Posts Tagged "canadian"

21Feb

Against the odds, a Canadian woman is granted asylum in the U.S. under the UN Convention Against Torture

by admin

WARNING: This story contains graphic accounts of sexual violence that may be disturbing to some readers.


For 17 years, she criss-crossed Canada trying to flee the man who raped and tortured her and coerced her into prostitution and sexual slavery.

Regardless of what she did or where she went, her tormentor and the gang that he ran with were never far behind.

When she became pregnant with his child, he beat her badly enough that police were called. No charges were laid.

Over the years, he was twice arrested and convicted, but never jailed for assault or for breaching no-contact orders as part of his probation.

He spray-painted one of her homes with racist epithets, torched another and dropped off an eviscerated rat at yet another. Police were called. No charges were laid.

It all ended 12 years ago when, against incredible odds, the United States granted her asylum under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

She didn’t have a lawyer, only two law students who with a professor’s help took it on as a class project.

U.S. Immigration Judge Kenneth Josephson relied on court precedents in concluding that domestic violence constitutes persecution, noting, “If the government is unable or unwilling to control persecution, it matters not who inflicts it.”

“There was no meaningful assistance provided to her,” he said, according to a transcription of his oral decision. He noted that she had made more than 30 attempts to get help from police and spent time in more than a dozen different transition houses across Canada and the United States.

“Obviously, Canada is a democratic, first-world country,” Josephson said. “While it is rare for a citizen of Canada to seek asylum, it is not rare to have claims presented on the basis of domestic violence.”

The judge also leaned heavily on Lisa Rupert’s affidavit describing how women are treated by Canadian police and courts. Rupert is the YWCA’s vice-president of housing services and violence protection in Vancouver.

Between 2003 and 2016, only 79 of 276 Canadian applicants were given asylum, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Because the reasons for decisions aren’t tracked, a spokesman said it’s not known how many were escaping domestic violence or gangs.

Because Rachel is still deemed by Canadian police to be at high risk, Rachel is a pseudonym. For her protection, other identifying details have been deliberately omitted or altered from the mountains of documents that she has meticulously saved over the years.

At our first meeting, Rachel insisted on one thing: “This story is not about him (the perpetrator) or the people he is involved with. … They get enough publicity for being the creepy people who they are.”

The story, she said, is about the failure of the Canadian police and courts to protect her and others like her.

Rachel is furious with Canada. She bitterly points to the country’s boast that it is a world leader when it comes to women’s rights.

“Between the RCMP and the court system, they dropped the ball and slid me down a million crevices, and then they did everything they could to cover it up.”

Now in her mid-50s, she lives at the edge of poverty in subsidized housing, scraping by on part-time and temporary work to supplement a $212-a-month disability pension from the U.S. government.

“I want the Canadian government to acknowledge what happened and repair as much of the damage as they can,” she said during one of many conversations over the past six months.

Rachel has paid dearly for her safety. It’s cost her everything she’s ever had and nearly everyone she’s known and loved.

She can never return to Canada. If she were to come even for a visit, she might be denied re-entry to the U.S. because the reason she was given asylum is that she’s at risk if she returns home.

Between the RCMP and the court system, they dropped the ball and slid me down a million crevices, and then they did everything they could to cover it up

Rachel has had to reinvent herself in a place where no one knew her or why she was there. She’s had to do it without any credentials, because her hard-earned college certificates are in her old name, and without job references because contacting Canadian employers risks having her new identity exposed.

She’s struggled with the effects of the trauma and abuse she’s endured, as well as guilt over the pain her life has caused her children.

Exile has also alienated her from Canada’s safety net, including health care, social assistance and the Canada Pension Plan.

That’s in addition to what she lost earlier when fear forced her to give up permanent custody of one of her children, cut off contact with her elderly parents, abruptly leave jobs and sell the family home she inherited from her parents in order to finance her fugitive life.

After 12 years in hiding, Rachel yearns for home. Canada Day, Canadian Thanksgiving and even Boxing Day trigger memories of happier times and thoughts about what might have been.

