of trust between Jarvis and his students;
  • Jarvis’ purpose in making the recordings; and
  • the fact that the individuals who were recorded were young persons.

Chief Justice Wagner wrote:

The explicit focus of the videos on the bodies of the students recorded, including their breasts, leaves me in no doubt that the videos were made in violation of the students’ reasonable expectations of privacy.

Justice Wagner made it clear that the concept of privacy is “not an all-or-nothing-concept” and “being in a public or semi-public space does not automatically negate all expectations of privacy with respect to observation or recording”.

Justice Rowe, writing for the minority judges, stated:

Had Jarvis placed himself in the position of the pen-camera and simply observed the students, they would undoubtedly have recoiled. It was reasonable in the circumstances for the students to expect not to be observed and recorded in the way that they were.

The Court has confirmed that it is illegal for teachers to secretly take pictures or video of their students for a sexual purpose, even if the students are in a public area or in view of the school’s security cameras.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Given the findings by the Supreme Court of Canada, a conviction has been entered against Jarvis and he awaits his sentence.

Jarvis is also facing a disciplinary hearing from the Ontario College of Teachers for allegations of sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse, in addition to unprofessional conduct.

We will provide updates regarding this case in this blog as information becomes available.

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding voyeurism charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges. We offer a 24-hour telephone service and we are available when you need us most.

Charges Laid after Children Left in Hot Car Alone

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In the small space of a car, temperatures can rise rapidly. This can result in an individual being unable to regulate their internal temperature. In this type of environment, the body (especially a small body) can go into shock quickly, and circulation to vital organs can fail.

Due to their size, infants and small children can dramatically be affected by extreme temperatures. Their core temperature can increase three to five times faster than that of an adult. Hyperthermia can occur when the body’s temperature rises to dangerously high levels and threatens your health. The average body temperature is 37 degrees Celsius.  An individual is considered to be suffering from hyperthermia when the body’s core temperature reaches 40.5 degrees Celsius.

General Motors of Canada funded a study that found that on a 35 degree Celsius day a previously air-conditioned small car when exposed to the sun can rise in temperature to over 50 degrees Celsius within 20 minutes. Within 40 minutes, the temperature inside the car can rise to 65.5 degrees Celsius.

More than half of all children left in hot cars were trapped there unintentionally. These children were often left behind in a moment of forgetfulness or trapped after playing unsupervised in an unlocked vehicle.

According to the Canada Safety Council, an average of 37 people die each year in the United States as a result of being locked in a hot car. There are no statistics of this nature available for Canada.

RECENT EVENTS

Earlier this week, a 29-year-old woman, Thuy Thanh Tam Nguyen (“Nguyen”), was criminally charged after leaving her infant in a locked parked car.

Halton police attended a plaza at Trafalgar Road and Dundas in Oakville last Sunday afternoon following a 911 call. Paramedics were called to examine the 11 month old infant boy. Fortunately, the infant suffered no physical harm. Nguyen was allegedly shopping at a nearby store for approximately 90 minutes.

Nguyen has been charged with abandoning a child and failing to provide the necessaries of life. She will return to court in Milton in July.

Just two weeks ago, police charged a 53-year-old Hamilton man after he left his friend’s young child alone in a locked car. A woman walking in a Walmart parking lot spotted the child in the car and coached him on how to unlock the vehicle. The 7-year-old child ”was soaking wet from head to toe in sweat”. He was examined by paramedics and cleared at the scene. The man is to appear in court on June 20, 2018.

CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE CAUSING DEATH

In the circumstances when a child dies after being left alone in a car, the adult who was entrusted with taking care of the child is often charged with criminal negligence causing death.

This was the case when a three-year-old boy died in Burlington after being left in a hot car on May 23, 2018. By the time police arrived on scene, the boy was outside of the car and was pronounced dead. The temperature that day had reached 26.6 degrees Celsius. An autopsy determined that the preliminary cause of death was hyperthermia. Shaun Pennell faces one count of criminal negligence causing death and one count of failing to provide the necessaries of life. Pennell will appear back in court in Milton on June 27.

Typically, a conviction of criminal negligence causing death occurs when the accused person does not mean to injure or cause bodily harm through their reckless actions. Section 219 of the Criminal Code defines the accused as showing “wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons”. The maximum sentence is life in jail.

There are a wide range of sentences available in cases of criminal negligence causing death due to the numerous ways in which the offence can be committed.

In the case of 2-year-old Eva Ravikovich (“Eva”), who died when she was left in a car by a daycare worker in Vaughan, Olena Panfilova (“Panfilova”) was sentenced to 22 months in jail and three years on probation. Panfilova pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death. Panfilova had 35 children in her illegal daycare and had forgotten that she left Eva in the car outside the daycare. She also tried to cover up her forgetfulness by pretending that the child died during a nap.

