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‘They need a scapegoat,’ officer who released Bruce McArthur says of Toronto police

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The Toronto police officer facing disciplinary charges related to a 2016 arrest and release of serial killer Bruce McArthur has accused the force of turning him into « a scapegoat » to divert attention from other errors made during the investigation.

Sgt. Paul Gauthier made the comments in a letter, emailed to colleagues on Wednesday, which has been obtained by CBC Toronto. (See below.) 

Gauthier is accused of breaching the force’s policy on how to handle reports of domestic violence. 

Lawrence Gridin, Gauthier’s lawyer, says the charges relate to allegations that when he obtained a statement from a man complaining about McArthur, he did not record it on video as the policy requires. He is also accused of failing to take photos of the complainant’s injuries within 72 hours. 

Gauthier adamantly disputes those charges in his two-page letter. He claims to have followed all proper procedures and that the decision to release McArthur was approved by his supervisors.

« Based on years of investigative experience, I didn’t believe there were grounds to charge McArthur, » he wrote.

Not aware of investigation

Gauthier goes on to say that, at the time, he was not made aware of McArthur’s connection to Project Houston. McArthur had been interviewed as part of that investigation, which was launched in 2012 after the disappearances of three men he was later found to have killed.

« I had no idea there had even been a project with respect to missing men from the LGBT community downtown, » he wrote.

Gauthier claims that concerns about his investigation only surfaced after Chief Mark Saunders « embarrassed himself » by saying that members of the LGBT community could have come forward to police sooner with information about McArthur.

My employer has effectively set me up to be their fall guy.– Sgt. Paul Gauthier

He suggests that Det.-Sgt. Hank Idsinga, the lead investigator on the McArthur case and a former partner of Saunders, began investigating the 2016 arrest in order to divert attention away from the chief’s comments.

« The past year has taken a tremendous toll on me both personally and professionally. There have been many sleepless nights thinking about Mcarthur’s unspeakable crimes, his victims and their families, and the fact that my employer has effectively set me up to be their fall guy for all this. Simply because they need a scapegoat, » he wrote.

Not present at tribunal

Gauthier is charged with insubordination and neglect of duty, but the allegations had not previously been released by police because he was not present for what was meant to be his first appearance before the police tribunal on Tuesday.

Gridin has said he is confident the evidence will show his client did not hamper the investigation into McArthur’s crimes.

The lawyer has also argued the case should be heard by a judge rather than, as usual, by a high-ranking officer appointed by Chief Saunders. 

But the prosecution and the superintendent who oversaw Tuesday’s hearing said it was too early in the process to make submissions on that issue.

McArthur pleaded guilty last week to eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of men with ties to Toronto’s Gay Village.

He was arrested in January 2018 and shortly afterwards, the force’s professional standards unit launched an internal investigation related to the case.

McArthur pleaded guilty to killing these eight men. Top row, from left to right: Skandaraj Navaratnam, Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen and Abdulbasir Faizi. Bottom row, from left to right: Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi and Majeed Kayhan. (John Fraser/CBC)

McArthur deemed ‘credible’

The review was sparked during a probe of two previous investigations into missing men from the Gay Village.

McArthur had been interviewed by police a few years ago in a separate, unrelated incident.

McArthur’s sentencing hearing was told that a man called 911 and gave a statement to police in June 2016 after escaping from McArthur’s van.

An agreed statement of fact read in court said the two knew each other and had agreed to meet in the van. When the man arrived, he found the back seat was gone and the floor of the van was covered with a plastic sheet and a fur coat.

McArthur, seen here in a court sketch, gave an ‘exculpatory’ statement after his 2016 arrest according to an agreed statement of facts revealed during his sentencing hearing. (Pam Davies/CBC)

Court heard McArthur told the man to lie down on the coat and then grabbed his wrist « with an angry look on his face. » He then grabbed the man’s throat and started strangling him, court heard.

The man tried pleading with McArthur and eventually managed to roll free and escape, court heard. « He was unable to swallow properly again for a week, » the statement said.

After the man reported the attack, McArthur was arrested and gave an exculpatory statement to police, it said.

« An officer released McArthur without charges, believing his statement to be credible, » court heard.

Police later found photographs of the man on McArthur’s electronic devices, court heard. In some, he is wearing a fur coat that appears identical to the one with which McArthur posed the men he killed, the statement said.

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‘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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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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