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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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Anglais

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

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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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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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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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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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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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