In the recent case of R. v. Simons, Elmarie Simons pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death and was sentenced last month in Calgary. Simons, an unlicensed daycare home operator, had left an 18-month-old toddler in a car seat in a dark closet to run errands at Walmart and McDonald’s. The child died from asphyxiation caused by the car seat strap as the leg straps of the seat were not properly buckled and the child slid down in the car seat to such a degree that the chest harness strap choked her. Simons was sentenced to 3 and a half years in prison.

RECOMMENDATIONS

It is recommended to always keep cars locked while in garages or on driveways to prevent children from inadvertently becoming trapped in a vehicle. It is also suggested that adults keep their car keys in a safe place.

It is also recommended to make it a habit to place your cell phone or purse in the back seat. This would require the driver to check the back seat before leaving the vehicle on a regular basis.

If you come across a child or animal in distress that has been left alone in a hot vehicle it is imperative that you call 911 immediately.

It cannot be emphasized enough that no child or pet should be left alone in a hot vehicle, even for a few minutes.

If you have questions about your legal rights, please contact the experienced and knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience.

Police Warn that Airbnb Rentals are Being Used for Human Trafficking

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Airbnb has become an immensely popular avenue used by individuals to list their homes and apartments for others to use when vacationing. Nevertheless, Toronto police have found an increase in pimps using Airbnb rentals in recent years. Human traffickers may choose to use Airbnb rentals instead of motels due to the greater likelihood for anonymity. Detective Sergeant Nunzio Tramontozzi has stated:

There has to be more due diligence on the part of the … people that are renting out their properties. We have a good relationship with Airbnb. We have brought our concerns to them, and they’re working with us to try and rid pimps of using their properties in Toronto.

RECENT CASE OF ALLEGED HUMAN TRAFFICKING

In mid-February, Toronto police arrested two men who are alleged to have forced a 19-year-old woman into the sex trade for more than a month, running most of their business at various Airbnb properties in the Greater Toronto Area. The men are facing 58 charges, including human trafficking charges. Police allege that the men took the woman’s identification and forced her to turn over all the money she earned to them. When the woman got into an argument with the two men and told them she no longer wanted to work as an escort, one of the men pointed a firearm at her face. A shot was fired and the woman was shot in the buttocks area. The men then transported her to several addresses in the GTA. The woman finally escaped and sought medical attention at a hospital in Brampton.

WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING?

Human trafficking involves the exploitation for profit of a person through force, fraud, or coercion. Victims are mostly women and children who are forced to provide their labour or sexual services. Exploitation often occurs through intimidation, force, psychological manipulation, emotional abuse, lies, addiction, sexual assault, isolation, taking control of their ID and money, and threats of violence to themselves or their families.

Ontario is a major centre for human trafficking in Canada, with approximately two-thirds of reported cases arising in Ontario. Girls as young as 13 are being recruited by pimps into a world of unpaid sex work, often recruited on social media or at public places like shopping malls and playgrounds. The relationship usually begins as a romantic one and then the pimps ask the girls to perform sexual services on clients as a favour and with the promise of financial reward. Over time, the pimps threaten violence, take away their phones and ID and offer the girls hard drugs.

Human trafficking is an offence found in the Criminal Code of Canada (“CC”) and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The CC includes four indictable offences to address human trafficking, including:

  • Trafficking in persons (section 279.01);
  • Trafficking of a person under the age of eighteen years (section 279.011);
  • Receiving financial or material benefit knowing it results from the commission of an offence under sections 279.01 and 279.011 (section 279.02); and
  • Withholding or destroying documents (section 279.03).

There are many other offences contained in the CC that also apply to human trafficking cases including kidnapping, forcible confinement, uttering threats, extortion, assault, sexual assault, prostitution related offences and criminal organization offences.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act contains a provision that prohibits the bringing into Canada of persons by means of abduction, fraud, deception or use of threat of force or coercion. Section 118 of this Act includes this provision with the accused facing a maximum penalty of a fine up to $1 million and/or up to life imprisonment.

If you have been charged with human trafficking or a related charge or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience. We are available when you need us most.

Appeal Court Upholds Parents’ Conviction in Son’s Meningitis Death

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A panel of Appeal Court judges in Alberta dismissed the appeal of a couple who were found guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their 19 month old son, who died of meningitis in 2012.

WHAT HAPPENED?

In 2016, David and Collet Stephan were convicted by a jury for failing to provide the necessaries of life in their son Ezekiel’s 2012 death. They had treated their son with natural remedies rather than taking him to a doctor when he had become ill.

A panel of Appeal Court judges in Alberta dismissed the appeal. Justice Bruce McDonald, writing for the majority, wrote,

This evidence supports the conclusion that they actively failed to do what a reasonably prudent and ordinary parent would do.

