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Medical student’s rape conviction first of its kind in Calgary

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When Laura woke up on June 1, 2014, she knew she had been raped. What she didn’t know is what, exactly, she wanted to do about it. But thanks to a program in Calgary, Laura was able to delay her decision to have police pursue an investigation until she was emotionally prepared for the aftermath.

This month, four and a half years after the attack, former University of Toronto medical student Prachur Shrivastava was found guilty of sexual assault and will be sentenced in the new year.

CBC News is calling the victim Laura because a court-ordered publication ban protects her identity.

Shrivastava’s conviction is believed to be the first under Calgary’s Third Option program, a reporting choice for victims of sexual violence that started in 2011.

The three options are as follows: victims can choose not to report an assault to police, they can choose to report and pursue an investigation right away, or they can have a rape kit done and stored for a year while they decide what they want to do.

The rape

The details of Shrivastava’s crime come from Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench Jolaine Antonio’s written conviction decision, released earlier this month.

Her decision was based on evidence presented at trial — testimony from the victim, the accused, and friends who witnessed portions of the night in question.

On May 31, 2014, Laura was partying with a group of friends at Molly Malones, an Irish pub in Calgary’s Kensington area. By the time she arrived at her friend Rob’s house, she described herself as “blackout wasted.”

Laura passed out in the living room where sofas and mattresses had been set up to accommodate Rob’s friends when they returned from bars to eat pizza and stay the night.

Many of those involved were med students at the time and have since gone on to become doctors.

Laura passed out on one of the mattresses almost immediately after arriving at Rob’s.

‘No capacity to consent’

Another group of Rob’s friends — who had been drinking at Wurst — arrived after Laura. When Shrivastava walked into the living room, he pointed at Laura and asked who she was before saying; “I guess I’ll stay here tonight,” one man testified.

One of the other men in the room testified he thought it was strange Shrivastava would want to sleep beside someone he had never met.

Rob told Shrivastava to sleep on the sofa because he felt Laura “had no capacity to consent to sharing a bed at that time, let alone anything else.”

At some point in the early morning hours, Shrivastava lay down next to Laura. In the middle of the night, Laura woke up to someone raping her.

“She tried to push the person away by swinging her hand back,” wrote Antonio in summarizing the evidence. “She still felt drunk and head-spinny, with a foggy brain. She did not fully understand what was going on.”

DNA evidence stored

Laura estimated she passed out again after about 30 seconds.

When she woke up, Shrivastava was sleeping on the mattress beside her. Paired with her flashback memories of the night before, Laura described feeling “disgust and violation.”

“What’s your name anyway,” Shrivastava asked, according to Laura’s testimony. She then told the court she felt as though she wanted to choke him.

After leaving Rob’s, Laura went to the hospital where evidence was collected as part of a rape kit.

He deprived her of control over who touched her body and how, and thereby criminally violated her human dignity and autonomy.– Justice Jolaine Antonio, Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench

Forensic testing would later show Shrivastava’s DNA was found on and inside Laura.

The kit was stored until Laura felt ready to participate in the investigation.

In her final assessment of the evidence at trial, Justice Antonio found Laura an “honest witness” and rejected Shrivastava’s testimony, finding it “irreconcilable with other credible evidence” and a “self-serving fabrication.”

“I believe he wanted to obtain sexual gratification from an unconscious stranger, and that is what he did,” the judge wrote.

“He deprived her of control over who touched her body and how, and thereby criminally violated her human dignity and autonomy.”

‘The gift of time’

Calgary Communities Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) estimates about 20 per cent of sexual assault victims opt to have their rape kits stored for up to a year. 

The third option gives victims “the gift of time,” says CCASA’s CEO Danielle Aubry.

It’s very critical for people to be empowered into making their own decisions.– Danielle  Aubry , Calgary Communities Against Sexual Assault

“What we know about trauma — and people who experience sexual violence do experience trauma — is that it’s very critical for people to be empowered into making their own decisions.”

