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RCMP expect massive spike in blood test requests with new impaired driving law

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The RCMP are expecting to see their national forensic labs flooded with blood test requests over the next four years as Canada’s new impaired driving laws mature.

The force’s National Forensic Laboratory Services operation (NFLS) receives bodily fluid samples, including blood and urine, that require forensic toxicology analysis to hold up in court.

Bill C-46, in effect since Parliament passed it in June, introduced three new drug-related offences for drivers who have consumed drugs within two hours of driving. All of them require a positive blood test from a suspect before a Crown attorney can secure a conviction.

When RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki took over the top job earlier this year, she was warned those requests could increase 12-fold over the next four years.

Waiting longer for samples is only going to increase court delays.– Kyla Lee, founder of the Canadian Impaired Driving Lawyers Association

« The RCMP estimates the volume of samples submitted to the NFLS for analysis and interpretation will increase to 6,400 by 2021-22, from the approximately 550 samples already submitted annually, » notes Lucki’s briefing book, obtained by CBC under access to information law.

The national lab service receives forensic service requests from across Canada — except from Ontario and Quebec, which run their own public forensic laboratories for provincial and municipal investigations.

Unlike the case of alcohol-impaired driving, which has seen an overall decline, « the number and rate for almost all drug-impaired driving violations has increased, » notes the briefing book.

« While the actual demand for forensic services and court support required for cases involving drug impaired driving is yet unknown, the RCMP anticipates a steady increase in drug impaired service requests over the next five years, » said RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Marie Damian in an email to CBC News.

Court concerns

Kyla Lee, founder of the Canadian Impaired Driving Lawyers Association, said an increase in sample requests likely will cause more court delays.

« That’s going to be completely unmanageable for the RCMP labs, » she said in an interview.

« There’s a significant wait time already for blood results in impaired driving investigations. If you increase 12-fold the number of cases that are being sent to the lab, you increase those delays 12-fold, and that has a huge impact on the administration of justice. »

Kyla Lee, founder of the Canadian Impaired Driving Lawyers Association. (CBC)

The RCMP say that, between April and September of this year, the average turnaround time for a routine toxicology service request connected to impaired driving was 130 days.

Both suspects and victims in impaired driving cases might have to wait longer to see where their cases stand if the RCMP labs are backed up, Lee said.

« Waiting longer for samples is only going to increase court delays, » she said.

« Any time you have an issue where there’s this long period of waiting, it raises certain kinds of scientific concerns about the reliability of the analysis and whether that analysis is viable as proof in court. »

Courtrooms across the country have been more conscious of delays since the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark Jordan decision in 2016, which set limits on the amount of time defendants should be expected to wait between charge and trial. Since then, hundreds of criminal cases have been tossed due to unreasonable delays.

Robert Solomon, a law professor at Western University in London, Ont., and the national legal policy director for MADD Canada, said he expects to see an uptick in convictions.

« I think the recent amendments for drug impaired driving will improve the apprehension rates, and (to) the extent you improve the apprehension rates, you discourage driving after drug use. So that’s good, » he said.

So far, there’s nothing to suggest requests for lab testing of samples gathered under the new law have started flooding in.

During a media briefing earlier this month, government officials said they weren’t aware of anyone having been charged with one of the new offences

Estimate called into question

Damian said the RCMP based their 12-fold estimate on the experience in the United Kingdom.

« After increasing the amount of police officers who were trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug-impaired drivers, the U.K. had a 12-fold increase in bodily fluid samples submitted for toxicological analysis, » she said.

Lee was quick to point out that the U.K. has a different legal system.

« They don’t have the same rules around searches and seizures and constitutional rights that we do, » she said.

In preparation, the RCMP plan to set up next year a department within the lab dedicated to drug-impaired driving investigations, and expect to hire 26 additional full time lab employees by the spring of 2021. Their training is expected to take 15 to 18 months.

Lee said the force should have started the hiring process months ago.

« Frankly, I think they’ve been dragging their heels, » she said.

In 2012, the RCMP announced the closure of forensic labs in Halifax, Winnipeg and Regina as part of a plan to save $3.5 million a year and create a more efficient service, officials said at the time. (CBC)

Solomon said law enforcement will be playing catch-up for quite some time.  

« There are inherent limitations … fact is, we have no simple, fast, highly accurate way of screening large numbers of drivers for drugs. So there are technological limitations on our ability to enforce the law, » he said.

The RCMP closed their forensic labs in Halifax, Regina and Winnipeg in 2012 and consolidated labs in Edmonton, Vancouver and Ottawa.

The closures were expected to save the federal government $3.5 million per year.



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Ontario’s child protection association names first Black CEO

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Ontario’s child protection system — a sector struggling to address anti-Black racism and the overrepresentation of African Canadian children in foster care and group homes — has appointed its first Black chief executive officer.

