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Accused in murders of Calgary woman and her daughter denies the killings


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CALGARY — A man accused of killing a Calgary woman and her daughter says he didn’t do it.

Edward Downey, who is 48, has pleaded not guilty in the deaths of Sara Baillie and her five-year-old daughter Taliyah Marsman.

Downey, taking the stand in his own defence, was asked twice whether he was responsible for their deaths — both times he replied no.

His answers prompted Taliyah’s father to yell obscenities and storm out of the courtroom.

Downey testified he was in Baillie’s apartment with two other men doing a drug deal on July 11, 2016, the day she was found dead.

He said Baillie and one of his friends seemed to be arguing with each other in her bedroom.

Downey told court that his friend asked for some tape and the third man passed over a roll and Downey ripped off a strip about half a metre long.

The trial heard earlier that two of Downey’s partial fingerprints were found on duct tape that had been wrapped around Baillie’s head and neck.

Baillie, who was 34, was found dead that evening. She had been stuffed into a laundry hamper in her daughter’s closet.

Downey said he heard from his then-girlfriend — Baillie’s best friend — that Baillie was dead.

“She said something happened to Sara. I can’t remember how exactly she said it,” Downey testified Wednesday. “She said, ‘She’s gone.’ I asked her what she was talking about. She said Sara was dead.

“That’s how I found out.”

Downey testified he and the two other men got separated on the way to a location where they were supposed to finish off their drug deal. He said he drove past the city’s eastern edge to see if they might be at a potential drug stash site.

It was near where Taliyah’s body was found three days later. The trial previously heard that police used cellphone traffic to zero in on the girl’s location. Downey testified he was using his phone at the time.

It was getting late, so Downey decided to turn around in a school parking lot and pick up his then-girlfriend from work, he said.

The girlfriend, who cannot be identified because of a publication ban, told him she hadn’t been able to contact Baillie all day, Downey testified. They went over to her house and noticed police were there.

“I was wondering what was wrong.”

Downey’s lawyer Gavin Wolch told court the last time Downey saw Taliyah, alive and well, was earlier that day.

Jurors have heard Baillie and her daughter died by asphyxiation.

Downey said he found out at the police station days later that Taliyah was dead and he felt “bad” about it.

Wolch asked why.

“An innocent little girl dead,” Downey replied.  

Wolch told jurors that if he accomplishes anything, “let it be that there are still unanswered question about what actually happened to Sara Baillie and Taliyah Marsman.”

Downey testified he came from a large family in Nova Scotia, where his father owned a barber shop and his mother worked in a bakery.

Wolch took Downey through his criminal record — which dated from 1990 to 2006 — and included charges related to pimping, firearms and drugs.

Downey testified he was selling drugs in the months leading up to Baillie and Taliyah’s deaths to make money.

The Crown has suggested Downey blamed Baillie for the breakup of his relationship with her best friend and for his girlfriend’s refusal to work for him as an escort. Prosecutors have also suggested Taliyah may have witnessed her mother’s death and could have identified Downey.

Downey testified both he and his ex-girlfriend came up with the idea that she should work as an escort. She testified earlier in the trial that she could not go through with it in the end.

Downey said he slept at her townhouse the night before Baillie was found dead, even though she had texted him telling him to pack his bags earlier in the day.  

Wolch asked Downey whether he expected their relationship to continue.

“Not really ’cause I was looking elsewhere.”

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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‘Freedom Convoy’ organizers’ trial on scheduled break until after Thanksgiving

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Tamara Lich arrives for her trial at the courthouse in Ottawa, on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. Lich and fellow Freedom Convoy organizer Chris Barber are charged with mischief, obstructing police, counselling others to commit mischief and intimidation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

By Laura Osman in Ottawa

The trial of “Freedom Convoy” organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber has begun a scheduled break that will continue until after Thanksgiving.

The court finished hearing the testimony of Serge Arpin, the chief of staff to Ottawa’s former mayor, on Friday.

He spoke about how the city responded to the protest that overwhelmed the downtown core for three weeks in early 2022.

Arpin also testified about his interactions with convoy organizers while working out a deal with former mayor Jim Watson to move big-rig trucks out of residential neighbourhoods.

The evidence was originally due to be wrapping up by this point in the trial, which had been scheduled to last 16 days, but Arpin is just the fourth witness to finish his testimony.

The trial was expected to hear from 22 witnesses, leaving the court to ponder how much more time will be needed to reach the finish line.

Justice Heather Perkins-McVey, who is overseeing the trial, has identified several dates in October and November. 

Lawrence Greenspon, the lawyer representing Lich, said he does not want to set new court dates until the Crown has established a new, more accurate time estimate for its case.

