‘We haven’t let his memory go’; Vigil held for Boushie family 1 year after verdict

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A vigil was held for Colten Boushie at the Chapel Art Gallery in North Battleford on Feb. 9, 2019. It included a pipe ceremony, reflections on the year, speeches from family and a candlelight vigil at dusk.

It marked the one year anniversary of Gerald Stanley being found not guilty of murder in a case that attracted international attention. Colten Boushie, from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation, was shot and killed in a Saskatchewan farmyard in 2016.

« I’m very proud and honoured for everybody that showed up here today and their support, » said Debbie Baptiste, Colten Boushie’s mother. « Just happy that everybody showed up. »

Baptiste said the past year has been very hard.

« We continued going to ceremonies, praying and we haven’t let his memory go, » she said.

A ceremony and candlelight vigil was held for the Boushie family to remember Colton Boushie. Debbie Baptiste, Boushie’s mother, said she was honoured to see many people come out. (Samuel Desbiens/Radio Canada)

« My heart’s going to be broken, » Baptiste said of the candlelight vigil. « But with the candle lights and the support and the prayers behind me, I’ll be okay. »

Jace Boushie attended to show support for his little brother. He said the family has attended a number of ceremonies recently and he said he’s tired.

« These kind of anniversaries — we try to continue on with prayer, » he said. « It’s our culture, tradition. It’s what we do. »

It hasn’t gotten easier over the year, Boushie said.

« [It’s a] great big hole. It’s never going away, » he said. « Cope with it, still coping with it. »

Jace Boushie is an older brother to the late Colton Boushie. Jace said it hasn’t gotten easier over the past year but when he saw Indigenous people on the jury for the Whitstone case it was a start. (Samuel Desbiens/Radio-Canada)

« I’d like it to be, » he said, adding that he has a family of his own, and that the « post traumatic stress, it’s not good for our children. »

Baptiste said she gives support to others going through similar situations and she’s noticed some change in the justice system, but more needs to happen.

« I did see some Natives on a jury trial, » she said. « I was like in shock. Surprised, happy, I said there’s still hope that we can get fair, equal justice in a courtroom. »

Family of Colton Boushie delivered speeches at the Chapel Art Gallery in North Battleford. (Samuel Desbiens/Radio-Canada)

« We need more Native advocates out there, » she said. « We need more people to go into the courtrooms and help these people out. »

« And I will continue speaking, » Baptiste said. « I probably will never stop speaking. »

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Guilty verdict in French police gang rape trial a testament to Canadian woman’s perseverance

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36 Quai des Orfèvres: A fabled address, the building — known simply as “36” — has made appearances in movies and crime fiction.

That’s where Emily Spanton told court a group of off-duty officers she’d met took her for a private tour on April 22, 2014, following a night of heavy drinking at a nearby Irish pub.

Eighty minutes later, around 4 a.m., Spanton stumbled barefoot down the stairs. She’d lost her tights and her glasses and carried her shoes. She was covered in bruises, injuries that would be documented.

And as Spanton repeatedly told cops at the front desk, she’d just been raped by two, perhaps three officers, the conversation stilted by both sides unable to understand the other’s language.

Read more:

Two elite Paris police officers guilty of gang-raping Canadian tourist

‘I don’t want to live in a world where I’m silent’: French courts back Canadian’s rape allegations

All this time later, after years of tortuous legal proceedings — charges filed, charges dropped, a humiliating re-enactment of the crime at another hearing, crucial evidence disappearing, deleted, destroyed, a massive undertaking to collect blood samples from more than 100 officers who worked in the building for the purpose of obtaining DNA, charges reimposed — the two accused have been found guilty by a judge and jury, after eight hours of deliberation, and sentenced to seven years in prison.

In the court proceedings, the officers — Antoine Quirin, 40, and Nicolas Redouane, 49 — weren’t referred to by their full names, their identities protected by a French law that shields law enforcement working in sensitive police jobs. Spanton, who grew up in Toronto as the daughter of a high-ranking police officer and now lives in Niagara, waived anonymity.

As the verdict was delivered Thursday, one of the defendants shook his head in disbelief while the other wept and collapsed into his lawyer’s arms. They were standing mere feet from Spanton, who also shed tears, according to media reports from inside the Palais de Justice courtroom, situated right next door to “36,” on the bank of the Seine.

In his final statement before sentencing, Redouane told the court: “I should never have brought Emily Spanton to the BRI offices. All my life I’ve had good relationships with women. I never, never, never assaulted, attacked or raped Emily Spanton.”