Nicole Bonnie, director of diversity and anti-oppression at the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, will take the helm of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) in January.

Her appointment to the association that represents the province’s 47 children’s aid societies comes in the wake of an ongoing Star investigation into kids in care and last summer’s uproar over the Toronto society’s decision to hire a CEO with seemingly no experience in child protection or previous work in the area of diversity.

Bonnie, who previously worked at the Peel Children’s Aid Society, is replacing Mary Ballantyne who is retiring.

Her appointment “is very welcome and exciting news for us,” said Caroline Newton of the OACAS.

Bonnie, who is out of the country, said in a statement to the Star she is “honoured” to lead the association.

“Child Welfare in Ontario is changing in fundamental ways,” she said. “We are listening to the families and communities we serve, and reimagining child welfare in a way that supports them to thrive.”

She said she wants “to help build a child welfare system based on the pillars of respect and empowerment, reconciliation, equity and belonging, and consistent and excellent services across the province.”

The appointment also comes as more than 300 Black children’s aid workers from across the province gather in Toronto this week to discuss the sector’s efforts to fight anti-Black racism and the challenges faced by front-line staff.

“Black people who work in child welfare are often seen by the community as traitors or as not standing up for Black people,” said Kike Ojo, manager of One Vision One Voice (OVOV), a provincially funded program of the OACAS.

“But it’s just not true. People who work on the inside are often fighting like hell to make things better for Black people,” said Ojo, whose initiative is sponsoring the two-day symposium.

Of the province’s 11,000 child welfare workers, about 1,000 — or 10 per cent — are Black, Ojo said.

She said she hopes the symposium, the first of its kind, will be the beginning of a formal network of Black child protection workers in Ontario who can support one another as they push for change from the inside.

“I want to shine a light on why there is so little progress and what it’s like for people on the inside who are change agents,” she said. “I am trying to create protections for them.”

Black workers who advocate for Black families are often criticized by their superiors as being “biased” or “unprofessional,” Ojo said.

“The pushback is incredible. It has cost many workers promotions because they are seen as disruptive,” she said.

“In 13 years of senior leadership in the sector, I have never heard that said of a white worker — that they are being biased or unprofessional in their dealings with a white family,” she said. “This is just one of the forms that anti-Black racism takes.”

Jean Samuel, the OACAS’s first director of diversity, equity and inclusion said Bonnie’s appointment will “give hope” to Black workers in the system.

“It really is going to help Black staff feel their voices can be accepted and embraced to help reimagine the work that we need to do,” said Samuel, who was at the symposium Wednesday.

“Nicole is the first Black CEO in our sector. She’s also a Black female,” Samuel said. “It shows there’s a future for child welfare that is going to look and feel a lot different than it has historically.”

This week’s meeting of Black staff follows a similar gathering of Black youth in care who met in Toronto last summer to share their experiences.

If provincial funding ends, Ojo said she hopes the sector will continue to support annual gatherings for both youth and staff.

The OVOV initiative was launched in January 2015 to address the overrepresentation of Black children in the care of children’s aid societies, a problem highlighted in a 2014 Star investigation and most recently by Ontario’s Human Rights Commission.

According to the latest statistics released by the Toronto society, 32 per cent of children admitted into care in 2017-18 were Black while they represent just 8 per cent of city residents under age 18.

A report by Ontario’s Human Rights Commission last spring found Black children were overrepresented in 30 per cent of CASs, an admission rate 2.2 times higher than their proportion in the child population.

The commission called on societies to improve data collection and increase efforts to address anti-Black racism within their internal policies and structures.

Laurie Monsebraaten is a Toronto-based reporter covering social justice. Follow her on Twitter: @lmonseb



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Police in Kingston looking for victims of alleged child predator – Kingston

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Investigators in Kingston believe there may be more victims in a child pornography investigation.

A 43-year-old Kingston man is facing several child pornography-related charges.

It stems from a Facebook message, sent to a young girl last month. Police said the accused commented on how cute her Facebook photo was. Police allege a few days later, the accused sent messages that were of a sexual nature. The victim contacted police.


READ MORE:
Kingston man, 50, charged with sharing child pornography

On Tuesday, 43-year-old Robert John Burns was arrested after police and the Internet Child and Exploitation Unit or ICE executed a search warrant at a home in the region.

Burns is facing several child pornography-related charges including making and possessing child pornography and attempting to meet with a person under 16 years of age to commit a sexual offence.

Police are concerned that Burns may have had access or contact with other children as well.

Anyone with information regarding the accused having contact with a child is asked to contact Det. Paul Robb at 613-549-4660 ext. 6383.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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Rape victim worries man using sexsomnia defence will be found not criminally responsible

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Seven years after she was raped by a stranger, an Ottawa-area woman is still seeking closure and waiting in trepidation for what justice could mete out.

