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Woman testifies murder suspect had complete control over women he abused

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WINNIPEG — A woman says she helped hide another woman’s dead body in a barrel filled with chemicals because the man accused in the killing had total control over her after years of abuse.

“He probably could have told me to try and catch the sun and I would have done it,” Holley Sullivan, 30, told jurors Friday at Perez Cleveland’s first-degree murder trial.

Cleveland, 46, has pleaded not guilty in the death of 42-year-old Jennifer Barrett, whose body was found in a barrel behind their Winnipeg home in 2016.

Earlier this week, court heard that Cleveland shared the house with his adult daughter and five women who were described in court by one of them as “sister wives.”

Sullivan started dating Cleveland after they met while working at a call centre in Toronto in 2010. She was 21 and he was 36. She told court she didn’t know he was also in a relationship with another woman until she moved in with them the following year.

“Perez was very charming,” she said.

Yet, she described years of physical violence in the household.

GRAPHIC WARNING: This story contains details that may disturb some readers.

On one occasion, he threatened her with a meat cleaver while she was stripped naked and wrapped in duct tape, Sullivan said. Another time, he tied her to a bed and attempted to sexually assault her with a hot curling iron.

One of Barrett’s family members left the courtroom as other graphic abuse was detailed — the use of crossbows and the staging of a so-called kill room from the television show “Dexter.”

Sullivan said Cleveland’s favourite phrase was: “If you cannot listen, then you must feel.”

He also threatened to hurt her family if she ever tried to leave, she said.

Court heard that the unusual group — which Barrett joined in 2012 — moved to Winnipeg in 2014. Soon after, Sullivan was jailed for a credit card scam that she said she did at Cleveland’s behest.

By her release in 2016, two more women had joined the group, including Jessica Reid, 36, who testified Thursday about similar beatings in the home.

Cleveland’s lawyer has argued that Reid was jealous of Barrett’s relationship with Cleveland and acted violently toward Barrett. Reid is also charged with being an accessory after the fact, but her case has not yet gone to trial.

“Perez had an uncanny knack of making them think the abuse he inflicted on them was their fault,” Sullivan testified.

She told court that in August 2016, Cleveland punished Barrett over several days in the basement of their house because he believed she was cheating on him.

The marks of extreme violence were all over Barrett’s body, said Sullivan, who added she helped the woman shower because she couldn’t lift her arms. “She was literally black and blue from head to toe.”

Cleveland later told her that Barrett had died and asked her and Reid to dispose of the body, Sullivan said, because she had a diploma in forensic biotechnology.

She told court she researched liquid cremations online, and she and Reid placed Barrett’s body in a barrel with a mix of drain cleaner and water. They also heated up the barrel with a blowtorch to speed up decomposition.

Sullivan told the jury she lived with Cleveland for a few months after Barrett’s death, then went to a women’s shelter.

“He said to me that Jen was an accident, but he was going to kill me intentionally and enjoy it,” Sullivan said.

The trail is to continue on Tuesday with her cross examination by the defence.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

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Manitoba wants to attract Quebec civil servants worried about clothing law

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Manitoba wants to attract Quebec civil servants

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is planning to recruit civil servants from Quebec who are concerned about a new law in the province banning religious symbols at work.

Manitoba has a shortage of bilingual civil servants, Premier Brian Pallister says, and will send letters to Quebec professional organizations, colleges and other entities to invite public-sector workers to move west.

“We think that there may be people in Quebec right now who want to come to a province where we don’t have clothing police, where their freedoms will be respected and their rights will be respected,” Pallister said Thursday.

The Quebec ban on religious symbols in the workplace applies only to some people in the civil service in positions of authority, including judges, police officers, court clerks and public school teachers.

Pallister’s office says the Manitoba recruitment effort will target a range of public workers in areas such as education, health care, social services and agriculture.

Critics say it unfairly targets Muslims, Sikhs and other religious minorities. Quebec Premier Francois Legault has said the law helps ensure secularism in the workplace and is supported by a majority of Quebecers.

Pallister raised his opposition to the law at a meeting of Canada’s premiers in Saskatoon earlier this month, although it was not part of the formal agenda and was not included in the communique issued by the premiers after the meeting.

Pallister said the letter to Quebec organizations will be finalized soon and will be made available publicly.

“I’m not trying to hide the fact that I disagree with Bill 21, and I’m not going to try to hide the fact that we’re going to use the threat of it to serve the needs of the people of Manitoba, and to give opportunity to people who feel at all concerned about that particular bill,” he said.

The Quebec law was a campaign promise by Legault and took effect last month. It is being challenged in court by a national Muslim organization and a civil liberties group.

