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National

‘Told to shoot:’ Trial begins for Alberta youth in shooting of German tourist

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CALGARY — There was conflicting testimony in court Monday about whether a youth charged in the shooting of a German tourist on an Alberta highway may have acted on his own or was ordered to fire the gun.

The youth from the Stoney Nakoda First Nation was 16 when he was charged last August after 60-year-old Horst Stewin was shot in the left side of the head by someone in a passing car west of Calgary. Stewin was driving a black SUV with members of his family.

The teen, who cannot be named, is on trial for aggravated assault and discharging a firearm with intent to injure. A number of other charges, including attempted murder, were withdrawn.

The Crown said in its opening statement that Stewin was airlifted to hospital after being shot with a .22-calibre rifle and later transferred back to Germany for further surgery. Prosecutor Dane Rolfe said eight bullet fragments were removed from Stewin’s brain.

“He is paralyzed on his right side and has had to learn to write with his left hand. He gets confused and has memory issues. His prognosis for a full recovery is guarded at best,” Rolfe said.

The car’s driver, who is in custody on an unrelated charge, testified that he and his three passengers had been drinking vodka and smoking meth when he saw the black SUV and sped up to pass it.

“As I was passing the vehicle I heard the bang. It was the .22.  It came from the back seat. I saw him sit down. I looked in the rear-view mirror and the black SUV hit the ditch,” he said.

The driver, now 25, said he liked the suspect who he described as “some kid hanging around us older dudes.” He testified he had been trying to be a big brother to him.

“Did you know he was going to shoot?” asked Rolfe.

“No,” the driver replied.

“Did you tell him to shoot it?” Rolfe asked.

“No.”

But a woman who was sitting in a rear passenger seat said it was the driver who ordered the accused to pull the trigger while they were passing Stewin’s SUV.

“He told him to shoot,” she testified.

“I just shut my eyes and covered myself. Would you want to see someone shooting somebody?”

Defence lawyer Balfour Der questioned her testimony that the youth had fired through the passenger window on her side of the car.

“If it had been fired through your window, because you’re sitting right there, you would have noticed that, right?” Der asked.

“As soon as I saw a gun, I closed my eyes I didn’t want to know or see what was going on,” the witness replied.

“He did not have the gun did he?” Der pressed further.

“No. It was handed over to him. He was told to shoot it.”

The driver of the car the youth was in also testified that he kept hold of the rifle used in the shooting and wasn’t going to take the blame for the shooting.

“I wasn’t going to go down for that,” he said.

In cross-examination, Der pointed out that the witness had lied to  police on several occasions and had been high on alcohol and meth, so his memory of the day is likely to be suspect.

“Really we can’t trust anything you’re telling us because your mind was clouded by drugs and alcohol, correct?” Der asked.

The driver admitted that he and a friend had gone to the 16-year-old’s home before any arrest and beat him up. He didn’t explain why.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

 

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version had Balfour Der’s first name spelled incorrectly

Agriculture

151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot

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VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.

The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.

The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.

“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.

He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.

An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.

A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.

James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.

Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.

“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.

James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.

“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”

James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.

Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.

The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.

“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”

James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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Education

School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar

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A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.

Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.

The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.

The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.

The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.

“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.

Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.

The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.

The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.

The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.

Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.

“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.

Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.

“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”

 

 

 

 

 

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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