Last Updated Thursday, October 3, 2019 11:57AM EDT
Three teenagers facing charges in a sexual assault scandal at St. Michael’s College School last year have pleaded guilty.
The teens pleaded guilty to sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon on Thursday morning inside a Toronto courtroom.
One of the three teenagers also pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography.
In November of last year, six boys were charged in connection with the alleged sex assault of a student at the all-boys private school.
According to police, videos of the incident, which occurred inside a washroom at the school, began circulating between students and on social media.
A few months later, police said they were investigating two additional incidents. Eight students were expelled from school as a result and a seventh student was formally charged by police.
The students were each facing charges of sexual assault, gang sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon.
Charges against one of the seven students were withdrawn in August and the cases against two others have concluded, although Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General would not say at the time what the outcomes were of those cases.
The last student facing charges has a court hearing scheduled for Oct. 17.
The teenagers who pleaded guilty on Thursday are scheduled to attend a sentencing hearing on Nov. 14.
They cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
The sound of a phone ringing has put Surrey resident Esmeralda Gomez on edge for weeks.
Back in July, she received the kind of call every parent dreads. Her son Alex had been rushed to hospital after collapsing at the gym.
“It was the worst feeling,” Gomez said. “We got the phone call saying your son has collapsed, he may not make it so you need to get over here.”
Alex, who was then just 14 years old, had unexpectedly gone into cardiac arrest. He would spend the next 12 hours in a coma.
And Gomez said her son might not have survived at all if it hadn’t been for the lifeguards from an adjoining pool who rushed into the gym, used an automated external defibrillator (AED) on him and then performed CPR.
“The doctors at (BC Children’s Hospital) said if he didn’t have the AED machine used, he wouldn’t be here today,” Gomez said.
Before the incident, the family had no reason to suspect there was anything wrong with Alex. They described him as an athletic high schooler who played competitive soccer.
To their dismay, the cause of his episode is still unclear almost two months later.
“Tests all come back normal. They can’t find anything so we’re waiting for the genetic tests to come back,” Gomez said.
In the meantime, they’re terrified he could suffer another cardiac arrest somewhere that doesn’t have the kind of life-saving technology that spared their family a tragedy the first time – including at his school.
“We were extremely shocked to find out the school didn’t carry an AED machine,” Gomez said. “North Van has them, Coquitlam has them, why not Surrey?”
The provincial government doesn’t currently require schools across the province to stock an AED, something Gomez would like to see changed. The Ministry of Education told CTV News it follows the advice of B.C.’s provincial health officer, who currently supports the installation of AEDs in schools where there are children or staff with medical conditions that could require them.
There is also a private member’s bill in the works to create clear regulations around AEDs for the entire province, and to improve accessibility.
But the Surrey school district said for now, it’s facing issues around funding and maintenance.
“It’s not as simple as saying let’s put an AED in the school. I think there’s a number of things, a number of considerations outside the reach of the school district,” spokesperson Doug Strachan said.
Strachan promised the district will be addressing the situation with Gomez’s family, however.
“We will work with the family if there’s a need identified by a medical professional,” he said.
Gomez and her husband hope something will be done quickly. Experts caution that just 15 per cent of British Columbians who suffer cardiac arrest manage to survive.
“For every minute that goes by, your survival reduces by 10 per cent, so there’s really a small time frame where doing CPR and using an AED are extremely important,” said Gillian Wong of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
A boy died by suicide while in care at the emergency department in Lion’s Gate Hospital. NICK PROCAYLO / PNG
Parallel investigations into the suicide last month of a teenager at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver are continuing by the B.C. Coroner’s Service and Vancouver Coastal Health.
The death happened in the emergency department.
Andy Watson, the spokesman for the coroners service, said all sudden, unexpected and/or unnatural deaths are investigated. A report will be written with the coroner’s findings and recommendations made to prevent future deaths by similar means.
An inquest may also be scheduled if a potentially dangerous practice or circumstance has been identified or if the death raises issues that are in the public interest and need more awareness. An inquest is conducted before a jury of five to seven individuals.
Vancouver Coastal Health is also doing a critical incident review, said spokeswoman Carrie Stefanson.
“The investigation is ongoing and we are restricted in comments we can make at this time. … The critical incident review will examine the circumstances surrounding the case and our processes in the care of this patient.”
