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Halifax home demolished after fire that claimed the lives of seven children

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  • HALIFAX — Three weeks after a fast-moving house fire killed seven young members of a Syrian refugee family, the charred remains of their suburban Halifax home have been torn down.

    Neighbour Nicole Snook, whose home is down the street from where the Barho family lived, said the two-storey house was demolished without warning on Tuesday.

    “It was quite a shock,” said Snook, who has young children of her own.

    “Even though I saw it every day, what happened there was so unspeakable — it’s so hard to comprehend.”

    Embraheim and Kawthar Barho came with their children to Canada in September 2017. At first, they lived in rural Elmsdale, N.S., but they had recently moved to the neighbourhood of Spryfield to take advantage of immigrant services, including English-language training.

    Early on Feb. 19, their relatively new rental home caught fire. The flames spread so quickly that only the parents managed to escape, though Embraheim is still recovering from extensive burns.

    All seven of their children, who ranged in age from three months to the mid-teens, died in the home.

    The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

    A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $700,000 for the family.

    All that remains at the grim site on Quartz Drive is the concrete foundation.

    Photos on social media show a huge mound of stuffed toys piled against a utility pole on the property’s edge.

    Snook, who was left badly shaken by the tragedy, said she had planned on setting aside a few moments to pause outside the home, pay her respects and seek some form of closure.

    But with her family to care for and a constant stream of curious onlookers on the street, she never got around to that simple ritual.

    “I needed to go there to have a moment … (But) I never had an opportunity because there’s been a parade of people coming and going,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

    “I wanted a bit of a private moment. But there’s been no privacy at all … People come and go from the front and the back non-stop.”

    Snook said most of her neighbours are probably relieved now that the house is gone.

    And the number of gawkers has dropped over the past week.

    However, she said many of those who showed up to gaze upon the wrecked house probably had good reasons for doing so.

    “I think most people needed to go and pay their respects and some just needed to see it,” she said.

    “We’re tangible, physical beings. When something like this happens, that punctures people to the very core of what it means to be human. We need something to touch, to see — to somehow make sense of something that’s so senseless.”

    The Barho family were among 1,795 Syrian refugees who have come to Nova Scotia in recent years.

    Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

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    Some new air passenger rights land mid-July, others delayed until Christmas

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  • TORONTO — New federal regulations will land in mid-July requiring airlines to help and compensate passengers stuck on tarmacs for hours, but air travellers must wait until Christmas to be compensated for cancelled flights.

    Transport Minister Marc Garneau unveiled the details Friday morning, saying the rules and timelines aim to strike a balance between being fair to passengers and to air carriers.

    He called the rules around cancellations “more complex requirements” that require a longer runway so airlines can draw up and implement new policies.

    Come July 15, airlines will be required to pay up to $2,400 for anyone who is denied boarding for situations within the airline’s control, such as over-booking, and up to $2,100 for lost or damaged luggage, which is already outlined in international rules.

    The new rules in the government’s long-promised passenger bill of rights will also require airlines to provide passengers washrooms, ventilated cabins, food and water if they are delayed while sitting on a tarmac — a response to a 2017 incident at Ottawa’s airport in which two jets sat on a tarmac for six and five hours, respectively, in sweltering summer heat.

    New rules will require airlines to provide updates, and to return to the gate and let people off if the delay reaches three hours, but gives the option of a 45-minute extension if there is a possibility the plane will be able to take off.

    Airlines will also have to follow new rules for allowing musical instruments on planes either as checked or carry-on baggage.

    But travellers will have to wait until just before Christmas for rules requiring airlines to seat parents beside or near their children at no extra cost, as well as compensation for flight delays and cancellations within an airline’s control.

    Compensation will top out at $1,000 for delays of more than nine hours on a major airline, while smaller airlines, such as those that fly in the North, will have to pay passengers $500 for similar delays.

    Passengers will be able to take the cash payments only after filing claims. Airlines could also offer vouchers or rebates, but the value will have to be higher than the cash payment and can never expire. Either way, passengers get to decide which they want.

    Large airlines will also be on the hook for $400 along with a complete refund if a delay or cancellation scuttles more extensive travel plans.

    The regulations lay out the minimum standards airlines will have to follow for situations in their control, or face $25,000 fines.

