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Nunavut priest sex abuse case stirs up criticism of ‘least fair law in Canada’

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Canada’s decision to quietly stay the sex charges against a French priest accused of abusing Inuit children shows extradition laws should be “thrown out,” according to an Ottawa academic who spent three years in a French prison.

This week, CBC News reported that the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) stayed charges against Father Johannes Rivoire, an Oblate priest accused of sexually assaulting four children in Nunavut.

That 2017 decision was never publicized. While the department will not share its assessment of the Rivoire case, it said there was no “reasonable prospect of conviction.”

In a statement to CBC News after the story was published, the PPSC said the decision was made, in part, because France does not extradite its citizens. 

That explanation upsets Hassan Diab. 

The former Ottawa university professor says Canada extradited him to France to face decades-old terrorism charges based on questionable evidence.

“[Rivoire’s] country is behind him. In my case, my country and my Department of Justice was pushing hard to send me abroad.”

So Diab is left to wonder. Why was he — but not Rivoire — sent abroad?

CBC News discovered Canada stayed the charges against Father Johannes Rivoire, an Oblate priest who was accused of sexually abusing Inuit children. (Submitted by Lieve Halsberghe)

Canadian and French extradition rules

The extradition treaty between Canada and France is based on the legal principle of comity, a mutual respect and recognition of national laws. But experts in the area say that’s not practically true.

“France, like many civil jurisdictions — continental countries in Europe — will not extradite its citizens, does not trust a foreign country’s justice system to try its citizens,” said Don Bayne, the Ottawa lawyer who has represented Diab throughout his case.

“Canada does.”

Inuit leaders say the government failed them in this case, and Bayne doesn’t disagree. But he adds that Canada compromises the liberty of each Canadian it sends to a foreign country to stand trial. 

“What we’ve allowed to happen in Canada is the whittling down of constitutional liberty in the case of extradition. It’s not justified.”

Don Bayne, the lawyer for Diab, says, ‘What we’ve allowed to happen in Canada is the whittling down of constitutional liberty in the case of extradition. It’s not justified.’ (Jean Delisle/CBC)

The numbers show an imbalance

The imbalance between the two countries is borne out in the statistics.

According to the Department of Justice, Canada received 21 extradition requests from France between 2008 and 2018 and 12 people were sent out of the country.

During the same 10-year period, Canada made eight requests to France and two people were extradited to Canada.

Gary Botting, a criminal lawyer who’s written books on extradition law, says the disparity is a symptom of greater problems with the “least fair law in Canada.”

“The treaty with France states that Canada does not have to send its own nationals back to face trial in France. So why do we send them? It’s just a double standard right down the line.” 

It’s just a double standard right down the line.— Gary Botting

Citing France’s extradition laws as a reason to stay charges is “a cop out,” he says. 

“It seems that the public prosecutor has no faith in the prosecutors in France,” Botting said.

“Yet they send Mr. Diab back to face the music in France and there’s nobody there to carry the ball forward because there’s no evidence, really.”

Diab’s lost years

A CBC News investigation found Canada urged France to find stronger evidence before it extradited Diab and failed to present evidence supporting his innocence. Diab consequently spent three years behind bars in France.

In January 2018, Diab arrived home in Canada to see his wife Rania, daughter Jena and Jad, the son whose birth he was unable to witness. His father died while Diab was locked away.

Diab attends to his daughter Jena, who was turning two when her father was extradited to France to face terrorism charges on which he has always maintained he is not guilty. (Lisa Laventure/CBC)

When asked about time he lost, Diab responds calmly and evenly. 

His experience left him “bitter” and “powerless,” as if there was no one protecting him.

“That’s the job of your country, to help you, not to push to help the requesting state.”

In short, he feels as though his life was worth less than a Frenchman’s.

Decision process is ‘too opaque’

Bayne says the issue is complicated by a lack of transparency from the International Assistance Group, a department within Justice Canada that advises the government on extradition cases. 

