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Posts Tagged "National"

24Jul

Port Alberni rocked by national manhunt for local teens after first believing the pair was lost in the bush

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PORT ALBERNI — The blue sky and lush greenery surrounding the chalet-style home across the street from beautiful Sproat Lake belied the pain, confusion and fear that must have been felt by the people inside.

It’s the home of 19-year-old Kam McLeod, who with his friend, 18-year-old Bryer Schmegelsky, is the subject of a manhunt that has now moved to remote northeastern Manitoba, almost 3,000 kilometres from where the bodies of two tourists were found on July 15 that sparked a Canada-wide search.

Set in an idyllic, rural and recreational setting, Sproat Lake is a 20-minute drive from central Port Alberni.

Inside the home were McLeod’s parents and, judging by the number of vehicles parked outside the home, supportive family and friends. Phone calls to Keith McLeod, Kam’s dad, went unanswered and private-property signs warned unwanted visitors to stay away.


CP-Web. Alan Schmegelsky, father of Bryer Schmegelsky, poses for a photo.

Laura Kane /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Keith McLeod had earlier issued a statement saying the family felt trapped in their home, worried about their son, trying to wrap their heads around the head-spinning developments of the past three days, and praying Kam would come home safely.

Even the FBI had visited, according to a friend of the McLeods, who asked not to be identified — 24-year-old Chynna Deese of North Carolina and her boyfriend, 23-year-old Lucas Fowler of Australia, were the first two victims of murder the RCMP have said two Port Alberni teens are wanted for.

A third victim was identified by police on Wednesday as Leonard Dyck of Vancouver. Police have formally charged the Port Alberni duo with his second-degree murder.

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Phone calls to the home of Caroline Starkey, maternal grandmother to Schmegelsky and with whom the teen had been living for the past two years, went unanswered.

Three passing vehicles slowed down to look menacingly at a Postmedia reporter and photographer. “Leave them alone!” one elderly man who had stopped his pickup truck yelled.

“Everybody I’ve talked to is in shock,” said Susie Quinn, editor of the Alberni Valley News. “This went from being two kids who were missing, to overnight being suspects in three deaths, that’s the sense I get.”


Security camera images recorded in Saskatchewan of Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, are displayed as RCMP Sgt. Janelle Shoihet speaks during a news conference in Surrey, B.C., on July 23, 2019.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

A street poll of residents showed a community unsure of what to say or how to feel until the ordeal plays itself out.

“It could happen anywhere,” a cashier who said McLeod’s parents are regular customers said.

“They seem like nice people,” added her colleague. “I don’t know anything about their son.”

Employees at the high school the two attended (Alberni District Secondary), at School District 70 headquarters, and at Walmart (where the two boys briefly worked) had all been instructed to say nothing.

One waitress downtown said she had known Kam McLeod, but hadn’t seen him in at least two years.

“I remember him as a nice kid,” she said. “I’m shocked.”

Added a customer inside a fast-food-joint: “What can you do? I’m just glad they didn’t do it here.”

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3May

‘Poor Canada’: Will Meng Wanzhou extradition hearing threaten national interest?

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Read this story in traditional Chinese.


If anyone can appreciate the kind of pressure facing the Canadian prosecutors handling Meng Wanzhou’s extradition hearing, it’s Nick Vamos.

As the former head of extradition with the British Crown Prosecution Service, Vamos has handled many high-profile, international white collar cases in the U.K..

He says political concerns — such as China’s obvious displeasure with the Huawei executive’s arrest — may swirl in the background. And he has heard comments from politicians like U.S. President Donald Trump — who suggested Meng could be used a bargaining chip in a trade war — inadvertently hand defendants ammunition in their bids from freedom.

But Vamos — who now works as a London-based defence lawyer — says he’s never seen anything as overt as Beijing’s apparent attempts to bully Canada into releasing Meng: arresting and isolating two Canadians in China for allegedly spying, sentencing two more to death for drug trafficking and choking off imports of Prairie canola.

“That’s a new phenomenon,” said Vamos, a partner with Peters and Peters, a leading U.K. law firm with expertise in business crime.

“Or at least not a phenomenon that’s been so publicly and obviously displayed in an extradition case.”

‘I find that profoundly depressing’

Meng’s legal team will likely provide a roadmap along with the beginnings of a strategy for extradition proceedings when the Huawei chief financial officer makes her next B.C. Supreme Court appearance on May 8.

The 47-year-old faces the possibility of decades in jail if sent to the U.S. to face criminal charges of conspiracy and fraud in relation to accusations she lied to New York banks as part of a scheme that allegedly saw Huawei violate sanctions against Iran.

