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Nicole Chan was ‘frustrated’ by handling of sex assault case before suicide: officer

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Burnaby – One of the last members of the Vancouver Police Department to see Const. Nicole Chan before her suicide said Chan was angry about the treatment of her complaint that a co-worker was extorting her for sex.

Supt. Shelley Horne told a coroner’s inquest Monday that she spoke to Chan at Vancouver General Hospital the day before she died.

“She was frustrated because she felt that it was unfair that she wasn’t able to work and Dave Van Patten was able to keep his job,” Horne said. “She (thought that) if it was a member of the public that he had done this to that he would have lost his job.”

The inquest heard that Chan was arrested and brought to the hospital under the Mental Health Act.

Jennifer Chan told the inquest earlier Monday that her sister’s mental health problems stemmed from sexual assault and extortion by her co-worker, Sgt. David Van Patten, culminating in her suicide.

“I might be paraphrasing but in my mind I thought an officer was blackmailing her to have sex with her basically, and I knew that the officer was in HR,” she said.

Chan said her sister Nicole struggled with anxiety and depression after she complained to the police chief in 2017 about inappropriate relationships that she had with two senior officers.

“She really wanted to get back to work and get healthy again, into a mental state where she could go back to work,” Chan told the inquest Monday.

Horne said in her testimony that she met Nicole Chan in October 2017, when she worked in the sex crimes unit. She said she interviewed Chan about the complaints she had made against Van Patten.

Horne said Chan raised concerns about being “manipulated or coerced” into having sex with him and about how her file was being handled by the department’s human resources section, where Van Patten worked.

She said Chan told her that Van Patten had taken a screen recording of another member’s phone and threatened to send the video to Chan’s husband. Horne did not explain the contents of the video at the inquest.

Chan was distressed about the recording and went to Van Patten’s apartment in New Westminster to talk to him about it, Horne testified.

“When she got there, she said Dave told her that he needed to feel close to her and that they needed to have sex,” Horne told the inquest. “So, Nicole told me that she had sex with him, but that she really felt disgusted by it, but felt that she had no real option but to do that.”

Horne said Chan told her that she was worried about Van Patten’s ability to harm her career, so they continued the sexual relationship.

“She was motivated to get into the emergency response section and she felt that Dave was helping her with that and that it would affect her career negatively if that relationship broke down.”

Chan told the coroner’s jury that her sister as “very ambitious.” She said Nicole had joined the Vancouver Police Department to “speak up for victims,” but that she felt other officers may no longer want to work with her after she made the complaint.

She said her sister felt aimless about where her life was headed before her death, that her career had stalled and she had no other job prospects. She added that her sister was hired by the department when she was “just 19 years old.”

“She felt that she couldn’t do anything else because she stopped schooling as soon as she got hired by the VPD,” Chan said.

Nicole Chan was on stress leave from the Vancouver Police Department when she died.

A civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Chan’s family last year claims she died during a severe mental health crisis after being “extorted” by an officer to continue a sexual relationship.

The action was filed against the B.C. government, the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Police Board, the police department, its union and four officers. However, a notice of discontinuance was filed in the case in September relating to one of the officers.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The statement of claim says B.C.’s police complaints commissioner asked the New Westminster Police Department to investigate the claims and it recommended charges against Van Patten.

The lawsuit says the Crown prosecution service later said it wouldn’t pursue a charge.

The lawsuit, filed last January, says Chan provided an impact statement to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner just three weeks before she died.

“She’s really just kind of pleading for justice,” Jennifer Chan told the inquest, summarizing the statement.

“It outlines that she was suffering from mental health challenges, and (it) basically changed her as a person,” Chan said. “She believes it stems from sexual assault inside David (Van Patten’s) apartment, and she’s unable to develop and maintain personal relationships because of that.”

She said her sister was “very disappointed with the whole process” and had been actively seeking mental health treatment.

“The conclusion wasn’t what she had hoped for, so she was feeling very defeated and did not have much to look forward to in the future,” she said.

When the coroner announced an inquest would be held, it said the jury would make recommendations and ensure public confidence that the circumstances in the death won’t be overlooked, concealed or ignored.

— By Brieanna Charlebois in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2023.

