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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‘It was hell’: Woman’s co-worker accused of repeatedly tainting her water bottle with Lysol

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Toronto police have charged a 28-year-old woman for allegedly tainting a co-worker’s water bottle with a noxious substance at a downtown department store. 

Matsa Beliashvili said she likes to drink water from a glass canteen while working at the Hudson’s Bay on Yonge Street. The 33-year-old is a business manager at the Estée Lauder counter inside the store. 

In September of last year, she began noticing that an unusual number of bubbles were forming inside her bottle when she tried to fill it up. Beliashvili considered it odd, but didn’t think about it too much.

Over the next several months, however, she started to experience bouts of nausea, headaches and skin irritations, she said. In some instances, she had to take days off work because she felt so ill.

« It was hell what I went through, » she told CBC Toronto on Friday. 

This month, she started to suspect that perhaps the symptoms were connected to her water bottle, after noticing an odd odour whenever she took a sip. So on Jan. 8, on the advice of a colleague, Beliashvili replaced her water container with a brand new one.

Her ailments continued, despite the new purchase.

« That’s when I knew 100 per cent that something was wrong, » Beliashvili said. 

Based on a hunch about what might have been going on, Beliashvili left her water container out in the open when she went home on Jan. 19. She asked security to review any footage of the counter where she keeps her personal belongings between the time she left and when she returned to work the next day. 

According to Beliashvili, the video showed her 28-year-old colleague intentionally putting a household cleaning product into her canteen.

« They actually caught her in action on camera, spraying Lysol in my water bottle, » Beliashvili said.

She admitted, however, that security officials did not permit her to view the tape herself. 

Security officers at the Hudson’s Bay store where Matsa Beliashvili worked allegedly have video footage of the accused spraying Lysol into Beliashvili’s water bottle. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

‘I’m just glad it’s over’

Beliashvili was shocked because she had thought she and her colleague had a « normal relationship » that was both professional and friendly. 

« We had to work on a daily basis together, five days a week, » Beliashvili said. « It’s really hard to believe and it’s very heartbreaking. I’m really heartbroken. »

Security at Hudson’s Bay contacted police, who reviewed the footage and arrested the accused on Monday. She has been charged with one count of administering a noxious substance with intent to cause bodily harm and one count of mischief to interfere with property. 

The accused already appeared in court once, with a second hearing scheduled for Feb. 27. 

Beliashvili said the experience has been deeply traumatic for her. She’s not certain whether she will return to work at the same location. What hurts most, she said, is that her accused co-worker knew Beliashvili is the mother of a young child.

« I could never imagine that someone would be full of hate to this extent. It’s shocking, » Beliashvili said.

« Now I’m just glad it’s over. »

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Woman’s body found in burning vehicle ‘non-criminal’: Edmonton police – Edmonton

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A woman was found dead inside a vehicle that had caught fire in northwest Edmonton on Sunday night, but after investigating, police said the death was not suspicious.

Police and firefighters were called around 6:30 p.m. to an industrial area near 164 Street, north of 137 Avenue. They arrived to find a red Ford Escape on fire.

“They were extinguishing the flames and when they finished that, they found a deceased person in the vehicle,” said District Chief Todd Weiss.

Edmonton police and firefighters were called to 164 Street north of 137 Avenue on Sunday, Jan. 20, where a woman was found dead inside a burning vehicle.

Eric Beck/ Global News

The body was found in the driver’s seat. There is no word on what caused the fire, and investigators hope witnesses will be able to help determine what happened.

READ MORE: Call volume already up and Edmonton fire crews to take on more in 2019

“We had multiple reports that were called in to dispatch,” Weiss said. “There were a few people when I arrived on scene, giving statements to police — that’s all I can say about that.”

Edmonton police said early Monday morning that the death was non-criminal in nature. No other details were released.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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This B.C. woman’s recipe is one of the most popular of all time — and the story behind it is bananas

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It’s been nearly 20 years, but Shelley Albeluhn remembers the day in 2000 when she decided to mash an additional three very ripe bananas into the batter of her very first banana bread.

At the time, she hoped the on-the-fly tweak would yield a tender loaf with a sweet and deeply intense banana flavour.

Little did she know her creation — which baked up beautifully and received rave reviews from friends and family — would soon become a worldwide banana bread sensation.