Canada has come under intense pressure from China to release Meng. Her supporters have crowded the Vancouver courtroom where Meng’s court proceedings take place. (David Ryder/Reuters)

Her lawyers have already raised concerns about what they called the “political character” of the case, along with hints they’ll be claiming abuse of process in the way Canada Border Services agents and the RCMP detained and arrested her at the Vancouver airport last December.

Vamos said prosecutors essentially act as a lawyer for the requesting state — the United States in Meng’s case. They wouldn’t normally be aware of the kind of back channel pressure that accompanies some extradition cases.

“Poor Canada — without wishing to sound patronizing — is being caught in the middle of this, and China are shamelessly using political tactics to intervene in what is supposed to be an open, transparent judicial process,” he said.

“And I find that profoundly depressing.”

‘The boyfriend of a very bad man’

Vancouver-based lawyer Gary Botting has written several books on extradition and constitutional freedoms, including one focused on the law surrounding extradition to the United States.

He believes Meng has a strong case, in part because her treatment could be seen as “unjust or oppressive” given the nature of her job and the way in which she was apprehended.

“The vice-president of an international corporation doing business hither and yon has to know they’re going to be safe from being arbitrarily arrested at an airport at the behest of a rival state,” he said.

“It’s just common sense that shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”

Botting said Meng has a number of possible grounds to challenge the extradition. Trump’s comments will almost certainly be among them, as will the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees she has already claimed were violated in a separate civil suit.

In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a judge’s decision not to extradite four men wanted in the U.S. for a $22-million telemarketing scam because of comments U.S. prosecutors made that would have led to a violation of their charter rights.

The Supreme Court of Canada upheld a decision not to extradite four men to the United States after a U.S. assistant attorney suggested one of them might be raped in prison if he didn’t waive his extradition rights. (Shutterstock)

The ruling came after an assistant U.S. attorney told CBC’s The Fifth Estate one of the accused would “be the boyfriend of a very bad man” if he waited out his extradition hearing and wound up in jail after a trial.

The men argued that they were being threatened with rape in prison, which would have violated the charter right to life, liberty and security of the person — not to mention the right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

‘Political in nature’

Along those lines, Meng has already claimed in her civil case that the RCMP arranged for CBSA officers to detain her for three hours before she was officially arrested so she could be denied access to a lawyer and her electronic devices could be seized.

She said she was denied her charter rights to know the reason for her arrest, to retain and instruct legal counsel without delay and to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments about Meng could factor into her defence if she says she is being persecuted for political reasons. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Vamos said Trump’s comments won’t necessarily play a huge role during the hearing stage.

He said prosecutors will likely ask the judge to look at the record of actions of the U.S. Department of Justice in regards to Meng as opposed to the president’s off-the-cuff statements. 

The courtroom extradition hearing itself is supposed to be apolitical.

But if a judge commits Meng for extradition, the final decision to surrender belongs to Canada’s minister of justice.

And the Supreme Court of Canada, in a precedent-setting case involving a man accused in a mining fraud, has described the minister’s role in that part of the extradition decision-making process as “political in nature … at the extreme legislative end of the continuum of administrative decision-making.”

‘There will come a moment’

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland acknowledged this reality in an interview in February with CBC’s Ottawa Morning.

“Saying you’re a rule of law country doesn’t mean political decisions don’t get taken,” Freeland said.

“There will come a moment — as in all extradition cases, where the minister of justice will need to — could need to, depending on how things develop — could need to take a political decision about whether to approve the extradition.”

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has said that there may come a moment in the Meng case when a poltical decision is necessary. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The Extradition Act says the minister “shall refuse to make a surrender” if it would be “unjust or oppressive having regard to all the relevant circumstances.”

The minister must also consider whether or not the prosecution is taking place to punish a person by reason of “race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, language, colour, political opinion, sex, sexual orientation, age, mental or physical disability or status.”

But the law is silent on the types of pressures facing the Canadian government when it comes to Meng and China. Shortly after her arrest, the Chinese government arrested two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have since been accused of spying. According to Canadian officials, both men have been kept in isolation for months.

A third Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, was sentenced in January to death in China for allegedly trafficking drugs. He was originally given a 15-year sentence, which he appealed. And this week, a Chinese court handed the death sentence to a fourth Canadian, Fan Wei, for his role in an alleged methamphetamine trafficking ring.

The Chinese have denied any relation among the fates of Kovrig, Spavor, Schellenberg and Meng, but the Canadian government has raised concerns about the timing.

Meanwhile, China has choked off Canadian canola shipments, claiming to have found “dangerous pests” in imports of the grain, which account for about $2.7 billion of annual trade between China and Canada.

‘Nobody would be weeping’

Vamos sees an interesting parallel between Meng’s case and an English case that saw the director of the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office discontinue an investigation into allegations of bribery in connection with a multibillion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia in 2006 under extreme pressure from the Saudi government.

