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Why did Bruce McArthur plead guilty? Police hint answers are coming

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Why Bruce McArthur chose to plead guilty to eight charges of first-degree murder was not explained on Tuesday morning, although police hinted that answers still may come.

McArthur’s admission in a Toronto courthouse that he killed eight men wasn’t entirely surprising — police had said earlier a « significant development » was coming. But guilty pleas can be rare in big trials because, during the lead up, the defence can determine the strength of the Crown’s case, according to B.C. criminal lawyer Marilyn Sandford.

« The first question is always: Can they prove their case? » Sandford, who was part of the legal team that represented serial killer Robert Pickton, said in an interview with CBC News earlier this month.

« You want to be able to give [your client] that opinion before you rush into negotiating a plea agreement because you need to be able to tell them the strengths and weaknesses of the case so that they can make an informed decision about what to do. »

McArthur’s trial was expected to take three to four months and the trial date had been set for Jan. 6, 2020, meaning his team had almost another year to search for weaknesses.

Outside the courthouse, Det. David Dickinson, one of the lead investigators in the case, indicated he would comment on McArthur’s reasons for pleading guilty at a later time. Insp. Hank Idsinga, the head of the investigation, also suggested that more information about McArthur’s motivation to plead guilty may be forthcoming.

« We’ll see what else comes out in court next week, » he told CBC News.

Instead, Ontario Superior Court Justice John McMahon opened proceedings by asking McArthur if he understood exactly what it meant to plead guilty, and warning that he could not plead guilty to things he didn’t do just to get the case over.

Did McArthur understand, McMahon asked, that he was giving up his right to a trial?

McArthur simply replied: « Yes. »

McMahon also asked if the former landscaper was pressured by family, friends, lawyers or police officers involved in his case. McArthur said he was not. 

McMahon said the guilty plea meant he had to sentence McArthur to life imprisonment. Whether he will serve his sentences concurrently or consecutively will be decided next week.

Insp. Hank Idsinga, the lead detective in the case, said he felt ‘a little emotional, a little bit surreal,’ following McArthur’s guilty plea. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

« So, you understand you’ll have to serve at least until you’re 91 before you could be eligible to apply for parole, » McMahon said. « Do you understand that? Do you understand that, sir? »

« Yes, your honour, » McArthur said.

McArthur made his plea 11 days after the one-year anniversary of his arrest, and a year to the day after police first used the label « serial killer » to describe the perpetrator of the eight murders he is now convicted of.

He was brought into court handcuffed, head shaved, wearing a blue sweater — one he has worn at numerous court appearances — with a plaid shirt underneath, and jeans.

It was a different image from that of a smiling and stocky man with a goatee, seen in Facebook pictures that have circulated in the media.

« This man is much older, stooped, lost a lot of weight, » said Karen Fraser, who had hired McArthur as a landscaper, and whose property he had used to bury his victims.

Karen Fraser had hired McArthur as a landscaper. He used her property to bury his victims. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

« I knew a man who was always energetic, enthusiastic, eager to get on to the next thing. And this is just a shuffling broken man, as he should be. »

​The courtroom was full, packed mostly with journalists, police officers and friends and family of the victims. The latter expressed little emotion, sitting grim-faced as McArthur’s crimes and his pleas were said in court.

McArthur stood hunched, his fingertips resting on the wooden banner in front, his eyes off to the side, staring blankly, looking at no one, not the judge, not the court clerk who read aloud each murder charge, naming each murder victim: Andrew Kinsman, 49, Selim Esen, 44, Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40, Abdulbasir Faizi, 44, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, 37, Dean Lisowick, 47, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, and Majeed Kayhan, 58.

Of the eight victims, seven had ties to Toronto’s LGBT community.

When the clerk was finished reading the charges, McArthur was asked for a plea after each count.

« Guilty, » he repeated eight times.

Several Toronto Police Service officers sat in the front row of the courtroom facing McArthur’s back. Those officers included Dickinson and Idsinga, who has become the face of this investigation that has drawn international attention.

McArthur confessed to killing these eight men. Top row, from left to right, Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40, Andrew Kinsman, 49, Selim Esen, 44, and Abdulbasir Faizi, 44. Bottom row, from left to right: Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, 37, Dean Lisowick, 47, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, and Majeed Kayhan, 58. (Toronto Police Service/CBC)

« A little emotional, a little bit surreal » Idsinga said he felt afterward. « Absolutely it’s closure. It’s not happiness, it’s not something to celebrate. It’s good to get it done. »

It is still not known how McArthur killed his victims. But what the court did hear Tuesday, in an abridged version of an agreed statement of facts, was that all eight murders were planned and deliberate, that six were sexual in nature, that McArthur had kept some of his victims’ items as souvenirs and « staged » some of them, although what that meant was not clarified.

The full details of those crimes are expected to be revealed next week at a sentencing hearing where friends and family will deliver victim impact statements. 

McArthur will be at least 91 before he’s eligible for parole. It remains to be seen if he will serve his sentences consecutively or concurrently. (Bruce McArthur/Facebook)

McMahon said he was hoping to read the statements ahead of time, and reminded that there are certain things that can and can’t be included in such statements. Swearing or threats, for example, are not allowed.

« I don’t want to be in a position Monday where I have to reject some of  the… loved ones’ victim impact statements because it doesn’t fit within where we have to be.

« It is important to see the impact it’s had on your lives. »

McMahon said it would be in everybody’s interest for the case to wrap up next week, « to have closure for the family, for Mr. McArthur, for everybody involved. »

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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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