Her attacker, Ryan Hartman, 38, was found guilty of sexual assault in 2012 and sentenced to 14 months in jail. He appealed and lost.

He appealed again. This time he admitted to the crime, but presented evidence that he was suffering from sexsomnia and argued that he was sleeping when he raped the woman.

The Ontario Court of Appeal granted him a new trial, which began in April 2017.

On Monday, a Brockville judge will decide if the original conviction should stand or if Hartman is not criminally responsible because of a sleep disorder.

Since being raped in 2011, the 30-year-old woman, whose identity is protected by a court order, has gone through two trials and two appeals. She says the delay has plunged her into depression and anxiety, and she’s battled alcohol and drug abuse, endured toxic relationships and wrestled with suicidal thoughts.

She says she is afraid of breaking down if Hartman is found not criminally responsible.

« How will I move on? How will I get past it? » she said. « If he was found NCR, I don’t know how I will continue with my life. »

House party

Before she was sexually assaulted in 2011, the woman was two months away from graduating from a community justice program at Algonquin College.

On a February evening during reading week, she and her boyfriend were invited to a house party in Spencerville, Ont.

Having drunk too much, the couple decided to sleep off the booze before they drove home and crashed on an air mattress. The victim set her watch alarm for 6:30 a.m., wrapped her arms around her boyfriend and dozed off.

Just a few minutes before her alarm beeped, she says that she felt a strong pain in her buttocks. Her jeans were pulled down and her belt was loose and someone was penetrating her anally. Her boyfriend remained asleep.

The victim says she was in shock.

« The next thing I knew, I woke up in pain and I put my hand behind me to feel where the pain was coming from, and that’s when I realized that I was being assaulted. »

An Ottawa-area woman who was sexually assaulted in 2011 fears her attacker will be found not criminally responsible for his actions because of a sleep disorder. 1:21

Prior to the attack, she had only had one interaction with Hartman at the party when she had asked him for a cigarette.

She says Hartman said nothing as he got off the mattress and walked out of the house. As the couple drove away from the home, she saw Hartman sitting at a picnic table in the garage looking « wide awake. »

« He does not have sexsomnia … and he sexually assaulted me. He is criminally responsible. »

Sexsomnia ‘not easily faked’

Deep sleep as a criminal defence has only been used 13 times in Canada in sexual assault cases, said Blair Crew, a University of Ottawa professor who teaches sexual assault law.

Crew said a 2003 Toronto case set the precedent for the sexsomnia defence. In that case, Jan Luedecke was accused of sexually assaulting a woman at a party. He was found not criminally responsible.

Crew said that since the Luedecke decision, sexsomnia has resulted in an NCR ruling five times.

Crew worries sexsomnia cases may embolden potential offenders to think they can assault someone and claim the mental disorder to cast off responsibility. But in reality, he said, proving sexsomnia is difficult, because it requires a lot of medical evidence.

« Most people who rely on this defence can demonstrate a history of sleepwalking before. Often there is a family history. And the Supreme Court has been very clear that expert testimony will be required, » Crew said. 

« These are situations that are not easily faked. »

If Hartman is found not criminally responsible, he will be treated as a mentally ill patient, and if his mental health improves, he could be discharged completely.

University of Ottawa law professor Blair Crew worries sexsomnia cases may embolden potential offenders to think they can assault someone and claim the mental disorder to cast off responsibility. (Jean Delisle/ CBC)

‘Watching the clock’

Monday’s ruling will be the fourth time the victim has come face to face with Hartman. She plans to arrive in the courtroom early as she gets anxious when things run late. The stress makes her flash back to her rape.

« If I had set my alarm an hour earlier or even 15 minutes earlier, the assault may never have happened. So I live my life counting minutes, watching the clock. »

She currently works as an office administrator, but before the assault, she hoped to become a parole officer. She once dreamed of rehabilitating offenders, but now she doubts if she can listen to their stories with sympathy.

She says she’s acutely aware that she’s not the woman she was meant to be.

Her voice cracks, then steadies as she breathes in and pulls up her sleeve to reveal a tattoo on her wrist: Survivor.

« I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor. »

The woman got this tattoo, which reads ‘survivor,’ prior to her attacker’s second trial. (Jean Delisle/ CBC)

Where to get help:

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (phone), 45645 (text), crisisservicescanada.ca (chat).

In Quebec (French): Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553).

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (phone), live chat counselling at www.kidshelpphone.ca.

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis centre.


If you’re worried someone you know may be at risk of suicide, you should talk to them about it, says the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. Here are some warning signs:

  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Purposelessness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Feeling trapped.
  • Hopelessness and helplessness.
  • Withdrawal.
  • Anger.
  • Recklessness.
  • Mood changes.



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