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Strangling off-duty cop gave killer PTSD, defence tells sentencing judge

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  • HALIFAX — A lawyer for a Halifax man who strangled an off-duty police officer argues that his mental illness — brought on by the murder — should be a mitigating factor in deciding his parole eligibility.

    Christopher Garnier, 30, was convicted in December of second-degree murder and interfering with a dead body in the 2015 death of 36-year-old Catherine Campbell.

    The jury found that Garnier strangled Campbell, a Truro police officer, and used a compost bin to dump her body near a harbour bridge on Sept. 11, 2015, after the pair met at a Halifax bar.

    The murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence, but a hearing to determine when Garnier will be able to apply for parole is scheduled for Monday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

    In submissions filed with the court, defence lawyer Joel Pink said his client was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by a psychiatrist hired by the defence, Dr. Stephen Hucker, and by the psychologist who is currently treating him.

    The event that brought on the PTSD: the murder itself.

    Hucker, who testified at the trial, said in a report that Garnier suffered from acute stress disorder immediately following Campbell’s death, Pink noted.

    Garnier repeatedly told the jury he does not remember using a large green compost bin to dispose of the woman’s body near the bridge, where it stayed undetected for nearly five days.

    “The testimony of Dr. Hucker clearly indicates that there is a strong link between Mr. Garnier’s illness and his interference with human remains; therefore, it should be considered a mitigating factor in his sentencing (on that charge),” Pink said in his submissions to Justice Joshua Arnold.

    “Courts have consistently held that a sentencing court’s application to the principles of sentencing will be influenced by the presence of a mental illness. In such circumstances, the primary concern in sentencing shifts to treatment as the best means of ensuring the protection of the public and that the offending conduct is not repeated.”

    Parole eligibility for second-degree murder must be set between 10 and 25 years.

    Pink argues Garnier should serve 10 years behind bars — 10 years for the second-degree murder charge and two years for interfering with a dead body, with the sentences to be served concurrently.

    He said Garnier should be on the lower end of that spectrum because he has been described as a “kind, caring person” who has shown remorse for the killing, which Garnier has argued happened accidentally during rough sex. The lawyer also included 31 letters of support from friends and family.

    Garnier’s parole eligibility hearing was previously set for May, but it was adjourned in part to allow Hucker — who is based in Toronto — to testify.

    Meanwhile, the Crown is arguing Garnier should serve 16 years before he’s able to apply for parole, calling him “calculating,” “manipulative” and “dangerous.”

    “Mr. Garnier not only murdered Ms. Campbell, he interfered with Ms. Campbell’s remains. He demonstrated a callous disregard for Ms. Campbell, and made an attempt to cover his crime,” Crown lawyers Christine Driscoll and Carla Ball argued in their submissions to Arnold.

    “The message should be sent that Mr. Garnier should forever be remembered as the person who stole Ms. Campbell’s future for no reason, and then treated her remains like garbage.”

    The prosecution also noted that Campbell died in a “gruesome way, in that it would not have been quick and immediate.”

    “Her nose was broken, the cartilage in her neck was broken. He moved her body and concealed numerous pieces of evidence, some of which was never recovered,” the submissions said.

    “He should be remembered as someone who tried to cover up his crime. His parole eligibility period should reflect the nature of the offence, his future dangerousness, and deterrence.”

    The Crown has said as many as 10 victim impact statements have been filed as part of the hearing.

    Garnier is appealing his conviction in part because he says police interview tactics elicited a false confession.

    Follow (at)AlyThomson on Twitter.

    Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press



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    Canada should do more to help women refugees worldwide: Oxfam Canada

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  • OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau’s self-proclaimed feminist government could and should be doing more to address gender-specific challenges faced by female refugees affected by wars and displacement.

    That’s according to a new report from Oxfam Canada, which takes a close look at how Canada provides international humanitarian aid and the gaps that exist when it comes to outcomes for women and girls in refugee situations.

    Canada has made great strides when it comes to making gender equality and feminism a key priority of its domestic and foreign policy agenda, but more can be done to help women being disproportionately affected by global crisis, the report says.

    “Currently, Canada’s international assistance funding is out of step with its ambition to be a world leader on gender equality and feminist aid and foreign policy,” the report states.

    “The fact that Canada’s international assistance spending is at a near historical low, merely reaching 0.26 per cent of gross national income, as compared to the UN aid target of 0.7 per cent, undermines its credibility and leadership on the international stage.”

    The study zeros in on areas where women in conflict zones are not getting the help they need or where efforts to improve gender equality in these areas are not being fully realized.

    Some of the findings are unsettling, including a statistic showing 25 to 50 per cent of maternal deaths in refugee camps are caused by unsafe abortions and related complications.

