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Alberta

Rare H1N2 flu virus has surfaced in Central Alberta

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From the Province of Alberta

Influenza A (H1N2)v: Chief medical officer of health and chief provincial veterinarian

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, and Dr. Keith Lehman, chief provincial veterinarian, issued the following statement on Influenza A (H1N2)v in Alberta:

“A confirmed case of variant Influenza A (H1N2)v has been detected in central Alberta. This currently appears to be one isolated case and there is no increased risk to Albertans at this time. This is the only influenza case reported in Alberta so far this flu season.

“The virus was detected in mid-October after an Alberta patient sought medical care with influenza-like symptoms. The patient experienced mild symptoms, was tested and then quickly recovered. There is no evidence at this time that the virus has spread further.

“Health officials, in conjunction with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, have launched a public health investigation to determine the source of the virus and to verify that no spread occurred. The Government of Alberta will continue working closely with Alberta Health Services, the Public Health Agency of Canada and other partners across Canada.

“AHS will proactively offer influenza testing to residents in parts of central Alberta if they are presenting for COVID-19 testing at an AHS assessment centre. This testing will be optional and supports our ongoing influenza surveillance in the region.

“We are taking this seriously, but Albertans should know that sporadic cases of variant influenza have been reported over the past decade in North America. Variant Influenza A (H1N2) is rare with only 27 cases reported globally since 2005, and no cases in Canada prior to this one.

“H1N2 is not a food-related illness. It is not transmissible to people through pork meat or other products that come from pigs and there is no risk associated with eating pork.

“We will keep Albertans informed of the outcomes of the public health investigation.”

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Alberta

‘Tragic and senseless’: Prison for driver with brain tumour who killed pedestrian

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CALGARY — A judge has sentenced a man with a benign brain tumour, who lost consciousness while driving and killed a Calgary woman, to 27 months in prison. 

James Beagrie, 48, was originally charged with criminal negligence causing death after his truck hit Anjna Sharma, a mother of three, who had been on a walk during a work break in May 2017.

Beagrie pleaded guilty last fall to a lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death. 

Court heard he had been told by his doctor not to drive and, three months before killing Sharma, blacked out and got into a single-vehicle crash.

“I would describe this offence in two words — tragic and senseless,” Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Richard Neufeld said in his sentencing decision Thursday.

“Mr. Beagrie ignored all of those warnings and drove anyway, and he will live with that for the rest of his life. It’s exactly that type of behaviour that must be denounced and deterred so other lives can be saved.”

Neufeld said Beagrie deserved a sentence of 30 months, but he lowered it to 27 months because of the man’s “precarious medical condition.”

“In my view, justice without compassion is not justice at all … he is on borrowed time himself. A sentence of 2 1/2 years may turn out to be a life sentence,” said Neufeld.

The Crown had asked that Beagrie serve 2 1/2 years in prison. His defence lawyer suggested two years.

The judge also ordered Beagrie be banned from driving for 7 1/2 years after his release.

“If you do recover, as I hope you will, you will have served your debt to society and will deserve a chance after a period of time to return to normalcy,” Neufeld said.

“This ordeal does not need to define the rest of your life, just as I truly hope that it will not define the rest of the lives and happiness of the Sharma family in the years to come.”

On Monday, Beagrie apologized in court and promised not to drive when he get out of prison, unless it’s a matter of “life and limb.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

‘Brutal and callous:’ 15-year parole ineligibility for man who killed father

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CALGARY — A man who killed and dismembered his father has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance at parole for 15 years.

A jury found Zaineddin Al Aalak guilty in December of second-degree murder in the death of 53-year-old Mohamed Al Aalak. He was also convicted of offering an indignity to the man’s body.

Jurors rejected a claim by the 24-year-old that he was not criminally responsible because he was in the throes of a psychosis at the time of the killing and was unable to understand that his actions were wrong. 

Court heard that Zaineddin Al Aalak attacked his father from behind with a hammer and strangled him with his hands in July 2017. He dismembered and decapitated the body using power tools and dumped the parts at a construction site in Okotoks, a town south of Calgary.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice David Labrenz said the crime was “brutal and callous” and that Al Aalak disposed of his father’s remains like they were “pieces of garbage.”

“There was a display of brutality at the time — and there was displayed a lack of compassion –over the way the father was killed and the way his body was treated after his death,” the judge said while giving his sentencing decision Thursday.

The conviction comes with an automatic life sentence, but court heard submissions from lawyers about how long Al Aalak should have to wait before he could apply for parole.

Crown prosecutor Carla MacPhail had requested a wait of 16 to 18 years.

“Part of Mohamad Al Aalak’s body was never actually recovered and found,” she said. “His right hand was never located by police and therefore was not able to be buried with … his remains … in Iraq.”

Al Aalak’s lawyer, Alain Hepner, suggested his client serve 13 or 14 years in prison before could ask for release.

Hepner said his client, still a young man who had been “the favourite son” before the killing, is remorseful.

“He has — and he knows — he has destroyed his family. He knows what he’s done. He knows what has happened.”

Al Aalak offered an apology.

“It was by my hands that he died and for this I am sorry and in grief beyond words,” he told the court.

“The reason this happened was because of an altered state of mind that I experienced. I am consigned to live with that reality nonetheless.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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