A Quebec Superior Court judge rejected their application Thursday to suspend the law until the court case can be heard.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press


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Appeal for calm as tensions mount in Oka over land transfer to Kanesatake

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Tensions mount in OKA over land transfer to Kanasatake

MONTREAL — There were appeals for calm Thursday amid steadily mounting tension in Oka, Que., over a private developer’s plan to return land to the Mohawks of Kanesatake.

Hundreds packed a church Wednesday night in the community, about 90 kilometres northwest of Montreal, to discuss the return of a pine forest central to the 1990 Oka crisis as part of a federal ecological donation to the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake.

The meeting was convened by Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon, who said he was caught off guard by land developer Gregoire Gollin’s intention to donate the 60 hectares known as The Pines last month, ensuring its preservation.

Gollin said he acted in the spirit of reconciliation when he signed the agreement, and was also prepared to discuss the sale of an additional 150 hectares he owns to the federal government to transfer to the Mohawk community — nearly half of which he said is adjacent to land owned by Kanesatake.

Quevillon said he is concerned about Oka becoming “surrounded” by the Mohawk territory, and worried about property values. He implored the federal government to take the town’s concerns into consideration.

He said the adjacent Mohawk community has illegal dumps and numerous cannabis and cigarette merchants — things the village of Oka doesn’t want to see expanded.

“My comments are the reality — I would like to tell you otherwise but it’s the reality in Kanesatake,” Quevillon said.

Quevillon stressed he doesn’t want another Oka crisis but said he fears one could be triggered — this time led by Oka residents worried about encroachment.

“We don’t wish it, but if there is another one, it won’t come from the residents of Kanesatake because it’s the residents of Oka and their rights that are impacted,” Quevillon said.

Speaking to reporters in Montreal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he felt the mayor’s comments about being surrounded “lacked the necessary respect and understanding that is key to true reconciliation.”

“Reconciliation is extremely important for Canada and Canadians, that means overcoming difficult challenges, some loaded with historical significance,” Trudeau said.

“We know that the only way forward is through respectful partnership and dialogue and we certainly hope that all parties in Oka will engage in that respectful and constructive dialogue to allow us to move forward for the benefit of all.”

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon said tensions with Oka’s leadership have worsened in recent months and he has sought intermediaries like the provincial government to help.

“There’s always been an underlying tension,” Simon said. “There’s always been the ghost of 1990 and a mistrust of each other.”

But Simon took particular issue with the idea that the repatriation of lands would result in a drop in properly values, calling the mayor’s remarks racist.

He also called the notion of invoking another Oka crisis inflammatory, given the historical precedent.

“It’s irresponsible of him knowing damn well what happened and how it happened (in 1990) and he’s following in the same footsteps,” Simon said. “He’s knowingly fomenting a crisis.”

“(It’s) dangerous, very dangerous,” Simon added. “My community, we don’t want to live through something like that again … people back home aren’t afraid to fight, but it comes at a heavy price.”

The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador called Thursday for calm, noting the mayor’s comments are reminiscent of how tensions sparked between the Mohawk nation and Quebec some 29 years ago this summer.

Grand Chief Ghislain Picard said the priority is finding a way to talk.

“I certainly feel confident we’ll come to a resolution,” Picard said. “This obviously lies with the capacity of both Oka and Kanesatake to find a common space to engage in a constructive dialogue.”

Also Thursday, Quebec Indigenous Affairs Minister Sylvie D’Amours vowed to work with all sides, even though land claims are federal jurisdiction.

“In order to preserve social peace and ensure the safety of all, Minister D’Amours has been intensifying exchanges with the federal government, the mayor of Oka and the grand chief of Kanesatake for months,” spokeswoman Nadine Gros-Louis said in an email. “It is essential that the dialogue be open and positive.”

The donated land is part of lands central to the Oka crisis which began July 11, 1990.

Gunfire erupted between provincial police and Aboriginals defending a small stand of pine trees from the expansion of a golf course, resulting in the death of officer Marcel Lemay and sparking a 78-day showdown.

At the end of it, a deal was struck to bring down barricades in exchange for cancelling the expansion.

Simon said his own community held a meeting about the ecological gift and raised concerns about a gift of land that belongs to them. But he said it was a way to cut through red tape and keep the lands free from development, noting that part of the forest in question includes a wetland.

As for other future developments, Simon said Oka would be able to invest in projects that would be of use to both communities, like an arena for example, which could promote reconciliation through sport.

“We just need to find a way to work in harmony with our neighbours and promote more co-operation, peace and equality,” Simon said.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press



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