Similar programs exist in Nova Scotia, Ontario, B.C. and Yukon, but the option is far from wide-spread and typically only exists in larger city-centres where proper training and storage prevent defence lawyers from being able to make an issue out of the continuity of the crucial evidence, should the case advance to charges and then a trial.

Several of the other cities, such as Halifax and Whitehorse, have third option-type programs that store the kits for just six months.

In urban centres, sexual assault teams consisting of nurses, doctors and others offer psychological services, medical care and evidence collection, if needed.

In Calgary, victims who show up at ERs or urgent care facilities within 96 hours of an assault can be connected with the Calgary’s Sexual Assault Response Team (CSART). 

Leave of absence from med school

A spokesperson for the University of Toronto said the school cannot discuss Shrivastava’s status with the program because it’s considered “personal information.”

Instead, Elizabeth Church referred CBC News to the medical school’s Standards of Professional Practice Behaviour policy which says “in urgent situations, such as those involving serious threats or violent behaviour, a student may be removed from the university in accordance with the procedures set out in the student code of conduct.”

According to a source close to the case, Shrivastava was on a leave of absence from the university’s medical school since 2015 without having completed his medical degree.

A faculty profile for the Masters of Biotechnology program on the University of Toronto’s website says Shrivastava graduated from the program this year, after taking an academic leave from 2014 to 2016 “in pursuit of multifaceted development.”

It also says he coordinated a clinical trial at the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto.

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Future of Ottawa: Chefs with Kathryn Ferries

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This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Kat Ferries on the future of chefs, or read posts from Quinn Taylor on bars or Justin Champagne on fine dining.

Kat Ferries is Sous-Chef at Stofa Restaurant and a 2020 San Pellegrino North American Young Chef Social Responsibility Award Winner.

Apt613: What is the current landscape for chefs in Ottawa?

Kat Ferries: There is such great talent in Ottawa with so many chefs either being from here originally or have returned after traveling and have since opened some incredible restaurants. Many chefs have focused menus that really highlight their strengths, their heritage, and their passion for food. Dominique Dufour of Gray Jay, Marc Doiron of Town/Citizen, Steve Wall of Supply & Demand, Daniela Manrique Lucca of The Soca Kitchen, and so many more are all cooking up beautiful and delicious food in this city.

If you care to make a prediction… Where is the food industry in Ottawa going for chefs in 2021?

The industry right now is, unfortunately, in a really tough spot. The pandemic has been so devastating on mental, physical and emotional levels for so many and I know that many of my friends in this industry are burning out. There are many discussions happening on work/life balance and what is healthy for everyone. Some may never return to the long, hard hours we are expected to put in day after day and instead opt for a more flexible schedule or hire more staff to lighten the load on everyone, with some even leaving the industry indefinitely. Some may throw themselves back into this industry 10x as hard and create some of the best restaurants and concepts we’ve yet to see. I think all that will happen after the pandemic though.

For this year, it’s mostly about survival and finding happiness in creating what we can in the spaces we have while following all the laws and guidelines from public health officials. I think we will see more chefs creating experiences for guests that we otherwise wouldn’t have: think pop-ups, virtual dinner clubs, cocktail seminars, collabs, etc.

Where in your wildest dreams could the Ottawa culinary community grow in your lifetime?

I would love to see the Ottawa community support more small, local restaurants so our streets are bustling late into the nights like they are in Montreal, New York, or Europe. Having a local restaurant to frequent should be so much more commonplace, where you can enjoy a night out more often than just Friday or Saturday night. I would also love to see many more of our local chefs highlighted for the amazing food they create!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

Turning all our restaurants into mini-markets for customers to enjoy the food and wine of their favourite places at home. We have bottle shops for all your wine, beer and cocktail needs as well as menus that reflect what each restaurant does best. Some have even pivoted to a point where they are 100% a store and have paused any type of “service-style” dining.

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Future of Ottawa: Fine Dining with Justin Champagne

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This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Justin Champagne on the future of fine dining, or read posts from Kathryn Ferries on chefs or Quinn Taylor on bars.