    This is due, in part, to a lack of adequate access to sexual and reproductive health services, which are often seen as a “second-tier” priority when people are forced to flee their homes due to conflict.

    “Our argument is that services are totally life-saving when you consider, for example, that last year 500 women and girls died during emergencies every single day from pregnancy and childbirth complications simply because sexual and reproductive health and rights weren’t a priority,” said Brittany Lambert, a women’s rights policy and advocacy specialist with Oxfam Canada.

    “These things should be prioritized from the very inception of these humanitarian responses and could save many lives.”

    Oxfam Canada also published findings last month following a series of interviews, focus groups and surveys of hundreds of women and men from the host and refugee communities in Bangladesh, suggesting Rohingya women and girls who survived genocide in Myanmar are facing new risks in refugee camps, notably when it comes to access to water and sanitation facilities.

    Some women are choosing to go hungry and thirsty and are restricting their children’s diets in order to limit their trips to these facilities to reduce risks of physical and sexual abuse and harassment, according to this research. 

    The organization is calling on Canada to develop a 10-year plan to achieve the United Nations aid target of 0.7 per cent of national income.

    It also wants Canada to establish a dedicated pool of 15 per cent of all its humanitarian aid to be specifically earmarked to address the needs of women and girls.

    “Right now the way Canada’s funding system works is that humanitarian assistance is aligned with the global humanitarian system priorities, which are things like shelter, water, food — but gender is not one of those categories,” Lambert said.

    “Women’s needs can be inserted into these categories but there are really limited funding opportunities to actually undertake programming that address gender inequality as a main goal so that’s why we’re calling for a stand alone pool of funding where Canada could actually fund this kind of feminist programming.”

    In addition, Oxfam Canada says the Trudeau government should take firmer action to ensure weapons do not end up in the hands of those who commit gender-based violence.

    Several international aid agencies, including Amnesty International, have said loopholes exist in Canada’s arms export policy that would allow arms sales to the United States — weapons which could end up being transferred to countries that abuse human rights.

    The government has announced several measures aimed at championing women’s issues both at home and abroad, including launching a feminist international assistance policy and a national action plan on women and government. Canada also disbursed more than $68 million in humanitarian assistance to support sexual and reproductive health needs in 2017-18.

    In addition, Canada has committed to increase its foreign aid effort by $2 billion over five years, which will bring total assistance to nearly $6 billion by 2021, says Global Affairs Canada.

    “We agree with the report that we need to ensure that the voices of civil society partners and affected communities, particularly women and girls, are included throughout the humanitarian response,” said the statement from Global Affairs Canada.

    “That is why Canada expects its partners to directly consult affected communities, and ensure that women and girls, in particular, are involved in the design of initiatives and decision-making processes that affect their lives.”

     

    —Follow @ReporterTeresa on Twitter.

     

    Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


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    MP pays tribute to baby daughter on pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day

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  • OTTAWA — Conservative MP Tom Kmiec choked back tears as he recalled his infant daughter in a heartfelt speech in the House of Commons to mark national pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day.

    Kmiec’s daughter Lucy-Rose died in August when she was only 39 days old.

    MPs from all parties struggled to maintain their own composure as an emotional Kmiec used a member’s statement as an opportunity to thank the medical staff who cared for Lucy-Rose, the neighbours who brought his family food and support, and the parliamentarians who sent their condolences.

    Lucy-Rose died of Trisomy 13, a genetic condition that leaves babies with severe intellectual and physical disabilities. Also called Patau syndrome, only five to 10 per cent of babies diagnosed with it will live past their first year.

    “On this day, let us grieve with the parents who have lost a child, as well as the siblings who lost a lifelong best friend,” Kmiec said.

    Speaker Geoff Regan said he hoped Kmiec could see that love and support from the parliamentary family was around him.

    About one in five pregnancies in Canada ends in miscarriage.

    Congenital malformations and chromosomal abnormalities are the leading cause of death for babies under the age of one year. In 2016, 404 infants died of a congenital abnormality, according to Statistics Canada.

    In all, more than 1,700 babies died before their first birthday in 2016, 75 per cent of them before they were one month old.

    On Tuesday, the House of Commons human resources committee is starting to study the impact on parents of the death of an infant, including possible updates to parental leave programs and benefits.

    The study comes after a motion from Conservative MP Blake Richards, who identified shortcomings in the parental leave program when it comes to being compassionate to parents who are grieving.

    Kmiec urged MPs to hug their kids the next time they go home.

    “If they are old and have their own (kids), hug them anyway, even if they protest,” he said. “Life is too short and none of us knows when our time will come.”

    The Canadian Press


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