Albeluhn, who lives in Port Hardy on the east coast of Vancouver Island, is the creator of Banana Banana Bread on Allrecipes.com, the much-loved website that collects recipes submitted by home cooks.

Since she posted the recipe in 2000, Banana Banana Bread has been viewed more than 35 million times and is Allrecipes’ second-most popular recipe of all time. In 2018 alone, it clocked more than 4 million views.

“This literally could be the most-viewed banana bread recipe in the world,” says Esmee Williams, vice-president of consumer insights at Seattle-based Allrecipes. She believes Albeluhn is the only Canadian to have a recipe crack the website’s all-time top 10 list.

“For a long time, it was the only recipe that came up when you Googled banana bread and for many years it was the number one recipe on our site. Shelley was definitely ahead of her time.”

Albeluhn, 53, never set out to change the global online trajectory of banana bread.

“I can’t believe this,” she says, after a Star journalist tells her of the enduring popularity of her Banana Banana Bread. “That many millions of people have seen my recipe? That’s amazing. It’s just a recipe.

“But I guess sometimes there is nothing better or more simple in life than making a really good banana bread.”

Read more:

Canada’s most popular online recipes, from Newfoundland to Nunavut

Albeluhn doesn’t remember the origin of the recipe she adapted into the now legendary Banana Banana Bread, which calls for 2 1/3 cups of mashed, overripe bananas. That’s the equivalent of five or six bananas; many banana bread recipes use just two or three.

“I winged it, really,” she says. “I remember thinking: ‘Let’s see how banana-y we can get this, so let’s put in another banana, and then another and another.’ ”

Albeluhn also recalls that she swapped brown sugar for white sugar, and replaced oil with butter.

It turned out so well she decided to post her adapted recipe online to Allrecipes.

At the time, Albeluhn was living in Port Alice, a village on Vancouver Island that, in 2000, had a population of about 1,200, many of whom were supported by the local pulp mill, which has since closed.

That Albeluhn had internet access in such a small town nearly 20 years ago is just one of the curious things about the ongoing viral popularity of her recipe, says Anatoliy Gruzd, an associate professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management with expertise in social media.

“It’s also interesting that something posted so long ago is still alive on the web — and still popular,” he adds, noting that Allrecipes has found a way to stay relevant even though it launched in 1997, whereas some other websites of its generation have gone extinct. “Think of something like (the social network) MySpace.”

“It also shows you that, in some cases, things that are posted many years ago can still be viral now. Modern forms of social media favour real-time trending stories. If something trended yesterday, it’s considered too old and we move on.”

Gruzd says that while Albeluhn’s recipe probably tastes good (he hasn’t tried it), its popularity is more likely due to Albeluhn’s impeccable timing: she posted the recipe on Allrecipes at just the right moment to ride the wave of the website’s overall success.

Williams, who has worked at Allrecipes since shortly after its launch, says the website’s appeal has always been that it caters to home cooks, many of whom gravitate toward recipes that are simple and timeless, just like Albeluhn’s banana bread.

In Canada, Good Old Fashioned Pancakes, submitted by Dakota Kelly, has remained the most popular recipe for years, netting more than 1.65 million page views here last year. It’s not clear whether Kelly herself is Canadian — Allrecipes doesn’t generally track users’ locations.

Williams says this kind of cooking is something that has not gone out of style, even amid the increasing online presence of celebrity chefs, sophisticated food bloggers and the meteoric rise of impeccably styled foods suitable for Pinterest and Instagram.

“There aren’t that many places where home cooks have a voice online,” she says, adding that the millions of recipe reviews submitted by Allrecipes users help build trust in the website. “Before you ever turn on the oven or the stove, you know exactly how a recipe will turn out. You’ll know whether it’s a kid-pleaser, or whether your husband might like it, whether it will be a hit at a potluck, and how you can alter the recipe to suit your tastes.”

More than 10,000 people have reviewed Banana Banana Bread on Allrecipes and it has a 4.5 (out of 5) star rating.

Albeluhn, who peeks at the reviews from time to time, is thrilled her beloved recipe has touched so many lives.

Not just because she believes her version, with its deep banana-y flavour, is one of the best banana bread recipes around, but also because she hasn’t tasted it since 2001.