Justin Champagne went to culinary school at Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. He got his start in fine dining restaurants at C Restaurant under Chef Robert Clark, then at Hawksworth Restaurant under Chef Eligh. He staged at three-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn under Chef Dominque Crenn before moving to Ottawa and spending five years at Atelier, working his way up to Sous-Chef. He’s now the Head Chef of Bar Lupulus.

Apt613: What is the current landscape of fine dining restaurants in Ottawa?

Justin Champagne: Ottawa punches well above its weight class when it comes to quality restaurants in general. Fine dining is no exception to that—we have some amazing chefs here that are doing really great things. We also have some phenomenal sommeliers in town that are a huge factor when it comes to a guest’s experience in a fine dining restaurant. While there are some fantastic fine dining restaurants in town I do believe there’s room for more, and definitely room for more creativity and unique styles of cooking! I think we’ll see more small fine dining restaurants opening up, “micro-restaurants” where there’s maybe 20 seats. This will be over the next few weeks as the industry did take a big hit financially with COVID-19, but we still have a lot of great young chefs who have the fire inside of them to open their own location!

If you care to make a prediction… Where is fine dining going in Ottawa in 2021?

I’m not sure it’ll be 2021 or 2022 with the way the vaccine rollout and stay-at-home order is going, but I do expect there to be a wave of people looking to go out to fine dining restaurants. We’ve been cooped up cooking for ourselves or ordering takeout for over a year now. People are getting antsy and ready to go out and have fantastic meals again with exceptional wine and not have to worry about doing all the dishes afterwards!

Where in your wildest dreams could fine dining go in Ottawa in your lifetime?

That’s the fun part about “fine dining,” it can go anywhere and it can mean many things. Fine dining is about amazing service and well thought out, unique food that the kitchen spent hours fussing over, being meticulous in execution. Outside of that, you can have a lot of fun and be creative in different ways. My wildest dream I guess is that fine dinning restaurants begin to thrive and are able to charge without backlash the kind of prices that they need to charge in order to keep the lights on and pay their staff a proper living wage!!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

I’m not sure if I would really say there’s been a best “innovation” in my industry during the pandemic, but I will say that seeing the “adaptability” by all the restaurants in Ottawa has been incredibly inspiring. Ottawa’s food scene has always been a tight-knit community, “everyone helping everyone” kind of mentality. And this pandemic has really helped show that—restaurants helping restaurants through all of this!

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Ottawa’s Giant Tiger chain celebrating 60 years in business

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa staple, along with what might be the most famous cat in Canada, are celebrating a milestone Monday.

Giant Tiger is 60 years old.

“It all started with a very simple idea,” says Alison Scarlett, associate VP of communications at Giant Tiger. “Help Canadians save money every single day. Bring them products that they want and need. When you focus on those core principals, it really is quite simple to succeed.”

In 1961, Gordon Reid opened the first Giant Tiger in Ottawa’s ByWard Market. The company now has more than 260 locations across Canada and employs roughly 10,000 people.

“If you were at our store on opening day 60 years ago, the in store experience would be a little bit different from your local Giant Tiger store today. So that’s changed. A lot of our products and offerings have changed or expanded as Canadian consumers wants and needs have changed or expanded,” says Scarlett.

The homegrown department store continues to be a favourite for many shoppers looking to for the best deals on everyday products.

Helen Binda has been shopping here for decades.

“Many years. I can’t remember when. I’ve always loved Giant Tiger. It’s always been a good store for me.”

“I think its amazing and I think that we need more department stores,” says shopper Fay Ball. “And if it’s Canadian, all the better.”

The Canadian-owned family discount store carries everything from clothing to groceries, as well as everyday household needs. They’ve also expanded their online store and like most retailers provide curbside pickup during the pandemic.

“Doing what is right for our customers, associates, and communities. That has enabled us to be so successful for all of these years,” says Scarlett.

To celebrate, Giant Tiger is hosting a virtual birthday party at 7 p.m. Monday with live musical performances from some iconic Canadian artists.

You can visit their Facebook page to tune in. 

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