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Health

Liberals table bill delaying medically assisted dying expansion to March 2024

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OTTAWA — The federal government is seeking to delay the extension of assisted dying eligibility to people whose sole condition is a mental disorder until March 17, 2024.

Justice Minister David Lametti introduced a bill seeking the extension in the House of Commons on Thursday.

The Liberal government agreed to expand eligibility in its 2021 update to assisted dying law after senators amended the bill, arguing that excluding people with mental illness would violate their rights.

That law put a two-year clock on the expansion that is set to expire on March 17. The Liberals now have six weeks to pass the new legislation, which would add another year to the delay.

Lametti said earlier that he is expecting agreement among other parties and senators to pass the bill in that short time frame.

Helen Long, CEO of advocacy organization Dying With Dignity Canada, said in a statement that keeping people with mental disorders from accessing assisted dying is “discriminatory and perpetuates the stigma that they do not have the capacity to make decisions about their own health care.”

Before Lametti tabled the bill, the group had urged the federal government to make the delay “short and effective.”

But Conservative MP Michael Cooper said on Twitter that the delay is not enough and the “dangerous expansion” needs to be scrapped altogether.

Tories have argued that it is difficult for doctors to tell when a person’s suffering due to a mental disorder is past the point of treatment, so the policy could lead to avoidable deaths.

“One year won’t resolve the problems. Experts are clear that irremediability cannot be determined for mental illness,” Cooper said.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett was expected to join Lametti at a news conference about the delay later on Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2023.


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Alberta

Feds to lay out ‘sustainable jobs’ plan for energy transition ahead of legislation

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By Mia Rabson in Ottawa

The federal government will show Canadians its plan to protect jobs during the clean energy transition no later than early spring, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Wednesday.

Legislation to guide how that plan is implemented, however, won’t come for some time after that.

The Liberals have promised a “just transition act” since at least 2019, and Wilkinson has been saying it will finally happen this year.

That prospect prompted outcry in Alberta, where the energy transition will have the biggest impact and provincial politicians are headed for a tightly contested election this spring.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to help shape that legislation. Her chief opponent, NDP Leader Rachel Notley, asked the federal Liberals to delay the whole thing at least until after the election, which is scheduled for the end of May.

But Wilkinson said the bill, for which he didn’t offer a timeline, will in some ways be secondary to the action plan listing what the government intends to do. He said that plan will hopefully be revealed by the end of March, though it may “slip into the next quarter.”

“The legislation will guide future efforts and will create a governance structure, but it’s the policy statement that I think is going to be the most impactful,” he said. “And, as I say, we will be releasing that in the coming few months.”

He said the plan is based on lengthy consultations with provinces, labour organizations, business and Indigenous communities. Ultimately, he said, it will contain no surprises.

The concept of a “just transition” has existed for several decades, but it took on new meaning after the 2015 Paris climate agreement committed most of the world to transitioning to cleaner energy sources in a bid to slow climate change.

The idea is that any efforts to adjust reliance on fossil fuels must ensure that people who work in energy industries can move to new sectors and will not be left out in the cold.

The “just transition” debate exploded last month when Smith lambasted the federal government for a briefing document that listed the number of jobs that could be affected by the ongoing global transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.

Smith misread the total number of jobs in the affected sectors to mean the number of jobs the federal government expected would be lost, and pledged to “fight this just transition idea” with everything she had.

A week later, the premier wrote to Trudeau warning him that the Ottawa-Alberta relationship was “at a crossroads,” and demanding that Alberta be included in all discussions on a “just transition” going forward.

She also said the legislation shouldn’t be labelled as a “just transition” bill, but one about “sustainable jobs.”

That request hit the federal government with interest and even amusement, since several federal ministers had already signalled their intention to use the term.

“I think I’ve been pretty clear I don’t like the term ‘just transition,'” Wilkinson said Wednesday.

“I prefer ‘sustainable jobs.’ I think it speaks to a future where we’re looking to build economic opportunity for all regions of this country, very much including Alberta and Saskatchewan.”

Smith will be in Ottawa next week as part of a first ministers meeting on health care, but there is no sign she will get a one-on-one meeting with Trudeau on sustainable jobs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2023.

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