Dietary restrictions for health reasons mean she has had to forgo the treat. But she remembers exactly how it tastes and the best way to eat it.

“It’s wonderful toasted,” she says. “Take a slice and put it in the toaster oven so that it gets a bit golden brown on the outside. It will still be soft on the inside, and when it’s warmed up, you get that nice, buttery flavour. It’s just so good.”

Albeluhn hopes that Banana Banana Bread continues to find its way into kitchens around the world. It’s OK, she says, for people to try it with nuts or chocolate chips, make it into muffins or serve it in restaurants, or tweak the recipe to suit individual tastes, just as she did nearly 20 years ago.

But there is one element that she insists must remain to ensure the treat is truly Banana Banana Bread: “You must make it with very ripe bananas that are dark brown, very soft and with very little or no yellow. That is key; I wish I had written very overripe bananas in my original recipe. It’s the only way you get that super strong banana flavour.”

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100-year-old Regina woman’s birthday wish for a dance with a Mountie comes true

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An RCMP officer in Saskatchewan made a 100-year-old woman’s birthday even more special by granting her birthday wish to a dance with a Mountie.

Cpl. Daryl Chernoff and other RCMP members attended Elsie Sheperd’s birthday party at the Extendicare Elmview care home in Regina Tuesday.

Chernoff said Wednesday that the care home approached the RCMP in advance of Sheperd’s birthday and asked if some people in uniform would attend.

« When we saw that, we made arrangements to have a number of us go to wish her a happy birthday, » he said.

Chernoff said Shepherd, who is wheelchair-bound, mentioned several times during the party she felt like dancing.

« In my head I thought, ‘Well we’re going to make that happen,’ » he said.

After getting permission from her son, Chernoff asked Shepherd if she wanted to dance.

« The rest is history. We went out and had a dance, » he said with a smile.

Cpl. Daryl Chernoff danced with a 100-year-old Regina woman to celebrate her birthday. (Cory Herperger/CBC)

« It felt very heartwarming to me. Here she was, she’s 100-years-old, and she’s getting out on the dancefloor like she really wanted to, » he said.

« It was a special moment for me and I really hope it was for her as well. »

Chernoff described the experience as « a great opportunity to just make somebody’s day a little brighter. »

The video had been viewed more than 40,000 times on Saskatchewan RCMP’s Facebook page as of Wednesday afternoon.

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‘If it is not my daughter, it will be somebody else’s’: Family of Crystal Papineau calls for changes after woman’s death

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“If I have anything to say about it, there won’t be any more of those bins,” said Kuno. “It is not the Canadian Mint. It is clothes. If it is not my daughter, it will be somebody else’s. These containers, from the sounds of it, would never be safe.”

Kuno spoke to the Star on Saturday from the bungalow where his daughter grew up, about 40 kilometres south of Ottawa.

“She left a mark and I guarantee she won’t be forgotten,” he said.

Papineau was a regular guest at drop-ins and respite sites, places that provide shelter and community for people who don’t have housing, are living in poverty, or are dealing with mental health and addiction issues.

While she spent almost two decades in Toronto, that bungalow near Ottawa was where she grew up. The little girl with blond hair and a stubborn streak came to them at age 5, said stepmother Evelyn Simser, who said they loved each other as mother and daughter.

“Crystal had whatever she wanted here. We weren’t rich but she got everything that I could possibly give her,” she said. That meant a bedroom decorated with new white wallpaper, with yellows stripes and roses, and a yellow shag rug in a house on an acre of property where the sometimes wild little girl could run free.

During those years she took her father’s last name. Papineau was her family name on her mother’s side.

Papineau loved unicorns and butterflies and was obsessed with Kraft Dinner. At age 8 she would climb up an antenna on the side of house so she could dance on the roof with a neighbourhood friend, said Simser, clearly not amused by that activity.

She developed an early and distinct sense of style, Simser said. “The worse she could put on, the better. We had dresses for her here and she would put on a pair of jogging pants or an old T-shirt. She didn’t want to be pretty.”

Simser said Papineau was beautiful and bright but despite years spent trying to make her feel loved and secure, she never seemed able to overcome challenges with her mental health. She could lash out and acted out more as she grew older, they said.

