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Man faces murder charges in slayings of two men, two women in Penticton, B.C.

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  • PENTICTON, B.C. — A former city employee described as a hard-working, civic-minded gentleman has been charged with four counts of murder after a series of daytime shootings that terrorized people in Penticton, B.C.

    Dan McLaughlin of the B.C. prosecution service said Tuesday that three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder have been laid against John Brittain, 68.

    Mayor John Vassilaki said Brittain was an employee in the city’s engineering department for several years.

    Vassilaki said he was “very saddened” when he learned of the charges.

    “He was a gentleman. He did his job well,” the mayor told a news conference. “He was very in favour of what our community was doing, was always involved in community matters, him and his wife.”

    Kelly Sherman, president of Ecora Engineering and Resource Group, said Brittain joined the company two years ago as a civil engineer. He said Brittain was in the office briefly on the day of the shooting, but declined to give any further details.

    “He was just soft spoken, quiet engineer. We’re shocked and saddened by this,” Sherman said.

    Brittain appeared in court on Tuesday morning, at one point taking off his glasses and looking into the public gallery. He is expected to make his next court appearance May 8. None of the allegations against him has been tested in court.

    RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager said two men and two women in their 60s and 70s were killed, but police are not releasing any further information about the victims.

    Rudi Winter, 71, was identified by his wife, Renate, as one of the victims. She told the Penticton Herald he was shot outside a duplex where he was doing maintenance work for a friend.

    De Jager said the shootings were targeted and police are trying to determine a motive. The accused and the victims knew each other, he added, but wouldn’t elaborate.

    De Jager said police received a call about a possible shooting at about 10:30 a.m. on Monday.

    Police say after the first shooting on Heales Avenue, the suspect drove about five kilometres to a second location on Cornwall Drive where the other three people were attacked.

    De Jager said a man was killed on Heales. A man and a woman were found in one home on Cornwall and a man was found in the neighbouring residence.

    De Jager said an unarmed suspect walked into the RCMP detachment about an hour after the first report of a possible shooting and surrendered.

    He said police are continuing to offer support to residents of the community who need it.

    “I recognize that these heart-breaking events have deeply impacted our community and will continue to do so for some time,” he said.

    A young buck wandered down the quiet residential street of Cornwall Drive as residents returned home from work and school on Tuesday.

    Thuy Do, who lives a few doors down from the homes where the shootings took place, said she and her mother stayed home all day out of fear.

    “I’m so scared,” she said, “I can’t sleep. My mom is scared, she can’t go outside.”

    Sigrid Boersma said she has lived in the “very nice neighbourhood” for about 16 years and described the shootings as unbelievable.

    “The whole thing makes people shaky, insecure. I feel that the whole street should get some help after this because we’re all shaking.”

    Local legislature member Dan Ashton, who was mayor of Penticton between 2008 and 2013, said he didn’t remember Brittain from his time at city hall. But he said the community has been deeply affected by the violence.

    “It’s been very traumatic for the community. It is a close-knit community with a lot of people who are long-term residents here and my heartfelt, sincere condolences go out to the individuals affected by this, family and friends.”

    — With files from the Penticton Herald

    Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

    Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version based on information released by the RCMP said John Brittain is 60 years old.




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    Ceremonies, vigils planned in Toronto to honour victims of deadly van attack

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  • TORONTO — Ceremonies and vigils are planned today to honour those killed or injured in last year’s deadly van attack in north Toronto.

    The City of Toronto is holding an event at the Mel Lastman Square Amphitheatre at 1:30 p.m. to coincide with the time of the April 23, 2018 incident that left 10 dead and 16 injured.

    In the hours before the ceremony, the city is expected to install temporary signs in the area to commemorate what it has dubbed the “Yonge Street Tragedy” until permanent memorials are created.

    The city says consultations on the memorials will begin this spring.

    Events are also planned elsewhere in the neighbourhood where the attack took place.

    The Willowdale community is hosting a moment of silence, an evening vigil and a free dinner, among other events.

    It is also bringing in trauma counsellors and therapy dogs for those who need support.

    The city was gripped with grief in the wake of the attack and more than $4 million was raised in support of the victims and their families.

    Alek Minassian, 26, is charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

    He is set to face trial next February. 

    The Canadian Press


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    New commemorative loonie marking ‘progress’ for LGBTQ2 people to be unveiled today

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  • TORONTO — The Royal Canadian Mint is unveiling a new commemorative loonie today meant to mark what it calls a key milestone for lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and two-spirited people in the country.

    The agency says the new one-dollar coin pays tribute to Parliament’s passing of legislation that “initiated the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada.”

    It says the coin, which will be presented in Toronto today, celebrates “50 years of progress for LGBTQ2 Canadians.”

    But historians and advocates are raising concerns about the message behind the new loonie, saying it mistakenly suggests equality has been achieved and largely as a result of the federal government’s actions.

    A group of activists and academics is holding a news conference near the mint’s event today to challenge myths surrounding the 1969 Criminal Code reform.

    York University historian Tom Hooper, who is part of the group, says LGTBTQ people faced continued criminalization over the decades that followed the legal changes.

    He said discrimination against LGBTQ people persists today, noting as examples that trans and queer people of colour still face issues with policing and people with HIV remain subject to criminalization.

    The mint “could have consulted people who have knowledge of this history but they didn’t,” Hooper said, adding he hopes the agency will do so in the future.

    He acknowledged no campaign can compete with roughly three million coins but said the project is at least fuelling a public conversation about LGBTQ history.

    “As a historian, I’m hoping to inform as many people as I can about our history. So in some ways the coin is opening up that opportunity,” he said.

    The mint has said it is largely informed by the Department of Canadian Heritage and its “anniversaries of significance” when it comes to selecting commemorative themes for coins.

    The Canadian Press


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