At the time, Prime Minister Tony Blair defended the decision by saying Britain’s “strategic interest” in terms of Middle East counterterrorism had to come first.

That proceeding differs from an extradition case in which Canada has little choice but to act in accordance with its international treaty obligations. But Vamos says the same kind of issues are at play.

“That puts them in this awful position where they have to carry on with the case knowing or suspecting that it might have these terrible consequences for Canadian citizens or the Canadian economy,” Vamos said.

“So what do they do about that? Presumably they can talk to the Americans on various channels to say: ‘Can you please not put us in this position?’ But that gets very complicated because the Americans would look like they’re giving in to Chinese pressure.”

Vamos said he has discussed the Meng case with Canadian counterparts and has been following it with interest. If nothing else, it’s keeping the world of extradition experts entertained.

He won’t be drawn into betting on the outcome.

“I say this glibly, but I’m sure nobody would be weeping for too long if somehow she just managed to give her security detail the slip and left Canada on a false passport wearing a fake beard and moustache and appeared in China somewhere,” he said.

“I’m not saying that’s going to happen. But who knows?”


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3Apr

National chronic pain task force a first step: federal health minister

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‘People with chronic pain are often underemployed or unemployed because they simply cannot work and not all of us have extended health benefits and even health benefits run out,’ says Andrew Koster.


‘People with chronic pain are often underemployed or unemployed because they simply cannot work and not all of us have extended health benefits and even health benefits run out,’ says Andrew Koster.


CHAD HIPOLITO / CANADIAN PRESS files

The federal health minister is forming a national task force to provide input on how to better prevent, treat and manage chronic pain, which affects one in five Canadians and is often addressed with opioids.

Ginette Petitpas Taylor said in an interview Wednesday the task force will provide information on barriers that may prevent people suffering with persistent pain from receiving the treatment they need.

“This is the first step in addressing the issue of chronic pain in this country,” she said, adding the eight members will consult with governments and advocacy groups around the country and provide an initial report in June, followed by two more over the next couple of years.

Petitpas Taylor made the announcement in Toronto at the 40th annual scientific meeting of the Canadian Pain Society, which has long called for a national pain strategy, especially as the opioid crisis has exacerbated the stigma around prescribing and use of the pain killers.

She said she committed to exploring the creation of a national pain task force after a discussion with patients, clinicians and researchers at a symposium in Toronto last year, when she heard people living with pain often feel their condition is misunderstood and services are inconsistent.

“We have to recognize that Canada’s a big country and we certainly know there’s inconsistent services in provinces and territories so I have to really have a good understanding of what’s available and what’s happening out there,” Petitpas Taylor said.


Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, stands during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.

Sean Kilpatrick /

The Canadian Press

Advocates for pain patients presented the former Conservative government with a plan in 2012, but Petitpas Taylor said it’s too early to say whether such a plan will be introduced.

Andrew Koster, who suffers from debilitating lower back and knee pain from a type of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, said he’s concerned the task force’s work will go nowhere if there’s a change in government in October.

“I’m looking for signs from the government that they’re taking this seriously and it’s not just something to state during an election campaign,” he said. “There has to be definite action.”

Koster, who will have surgery on his left knee next month following an operation on the other one last year, said he can no longer afford to pay $100 a week for acupuncture to deal with daily pain after he voluntarily reduced his opioids over concerns about any long-term consequences.

“People with chronic pain are often underemployed or unemployed because they simply cannot work and not all of us have extended health benefits and even health benefits run out,” he said from Victoria.

He said it’s crucial for the task force to identify non-drug costs for patients and provinces for services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and acupuncture as part of any strategy it may come up with in its final report.

Andrew Koster, who suffers from debilitating lower back and knee pain from a type of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, pictured at his home in Victoria in 2018.


Andrew Koster, who suffers from debilitating lower back and knee pain from a type of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, pictured at his home in Victoria in 2018.

CHAD HIPOLITO /

CANADIAN PRESS files

Serena Patterson, a 60-year-old psychologist in Comox, has lived with pain associated with fibromyalgia for over half her life and also developed migraines that prevented her from continuing her teaching job at a college.

She said a three-year task force seems excessive, especially because advocacy groups have enough information on health-care gaps and patients wait too long to see specialists.

“I think we know that people are dying in an opioid epidemic and chronic pain patients are high on that list,” Patterson said.

“I would hope that this three years would be building, not more research. What needs to be built is a network of multidisciplinary team programs that are accessible, that are in rural areas as well as urban areas, that provide not only medical support but psychological as well as social support to help people be full participants in their life and in their community.”

Dr. Norman Buckley, scientific director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Pain Research and Care at McMaster University in Hamilton, said hundreds of organizations, patients, clinicians and researchers came together in providing the federal government with the strategy in 2012. There was no action at the time but he said the opioid epidemic has now made that unavoidable.

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