When she contemplated visiting Canada earlier this year, Canadian police advised her that she would be at high risk even if she only came for a few days.

The United States is the only place on the continent where she is safe. The man who hunted and abused her can’t cross the border because of his criminal convictions.

But even now, she’s extremely cautious, fearing he’ll find her again.

Meantime, her abuser has carried on. He’s served jail time for forcibly entering a home and assaulting another woman.

FATEFUL FIRST MEETING

Nearly 30 years ago, the vivacious, single, 20-something mom was singing with a band in a bar and attracted the unwanted attention of a guy who was never going to take no for an answer. It changed her world forever.

After she rebuffed him at the bar, he surreptitiously followed her home that night. The stalking had begun. He’d turn up at odd places. When she refused to go to his house for a barbecue with her child, he called repeatedly until she finally relented.

She thought that might be the end of it.

It was only the beginning.

His home was a grow-op. When she realized that, she grabbed her child and fled. He grabbed a rifle and fired a shot at her.

The phone was already ringing when she walked in the door of her home. She knew too much, he said. If she made trouble, his gang would kill her and her family.

Rachel changed her phone number, moved and quit her job. But a few weeks later, he was standing over her in her bedroom with a knife. He raped her repeatedly, pressing a pillow into her face to muffle her screams so she wouldn’t wake her child.

It went on for three days before he agreed that the child should be allowed to go stay with her father.

Over the next few weeks whenever she left the room, he went with her, carrying the switchblade knife. He began inviting some of his friends over. The more compliant she was, the more freedom he gave her. She began plotting her escape to a friend’s house in another community.

But he found out, took her car keys and her money and assaulted her. A few weeks later, he coerced her into taking him with her and the violence escalated.

He punished minor slights by locking her in the basement. In her U.S. immigration affidavit, Rachel wrote that he started humming the music from Psycho.

The RCMP report from one of the assaults that sent Rachel to hospital includes her statement describing how he wrapped a sheet around her neck and choked her before he lunged at her with a large knife.

She was thrown against a wall, thrown to the ground and kicked, according to the RCMP victim assistance supplementary report. He kept repeating that he was going to kill her.

When police interviewed Rachel about the assault, they didn’t want to hear about anything that had gone before that, she told the immigration judge. They refused to listen when she tried to tell them about how he’d coerced her into living with him, tortured and beaten her before.

Instead, they were the first of many to describe him as her boyfriend and suggest the violence was the result of her bad choices.

Although he was arrested, they didn’t detain him. They escorted him out of town as if it were all part of a Wild West movie.

It was no movie. A few days later, Rachel was released from hospital. As she was scrambling to pack the car and leave, he came out from behind the garage, grinning.

“Where are we going now?” he asked.

A month later and in another town, he beat her until she was unconscious. Once again, police weren’t interested in what had happened before, only what had happened that night.

He was charged with aggravated assault, but he later pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to nine months of probation and ordered to attend anger-management classes. There was no restraining order.

That night, he found her and raped her.


As part of a relentless campaign to control her, Rachel’s tormentor coerced her into prostitution and made her audition for a porn film. His abuse was only beginning.

CARL DE SOUZA /

AFP/Getty Images

Within that first year, he coerced her into prostitution and made her audition for a porn film.

He also got her pregnant. When she refused to have an abortion, he assaulted her. Police came, but no charges were laid. A month after the child was born, he breached the order, robbed and assaulted her, burning her with a cigarette and punching her in the jaw.

“Strongly recommend that the accused be released only if a restraining order is put into effect,” the attending officer wrote. “No contact direct or indirect as accused harassing victim by repeated phone calls.”

Also in the report is the accused’s comment: “She’ll pay for this. She will know how this feels.”

Why police responded as they did, why he was never jailed for breaching no-contact orders and why he was never jailed at all are all questions that haunt Rachel and remain unanswered. Police don’t comment on individual cases and, aside from their decisions, judges don’t comment at all.

For 17 years, Rachel describes her life as a cat-and-mouse chase.

“I thought he’d eventually give up and move on. I didn’t think it would be a 17-year problem or that I would eventually have to leave the country,” she told me.