During the trial, jurors heard evidence that the Stephans used natural remedies and homemade smoothies containing hot pepper, ginger root, horseradish and onion rather than seek medical care. Ezekiel became too stiff to sit in his car seat and had to lie on a mattress when his father drove him from his home to a naturopathic clinic to pick up additional herbal supplements.

The Stephans did not call for medical assistance until their son stopped breathing. He was then rushed to a local hospital, but died after being transported by air ambulance to a Children’s Hospital in Calgary.

THE TRIAL AND APPEAL

According to the Stephans’ lawyers, the trial was a “battle of experts”. The Stephans argued that the convictions should be overturned because the trial judge erred in allowing too many Crown experts to testify, the medical jargon confused jurors, and the defence expert’s testimony was restricted. The majority of the Appeal Court dismissed all grounds of appeal.

The Stephans’ lawyers also argued that their clients’ Charter rights had been violated because of the unreasonable delay between the time they were charged to the date they were convicted. This aspect of the appeal was also dismissed with the Court finding the delay was not unreasonable.

DISSENTING OPINION ON APPEAL

Justice Brian O’Ferrall wrote a dissenting opinion in favour of a new trial. He felt that the trial judge’s charge to the jury was confusing and misleading. Justice O’Ferrall did, however, agree with the majority of the Court in finding that the Stephans’ right to be tried within a reasonable time had not been infringed.

SENTENCING

David Stephan was sentenced to four months in jail and his wife, Collet, was sentenced to three months of house arrest. They were both ordered to complete 240 hours of community service. The trial Judge also ordered that the Stephans’ three other children see a medical doctor at least once a year.

WHAT COMES NEXT?

Given that one of the three judges on the appeal panel dissented, the Stephans have an automatic right to have the Supreme Court of Canada hear arguments in their case. The Supreme Court has set a tentative date to hear arguments on May 15, 2018 for the couple.

The Crown prosecutors have filed their own appeal where they will argue that the couple should face stiffer sentences before another panel of Court of Appeal judges. A date for these arguments has not yet been set.

NECESSARIES OF LIFE

The Criminal Code of Canada requires that every parent, foster parent, or guardian is required to provide necessaries of life for a child under the age of 16 years of age.

A parent is responsible for the care, supervision, maintenance and support of his/her children. At a minimum, this obligation entails the provision of food and shelter. The Courts have also found that the failure to seek medical attention can be categorized as a “failure to provide the necessaries of life”.

The prosecution, in a case such as the Stephans, is required to prove that:

  1. The accused was under a legal duty to provide the necessaries of life to a child under the age of 16 years;
  2. The accused failed to provide the necessaries of life to a child under the age of 16 years;
  3. This failure endangered the child’s life or was likely to cause the health of that child to be endangered permanently; and,
  4. The conduct of the accused represented a marked departure from the conduct of a reasonable parent, foster parent, or guardian in the same circumstances.

We will continue to follow the developments in this case and will provide updates on this blog as they become available.

In the meantime, if you are facing charges or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. For your convenience, we offer 24-hour phone services. We are available when you need us most.

 

Former Canadian National Ski Coach Convicted of Sex Crimes

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Bertrand Charest, a former Canadian national ski coach, was found guilty of 37 charges including sexual assault and sexual exploitation for the abuse of athletes he coached between 1991 and 1998 in June, 2017. He has been in custody since his arrest in March, 2015.

THE CHARGES

Charest was facing 57 charges including sexual assault, sexual exploitation and one charge of sexual assault causing bodily harm. The 12 victims reported that the abuse took place between 1991 and 1998 in Quebec, Whistler, New Zealand, and the United States. The victims ranged in ages from 12 to 18 at the time of the offences.

Charest was found guilty of 37 of the 57 charges laid against him. He was acquitted on 18 charges and the court could not speak to two of the counts as they related to events that occurred in New Zealand. The guilty verdicts pertained to charges involving nine of the twelve women.

The victims’ credibility was central to the case. Judge Lepine stated,

                        The court believes the complainants and their testimonies are credible and reliable.

This is particularly noteworthy as the events in question took place more than two decades ago.

One victim gave evidence that Charest took her to have an abortion when she was 15 years old after having unprotected sex with him on numerous occasions. She stated that the sexual encounters continued after the abortion as Charest purchased contraceptives for her after getting a prescription from his own father.

Although Charest did not testify at the trial, his lawyer, Antonio Cabral, stated that the accused believed that the sexual relations he had with the young skiers was consensual.

Judge Sylvain Lepine emphasized that the victims in this case were vulnerable and compromised because they were afraid to lose Charest as their coach. Some of the victims gave evidence that they were in love with Charest at the time, but eventually came to understand that they had been manipulated. Judge Lepine stated that Charest’s actions represented an unequivocal abuse of trust and power.