“You could get close to her, but only close enough. Because she didn’t want to lose you,” said Simser. Papineau was with them until age 15 and soon after was in Toronto. She could always come home but was devoted to her chosen family in the city, said Simser.

She takes some comfort knowing the young woman is at peace now. “I can almost guarantee she is telling me not to cry and worry. She is always going to be here. She is always going to be with me.”

But Simser shares her husband’s anger over how Papineau was found, and like him believes there is a need for better services.

“They have no right putting those so close to women’s shelters knowing those people are freezing and need what is in those boxes,” said Simser. “Maybe they shouldn’t be in them, but they are starving and freezing … I just wish I could get to Toronto. There wouldn’t be a box there. I’d smash every one of them. They need to be off the street.”

While the drop-ins and sites Papineau visited provided a temporary safe haven, advocates and people close to those lost to poverty and homelessness say they shouldn’t exist — that people need more mental health supports and places to live.

“We have all been so angry for so long … you hope to God that something breaks, that people are in the right mood to pay attention to what you have been saying for years and are saying again,” said Meg Inwood, 34, a close friend of Papineau. “There were no beds for her that night. There was nothing in the f—ing city.”

Inwood met Papineau when they were teenagers in Toronto. When Inwood left her home, Papineau took her under her wing.

“She helped show me the ropes. She helped show me how to survive on the street,” Inwood said, adding that they bonded over a deep love for the printed word.

“She, like me, just ate novels for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

Inwood said her friend struggled with addiction and mental health problems, and experienced homelessness for periods of her life, although the last year was particularly rough. But no matter what shape she was in, she said, she still always gravitated to others in need or in pain.

“When you were upset, she would not let you push her away and instead of getting mad she would make you feel better,” Inwood said. “She was laughing, you know, but knew how much you were hurting because she had hurt that much, too.” She also kept private the details of her past hardships.

“The fact that the world just kept hammering and hammering her and she never lost that generosity of spirit … it was beautiful.”

Mayor John Tory has called for an expedited review of how donation boxes are licensed and has asked the committee charged with that work to immediately instruct staff to remedy any safety issues identified throughout the process. The city has also pledged to create 1,000 new emergency shelter beds by 2020 and has created a new planning and housing committee.

On Thursday, as Toronto shivered through its first cold weather alert of 2019, the city’s 4,430 emergency beds for women, men and youth were nearly full, according to city data. A block of about 2,850 motel and hotel beds — added to reduce the strain on the system — were 85 per cent full.

An additional 1,034 people took shelter inside drop-ins, the warming centre at Metro Hall, three locations of the Out of the Cold program and the first of the city’s new winter respite sites — domed structures with space for 100 cots.

Despite the persistent winter cold, makeshift encampments remain the living choice of some, often alongside major roads or beneath the Gardiner Expressway. Last week people at some of those sites were told they would face eviction in 14 days, as first reported by the Toronto Sun.

Brad Ross, head of communications for the city, said that members of Toronto’s Streets to Homes Program are working to provide them with access to shelter and housing, or any additional services they need. A key concern, he said, was the risk of fire as people try to stay warm inside tents and makeshift structures. Some sites are also dangerously close to traffic, he said.

“At some point we need to say you can’t camp on the street. We need to remove the structure,” said Ross, speaking with the Star on Saturday. “It becomes a public safety issue, whether for the individual themselves or for the public.”

Several hundred people gathered in the freezing cold to honour Papineau’s memory on Thursday, at a makeshift memorial set up near where she died, and to call on all levels of government to provide more support for people in need.

“This is not a death by misadventure,” said Lesley Wood, with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. “This is death by neglect. Neglect of housing. Neglect of shelters. Neglect of services.”

One place where Papineau was well known was Sistering on Bloor St. W., where women can find safety and support all hours of the day and night.

“Crystal left us a gift. And the gift was the beginning of this gathering,” executive director Patricia O’Connell told mourners at the Thursday night vigil.

“She has given us this opportunity, sadly, to say homelessness in this city, in this province, in this country, is an epidemic,” she said. “Crystal’s death was the result of extreme poverty … we cannot let her death be in vain.”