“I kept thinking, ‘Now, the police will do something. Now, it’s going to stop.’”

But the timeline chronicling her torment runs to eight pages. He’d breach the orders. She’d escape to a shelter and he’d find her. He’d beat her; police would be called. Only twice were restraining orders issued. He was never sent to jail.

When he couldn’t catch and assault her, he’d vandalize her home or threaten her employers. When he couldn’t find her, he’d threaten her parents.

One summer, she and her child lived off the grid in a tent bought at Zellers. When the $300 that she’d hidden from him ran out, she begged a telephone operator to find the number for a women’s shelter and put her through.

Less than a month later, her relentless and well-connected abuser found them there.

Another time and in a different shelter, a gang-connected woman wheedled her way in to deliver the message that he was watching.

Rachel relinquished permanent custody of her child from a previous relationship as a protection from the violence that permeated her life.

Later, exhausted from the threats and running, Rachel asked the child protection ministry to take the child that she’d had with her abuser into temporary care on the condition that the child’s father not be contacted.

But a social worker broke that agreement and contacted Rachel’s abuser even though his name is not on the child’s birth certificate. Because of that breach of privacy, Rachel very nearly ended up having to share custody with the man who was making her life hell.

Not only would it have meant regular contact with him, Rachel could never have got asylum in the U.S. With a custody order in place, she could have been charged with abduction if she had taken the child out of the country without his permission.

Instead, his custody attempt was the impetus for her exile.

REPEATED PLEAS FOR HELP

Over the years, Rachel has approached the Canadian government for help. She’s kept every email and letter, along with names and phone numbers of the various officials she’s spoken to.

Initially, she asked for compensation for the house she was forced to sell at below market price in 1997 to finance her fugitive life. When it sold again recently, it was for $1.4 million.

Last fall, she tried to get help accessing disability benefits under the Canada Pension Plan, which she paid into from the time she started a part-time job as a high-school student.

To get benefits, she needs a birth certificate and social insurance number. Rachel believes it’s too risky to apply for CPP under her old name, so she needs new documents.

After a flurry of email exchanges and phone calls, nothing has happened, just as nothing happened in the 1990s when Rachel begged police to give her a new identity.

Among the problems is Canada’s disjointed system, name changes and birth certificates are provincial. Social insurance numbers and CPP are federal. Each requires a separate application. Each application costs money that Rachel can ill afford.

But even before she can apply, Rachel would have to apply to be allowed to apply from outside Canada. That’s a whole other process.

For nearly 30 years, Rachel has been told there’s another problem with getting her name changed in Canada.

When she was in her late teens, Rachel defrauded a telephone company of $2,000 worth of telephone service by using a fake name.

“It was kid stuff, poor-people stuff,” she said.

She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years’ probation with 200 hours of community service and the requirement that she repay the money. She tried, but couldn’t manage to do all of that.

Even with the support of her probation officer, the judge refused to amend the probation order and clear the way for a later pardon, or what’s now called a record suspension. Because of her record, her only safe choice was an extreme one. Flight.

The United States gave her a waiver before granting her asylum and a new identity. Why shouldn’t Canada do that for her now?

STILL AT RISK

Rachel has lived in fear for half her life. She still struggles to accept that for as long as her assailant is alive, her life is at risk.

Violence, threats and coercion forced her into hiding, into exile and into poverty that affected not only her but her children.

Unable to return to her country of birth, she missed major milestones in her children’s lives. She is unable to visit her parents’ graves.

But among the facts of her life that Rachel finds most galling is that her punishment for defrauding a phone company of $2,000 was three times as long as any sentence her assailant ever received for nearly killing her.

It’s cruel and absurd.

dbramham@postmedia.com

twitter.com/bramham_daphne


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1Feb

Hockey heroes celebrate Canadian first in Surrey, B.C.

by admin

SURREY —
Ryan Straschnitzki is used to handling a puck, but he’s now learning to do it from a different perspective: in a sled.

“It’s definitely a different sport,” Straschnitzki said at a celebrity sledge hockey game in North Surrey Saturday.

