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Paul Bernardo’s pathetic, self-absorbed sob story convinces nobody




Back where you belong, to continue serving a life sentence. Can’t reapply for parole until 2020. He’ll be 56 then.

It took less than half an hour of deliberation before the two commissioners returned with their verdict.

“Mr. Bernardo, the board denies you full and day parole,” intoned Suzanne Poirier, who’d led the questioning over a period of two hours.

It was never in doubt, really. But strange happenings for convicted murderers in recent weeks held out just that filament of possibility.

The maximum-security inmate — Bernardo spends 23 hours a day in solitary confinement — saw his slim hopes for liberty, however restrictive, blunted against the anvil of harrowing victim impact statements: Donna French, mother of slain 15-year-old Kristen, dumped naked in a ditch; Debbie Mahaffy, mother of slain 14-year-old Leslie, dismembered, her body parts encased in cement and thrown into a lake; “Jennifer,” jumped from behind, dragged into the bushes and raped, one from among more than a dozen young women, some no more than girls, who were sexually assaulted by Bernardo before he became a killer. She spoke for herself.

But Bernardo wants his life back. Except he can’t get there from here, designated as a dangerous offender — indeterminate sentence, beyond life — and required to show, at minimum, that he’s a changed man who poses no risk to the public.

“I’m devastated by what I did in the past. I feel dreadful. I cry all the time.”

Not so devastated, though, that until just three years ago he had no interest in partaking of sexual offender therapy. Not so devastated, in 2014, when he engaged in an intense five-week courtship with a female admirer, which re-kindled all the deviancy of the younger Paul; his obsession with controlling and demeaning, his fixation on anal sex as an antidote for sexual performance inadequacy and anxiety. So he became a masturbating machine, which alarmed his treating psychiatrist.

It wasn’t at all clear, actually, if the sex acts Bernardo described yesterday were mere fantasy or real. A Corrections official later told reporters that Bernardo’s “privacy rights” precluded him from revealing whether the felon has enjoyed conjugal rights at Millhaven Penitentiary. “There are definitely prisoners serving life sentences who have private family visits,” said Wayne Buller. “Risk factors are taken into consideration.”

More likely, though, that Bernardo was living inside his head, describing his erotic inclinations to the panel.

“I’ve been in solitary confinement for 25 years. I hardly have any misery with people.”

Bernardo — wearing a blue T-shirt, middle-age paunch spilling over his belly, but hair still thick and facial features preternaturally youthful — spared scarcely a moment for the teenagers he murdered, making their deaths all about him, as though the girls had been little more than props in a play of the macabre unfolding.

“They weren’t supposed to die,” he said of Kristen and Leslie, one abducted off the street in St. Catharines with Homolka the beard, the other lured to her death when Bernardo happened upon her late at night, in a backyard, Leslie locked out of her home to teach her a lesson about house rules.

“The expectation was they were supposed to go home. The plan was they were supposed to go home from the outset.”

The engaged couple, Bernardo and Homolka, kept Kristen’s body in the basement for three days.

Recounting his descent — from masturbating voyeur who trailed pretty girls to pitiless kidnapper, torturer and killer — Bernardo repeatedly landed on what he described as “cognitive distortion,” because he’s learned to speak the shrink lingo.

So, he had sexual compulsions even before Homolka appeared on the scene. The more he acted on them — the rapes — the more enraged he became because the victims wouldn’t comply, wouldn’t do exactly as he demanded. But mostly, this man who tried to avoid straight up and consensual intercourse, who claims he couldn’t stand to be touched, was driven by a lethal desire to debase and dehumanize.

“It was callous disregard. I lacked empathy for the victims. I didn’t enjoy inflicting pain but I didn’t feel for them emotionally.

“There was anger during my offending, no doubt. When my expectations weren’t met, there was rage. I thought they should do what I wanted them to. If they didn’t want to, then I punished them.’’

As Kristen, defiantly, mocked him, court heard a quarter century ago, just before she was killed.

Bernardo: “Because I’m in distress, I should be able to do what I want, with disregard for them.”

A low self-esteem was the genesis, he contends, tracing it back to a physical defect whereby his tongue was fused to the floor of his mouth, a condition which prevented him from speaking until surgery at age seven. A nice boy, he insists, quiet and shy, a Boy Scout, who got bullied at school as he grew up.

“I felt inadequate in all areas of my life and always have. I had to dominate in sexual acts. It was the only way I could perform.”

Perform is not a synonym for rape and defilement.

Really, it sounded in the telling more like insatiable sexual obsession and dysfunction — as those of us who watched in court, 25 years ago, his frustrated sex sessions with Homolka can attest.

“For me it was about power and control. My ability to go pout and get what I wanted from a female, to boost my insecurity.

“When I offended I had justification. At the time of the offences, I was concerned about my own distress, I was focused on solving my own problems.’’

As, indeed, he wrote in a lengthy narrative, a “self-published” book, undertaken a decade ago at a psychiatrist’s suggestion: “I do not care about them.”

The dead girls, The raped girls.

“I offended to raise my self-esteem. It was their fault, blaming the victims. Part of justification is denial. Denying even to myself the extent of the harm. … When I was incarcerated, I was degraded, humiliated, I became defensive. I had my guard up. I’ve been able to drop the defences and to feel remorse.’’

The remorse was certainly professed at the hearing. “I wake up most days and it’s hard for me to believe that I did that. But it’s good for me to admit this to you and to the world — I did this. I’m happy to feel the pain.”

His declaration lacked any ring of truth, though, bouts of weeping notwithstanding.

Except for one thing.

The death of Tammy Homolka, his fiancee’s little sister, drugged and sexually violated by the couple as she lay unconscious. Tammy, who choked to death on her own vomit. Bernardo pleaded guilty to manslaughter and a slew of rapes in 1995, consenting to dangerous offender status.

Was so distressed after the girl’s death — which he and Karla caused — that he twice tried to commit suicide afterwards, Bernardo told the panel.

“Tammy’s death, I was just devastated. I put her in totally jeopardy. I relied on the medical expertise of Homolka. And, I thought … Tammy would never know.

“The kidnappings occurred after Tammy died. That was the escalation, the tipping point.”

But of course, Paul Bernardo says a lot of things, now. What’s left of his wretched life depends on it.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno


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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal




MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow




Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise




Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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