THE SENTENCING

Charest was sentenced on December 8, 2017 to 12 years in prison. He has already served time and now has seven years and 10 months remaining in his sentence.

Judge Lepine had many harsh words for Charest and recognized that Charest “did not and does not recognize the gravity or consequences of his actions”. In his sentencing, Judge Lepine emphasized the turmoil that Charest caused in the lives of his victims, including loss of trust, suicidal thoughts, intense stress, problems with intimacy, eating problems, and more.

Charest’s victims delivered emotional impact statements to the court, using phrases such as “being robbed of my childhood”, living with “shame, guilt and disgust”, and describing his behaviour as resembling that of “a predator”.

Judge Lepine stated in his remarks at the sentencing,

 This behaviour is not acceptable in 2017, it wasn’t in 1998, just as it wasn’t in 1950 or any other era.

Judge Lepine also had harsh words for Alpine Canada when he stated,

 Alpine Canada and its leaders failed miserably in their role as guardians and protectors of these young athletes. …Their parents had entrusted them with their safety. Alpine Canada chose rather to close its eyes, to not believe these young women and to hide the truth.

In response, the Chair of the Board of Alpine Canada Martha Hall Findlay provided a statement stating,

 Instead of being there for the athletes, instead of providing support when these activities were discovered, Alpine Canada put itself first, not the victims. In doing so, Alpine Canada failed them. More than 20 years on, I want to say, personally and on behalf of Alpine Canada, that we are profoundly sorry.

Alpine Canada has recently changed its policies and procedures to prevent situations like this from happening in the future. SafeSport has been created to act as an independent body to review claims of abuse and investigate them outside of any conflict of interest from a particular team or organization.

THE FUTURE FOR CHAREST

Charest’s lawyer, Antonio Cabral, has appealed the sex-crime convictions on behalf of his client. Cabral alleges a lengthy list of legal errors made by the trial judge. Cabral specifically took issue with Judge Lepine describing Charest as a “veritable predator”.

Cabral has advised that he will ask the Quebec Court of Appeal to have Charest released pending the ruling on the appeal of the convictions.

We will continue to follow this case and provide updates as they develop.

In the meantime, if you are facing sexual assault charges or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 90-5404-1947. For your convenience, we offer 24-hour phone services. We are available when you need us most.

Canadian Degrassi High Actor Arrested on Child Pornography Charges

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A former Degrassi High actor and three Ontario women are facing multiple charges, including possessing child pornography, sexual assault, and bestiality.

Jason (Byrd) Dickens, his wife, Dylan Anne McEwen, and two other women were recently arrested following a months long probe by police. Police stated that they initially received a tip about a man uploading inappropriate images online in January 2016. This led to a search warrant in late April, at which time police discovered several devices containing videos and images.

Police believe that Mr. Dickens and Ms. McEwen actively sought out victims online and in person, going by several user names including: RetroDeviant, Byrd_Dawg and Sir Dirk (Mr. Dickens), and Doll, Dirty Doll (Ms. McEwen). Mr. Dickens and Ms. McEwen will appear in Toronto court on Sept. 1.

Police also believe that between January 2000 and January 2006, Mr. Dickens and another woman sexually abused a child and distributed child pornography online. The woman is charged with 10 child sexual exploitation offences, and Mr. Dickens faces six more charges in that case.

Additionally, police allege that Mr. Dickens met a third woman from Thunder Bay, who also faces one charge of making child pornography.

Police are concerned that the individuals may have had contact with “like-minded individuals” and there may be more victims.

Potential Consequences

It is unclear what the outcome of these charges will be. However, child pornography charges are taken very seriously by prosecutors and police.

Child pornography is defined as any media (photo, film, other) that depicts sexual activity with, or that displays the sexual regions of, a person under the age of 18 (Criminal Code of Canada, s. 163.1(1)).  It is a crime to make, publish, or print child pornography. It is also a separate offence to distribute, to possess or to access child pornography, including sharing on or downloading files from the internet.

In 2012, Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, imposed higher mandatory minimum penalties for making, distributing, possessing and accessing child pornography. Sentences for any individuals charged under s. 163.1 of the Criminal Code all carry mandatory minimum sentences, and no discharges, suspended sentences, or fines are available. Penalties include jail time, and a sex offender registration, which can remain on your record for your whole life.

Protecting Children from Child Pornography

Safeguards for those under 18 have been increasing in recent years. In 2011, the government passed Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service. The legislation is intended to keep pace with technology used to distribute and access such content. It requires Internet service providers (ISP’s) and others (for instance, Facebook, Google, Hotmail, etc) to report any incident of child pornography.

Under this legislation, anyone can inform an ISP or other entity that a website, hostpage, or email contains child pornography. The ISP or other entity must then report the address of the site, page, or email as soon as possible to a designated organization or the police.

To speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about your rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.