As of Friday, the trial is expected to resume Oct. 11.

Lich and Barber are charged with mischief and counselling others commit offences such as mischief and intimidation for their role in organizing and prolonging the demonstration.

The defence questioned Arpin Friday about how city council and staff attempted to put an end the protest. As the mayor’s chief of staff, Arpin told the court he sat in on every council meeting.

He was grilled about a bylaw change on Feb. 9 last year that banned idling in a vehicle unless the temperature fell at or below -15 C. The bylaw originally allowed idling if the temperature was below 5 C.

“City council … was attempting to freeze out the truckers and their families,” Greenspon told the court.

Arpin said he believed the intention was to bring the demonstration to an end.

Arpin was also involved in the deal between Watson, Lich and other organizers to move trucks out of residential neighbourhoods and onto Wellington Street, in front of Parliament Hill.

He texted back and forth with the convoy organizers’ lawyer Keith Wilson on Feb. 14 and 15 in an exchange that was filed as evidence in the trial.

The texts suggest city staff did not give protest organizers or their lawyers a heads-up about plans to file a court injunction against demonstrators who violated city bylaws.

“Just so you know, it is highly irregular for the city’s lawyers to have done this without providing us lawyers here with notice,” Wilson wrote to Arpin on Feb. 15.

“This could change everything.”

Arpin told Wilson he was under the impression they knew about the court filing, but said in court that he never informed them himself until after the injunction was granted by a judge.

Lawyers representing the convoy organizers were not given an opportunity to oppose the application in court at the time.

The deal between Lich and the mayor fell apart later that day when police would no longer allow trucks to move closer to Parliament.

Arpin confirmed the police service underwent a change in command that day as a result of the police chief’s resignation.

He apologized to Wilson at the time, the text messages show.

“Our goal has always been de-escalation and I know you share this goal,” he texted to Wilson on the 16th.

The Crown hopes to pick up its case in October with eight local witnesses from Ottawa who lived or worked downtown during the Freedom Convoy protest.

Lich and Barber have already admitted that there was mischief taking place in the protest zone.

Greenspon has argued that the testimony of those witnesses would be akin to victim impact statements, and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to be heard during the trial.


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B.C. premier suspects Ottawa holding back information about foreign interference

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A flock of birds flies past as Moninder Singh, front right, a spokesperson for the British Columbia Gurdwaras Council (BCGC), waits to speak to reporters outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Sahib in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, September 18, 2023, where temple president Hardeep Singh Nijjar was gunned down in his vehicle while leaving the temple parking lot in June. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck


British Columbia Premier David Eby said he “strongly” suspects that the federal government is holding back information that could help the province protect its residents who have connections to India from foreign interference.

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc has reached out, saying Ottawa wants to make sure the provincial government has the details it needs to keep B.C. residents safe, “but there has not been good information sharing,” the premier said Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed in Parliament on  Monday that Canadian intelligence services were investigating “a potential link” between the Indian government and the fatal shooting of Sikh advocate Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, B.C., last June.

In response to the killing, Eby said on Friday that the priority should be protecting the criminal prosecution process so people can be held accountable for the killing.

But on the broader issue of ensuring community safety, he said there’s “a long way to go to share that information.”

Eby said people in B.C. have been “feeling pressure from India,” and he believes Ottawa has information through agencies including the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service that could help respond to foreign interference.

The premier’s initial statement in response to Trudeau’s announcement called on Ottawa to “share all relevant information” related not only to foreign interference, but also to “transnational organized crime threats” in the province.

He said Friday that the prime minister had reached out before telling Parliament about the probe based on “credible” information about the potential link between India and Nijjar’s killing.

Eby accepted Trudeau’s offer for a briefing by CSIS, but everything the premier knows about the situation is “in the public realm,” he said.

“I expressed my frustration in the meeting with the CSIS director about our inability to get more concrete information,” Eby said.

He made the remarks during a media question-and-answer session after addressing local politicians at the Union of BC Municipalities conference.

Eby said he understands there may need to be reform around the law governing CSIS in order for the agency to share the kind of information he’s looking for.

“If that’s what’s required, let’s make it happen, because the only way that we’re going to make traction on this is by the federal government trusting the provincial government with information and being able to act on it in our local communities,” he said.

Nijjar was a prominent supporter of the Khalistan separatism movement that advocates for a Sikh homeland in India’s Punjab province. He had been working to organize an unofficial referendum among the Sikh diaspora on independence from India at the time of his killing.

India designated Nijjar as a terrorist in 2020, an accusation he had denied.

Canada and India expelled each other’s diplomats in the fallout of Trudeau’s announcement, and India has halted visa services in Canada.

India’s government has denied the accusation as “absurd and motivated.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2023.

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