It’s been nearly two years since the deadly Humboldt Broncosbus crash, the hockey community’s worst-ever accident, in which Straschnitzki was paralyzed from the chest down.

In December, the 20-year-old had spinal surgery in Thailand in an attempt to stimulate his nerves and allow him to move his limbs.

He now has his sights on playing for Team Canada in sledge hockey.

“I carry some aspects over from stand-up, you know, I’m still learning the ropes only being a year in,” he said. “I just made the provincial team last October, so that’s a good start.”

Straschnitzki was in Surrey on Saturday for a celebrity sledge hockey game at the North Surrey Sports Complex. The new arena is now the first ice rink in the country to be awarded a gold standard for accessibility by the Rick Hansen Foundation. It’s fitted with features to help people with disabilities, including removable benches in the player and penalty boxes, as well as transparent boards so players can stay in their sleds and still watch the game.

“When all people regardless of physical ability can access the places where we live, work, learn and play, we create communities where everyone can contribute,” said Uli Egger with the Rick Hansen Foundation.

The game was also part of “Wickfest”, the World Female Hockey Festival founded in 2010 by six-time Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser.

“It was awesome today we had the hacks like myself and the others, and then the real pros that really showed the skill,” Wickenheiser said.

The festival aims to get the next generation of female athletes into hockey, people like 11-year-old Kate Altwaseer, who said Wickenheiser, “inspired me to play hockey.”

And 10-year-old Sophie Passeri who told CTV News, “I want to be in the NHL.”

That’s something Wickenheiser wants to see.

“Someday, there’ll be professional women’s hockey for these girls to play in and that makes me very happy,” she said. 

9Jan

Pest problems grow with Canadian cannabis industry

by admin


Amanda Brown, a biological crop protection specialist with Biobest, sets up a booth at the Lift & Co. Cannabis Expo in Vancouver on Jan. 9.


NICK PROCAYLO / PNG

Amanda Brown’s job requires a knowledge of both biology and battle strategy.

As a biological crop protection specialist, she sends “armies” of beneficial insects in search of the pests that devour B.C. crops like cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers — and now, cannabis.

“It’s a beautiful system,” she said. “It’s a very holistic approach.”

With legal cannabis cultivation still in its early days, scientists are in a fight to learn what kinds of pests and diseases pose a risk to the plants and how to beat them.

“Pests and diseases are on the increase,” said Zamir Punja, a professor in plant biotechnology at Simon Fraser University. “It definitely represents a challenge to the industry.”

As the overall area of cannabis production increases, so do the problems and their chances of spreading. Growers across North America are currently facing a root aphid outbreak that appears to have started in Colorado.

Punja said the appearance of some pests was predictable as Canada moved to a regulated industry. Spider mites, for example, are an issue for growers of almost every crop in B.C.

“It’s certainly not unexpected to see them,” said Brown, who works for Biobest Canada.

But other pests are less common.

“Pests that only target cannabis are more difficult to treat. We’ve had less time to study what works,” she said.

Bugs like cannabis aphids aren’t new, but in the previously illegal industry, growers weren’t limited by regulations.

“If they came upon these tricky pests, they could spray something and nobody would know,” she said.

Health Canada regulations forbid the use of chemical pesticides, including some that have been deemed safe for use in food production, meaning growers must depend on an arsenal of organic and biological products, including beneficial insects.

“It’s not as simple as replacing Chemical X with Bug Y,” said Brown.

The specialist helps growers develop pest-control programs that are tailored to their crops, growing style and pest problems. She believes that in time cannabis production and pest-management strategies will become more standardized across Canada.

Punja, too, is at the forefront of disease-management practices. His focus is on identifying the problem and how it arrived at a specific facility, whether it was through movement of plant material or on a worker’s clothing.

Prevention and management often involve cleanliness, as well as the quarantine of infected plants.

The scientist believes Health Canada may eventually approve more products for pest management, but research is needed to make the case to the federal Health Ministry. The companies that produce chemical pesticides may be reluctant to undertake the research or make the application since many of them are based in the U.S. where cannabis is still illegal under federal law.