    The Canadian Press

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    Supreme Court orders new trial for manslaughter in Cindy Gladue’s death

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  • OTTAWA — Ontario trucker Bradley Barton should be retried for manslaughter, but not murder, in the case of Cindy Gladue, who bled to death in the bathroom of his Edmonton motel room, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.

    In a 4-3 decision Friday, the high court said evidence about sexual history was mishandled at the original trial that ended in Barton’s acquittal on a charge of first-degree murder.

    Barton acknowledged hiring Cindy Gladue for sex in 2011 and claimed the severe injury to her vaginal wall that caused her death was an accident that took place during rough but consensual activity.

    The Crown argued that Barton intentionally wounded Gladue and was guilty of first-degree murder or, at the very least, manslaughter, because the 36-year-old Metis woman had not consented to the activity.

    Barton was found not guilty by a jury that repeatedly heard references to Gladue as a “prostitute” and a “native.” The Alberta Court of Appeal set aside the acquittal and ordered a new trial for first-degree murder.

    A majority of the Supreme Court said Barton’s new trial should be restricted to the offence of manslaughter, as the procedural errors at the original trial did not taint the jury’s finding on the question of murder. The minority said he should be retried with both manslaughter and murder as possible verdicts.

    Writing on behalf of the majority, Justice Michael Moldaver said the criminal justice system did not deliver on its promise to provide Gladue with the law’s full protection and “as a result, it let her down — indeed, it let us all down.”

    “Her life mattered. She was valued. She was important. She was loved. Her status as an Indigenous woman who performed sex work did not change any of that in the slightest.”

    The initial trial sparked widespread public concern about how alleged victims of sexual assault, particularly Indigenous women, are portrayed in the courtroom.

    “When Indigenous women are brought in as victims to many of these kinds of incidents … they’re often perceived almost like they’re the criminal and that they have to defend themselves, and Cindy, in her death, couldn’t defend herself,” said Melanie Omeniho, president of Women of the Metis Nation, who was at the Supreme Court for the decision. “So, we’re grateful that there’s going to be some seeking justice for Cindy and her family.”

    It’s not uncommon for cases involving the deaths of Indigenous women to go through multiple appeals and retrials, Omeniho said, as difficult as that is for victims’ families.

    Also there for the ruling was Qajaq Robinson, a commissioner in the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women, which is due to report early next month.

    “I think it’s a step forward that the court has recognized that in cases of sexual assaults involving Indigenous women and girls, that there’s an obligation on courts, on judges, to be gatekeepers — to ensure that bias, prejudice, racism and sexism do not form part of the evidence, are not what juries and judges rely on to make their decisions,” she said. “This is a big step forward.”

    She agreed with Omeniho that women who encounter the criminal-justice system often feel reduced to stereotypes and that “they do not get the justice that other Canadians get from the system.”

    Two experts testifying at the original trial for the Crown said the 11-centimetre cut in Gladue’s vaginal wall was caused by a sharp instrument. A defence expert said the injury was a laceration that resulted from blunt-force trauma. In the 2015 trial, the Crown showed the jury Gladue’s preserved vaginal tissue as an exhibit in an effort to explain her injury; the extraordinary move also raised complaints that it contributed to dehumanizing her.

    Barton, who hired Gladue for two nights of sex, testified that he put his fist in her vagina on both occasions, but on the second night she started bleeding.

    Barton said when he woke up the next morning he found Gladue dead in the bathtub.

    In its decision, the Supreme Court said the trial judge failed to apply provisions in the law that limit the extent to which an alleged victim’s sexual history can be discussed during proceedings. The intention is to avoid an inference that, due to the nature of that history, the person is more likely to have consented to the sexual activity in question or is less worthy of belief.

    The court said these provisions should have been followed before introduction of evidence about Gladue’s sexual activity with Barton on the first night.

    If any of the evidence had then been deemed admissible, careful instruction by the trial judge was essential to ensure the jury understood the permissible uses of that evidence, the Supreme Court added.

    Barton’s lawyer, Dino Bottos, said Friday it is disappointing his client must return to court on a charge of manslaughter “but it’s a far, far better result than having to go back to trial on first-degree murder.”

    “It’s pretty early to say, but I intend to simply have Mr. Barton tell his story once again,” Bottos said. “The jury believed him the first time. There should be no reason why a jury wouldn’t believe him a second time.”

    Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press






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