The date of the suicide was March 23. According to an individual with knowledge of the event, a 17-year-old man on a “suicide watch” was alone in a dimly lit room when he used a piece of medical equipment in the room to asphyxiate himself. The hospital would not confirm the means by which the teen took his life.
Patients on suicide watch are generally monitored by guards or others and checked on frequently. It is believed there was someone sitting outside the room in which the teen was placed.
Watson said over 5,000 deaths each year are investigated by the coroner’s service. There are between 500 and 600 suicides annually in B.C., with 20 to 30 of them among individuals under the age of 19.
Meanwhile, the coroners service has announced a June 17 inquest into the death by drug overdose of another teenager, 16-year old Elliot Cleveland Eurchuk. Eurchuk died in April, 2018, after being found in an unresponsive state in his bed in his Oak Bay family’s home. His parents say that he became addicted to painkillers prescribed before and after surgery for athletic injuries. And then he became addicted to illicit drugs.
At one point, Eurchuk was discharged from the hospital even though he had overdosed in his hospital bed just days earlier. That inquest could last for two weeks as it will explore relevant issues around addictions and mental health, the education, health and justice systems.
‘If we had an equitable fare structure, including free transit for children and youth and a sliding scale for adults, we would have accessibility built in for the lifespan of all community members,’ says Viveca Ellis, coordinator of the #AllOnBoard campaign for free transit for youths. ‘We would not have people in the position of having to steal a bus ride because they can’t afford it.’ Mike Bell / PNG
TransLink should immediately stop ticketing youths for fare evasion so they no longer accumulate the kind of debt that can affect their credit history for years, according to the #AllOnBoard campaign for free transit for youths.
What’s happening, said Viveca Ellis, coordinator for the campaign, is that young people end up with what’s known as “TransLink debt” that they can’t repay. That debt can follow them around for years and prevent them from getting a driver’s licence.
“We’re asking TransLink to immediately end the harm of ticketing,” she said.
“It’s the bad credit that really sets people up for lifelong poverty.”
Transit, she said, should be as funded in the same way as education and health care.
“If we had an equitable fare structure, including free transit for children and youth and a sliding scale for adults, we would have accessibility built in for the lifespan of all community members. We would not have people in the position of having to steal a bus ride because they can’t afford it.”
Ellis said the #AllOnBoard campaign has discovered thousands of low income youths with TransLink debt. Once the debt goes to a collection agency, a person may be prohibited from getting a driver’s licence and/or renewing their vehicle insurance.
Last year, TransLink said it wrote an estimated 16,000 fare evasion tickets at $173 each. Of that number, less than four per cent, or about 640, were written to minors. If a fare evasion ticket is unpaid after one year, it can increase by $100.
A TransLink official said earlier that the the cost of providing free access to riders up to age 18 “would be in the tens of millions a year.” But the official said TransLink couldn’t provide a more detailed answer until it studies the issue in more depth.
In a survey in November and December last year, #AllOnBoard asked 24 youths if they had fare evasion fines. Some said they had paid off their fines; others replied by saying “I have like 4,” “Over $500” and “800.”
Not being able to get a driver’s licence was identified as the main impact of their fare evasion debt.
“I couldn’t get my licence,” one youth said in the survey. “I owed so much from years ago and even being on the platform without my ticket validated when I had a book of tickets to use but the officer wouldn’t let me validate it when I was in a rush.”
Ellis said what the campaign has also found is that there are at least 11 different programs operated by charities and non-profits in Vancouver that pay off TransLink debt for at-risk youths. That means groups supported by city taxpayers end up paying the debt so the youths can access services.
That makes no sense to Vancouver Coun. Jean Swanson.
“It’s just a ridiculous, vicious circle,” Swanson said.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Swanson’s motion for the city to endorse the #AllOnBoard campaign was moved to Wednesday. Eighteen people have signed up to speak about the motion.
#AllOnBoard has already has the support of Port Moody and New Westminster.
Last year, Seattle city council voted to spend $7 million ($9.1 million Canadian) to provide free bus passes to 16,000 high school students.
Calgary Transit addresses poverty in its sliding-scale fares based on income. A low-income monthly pass ranges from $5.30 for a single person household earning $12,699 or less to $53 a month for a household of seven people earning $56,997 to $67,055.
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