A limited number of products approved for cannabis — about 21 non-chemical approaches, compared with almost 100 chemical and non-chemical approaches for tomatoes — means Canadian cannabis growers must be innovative to deal with pests.

“In talking to producers, they seem very keen to try new things,” said Punja. “I don’t see this hindering them.”

Related

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3Oct

Three teens plead guilty in St. Michael’s sex assault scandal

by admin

Katherine DeClerq, CTV News Toronto


Published Thursday, October 3, 2019 11:29AM EDT


Last Updated Thursday, October 3, 2019 11:57AM EDT

Three teenagers facing charges in a sexual assault scandal at St. Michael’s College School last year have pleaded guilty.

The teens pleaded guilty to sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon on Thursday morning inside a Toronto courtroom.

One of the three teenagers also pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography.

In November of last year, six boys were charged in connection with the alleged sex assault of a student at the all-boys private school.

According to police, videos of the incident, which occurred inside a washroom at the school, began circulating between students and on social media.

A few months later, police said they were investigating two additional incidents. Eight students were expelled from school as a result and a seventh student was formally charged by police.

The students were each facing charges of sexual assault, gang sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon.

Charges against one of the seven students were withdrawn in August and the cases against two others have concluded, although Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General would not say at the time what the outcomes were of those cases.

The last student facing charges has a court hearing scheduled for Oct. 17.

The teenagers who pleaded guilty on Thursday are scheduled to attend a sentencing hearing on Nov. 14.

They cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

This is a developing news story. More to come.

With files from The Canadian Press

25Sep

LoginRadius: The anatomy of a modern Canadian tech office

by admin

https://vancouversun.com/


Ian Bell of LoginRadius outside the tech firm’s new head office in Vancouver on Sept. 24, 2019.


Arlen Redekop / Postmedia News

At LoginRadius’s Canadian headquarters, there’s a tiki bar with a row of booze bottles on display in a social room; floor-to-ceiling windows with views of Canada Place, Vancouver’s harbour and points east, south and west; and then there’s Leo, a 15-week-old Cane Corso-Bullmastiff cuddling up against a visitor’s legs.

It all adds up to what a burgeoning tech firm hopes is the kind of work environment that will attract the best and brightest in a Canadian tech landscape increasingly crowded by giants like Amazon, Microsoft and Apple.


Leo the dog inside the offices of tech firm LoginRadius in Vancouver.

Arlen Redekop /

Postmedia News

LoginRadius, a developer and manager of online customer identity platforms, recently ended its challenge of finding a new and larger office space in Vancouver. The company also has a small branch office in Toronto and several small global satellite offices.

In Vancouver, its 52 staff now work in an 11,000-square-foot space on the eighth and top floor of 815 West Hastings, a building in the downtown financial heart. They moved in just two months ago.

Postmedia recently toured the office and heard from management and staff who helped to distil down a few of the important office elements and amenities they think will attract and keep the best tech workers. (Management says the average age of the staff is younger than 30, and 70 per cent of the staff use a company-provided transit pass to commute to work.)


Sally Maeing and Ajoy Anand enjoy a quick game of foosball inside LoginRadius’s Vancouver offices. The popular (but not overused) tiki bar can be seen in the background.

Arlen Redekop /

Postmedia News

Social space

The tour starts in what the staff call the fun area. It’s a spacious room with broad windows facing West Hastings Street below. A couple of video game chairs (without the video games) are set next to the window near a row of pub-style high tables. There’s a foosball set and table tennis nearby. There are a couple couches. The pride and joy clearly is the well-stocked bamboo and thatch tiki bar on display against the western wall.

“Research does say that every couple of hours you (should) move around and interact with other people,” says Ajoy Anand, LoginRadius’s vice-president of finance and operations. “That is how you’re more productive.”

He says they want people to use the fun area to decompress, while it also provides the various departments a place to mingle. “Everybody knows each other,” he says.

Yeah, but is having an open bar a good idea for a workplace?

“We don’t have a lot rules, but I don’t see people taking advantage of the laxness of that,” says Ian Bell, the company’s marketing director, and Leo’s dad.