Emily Mathieu is a Toronto-based reporter covering affordable and precarious housing. Follow her on Twitter: @emathieustar

Laurie Monsebraaten is a Toronto-based reporter covering social justice. Follow her on Twitter: @lmonseb

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Canada Post lost this Toronto woman’s $1,100 phone and she won’t get most of the money back

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A Toronto woman has been waiting for Canada Post to deliver her $1,100 smartphone for almost a month after the parcel made several stops on its 100 kilometre journey marred by the rotating strike. 

Amanda Birch, 30, described the experience as a « nightmare » and said the carrier won’t compensate her for the full price of the missing parcel because she had insufficient insurance.

She bought a HUAWEI Mate 20 Pro on Oct. 28 through a two-year plan with Rogers. 

But since the Chinese-made phone is attached to a family plan, the provider had to send it to her mother’s house in Cambridge, Ont., west of Toronto, because that’s the address associated with the account. 

« I was just really excited to have a new phone because my other one just wasn’t working as well, » Birch told CBC Toronto on Friday. 

Birch has been waiting for her new phone to arrive since Oct. 31. (John Grierson/CBC)

Three days later, Birch’s mother sent the expensive device to her apartment in the city’s Queen Street West area through Canada Post. 

She paid $14 for Xpresspost shipping. The package was guaranteed to arrive within two days, by Nov. 2.   

But 22 days later, her phone still hasn’t arrived. Its journey was marred by the Canada Post strike, according to tracking information sent from the carrier.

Now, the parcel has been declared lost. 

« My Canada Post tracking record … was the longest one they’ve ever seen, » Birch said of a postal worker’s reaction to her situation. 

‘Big disappointment’ 

Canada Post does offer insurance for similar incidents, but the family didn’t buy enough to cover the full cost of the phone. 

The tracking log shows the phone in Cambridge, then Stoney Creek, Mississauga and finally « out for delivery » in Toronto on Nov. 5. 

« Every single day someone … promised us it wasn’t lost or stolen and it would be delivered the next day. And then nothing, » Birch said of the response she received from customer service agents at Canada Post. 

Each update warned « delivery may be delayed due to labour disruption, » until a customer service inquiry determined on Nov. 22 that the mail item could not be delivered. Carriers hit the picket lines on Oct. 22 — more than a week before Birch’s mother mailed her phone. 

Canada Post workers have been on rotating strikes for the past month, shutting down delivery service in specific locations at a time. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

« It’s just a big disappointment, » said Birch. 

On Thursday, Labour Minister Patty Hajdu tabled emergency legislation in the House of Commons that would force Canada Post carriers back to work.

Around 550 trucks full of parcels have been piling up and deliveries from other countries have been suspended until Canada Post can clear a 30-day delivery backlog. 

‘I will never use them again’

Knowing the strike had just started, Birch said her mother asked the Canada Post worker on Oct. 31 if the targeted work stoppage would delay the package.  

« Unfortunately, the girl assured her it wouldn’t affect it, » she said. 

« Maybe we should have known better, but why wouldn’t we believe that was the case? »

Canada Post did not immediately respond to CBC Toronto’s request for comment. 

According to the Crown corporation’s website, customers have the option to purchase additional liability coverage. This add-on would cover up to $5,000 if the item was lost or stolen and it’s sold in increments.

Although Birch’s mother insured the parcel, it only covered $114. 

With no other way of recouping the cost, she is still out around $1,000. 

« I will never use them again, » Birch said of Canada Post. « It’s just been a nightmare. » 

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Protest planned in Cape Breton to raise awareness about Indigenous woman’s murder – Halifax

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Protesters are expected to block a causeway connecting Cape Breton Island to mainland Nova Scotia today in an effort to raise awareness about the unsolved murder of a local Indigenous woman.

Cassidy Bernard, a 22-year-old mother of twins, was found dead at a home on the We’koqma’q First Nation last month.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia First Nation offers $100K reward for information on death of young mother

Police are calling the woman’s death “suspicious,” and say the two infants – in the home at the time of the incident – were not harmed.

Chief Rod Googoo says the 45-minute march on the Canso Causeway will shine a spotlight on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada and hopefully shed some light on what happened to Bernard.

A Nova Scotia First Nation is offering a reward of $100,000 for information related to the death of Cassidy Bernard.

