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Schlatter handed life sentence with no parole for 25 years in Richey’s murder

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TORONTO — A Toronto man’s “appetite for violent sex” and his desire to experience it led him to strangle a young woman hours after they met, an Ontario judge said in sentencing him to life in prison.

As he handed down the ruling Wednesday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Michael Dambrot alluded to evidence of Kalen Schlatter’s sexual interest in choking that was kept from the jurors who determined the 23-year-old’s fate.

“The jury found you guilty of first-degree murder without knowing what I know about you, but I know it, and I will not be blind to it in these reasons,” Dambrot told Schlatter.

“It is true that you are young, but your sexual appetite led you literally to take an innocent young woman by the hand down a path to her death,” he said.

“To satisfy your lust, you took her life… you stole a large piece of the fabric of the very being of the members of her family and friends and, I could not fail to observe, you shed no tear for their losses.”

Schlatter was convicted Monday of first-degree murder in the killing of 22-year-old Tess Richey, an aspiring flight attendant whose disappearance in November 2017 set off an intense search.

The verdict means jurors believed beyond a reasonable doubt that Schlatter sexually assaulted Richey as part of the same series of events as her murder.

The conviction carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years, which was officially imposed Wednesday after an emotional hearing that saw Richey’s family and friends voice their grief.

In a series of tearful statements, Richey’s mother, her four sisters and two brothers-in-law mourned the young woman they described as fierce, generous and kind. Friends also described the devastating impact of Richey’s death.

Anyone who met Richey could see she was “incredibly sweet and very special,” her mother, Christine Hermeston, said as sobs echoed in the courtroom.

“I will never understand why anyone would hurt another person the way that Kalen Schlatter hurt my daughter,” she said, turning to look directly at Schlatter as he sat in the prisoner’s box.

Jenna Richey said her sister’s death has left her a different person. “My relationships have suffered and I find myself isolated, fearful and constantly plagued with anxiety and worry,” she said.

Tess Richey’s eldest sister Varina Richey, 39, recalled flying back to Canada from England, where she had been living for years, after her sister’s body was found at the bottom of an outdoor stairwell in Toronto’s gay village.

Since then, Varina Richey said, she has been haunted by nightmares and suicidal thoughts.

“I can’t think straight, I cry at the drop of a hat, and I spend countless hours agonizing over what went on in that stairwell. Did she cry for us?” she said.

Hermeston and her son-in-law Greg Lefebvre said outside court they were stunned by Schlatter’s stoic demeanour even as they confronted him with the traumatic legacy of his actions.

“He did not shed a tear or show any emotion whatsoever, he was a cold, blank slate of a human being, a shell of a human being,” Lefebvre said.

Hermeston and Varina Richey also expressed their gratitude that the trial was allowed to continue and conclude amid increasing restrictions over the novel coronavirus.

During trial, court heard Schlatter and Tess Richey met after leaving the same club in the early hours of Nov. 25, 2017.

The two of them, along with Richey’s friend Ryley Simard, were captured on security footage wandering through the neighbourhood, stopping at one point to buy hotdogs and at another to talk with two people who lived in a nearby home.

Another video showed Schlatter and Richey walking down an alley around 4:15 a.m., after Simard had left. About 45 minutes later, Schlatter emerged alone. No one else was seen entering or leaving the alley, which was between two buildings and fenced off at the back.

Richey’s body was found days later by her mother and a family friend, at the bottom of a stairwell in that alley. Court heard she had been strangled, possibly with fabric or a forearm.

Schlatter was arrested and charged in February 2018.

Richey’s disappearance and death sparked additional fear in Toronto’s gay village, which at the time was also grappling with several other missing persons cases later attributed to serial killer Bruce McArthur, a spokeswoman for a community organization serving LGBTQ2S people told the court Wednesday.

People in the community were scared to go out, and the impact of that violence is still felt today, said Becky McFarlane, senior director with The 519.

McFarlane highlighted evidence that Schlatter told two undercover officers he liked going to gay bars because it was easier to pick up women there, saying his predatory behaviour violated what were meant to be safe spaces.

“He stole from our community too….one that he was a part of as a self-identified bisexual man and as someone who spent weekends dancing and drinking in Church Street bars,” she said.

“Our community built those spaces and Kalen Schlatter … betrayed our community in the most unimaginable, unthinkable way.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2020.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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Consider releasing some inmates to stem COVID-19 in prisons, minister requests

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OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has asked the federal prison service and the parole board to look at early release for some offenders to prevent the spread of COVID-19 behind bars.

The government is committed to protecting inmates, correctional staff and the public given the unique risks the virus poses for prisons, said Mary-Liz Power, a spokeswoman for the minister.

“This pandemic continues to evolve and we have been clear that our response will as well,” she said Tuesday in a statement.

“Minister Blair has asked both the commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada and the chair of the Parole Board of Canada to determine whether there are measures that could be taken to facilitate early release for certain offenders.”

Neither the Correctional Service nor the Parole Board had immediate comment on the minister’s request.