Quirin said it has been a “five year nightmare” for him and his family.

The trial and its previous iterations were replete with denials and jaw-dropping revelations about how the investigation had been originally mishandled and subsequently compromised, while the public and commentators debated sexual assault prosecutions in the post #MeToo era. At issue was the concept of consent, as both accused insisted that Spanton had willingly participated in events.

But Spanton’s testimony had been consistent throughout, even as the 39-year-old woman’s character and lifestyle and sexual habits had been scorched by the defence teams. This, of course, is typical of sexual assault trials everywhere, including Canada — belittling and bullying the complainant.

She admitted to getting drunk with the off-duty officers, thus was in no fit state to give consent. Arriving at the BRI’s fifth-floor offices, eager for a private tour, she was forced to drink whiskey, she said, forced to perform oral sex and then raped several times by two, possibly three, men.

Taking the stand on the opening day of the trial, two and a half weeks ago, Spanton testified that she was “excited to see the ‘36.’ They explained the police station had been the subject of films, and made it sound like something I would want to see and I thought that going to a police station would sober me up as there would be plenty of lights and people.”

Instead, the offices were empty and dark.

It was, she said, “the worst mistake of my life.”

Spanton testified she was made to drink more, then forced to her knees and raped as the officers became violent when she wouldn’t go along with their sexual intentions. “They smashed my face against the desk,” she would later state in an interview with French TV. “I was stunned. I was seeing stars. I couldn’t see anything for a while, I couldn’t see them either, they were behind me.”

At trial, Spanton said: “I just gave up, just wanted it to be over. I kept my eyes closed.”

Spanton testified: “Someone was forcing himself into my mouth. Someone penetrated me. Then someone else. When it finished, I gathered up my belongs, but I couldn’t open the door. I was pulled into another office and everything happened again.”

Then told: “Go home.”

Quirin initially denied any sexual contact with the victim, but changed his story after his DNA was found on Spanton’s underwear. As was the DNA of Redouane. DNA from a third person was never identified, despite the blood-testing conducted on scores of police employees.

During the assault, Redouane had sent a particularly incriminating text message to a colleague. “Hurry up, she’s a swinger.” That message was deleted from his phone but retrieved on the recipient’s mobile.

The judge — known as the trial president — said Thursday the court was “convinced by the victim’s steadfast statements” and by “scientific and technical evidence.”

Prosecutor Philippe Courroye, in his closing arguments, said Spanton had been “easy prey” for the officers. “By taking advantage of a young, drunk foreigner, by treating her as an object, they have gone over to the side of those they pursue. Not policemen but “usurpers, unworthy of their badges, acting in the same way as those they pursue.

“They have lied, failed, concealed.”

From the outset, the investigation was an inept mess. The crime scene was never cordoned off. Spanton was, that night — after making her complaint understood, demanding to speak with a female officer — tested for alcohol and drugs while the officers were allowed to go home without submitting to a breathalyzer test.

Vital evidence disappeared. Both accused wiping messages and videos from the night off their cellphones.

At one point, investigators travelled to Canada to interview Spanton’s friends and relatives, digging around in her personal life, but no such intense probe was undertaken with the accused.

It seemed an endless nightmare, with the appeals and the reversals, yet Spanton persevered, coping with the bureaucracy of a foreign country. While the defendants, after being originally suspended, were permitted to return to their jobs.

Before leaving the stand, Spanton was asked by the judge what she expected from the court.

“I just want to stand up and publicly confront these men. Then I want to move on, close this chapter.”

The disgraced officers had been facing a possible sentence of 20 years for gang rape. They were also ordered to pay $23,000 in damages to Spanton.

They have 10 days to file an appeal.

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

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Verdict expected Tuesday in trial for fatal PATH stabbing at Shoppers Drug Mart

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A decision is expected Tuesday in the case of a woman who, the Crown and defence agree, was not criminally responsible for fatally stabbing 28-year-old Rosemarie Junor in a Shoppers Drug Mart.

In the brief trial last week, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Ian Swayze testified Rohinie Bisesar, 43, was in a state of severe psychosis, experiencing hallucinations, delusions and disorganized thinking when she bought a knife from a Dollar Store and stabbed Junor in the heart on Dec. 11, 2015.

Junor was a “victim of (Bisesar’s) illness,” Swayze testified. He said the horrible tragedy for everyone involved would not have happened if Bisesar had been in treatment.