He says they don’t have to babysit staff or monitor the tiki bar throughout the day.

“If somebody was knockdown drunk at 2:30 in the afternoon, that would be a problem,” he says. “We haven’t had that happen.”

Anand quickly adds that they have two people on staff who are certified to serve alcohol and they often hire professional bartenders for events in the space.


Inside the open-concept offices of LoginRadius in Vancouver.

Arlen Redekop /

Postmedia News

Open concept

After the company leased the space, Anand says they removed roughly 15 offices and 30 walls.

They wanted an open concept without cubicles or walled-in offices so staff could discuss work without moving into meeting rooms. Staff work in such close proximity that you can lean over to see your neighbour’s screen.

“(Staff) can communicate to each other,” he says. “It is a team environment. Our teams sit together, whether it’s the sales team or marketing team, so we skip a lot of meetings that way — if it’s a five-minute (discussion).”

The office has a small, typical kitchen in the core of the space.


Ian Bell and Sally Maeing talk with Rakesh Soni (on screen) inside LoginRadius in Vancouver.

Arlen Redekop /

Postmedia News

Equal access

“The big difference (from the old office) is this openness and collaborative approach,” said Rakesh Soni, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “People are all sitting together with accessibility to everything. No walls.”

All of the workstations are positioned along the exterior of the space, giving full views and access to the natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

The team hasn’t forgone separate offices for the bosses. Three corner offices are reserved for finance, the CTO and CEO. However, the offices are glass-walled and transparent.

There are several small, nondescript “phone booths” located in the centre of the L-shaped main office room. There are also a handful of meeting rooms with screens for video conferencing. Various other screens are set up around the space. One has sports highlights on it, the others show real-time metrics central to LoginRadius’s objectives, including website traffic and sales leads — for everyone’s eyes.

Everyone in the building has access to a pleasant rooftop patio with picnic tables and barbecues and views of the city, although there’s nobody up there at 11:30 a.m. on what turns out to be the first nice day in what feels like weeks.

“We also have lots of places where you can sit and be quiet by yourself,” Bell says. “That is to counteract the downside of the open office, which is if you ever need to sit down and concentrate and write something and not be bothered, you need a place to go.”

evan@evanduggan.com
twitter.com/EvanBDuggan


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23Apr

Daphne Bramham: What is Indigenous Canadian food? The answer might lead to more than good cooking

by admin


Award-winning Chef Shane Chartrand is on a journey to discover indigenous food in Canada. He’s one of the chefs featured in the six-part, web series, Red Chef Revival, available on STORYHIVE’s YouTube channel and on Telus Optik TV on demand. Chartrand’s cookbook, Tawaw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine, will be released this fall by House of Anansi Press.


See Notes / Direction / PNG

It’s always a bit embarrassing when foreigners ask what Indigenous Canadian food is. After long, torturous pause, most Canadians might stumble out an answer like poutine, tourtière, bannock, Saskatoon pie or Nanaimo bars.

Of course, none of those is really Indigenous. They came with explorers and settlers who brought flour and sugar.

Yet, long before they arrived, Indigenous people had lived for centuries eating local plants and animals.

Initially, smart newcomers relied on their local knowledge to initially survive in this unfamiliar land. Others like Sir John Franklin and others tragically learned the folly of attempting self-reliance.

But because of colonization much of that knowledge has been lost along with other cultural practices and Indigenous languages.

“Even Indigenous people don’t understand what Indigenous food is,” chef Shane Chartrand told me when we talked recently. “We don’t know our own food. Powwow food is bannock, burgers, gravy and fries. That’s not Indigenous in my humble opinion.”

Recovering those foods, recipes and cooking techniques is something that Indigenous chefs like Chartrand are now in a position to explore.


Chef Shane Chartrand’s kale salad. Photo: Cathryn Sprague

House of Anansi Press /

PNG

In the style of Anthony Bourdain, three award-winning chefs fanned out across Canada to Indigenous communities that they didn’t know to help prepare and eat food that included unusual ingredients like cougar, bison tongue and seal.

