Family and friends console each other at a vigil for a mother and an 11-year-old child who were killed outside a school in Edmonton on Saturday May 6, 2023. Police say the suspect in a fatal double stabbing outside an Edmonton school has a history of mental health issues and has been charged multiple times in the last decade with assaulting minors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
By Angela Amato in Edmonton
Police say a man suspected of randomly stabbing a woman and her child to death outside an Edmonton school has mental health issues and was charged multiple times over the last decade with assaulting minors.
“The system, once again, failed,” police Chief Dale McFee told reporters Monday.
McFee said the suspect had been in and out of custody on various charges since 2009, including the random assault of a 12-year-old at a transit station last year.
He was also arrested last month after a person was attacked on a scooter, said McFee. The man was released on conditions and the charges were later stayed.
McFee said there is no making sense of the killings.
“”Our deepest sympathies are with the families that are impacted by this event. Many communities are hurting today. This happened on a school property where students and families now carry trauma.”
Family members identified the victims as Carolann Robillard, 35, and Sarah Miller, who had recently started using the first name Jayden. Robillard was a single Cree mother with two other children.
They were attacked around suppertime Friday outside Crawford Plains School in southeast Edmonton.
McFee said Jayden and an eight-year-old sister had walked home from school but could not get inside. They walked back to the school to meet their mother, and they were attacked.
The younger child escaped but witnessed the stabbings.
“In no way could the victims have anticipated what would happen to them,” said McFee.
Police allege the suspect had earlier attempted to enter the school but was prevented from doing so.
“We give full credit to the school administration for following protocols,” said McFee. “This could’ve been a larger tragedy than it is today.”
“I also want to give credit to heroic actions of a teacher that may have prevented further loss (of) life.”
Police shot the suspect during an altercation shortly after finding the victims. McFee said the man is on life support in hospital. His name has not been released.
“Regrettably, this incident clearly shows the intersection between health care and the justice system and how gaps in our current services and supports can result in far-reaching tragedy,” said McFee.
“There were multiple intervention points, multiple opportunities to hold the suspect accountable and provide him the professional support required to manage his behaviour.”
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police met with premiers last month about bail reform, mandatory mental health assessments for violent offenders and better co-ordinated justice and mental health supports.
“This can’t continue to go on,” said McFee “We’re lacking accountability in the system, and the reality is these are the discussions that we need to have going forward.”
McFee said police have no reason to believe the attack was racially motivated.
Autopsies for the mother and child are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said the killings are difficult to comprehend.
“My heart is heavy for their family, loved ones, friends and our entire community,” he wrote on Twitter. “I know that it is also frightening for the community to hear that this was a random attack.”
He said the city would be providing support that includes a safe space for community members to discuss what happened and mental health resources.
Sohi also offered support to the Edmonton Public School Board and thanked first responders who took the call.
“I cannot imagine how difficult this was for you, so thank you for working hard to keep our community safe.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2023.
Regulator rules in favour of Trans Mountain route deviation
Workers place pipe during construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on farmland, in Abbotsford, B.C., on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
By Amanda Stephenson in Calgary
The Canada Energy Regulator has approved Trans Mountain Corp.’s application to modify the pipeline’s route, a decision that could spare the government-owned pipeline project from an additional nine-month delay.
The regulator made the ruling Tuesday, just one week after hearing oral arguments from Trans Mountain and a B.C. First Nation that opposes the route change.
It didn’t release the reasons for its decision Tuesday, saying those will be publicized in the coming weeks.
By siding with Trans Mountain Corp., the regulator is allowing the pipeline company to alter the route slightly for a 1.3-kilometre stretch of pipe in the Jacko Lake area near Kamloops, B.C., as well as the construction method for that section.
Trans Mountain Corp. had said it ran into engineering difficulties in the area related to the construction of a tunnel, and warned that sticking to the original route could result in up to a nine-month delay in the pipeline’s completion, as well as an additional $86 million more in project costs.
Trans Mountain has been hoping to have the pipeline completed by early 2024.
But Trans Mountain’s application was opposed by the Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation, whose traditional territory the pipeline crosses and who had only agreed to the originally proposed route.
In their regulatory filing, the First Nation stated the area has “profound spiritual and cultural significance” to their people, and that they only consented to the pipeline’s construction with the understanding that Trans Mountain would minimize surface disturbances by implementing specific trenchless construction methods.
The Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc argued that Trans Mountain never said its originally proposed construction method was impossible, only that it couldn’t be done in time to meet a Jan. 1 in-service date for the pipeline.
The First Nation didn’t respond to a request for comment by publication time.
The Trans Mountain pipeline is Canada’s only pipeline system transporting oil from Alberta to the West Coast. Its expansion, which is currently underway, will boost the pipeline’s capacity to 890,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 300,000 bpd currently.
The pipeline — which was bought by the federal government for $4.5 billion in 2018 after previous owner Kinder Morgan Canada Inc. threatened to scrap the pipeline’s planned expansion project in the face of environmentalist opposition and regulatory hurdles — has already been plagued by construction-related challenges and delays.
Its projected price tag has since spiralled: first to $12.6 billion, then to $21.4 billion and most recently to $30.9 billion (the most recent capital cost estimate, as of March of this year).
Keith Stewart with Greenpeace Canada said it’s alarming to see the regulator over-rule the wishes of Indigenous people in order to complete a pipeline on deadline.
“Every Canadian should be outraged that our public regulator is allowing a publicly owned pipeline to break a promise to Indigenous people to protect lands of spiritual and cultural significance,” Stewart said.
The federal government has already approved a total of $13 billion in loan guarantees to help Trans Mountain secure the financing to cover the cost overruns.
Trans Mountain Corp. has blamed its budget problems on a variety of factors, including inflation, COVID-19, labour and supply chain challenges, flooding in B.C. and unexpected major archeological discoveries along the route.
Given the Canadian regulatory system has a reputation for being slow and cumbersome, it was surprising to see the Canada Energy Regulator rule so quickly on Trans Mountain’s route deviation request, said Richard Masson, executive fellow with the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.
“It’s a challenging decision to have to make, when you’ve got a $30 billion pipeline that needs to be completed,” Masson said.
“If there’s no feasible way to do that tunnel, then I guess you have to allow for this.”
Masson added that if the regulator had denied Trans Mountain’s request, it would have been bad news for taxpayers as well as the federal government, which is seeking to divest the pipeline and has already entered into negotiations with several interested Indigenous-led buyers.
It also would have been bad news for Canadian oil companies, who have been eagerly anticipating the pipeline’s start date to begin shipping barrels to customers.
“If this can result in the pipeline being completed by year-end and started up in the first quarter, that’s good news. The world is still looking for oil, and oil prices are up at US$90 a barrel,” Masson said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2023.
Partial settlement approved in lawsuit against Calgary Stampede over abuse of boys
A judge has approved a partial settlement in a class-action lawsuit against the Calgary Stampede that alleged the organization allowed a performance school staffer to sexually abuse young boys.
Phillip Heerema received a 10-year prison sentence in 2018 after pleading guilty to charges including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, child pornography and luring.
Heerema admitted to using his position with the Young Canadians School of Performing Arts, which performs each year in the Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show, to lure and groom six boys into sexual relationships.
The school is operated by the Calgary Stampede Foundation.
Court of King’s Bench Justice Alice Woolley approved the deal in which the Stampede has agreed to pay 100 per cent of the damages.
Hearings on the amount will take place on Dec. 14 and 15.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2023
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