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He says the young woman was a “sweet and innocent child herself,” and that her death has left the community in a state of shock and grief.

The We’koqma’q band council in Waycobah is offering a $100,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the woman’s murderer.

RCMP Cpl. Jennifer Clarke says police will be on site today, ensuring the safety of the group and allowing them to “peacefully express their views.”

She says police will keep the group to one lane of the causeway and keep the other lane open for emergency vehicles.

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Inuk woman’s tell-tale botulism symptoms would have been taken seriously if she’d been white, says her widower

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A man from Inukjuak said the failure of a nurse stationed in the northern Quebec community to recognize the signs of botulism cost his wife her life, and it was only after she died that clinic staff took his adult daughter’s symptoms seriously.

Jobie Kasudluak and his daughter Janice travelled to Kuujjuarapik this week to share their family’s story with Commissioner Jacques Viens, who is leading an inquiry looking into how Indigenous people are treated by Quebec government services.

It was the first time the retired judge and his entourage travelled to Quebec’s Inuit territory of Nunavik since the inquiry began two years ago.

Kasudluak testified that his wife, 54-year-old Eva Kullulak-Ookpik, had been telling the nurse for three days that there was something seriously wrong with her.

He said when he brought her to the clinic on Friday, July 7, 2017, she was struggling to breathe, she was dizzy and vomiting, and she could hardly keep her eyes open.

« The nurse on call was a young, new nurse, » he said. « She didn’t seem to know what she was doing. »

He said the nurse had to be persuaded to do blood tests, and once they were done, she sent the couple home.

« She told us there was nothing they could do, » he said. « We’d have to wait for the results until Monday. »

Begged to stay at clinic

Kasudluak said his wife begged to stay at the clinic overnight, where she’d have access to oxygen to ease her laboured breathing.

« The nurse said, ‘Emergency room is for emergencies only. If somebody comes in, you’d be in the way, » Kasudluak told the commission. He pointed out there were two other rooms at the clinic, with two beds in each of them, but still, « they refused her. »

By then it was well after midnight on Saturday, July 8. The couple returned home.

Kasudluak thought his wife was asleep when he tried to nudge her awake the next morning.

« Hi dear, are you OK? » he asked her.

But Eva Kullulak-Ookpik had died overnight, of botulism poisoning, from having eaten an Inuit delicacy of dried beluga a few days before.

[Had she been white,] she would have been on a medevac in an hour.– Jobie Kasudluak, on the medical care his wife Eva Kullulak-Ookpik received

Health Canada describes botulism as a rare but serious illness that should be treated as a medical emergency. It says anyone with the signs, symptoms or history of botulism should be hospitalized immediately.

Outbreaks of foodborne botulism from traditional foods have occurred often enough in the past that posters describing the symptoms are on public display throughout Nunavik.

Retired Superior Court Justice Jacques Viens and his entourage travelled to Kuujjuarapik in Nunavik to hear about Inuit experiences’ with Quebec government services. (Catou MacKinnon/CBC)

Daughter showing same symptoms

Kasudluak’s daughter, Janice, didn’t know her mother was sick when she and her two-year-old daughter ate some of the same dried beluga.

Janice, too, had been calling the Inukjuak health clinic and describing her symptoms: her vomit was yellow, she was having trouble breathing, and her vision was blurred — all signs of botulism.

She said she called three times before she was eventually counselled on Friday to come to the clinic the next day.

On Saturday, she woke up to a phone call from the health clinic telling her that her mother had died and asking her to come in.

Speaking in Inuktitut, Janie Kasudluak told the inquiry that by the time she got that phone call, she was so sick, the caller’s news didn’t even register.

‘I lost my best friend’

Janice Kasudluak was flown to Montreal, and her father went with her.

« I lost my best friend, and I was about to lose my daughter, » the father of nine and grandfather of 21 told the commission, through tears.

Jobie Kasudluak was at his daughter’s side in hospital when she regained consciousness, two days later. By then, Janice’s two-year-old daughter was also sick. (The latency period for botulism can be longer in children.)

She was flown to the nearest hospital, in the Nunavik community of Puvirnituq (often referred to as POV), about 180 kilometres away, but then she was sent home before she had fully recovered.