The prison service said Monday two inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 at Port-Cartier Institution, a maximum-security facility in Quebec — the first confirmed cases involving prisoners in a federal institution.

The service said nine employees at Port-Cartier had also tested positive for the virus.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, which represents employees in 49 federal institutions, says the release of a few inmates would not stem the spread of COVID-19 in prison but would increase the risk for Canadians.

“The focus must be on changing routines in our institutions to respect social distancing and self-isolation directives to every extent possible,” the union said.

“Canada is in crisis, and its citizens are already dealing with a potentially deadly threat. It is irresponsible to introduce further threats into our communities.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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Amid medical-supplies scramble, pandemic highlights new perils to free trade

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WASHINGTON — “America First” rhetoric and disdain for free trade are old news in the Donald Trump era, but with countries in a life-or-death scramble to stockpile gowns, gloves, masks and ventilators, protectionism these days isn’t such a dirty word.

Even an ardent free trader like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau let slip an interesting — and vaguely isolationist — turn of phrase Tuesday as he laid out Canada’s efforts to procure scarce personal protective equipment for the country’s health workers.

“We understand that countries around the world are taking their own approaches,” Trudeau said during his daily doorstep briefing. “We will continue to co-ordinate as much as possible, but every step of the way our priority will be ensuring that Canada is able to take care of its own.”

No one would suggest, even in the grips of a life-changing pandemic, that Trudeau’s Liberal government is losing its religion when it comes to globalization. But trade experts agree that free trade, which has already been under siege in the U.S. and elsewhere, could well emerge from the COVID-19 outbreak on life support, if it manages to survive at all.

The promise of free trade is that if people can buy and sell without obstacles at national borders, production will shift to where it’s most efficient. But that also means that countries will come to rely on foreign imports for a lot of their goods while their own industries focus on exporting whatever products they’re best at making.

“Everybody is almost sort of retrenching to a nationalism that runs contrary to what the whole spirit of globalization and trade liberalization has traditionally been about,” said Adam Taylor, a one-time adviser to the previous Conservative government who now heads up Export Action Global, an international trade consulting firm.

“The sad reality is … whether it’s a recession or other events that affect the globe, you often see less of a commitment to free and open trade, and more of a commitment to nationalism or creating a nationalist economy — and that’s a real worry for free-traders.”

Indeed, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, a protectionist who made life difficult for Canada during the 13-month effort to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement throughout 2018, sounded in his element Monday during an online meeting of G20 trade ministers.

“Unfortunately, like others, we are learning in this crisis that over-dependence on other countries as a source of cheap medical products and supplies has created a strategic vulnerability to our economy,” Lighthizer said.

“Let us not make long-term decisions in the midst of a crisis. I suggest that we should get through this together, gather all the information we can, and then make decisions for the future to ensure that these things don’t happen to the world again.”

The crisis of COVID-19, which by Tuesday had sickened nearly 850,000 around the world and killed more than 41,000, including 3,600 in the U.S. and 95 in Canada, brings to mind the old adage about nothing focusing the mind like a hanging at dawn.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned that New Orleans would be out of ventilators by the weekend and was dangerously low on hospital beds. Michigan, too, says it needs upwards of 10,000 more breathing machines. Israel is supplementing its supply by turning them out from a plant that once produced missiles.

“We cannot remain dependent on procurement from other countries,” Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement.

Finding enough ventilators in the U.S. is “like being on eBay, with 50 other states bidding — that’s literally what we’re doing,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose description of U.S. states and the Federal Emergency Management Agency working at cross-purposes made the whole exercise sound like a scene from a Keystone Kops film.

“And then FEMA gets involved, and FEMA starts bidding, and now FEMA is bidding on top of the 50. So FEMA is driving up the price,” he said, incredulous.

“What sense does this make?”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, whose state is also running dangerously low, issued an order Tuesday requiring ventilator manufacturers, as well as suppliers, retailers and hospitals to provide a weekly inventory to allow the government to better keep track.

“We never want to be in a position where we can’t buy very important medical equipment in this country,” DeWine tweeted last week. “We have to source this equipment in this country.”

Dan Ujczo, an international trade lawyer based in Columbus, Ohio, said the pandemic is unlikely to mean the end of free trade in North America, given just how interconnected and symbiotic Canada and the U.S. have become. But what it is doing is shining another ray of “disinfecting sunlight” on the complex nature of the trade ties between the two, and the problems they can create.

“I don’t think people fully understood how interconnected our businesses were and the pro free-trade folks were looking at that with optimism — you know, ‘See how connected we are,’ ” Ujczo said in an interview.

Others, however, have come to see disadvantages — and the advent of COVID-19, he said, will advance an awakening in the U.S. that has only accelerated with the election of Donald Trump.

“In the great rebalancing that we’re in right now, this has tipped the scales toward more protectionism. Where there is some optimism, I think, is there’s going to be a realization we can’t do it completely alone. No country can do it completely alone.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2020.

— Follow James McCarten on Twitter @CdnPressStyle

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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