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National

Former Alberta MLA gets 3 years for sex offence involving 10-year-old girl

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RED DEER, Alta. — A young woman says it felt good to see a former politician who sexually touched her when she was a child being led out of an Alberta courtroom to begin a three-year prison sentence.

Don MacIntyre, 63, resigned as a United Conservative MLA in February of last year after he was charged with sexual interference and sexual assault.

He pleaded guilty to the first charge in Red Deer on Friday and the second charge was withdrawn.

“He’s always been in a position of power and it’s so good to see that taken away from him,” the victim, who cannot be identified, said outside court.

She said she’s looking forward to going to university and living a normal life. She also said she can move forward feeling happier, safer and more confident.

“I know that, in the end, the justice system worked out for me and I don’t have to be afraid anymore.”

An agreed statement of facts read out in court said MacIntyre touched the victim sexually with a part of his body in 2010 and 2011.

The touching happened between five to 10 times when the victim was 10 years old. She told her mother in 2015.

“He told her that God said that God was OK with the touching,” the statement said, adding the victim felt depressed and had suicidal thoughts.

Court heard MacIntyre apologized after the assaults, asked for forgiveness and said it was part of “Satan’s plan to destroy (the victim’s) faith.”

The victim, with two family members standing behind her, told court she sometimes thought she was imagining things or that it was her fault. When MacIntyre finally apologized, “I was so relieved I was not losing my mind,” she said.

She described how the abuse made her give up creative pursuits she loved, gave her nightmares and made her sick to her stomach.

She said she is still often angry.  

“I will carry this rage I have for him to my grave.”

The Crown asked for a prison sentence of between three and 3 1/2 years, while MacIntyre’s lawyer asked for two years.

Prosecutor Julie Snowdon said MacIntyre’s remorse was a mitigating factor, but she suggested that was tempered by his linking his actions to the devil.

“It’s easy and convenient to deflect blame to an external force such as Satan,” said Snowdon, who added that was a further example of the manipulation tactics MacIntyre used on his victim.

Defence lawyer Ian McKay argued the immense publicity the case attracted should factor into the sentence.

Court heard MacIntyre, who his lawyer said is deeply religious, has also lost the support of his church community.

“This is a man who has been punished in so many ways and will continue to be punished until his last breath,” McKay said.

Queen’s Bench Justice Debra Yungwirth said the media attention was not a mitigating factor because MacIntyre ran for public office knowing he’d committed the offences.

MacIntyre apologized to the victim from the prisoner’s box for the “pain and anguish” he caused.

He then wished her a life that is “whole and healthy and happy.”

MacIntyre had represented the central Alberta seat of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake for the United Conservative Party.

He was first elected in 2015 for the Wildrose Party, which merged with the Progressive Conservatives in 2017 to form the United Conservatives.

The United Conservative caucus issued a statement Friday condemning MacIntyre.

“We hope this disgusting individual faces the full extent of the law in sentencing for his odious crime. Our thoughts remain with the victim and all those affected at this time.”

The caucus statement said it found out about the charges the day MacIntyre resigned last year. The party said he is no longer a member.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version had prosecutor Julie Snowdon’s last name spelling incorrectly


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A year after Danforth shooting, teens who lost friend grapple with anxiety

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Friends of Daniforth shooting victims one year later

TORONTO — They were eight care-free teenagers out celebrating a birthday when the bullets flew. The rampage that ensued on July 22, 2018, changed their lives.

Days before the first anniversary of the shooting in Greektown, four of the teens who survived the tragedy sit in the living room of an east Toronto home talking about their struggles with anxiety, depression and the feeling of loss. It’s better than therapy, they say.

“I feel like the people I am surrounded with is my therapy,” says Skye McLeod, as her friend Noor Samiei, whose 18th birthday they were celebrating the night of the shooting, gently holds her hand.

Their best friend, 18-year-old Reese Fallon, was one of two people who were killed when a deeply troubled 29-year-old man went on a shooting spree. Thirteen people were injured, including their other friend, Samantha Price.

Price has largely recovered physically, but she says she cannot stop the morbid thoughts that often race through her mind. The 18-year-old will watch cars go by and think the driver will shoot her in the head. She’ll notice a stranger on the street and fear for her life. She thinks large crowds make for a perfect place for a bomb to go off.

“It’s horrible,” she says. “But I can’t help it.”

All four have tried various forms of therapy. Three say it didn’t help.

McLeod stopped after one session with a therapist. Samiei, 19, says she saw a therapist twice.

“The therapist would look at me and if she didn’t initiate the conversation, I would just look back at her,” Samiei says. “What I really wanted was feedback.”

“Tell me how to heal,” Price says. “It sucks to go outside and be this age and not have fun.”