It’s a joke that there’s only two questions in an extradition hearing: Window seat? Or aisle?– Don Bayne , lawyer for Hassan Diab

“They are too powerful. They are too insular. It’s too opaque,” said Bayne. “They need independent oversight.” 

In essence, Bayne says judges at an extradition hearing have nothing to do but rubber stamp a decision made in political backrooms.

“It’s a joke that there’s only two questions in an extradition hearing,” he said. “Window seat? Or aisle?” 

Botting also says there is a frustrating lack of transparency within the Department of Justice.

That’s why he’d advise people in Nunavut to redouble their efforts to put pressure on the minister of justice and demand their day in court. 

“The time is ripe. The time is now to push for reform in this whole area, so that the situation doesn’t happen over and over again.”

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‘Babies who volunteer’ bring new life to seniors with care-home visits

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Seniors in several long-term care homes around Ottawa have been getting special visits over the last year from newborn babies.

Organized by non-profit group “Babies Who Volunteer,” the visits look to enrich the lives of seniors with hour-long sessions of cuddling and play.

“Oh, I love it,” 85-year-old Jinny Maclean told CTV News. “We have lots of good things that happen here, but to me, this is the best.”

An Ottawa senior plays with a volunteer baby during a ‘Babies who volunteer’ visit.

The program was born last year, when Jessica Turner took her newborn daughter along to visit a friend’s parent, who had Alzheimer’s disease.

She put the newborn in the woman’s arm, who hadn’t spoken in years, and was surprised when she started singing to the child.

“Her daughter was amazed that she was hearing her mom speak again for the first time,” Turner said.

The organization visits dozens of long-term care facilities across Ottawa and Kingston, with 1,100 parents volunteering their children.

They hope that in time, they can expand to include school-aged children in the program.

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Cross: Vegans, please leave your meat obsession at the door

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For those whose meatless Mondays have become fleshless forevers, deliverance is at hand. The veggie burger is here. Recent commercials by A&W tout the company’s Beyond Meat Burger and its Beyond Meat Sausage and Egger breakfast sandwich. Actors wax ecstatic over the product, exclaiming it “tastes exactly like meat.”

That meat memory is a big positive, apparently. So why not eat the real thing? Forget the foodie flim-flam.

If you believe eating meat is cruel, stresses the environment or contributes to chronic ailments, then why sculpt faux burgers, ribs, roasts and steaks out of veggies and grains to imitate the very animal flesh you profess to abhor? Seems counterintuitive to me.

As a species we evolved as omnivores, but I get it that you don’t eat meat. Go ahead, do you. What I don’t get is this obsession with creating stuff to look like meat. You gave it up, remember?

Sorting out the who’s who of anti-carnivores, there are vegetarians who choose vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds and nuts. Vegans, a higher order of vegetarian, do not eat any meat, or eggs, dairy or ingredients such as gelatin from animal collagen. There are pescatarians (from pesce, Italian for fish) who will eat fish, and ovo-lacto vegetarians who will consume eggs and milk products. Finally, there are flexitarians, who eat mostly plants and occasionally some meat or fish. Like when that meatatarian craving hits and you can’t face any more bluff beef or pretender pork.

In this file photo, customers stop to get a free vegetarian burger at a food truck in downtown Washington, DC. ERIC BARADAT / AFP/Getty Images

Canada’s re-vamped food guide recommends swapping out some meat, poultry and dairy for plant-based proteins. But the key is a balanced diet, not a meat boycott. European Union food regulations state, “labelling cannot be misleading as to a food’s primary composition” so the EU approved consumer labelling banning the use of meaty terms such as burger, escalope, hamburger, sausage and steak, in favour of “veggie disks” and “veggie tubes” to describe plant-based replicas. So, “vegan meat balls” is a no-no but “vegan balls” are fine. That wraps it up.

When we were kids, my cousins and I ate slices of fried bologna, which we jokingly called “tubular steak.” We all survived and are healthy. We now binge on SPAM, that spiced ham in a can with a key first conceived by Hormel Foods way back last century, followed by mouthfuls of Twinkies for dessert. Delish.

