Children

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.

Should Canada Criminalize Spanking?

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Earlier last week, in response to recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the federal government announced it would repeal the so-called “Spanking Law” in Canada. This announcement sparked a significant amount of public debate about this highly divisive issue. But what exactly is the spanking law, and what are the arguments for and against it? Here is a brief overview:

The Law

Section 43 of the Criminal Code reads:

Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.

This section, also known as the defence of reasonable correction, dates back to Canada’s first Criminal Code in 1892.

The Supreme Court Decision

In the 1990s, the constitutionality of s. 43 was challenged. The Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in 2004 in a case called Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law v Canada (Attorney General). Six out of nine justices found that the spanking laws did not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, the Supreme Court ruled that physical force against children was only acceptable within certain tightly limited conditions: it cannot be used on children under the age of 2, or over the age of 12, it cannot involve the use of objects, the force must be corrective in nature, and “must be reasonable in the circumstances”.

The Arguments

Section 43 of the Criminal Code is controversial because it expressly offers parents and teachers a defence when they use reasonable force to discipline a child.

Those opposed to repealing the provision see it as an unwanted intrusion by the government into a parent’s right to decide what is best for their child. They argue that parents should be allowed to raise their children as they see fit, so long as their actions are within reason and do not constitute abuse. Some teachers fear that a repeal of s. 43 would leave teachers vulnerable to charges of assault in cases where they are required to use force – such as breaking up schoolyard fights or restraining a violent child.

Those in favour of repealing the law say that spanking is a form of child abuse and that it sends the mixed message that it may be acceptable to strike a child.

Despite the heated debate, at this point it is still unclear whether the Liberals will strike down the law or amend it, and when.

To learn more about this or any other criminal defence matter, please contact the lawyers at Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.

Parents Must Provide Children With the Necessaries of Life

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Parents Must Provide Children With the Necessaries of Life

Under Canadian law, parents have certain responsibilities to their children. Parents must ensure that they do not deliberately harm their children and that their children are also not harmed through neglect.  Section 215 of the Criminal Code contains provisions criminalizing the failure to provide the necessaries of life to children under the age of 16. A recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, R v SJ, 2015 ONCA 97, highlights this issue.

In this case, the mother and father of a three year old child, H, were convicted of failing to provide the necessaries of life to H. who was in necessitous circumstances. When H was eight months old, he was sent to live with his grandparents in India. He returned to live with his parents in Canada when he was two years and ten months old. A family friend, who visited the child in India and accompanied him on his trip home, noted that H. looked weak and thin and that his skin was rough and dry. Several months after returning to Canada, H. suffered a seizure and was taken to the Hospital for Sick Children. H. was malnourished, anemic, had low vitamin levels consistent with scurvy, open wounds and scars all over his body. H. and his sister were apprehended by the Peel Children’s Aid Society that same day. (more…)