« Janice’s doctor from Montreal General [Hospital] actually had to request that this little girl has to be medevaced [back] to POV and kept there until she’s better, » Jobie Kasudluak testified.

Coroner never contacted family

The coroner’s office, whose mandate is to find the cause of death and determine if it could have been prevented, issued a report on Eva Kullulak-Ookpik’s death in April 2018.

Coroner Steeve Poisson wrote that when she consulted the health clinic the two days before she died, food poisoning had been suspected. Her lab results, as well as her daughter and granddaughters’ results, confirmed the presence of Clostridium Botulinum. Poisson confirmed the dried beluga had been the source of the bacterial contamination.

He concluded Kullulak-Ookpik had died « a natural death, » and he made no recommendations.

The coroner’s office never contacted anyone in the Kasudluak family to share its findings.

Asked by the Viens commission’s lawyer, Edith-Farah Elassal, whether he believes he and his wife would have been treated differently had they been white, Kasudluak didn’t hesitate.

« She would have been on a medevac in an hour, » he said, matter of factly. « I’ve seen it with teachers and other white people in town — getting medevaced and coming back on a scheduled flight the next day. »

Kasudluak said before his wife’s sudden illness, he’d seen very ill Inuit people turned away from the clinic, only to die a day or two later, and he’s seen it happen since.

« There’s people still being sent home when they should have been sent to a hospital for observation, » he said.

« I just hope that nobody ever goes through what we went through. »

The Viens commission into the treatment of Indigenous people in Quebec held five days of hearings in Kuujjuarapik this month. (Catou MacKinnon/CBC)

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No changes planned to assisted-death law, justice minister says after dying woman’s plea

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Ottawa remains confident in its assisted dying legislation, and doesn’t plan changes despite a Halifax woman’s deathbed plea, federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said Friday.

She said the government feels strongly the two-year-old legislation strikes the appropriate balance between the protection of people’s autonomy and safeguards for vulnerable people.

« We’re not considering changing something in the legislation, » she told reporters.

« We’re confident in the legislation that we brought forward, that it finds the right balance in terms of being able to access medical assistance in dying, protecting the autonomy of individuals to make the appropriate decisions for themselves as well as protecting vulnerable individuals. »

Audrey Parker, a terminally ill Halifax woman, ended her life Thursday with medical assistance, after issuing an impassioned deathbed plea urging lawmakers to change the legislation.

Diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2016, the 57-year-old woman had been approved for an assisted death but said the restrictive nature of the law forced her to end her life sooner than she would have liked.

Parker stressed the law had to be changed because anyone approved for a medically assisted death must be conscious and mentally sound at the moment they grant their final consent for a lethal injection.

The issue will be among those considered in a report being drafted by a panel of experts, which is due by the end of the year but is not expected to make recommendations.

« We’re looking forward to receiving those reports back on mature minors, on advance directives, and on mental illness alone as an indicator for medical assistance in dying, and we’ll review those reports when we get them, » said Wilson-Raybould.

She said her heart went out to Parker and her family.

Parker was given a lethal injection and « died peacefully » in her Halifax apartment, surrounded by close friends and family.

« I wanted to make it to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, my favourite time of the year, but I lost that opportunity because of a poorly thought-out federal law, » she wrote in a Facebook post hours before her death.

Audrey Parker, 57, passed away on Nov. 1 at her home in Halifax after advocating for changes to Canada’s assisted dying laws. (CBC News)

She asked people to send emails or texts to their member of Parliament to encourage them to amend the law to help people in her category, which she described as « assessed and approved. »

Meanwhile, Dying With Dignity Canada says it has launched a campaign in Parker’s honour to « restore the rights » of people who have been assessed and approved for an assisted death.

It says she « changed the national conversation » about medically assisted deaths in Canada.

‘An unacceptable burden’

Shanaaz Gokool, CEO of Dying with Dignity Canada, says other Canadians are ending their lives earlier than they would like, or they are refusing adequate pain care to conform with the law.

Gokool says the law places an unacceptable burden on dying people who have been approved for a medically assisted death.

« Our lawmakers have a duty to act to ensure that no one else has to face the same cruel choice that Audrey did at the end of her life, » Gokool said in a statement.

« Unless they act now, many more Canadians will be forced to die earlier than they would like to as a result of this unjust, inhumane rule. »

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