He diagnosed Bisesar with schizophrenia, suffering from fixed beliefs that external forces had placed an implant or device into her body and were controlling her movements.

Junor, a newlywed ultrasound technician, had popped into the drugstore in the underground PATH system on an afternoon break, court heard. She was on the phone with a friend when, according to an agreed statement of facts read in court, Bisesar walked up to her and stabbed her. Bisesar put the knife on a cosmetics display and left immediately.

The women were complete strangers to each other, court heard.

According to Swayze’s report, made in a court exhibit, Bisesar told Swayze that on the day of the incident, she heard the voice in her head say: “what is the worst thing you can do.”

She said the voice commanded her to buy a knife. “The voices, communication and movements made me sit up, turn, walk straight into the Shoppers fast… I was not an agreeable participant.”

She said she approached Junor without hesitation. “The voice said, if you mean to do it, do it,” she told Swayze. “The voice and movements raised my hand, pushed forward…it was like the knife was sticking to my hand and couldn’t be dropped.”

Junor was rushed to the hospital, but died four days later.

Junor’s death has been “unbearable” for the close-knit family, her cousin Denise Sagar wrote in a statement given to reporters Friday. Sagar said Junor dedicated her life “to the care and treatment of people who are ill.” Sagar said her worry is what happens should Bisesar stop taking her medication again in the future.

“I hope my fears are unfounded,” she wrote. “I don’t know which is worse, the loss of my cousin or my fear that another family will suffer the loss of a loved one because someone simply decides to stop taking their medication.”

The case has taken nearly three years to conclude because Bisesar was repeatedly assessed and eventually found unfit to stand trial in December 2017 because her continued delusions impaired her ability to instruct her lawyer. She consistently refused treatment for a mental illness, instead claiming there was an implant in her body controlling her, which should be a matter of national security. She also suggested she did not believe Junor was dead, but rather hiding.

After her arrest Bisesar was held at the Vanier jail, though she was briefly transferred to hospitals on four occasions out of concern for her declining physical condition, including weight loss and facial lesions from her picking at her face. She was forced to receive treatment after being found unfit to stand trial. Her symptoms are now almost entirely in remission, Swayze testified at her fitness hearing last week after which a jury found her fit to stand trial. She is now consenting to treatment, he said.

Bisesar’s lawyer Robert Karrass argued in his closing address that she should be found not criminally responsible because, while she committed the physical act, her ability to think rationally was so impaired by her mental disorder at the time that she did not know what she was doing was legally and morally wrong.

If she is found not criminally responsible, Bisesar would be sent to a forensic hospital for an indefinite period of time.

Swayze’s report recommends Bisesar continue to be held at the women’s secure unit at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health where she is responding well to treatment and has been granted staff-accompanied community passes.

Bisesar’s release would be controlled by the Ontario Review Board, a five-person panel usually including psychiatrists, a lawyer and a member of the public.

In annual hearings they determine whether individuals found not criminally responsible (NCR) should continue to be detained in the hospital, given a conditional discharge which could allow the person to live in the community while subject to certain requirements, or an absolute discharge which is a full release with no further supervision.

A detention order is not intended as a punishment, like a prison sentence.

Instead the paramount concern of the Board is whether the person poses a significant risk to the safety of the public, said mental health lawyer Anita Szigeti who is not involved in the case.

“Just because someone is found NCR doesn’t mean they are in any way dangerous,” she said. If the person is found to be a significant risk, the board will consider other factors — most importantly the protection of public from dangerous persons, as well as the re-integration of the person into society and the liberty interests of the person.

They have to choose the “least onerous, least restrictive” disposition possible, she said. “They can’t take away more liberty than is neccesary.”

However, it is definitely not a “get-out of jail free card,” she said. “The ramification of coming under the review board’s jurisdiction is potentially indefinite detention in a maximum secure psychiatric facility setting, some of these facilities are very similar in their layout and security to high-security prisons.”

Victims can make victim impact statements at the annual Ontario Review Board hearings, Szigeti said. However, that process — which is often emotional and difficult for both the victims and the person found NCR — can give victims the “unfair and wrong impression” that their statements can influence the board’s decision, Szigeti says.

Unlike in a sentencing hearing, the statements do not have any impact on the decision the board makes which is based on the person’s current level of risk to public safety, she said.

Alyshah Hasham is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and court. Follow her on Twitter: @alysanmati

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