When we were kids, my cousins and I ate slices of fried bologna, which we jokingly called “tubular steak.” We all survived and are healthy.

All this substitution of fake flesh for the real thing has led to creative linguistics. A quick guide to speaking vegan includes “crumble” referring to a crunchy texture masquerading as bacon bits or ground beef. “Toona” is sham seafood from soy and veggie protein. A “flegg” is a non-egg made from flax meal and water. Soy or almond “milk” is a bogus bovine beverage of plant juice. Real milk comes from cows that eat plants. For Christmas, combine flegg with that beverage to make nutnog. It goes with that imposter gobbler called “Tofurky.” Should vegan bacon be called “vacon”? Or, is that just more phoney baloney? Is non-dairy cheese called “teese” or “sheese”? Whatever it is, it is not cheese. Sort of reminiscent of that venerable iridescent processed goop in a bottle called Cheez Whiz, isn’t it?

In the Ottawa area, the cleverly named Fauxmagerie Zengarry is up front about its products. It manufactures six flavours of all-natural artisanal cashew “cheese” or “fromage” at Alexandria in the Township of North Glengarry for those who “love cheese but not the dairy,” whether they are vegan or have milk allergies. It’s not real cheese and it doesn’t pretend to be. Hooray, honestly!

But by constructing copycat meat, vegetarians are secret meatarians. Just enjoy fruit and veggie fodder unaccompanied by reminders of past carnivore chow. Otherwise, cut the herbivore hype.

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Mapping the Glebe’s war dead — and turning it into music

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An Ottawa military historian has mapped out all the people one local neighbourhood lost during the Second World War — and that map is being set to music this weekend at the Canadian Tulip Festival.

Dave O’Malley recently created a map of the soldiers, airmen and sailors from the Glebe who died during the the war.

He said he got the idea while working on a story about the Dambusters Raid — a legendary nighttime air mission in 1943 on German targets thought to be unassailable —  and realizing that one of the pilots who died on the mission was practically a neighbour.

“He lived on Powell Avenue, and I thought, he is just two blocks away from me,” O’Malley told CBC Radio’s All In A Day.

O’Malley said he started researching and found the pilot wasn’t alone. In fact, he uncovered hundreds of Glebe high hchool graduates who’d been killed in the war. And spotting the music on the map…. After a local historian pinned down the addresses of World War two soldiers who died in his neighbourhood, an Ottawa composer turned the map into music. 13:46

‘This happened all over Canada’

“I was blown away by how many airmen, soldiers and sailors were lost,” he said. “The very first service person of the Allies to die in the Second World War went to a Glebe high school.”

O’Malley used newspaper obituaries, church records and other documents to discover where all the soldiers had lived. At the time, obituaries would publish the names of the service member’s parents and their address.

In total, he tracked 472 men who lived in the Glebe and then died in the war.

O’Malley said it would have been the same story in any Canadian community at the time. 

“There is nothing special about the Glebe. This happened all over Canada,” he said.  

From left to right, Dave O’Malley, Gilles Maurice Leclerc and Julian Armour stand outside the CBC Ottawa studios. (Jessa Runciman/CBC)

Turning it into music 

Julian Armour, the executive director of this summer’s Music and Beyond festival, saw O’Malley’s map and his mind went to a different place.

He said seeing the dots laid out on the Glebe’s street grid made him think of music.

“You have lines on them and dots and that’s music,” he said. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is really powerful … we have to get some composers.'”

Armour had composer Gilles Maurice Leclerc take a crack at it, and he came up with a piece called Glebe North: Leaving Home.

“There were interesting melodic colours [in the map],” Leclerc said, noting that the way the dots stacked up on the lines of the map naturally led to certain harmonies.

He said composing the music made him think of the sacrifice those soldiers made.

“The memories of the soldiers leaving home — it is such a powerful image,” Leclerc said.

The piece debuted this weekend at the Canadian Tulip Festival in Commissioner’s Park. An interactive version of the map will also be on display.

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