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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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Ottawa sets monthly record for total COVID-19 cases with 99 new cases on Friday

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Sixteen days into October, Ottawa has already set the record for most cases of COVID-19 in a single month.

Ottawa Public Health reported 99 new cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa today, and three more deaths linked to novel coronavirus.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health had reported 108 new cases of COVID-19, but there is sometimes a lag in COVID-19 case reporting between Ontario and Ottawa Public Health. On Wednesday, Ontario reported 39 new cases in Ottawa, while Ottawa Public Health reported 45 new cases.

There have been 1,511 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa in October, surpassing the September record of 1,413 new cases.

Since the first case of COVID-19 on March 11, there have been 5,908 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, including 301 deaths.

Across Ontario, there are 712 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Health Minister Christine Elliott reported 213 new cases in Toronto, 135 in Peel Region and 62 in York Region.

HOSPITALIZATIONS IN OTTAWA

One more person was admitted to an Ottawa hospital with COVID-19 related illnesses on Friday.

Ottawa Public Health reports 47 people are currently in hospital with COVID-19, including eight in the intensive care unit.

ACTIVE CASES OF COVID-19 IN OTTAWA

The number of active cases of COVID-19 increased on Friday.

There are 792 active cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, up from 777 active cases on Thursday.

A total of 4,806 people have recovered after testing positive for COVID-19.

The number of active cases is the number of total laboratory-confirmed cases minus the numbers of resolved cases and deaths. A case is considered resolved 14 days after known symptom onset or positive test result.

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Ottawa mayor rejects possible return of Ottawa-Gatineau border checkpoints, ‘I really don’t think they work’

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Mayor Jim Watson does not want to see police checkpoints return to the five interprovincial crossings between Ottawa and Gatineau, saying “I really don’t think they work.”

Earlier this week, Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin told the Ottawa Citizen that police checkpoints could return to the Ottawa-Gatineau border at “any time,” with the final decision in the hands of the Quebec Government. Earlier this month, Dr. Brigitte Pinard of the Centre Integre de sante et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais said border checkpoints were “possible,” adding “right now, our message is to limit large gatherings.”

When asked by CTV Morning Live host Leslie Roberts about the possibility of police checkpoints returning to the Ontario-Quebec border, Watson said he did not think they worked back in the spring.

“There were so many gaps when the police were not there, and people just figured out I’ll go at an earlier time or a later time. We saw police officers sticking their heads in the car with no masks, so that was not healthy for those individuals,” said Watson Friday morning.

“It’s a costly expense when our police are stretched already to the limit trying to do the work, to have them set up at five different bridge points potentially 24 hours a day would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars every month and I think the money is better spent.”

On April 1, Gatineau Police and the Surete du Quebec set up checkpoints along the Ottawa-Gatineau border to limit non-essential trips into Gatineau. Gatineau Police estimated the random police checkpoints between April 1 and May 17 cost the service more than $400,000.

Mayor Watson tells CTV Morning Live that the Quebec Government’s decision to move Gatineau into the “red zone” two days after Ontario moved Ottawa to a modified Stage 2 should help.

“We are a close relationship and when things happen in Gatineau there’s often a trickle effect over here and I think the fact that we’re both in the red zone, and Quebec of course is the worst hit province, at least levels the playing field for our restaurants and bars,” said Watson.

“I think in the past what had happened was our restaurants and bars would close and then the ones in Gatineau would stay open, and then people from Ottawa would go over there irresponsibly, in my opinion, and then come back potentially with the virus and spread it here.”

While border checkpoints would limit the non-essential travel across the Ottawa-Gatineau border, Watson says that’s not the way to beat COVID-19.

“The message is very clear, stick to your household. This is not the time to have an AirBNB party or a keg party in your backyard, or have 20 people or 30 people in for an engagement party. I know a lot of these get-togethers are important socially for people and emotionally, but we have to ask people to be reasonable and responsible, and this is not the year to do those kinds of things.”

Roberts asked the mayor if he would have a conversation about border checkpoints with Gatineau’s mayor.

“I had it the first go-around, but at the end of the day I also respect their jurisdiction and their autonomy. It is the province that would have to impose that, not the municipality,” said Watson.

“From our perspective, we don’t think it’s an effective use of resources. We want to continue to get the message across that we can win this battle against COVID-19 if we socially distance, we wear a mask, we actually follow the simple rules that are put forward.”

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Ottawa woman breaks 14-day quarantine rule to work at long-term care home: police

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OTTAWA — A 53-year-old Ottawa woman is facing charges under the federal Quarantine Act after Ottawa police say she failed to self-isolate for 14 days after travelling abroad and returned to work at a long-term care home.

Ottawa Police say information was received indicating that an Ottawa woman had travelled abroad. She returned to Canada on Sept. 26, so she was required under federal law to quarantine for 14 days, until Oct. 9

“The woman decided not to respect this order and went to work on Sept. 30 at a long-term health facility in Ottawa,” police said in a news release. “When management was apprised of the situation, she was immediately sent home. The facility immediately activated mitigating self-isolation and cleaning protocols and informed all persons that had been in contact with the subject.”

Police say none of the residents of the long-term care facility have tested positive for COVID-19 as a result of the woman attending work.

Ottawa police say this is the first person they have charged under the Quarantine Act during the pandemic.

The woman is charged with failing to comply with entry condition under section 58 of the Quarantine Act and cause risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm under section 67 of the Quarantine Act.

The maximum penalty for causing risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm is a $1 million fine and three years in prison. For failing to self-isolate for 14 days, she faces a $750,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

Police did not release the name of the woman, nor where she worked. The woman is due in court on Nov. 24.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s office issued a statement following the announcement of the charges.

“Mayor Watson was disturbed to learn about the alleged carelessness of the individual in question. This type of reckless behaviour could have harmed their colleagues, and more importantly, the residents of the long term care home. We must all do our part to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”

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