Max Smith, however, says therapy has helped his recurring anxiety.

“We just talk about what I’m feeling,” he says. “(My therapist) is super helpful and gives me insight and has given me some breathing techniques.”

All four say they think about the shooting a lot.

The night of the celebration started with dinner at an Italian restaurant downtown. Then they moved to Greektown for gelato. They were chatting at a nearby parkette when some noticed a man across the street, staring at them.

Price remembers Faisal Hussain raising a gun and firing. A bullet shattered her right hip and she collapsed. Next to her, two of her friends were on the ground bleeding.

McLeod also went down, but wasn’t shot.

“I remember looking at him,” she says. “Do I get up to run? Will that make me a bigger target? Do I play dead?”

Smith, who was next to McLeod, says he crouched down when the bullets flew.

“It was like tunnel vision,” he says. “I remember saying ‘Skye, we have to go.'”

“You saved my life,” she says to Smith. He blushes.

In the commotion, Samiei ran straight onto Danforth Avenue, tripped and fell, smashing her chin and knee on the road.

“While on the ground, I looked behind me and saw him shooting,” she says.

Samiei noticed Smith, McLeod and another friend duck into a nearby cafe so she got up and followed. The four ended up in a basement bathroom with two strangers.

Price watched her friends dash into the cafe, but also noticed restaurants were closing their doors.

Somehow, despite her shattered hip, Price made her way to Christina’s, a restaurant where a waitress helped her in and called for a doctor. She’d spend the next five days in hospital.

Her friends, meanwhile, were trying to track down members of their group. Samiei, while still in the basement bathroom, called Fallon repeatedly but got no answer. McLeod called her father, who rushed over.

Patrick McLeod, a retired police officer, found his daughter and her three friends in the cafe bathroom. After speaking with police at the scene, he ended up identifying Fallon’s body.

The friends later learned that Fallon had run in one direction while they scrambled in another. Her body was found in the parkette where they had gathered.

“That’s when our lives changed forever,” Samiei says.

While three of them started university last September, McLeod chose to travel. She headed to Greece, but the horror of what happened soon took hold.

“I immediately had a panic attack,” she says. “I had never been so depressed in my life. Crying constantly. Everything just hit me.”

Her father flew over to help and McLeod eventually carried on to Italy, but delayed her trip to Australia.

“I realized I needed time at home to heal,” she says.

Her travels helped, but like Price, McLeod says she grapples with disturbing thoughts. At a recent concert, for instance, she found herself thinking “this is a great place for a shooting.”

Smith moved to Guelph, Ont., for university and said being away from Toronto has also helped.

“It’s easy to forget about the shooting because you’re just not there,” he said. “It hits you when you get home.”

Samiei, now a student at the University of Toronto, says commuting to the school’s downtown campus was a challenge because crowds on the subway distressed her. So her mother commuted with her for months. Now, she’s able to make the journey on her own.

“I will change cars if I see someone weird, though,” she says.

Price has also struggled with parts of city life — a walk around her neighbourhood on Canada Day triggered a panic attack when she heard fireworks.

“It’s become so difficult,” she says. “I’ve loved growing up here and loved living here, but I feel uncomfortable at any public event.”

Despite their issues, the friends say they try to be positive as much as they can, especially when it comes to remembering Fallon.

“Reese’s last meal was her favourite: raspberry and chocolate gelato,” Samiei says with a smile.

Smith shows a video of the group at the restaurant that night where Fallon makes a goofy face. Everyone laughs.

“As horrible as that night was, at least until then, we had such a good time,” Smith says.

Samiei visits the parkette regularly to keep Fallon’s memory alive. She puts photographs of her friend on a tree. Someone takes them down, but she returns to put them back up.

“It’s important,” Samiei said. “So people don’t forget.”

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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Health

Lyme-infected ticks are so common in parts of Canada, testing no longer done

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OTTAWA — Lyme disease has settled so deeply into parts of Canada many public health units now just assume if you get bitten by a tick, you should be treated for the potentially debilitating bacteria.

In Ottawa, where more than half of the ticks tested in some neighbourhoods carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, the public-health unit no longer bothers to test ticks because it’s assumed they carry the illness.

Dr. Vera Etches, the top doctor at the health unit, says that means if a tick is found on a person, and is believed to have been there for more than 24 hours, then the patient should get antibiotics to prevent Lyme infection.

After three days, preventive treatment won’t work so patients then wait for symptoms or enough time for antibodies to evolve to show up on a test.

Similar rates of Lyme disease have been found in parts of every province except Alberta, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, but the disease is marching further afield every year.

Lyme disease began appearing in Canada in the early 1980s but it has only been since about 2012 that the ticks that carry the bacteria have become plentiful, mostly due to warmer winters that allow more of them to survive.

The Canadian Press

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