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‘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 A number of other charges, including attempted murder, were withdrawn.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

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Military faces calls to train soldiers to identify neo-Nazis, hate-group members

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OTTAWA — The Canadian Armed Forces is facing calls to train its recruiters and other service members to identify and screen out members of hate groups.

The military is also being accused of failing to take the issue seriously by adopting what several experts say is a wait-and-see approach rather than actively weeding out such individuals.

The criticism follows an internal military report and several high-profile incidents linking some service members to right-wing extremists and hate groups.

That includes an investigation this week into a reservist in Manitoba who is suspected of being a recruiter for a neo-Nazi group.

The Defence Department says the military already uses interviews and background checks to screen recruits for hateful beliefs and behaviour and takes very seriously any reported incidents by current personnel.

But several experts tell The Canadian Press that is not good enough, and that the military must launch a campaign similar to efforts to stamp out sexual misconduct to truly root out extremist beliefs and behaviour.

The Canadian Press

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Liberals unhurt, Tories not helped by scathing SNC-Lavalin report: Poll

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Justin Trudeau

OTTAWA — A new poll suggests a scathing ethics report on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair hasn’t so far hurt the Liberals’ chances of re-election this fall — and it hasn’t helped the Conservatives.

Indeed, the Leger poll suggests the two parties were locked in a dead heat, with the support of 33 per cent of voters, as they jockey for position at the starting gate for the Oct. 21 vote.

Liberal support was unchanged from last month, despite last week’s damning report from federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion, who concluded that Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by pressuring his former attorney general to halt a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

Conservative support was down three percentage points from last month, despite the party’s best efforts to re-ignite public outrage over the SNC affair, which propelled the Tories into a commanding 13-point lead over the Grits at the height of the controversy last April.

The poll put support for the Green party at 13 per cent, up one point and ahead of the NDP at 11 per cent. Maxime Bernier’s fledgling People’s Party of Canada stood at four per cent.

The online survey of 1,535 eligible voters was conducted Aug. 16-19 for The Canadian Press and weighted to reflect the makeup of Canada’s population. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque said the latest results suggest voters have largely put the SNC-Lavalin affair behind them and moved on to issues that affect them more directly — at least for now.

The two main parties are back in a “neck-and-neck race,” which is where things stood in February before the SNC controversy rocked the Liberal government, costing Trudeau two cabinet ministers, his most trusted aide and the country’s top public servant.

“I think that those who changed their mind on the PM and turned their backs on him did that in the spring already,” Bourque said in an interview.

But he said other Canadians appear to be fatigued with the issue and may be thinking “regardless of what I think of the behaviour of the PM, at the end of the day how does this change my life and that of my children, which is nil.”

Still, Bourque warned that “doesn’t mean that it won’t come back to haunt the prime minister” during the campaign, particularly should the RCMP decide to investigate, as Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has repeatedly pressed the Mounties to do.

The Conservatives and New Democrats tried to revive the controversy at a meeting Wednesday of the House of Commons ethics committee, where they moved to invite Dion, Trudeau and others to testify about the ethics report.

However, the Liberals used their majority on the committee to block the bid to magnify the report just a couple of weeks before Trudeau officially fires the starting gun for the election.

The poll put the Liberals back into a solid lead in the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. The Conservatives enjoyed a commanding lead in Alberta and Manitoba/Saskatchewan, with 55 per cent support in both regions.

The Liberals had the advantage in the two most populous provinces, where more than half of the country’s 338 seats will be up for grabs.

In Ontario, home to more than one-third of the seats, the Conservatives appear to be suffering a “spillover effect” from the unpopularity of Doug Ford’s provincial Progressive Conservative government, Bourque said. The Liberals enjoyed the support of 38 per cent of Ontarians, compared to the Conservatives’ 30 per cent, the Green’s 14 per cent, the NDP’s 13 per cent and the People’s party’s three per cent.

In Quebec, home to SNC-Lavalin, the Liberals stood at 34 per cent, compared to the Tories’ 27, the Bloc Quebecois’ 18, the Greens’ nine, the NDP’s eight and the People’s party’s four per cent.

Dion concluded that Trudeau broke ethics law by improperly pressuring former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene to stop the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin on corruption charges related to contracts in Libya.

Trudeau has acknowledged that he wanted Wilson-Raybould to reconsider her refusal to overturn a decision by the director of public prosecutions, who decided last fall not to invite the Montreal-based engineering and construction giant to negotiate a remediation agreement. Such an agreement would have allowed the company to avoid the risk of a criminal conviction, which would result in it being barred from federal contracts for 10 years.

While he has taken full responsibility for the mistakes that were made, Trudeau has refused to apologize. He has insisted that he was only standing up for the interests of SNC-Lavalin’s 9,000 employees, pensioners and suppliers, who stood to be negatively affected by the potentially crippling cost of a conviction.

Scheer maintains Dion’s report suggests the prime minister’s conduct went beyond a violation of ethics law and warrants a criminal investigation into possible obstruction of justice.

Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet over the affair in late February, followed shortly by cabinet ally Jane Philpott. Both women were subsequently booted out of the Liberal caucus and are running for re-election as Independent candidates.

Joan Bryden , The Canadian Press



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