Answering the question of what is Indigenous food is the premise of a six-part series called Red Chef Revival, available on the Storyhive YouTube channel and to Telus Optik TV On Demand subscribers.

Chartrand visited Nisga’a people near Prince Rupert and was served chow mein buns.

“I thought it was ridiculous. No way is it part of Indigenous culture. But they told me that along Cannery Row, there were Japanese, Indigenous and Chinese and they shared recipes so it becomes Indigenous,” he said.

“I don’t agree. But they think it is.”

He feels the same way about “powwow food” — bannock, burgers and fries with gravy.

But the seal stew prepared by Nisga’a fishing families in Port Edward fits Chartrand’s definition to the letter.

Not only did it taste really good — better, Chartrand said, than the other four ways he’s eaten seal — it’s sustainable and healthy.

One of the tragedies of lost Indigenous food and cooking is that it’s been replaced by sugar-, fat- and carbohydrate-laden diets that have contributed to skyrocketing rates of diabetes and heart disease.

(For the record, the chef is opposed to a commercial seal hunt. He supports sustainable hunting with every part of the animal used.)

The genesis of Chartrand’s personal journey of discovery is a desire to connect with the Cree culture denied him as a child. Taken into foster care at two, he was adopted by a Metis Chartrand’s family at seven.

His father taught him about hunting and fishing. But it’s only as an adult that Chartrand began learning about his own people’s traditions.

By then, he was already a rising star in the kitchen, having apprenticed at high-end restaurant kitchens. He’s competed on the Food Network’s Chopped and, in 2017, was the first Indigenous chef to win the Gold Medal Plates Canadian Culinary Championships and is the chef at the River Cree Resort on Enoch First Nation’s land near Edmonton.

This fall, Chartrand’s cookbook — Tawaw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine — will be published by Anansi Press. It’s about his life, his travels and includes more than 70 recipes using traditional foods.

Top Chef finalist and Haudenosaunee chef Rich Francis seems less of a purist. While he acknowledges in the series’ first episode that bannock doesn’t really fit the definition of Indigenous food, Francis made both bannock and risotto on his visit to the Osoyoos band.

For the risotto, Francis used sage and cactus gathered on the Osoyoos lands that he described as “the Hollywood of rezs.” Both were cooked to accompany cougar seared over an open fire. The cougar was shot because it was deemed a threat to residents.

Like Chartrand, Francis isn’t promoting commercial hunting. But last year he

did threaten to sue the Ontario government for the right to cook wild game in his restaurant because government regulations are one of the many barriers to Canadians’ understanding, knowing and even tasting Indigenous foods.

Elk, deer, moose, bison, seal and the like can only be served at specially permitted events and not in restaurants. Only farm-raised meat can be served and that requires finding suppliers who can raise enough to guarantee a steady supply.

The idea of eating what the Canadian land alone can produce aligns perfectly with concerns about climate change and a sustainable food supply.

Rediscovering traditional foods with Indigenous chefs guiding the way seems a perfect way to learn how to do that.

Beyond that, there’s reconciliation. So many attempts at it are so earnest, so political and so difficult for some people to swallow, that sitting down and eating together may provide a new pathway because who doesn’t love a good meal?

dbramham@postmedia.com

Twitter: @bramham_daphne


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16Apr

 Microsoft deal means more access for all Canadian public servants with disabilities, minister says

by admin

The federal government has renewed a contract with Microsoft Canada that includes more digital communication tools for public servants with disabilities.

Minister of Accessibility Carla Qualtrough made the announcement at Microsoft’s offices in Vancouver, saying the modern tools will allow for more information sharing, productivity and collaboration.

Qualtrough, who is legally blind, says the seven-year agreement is part of the government’s procurement of software and services for all public servants and that about five per cent of the workforce of 410,000 people has a disability.

The inclusive design of the $940-million deal includes features such as artificial intelligence technology that allows an image on a screen to be described to someone who can’t see and provide transcription for dozens of languages.

Qualtrough says all public servants will now have access to Office 365 and the agreement will enable software to run in data centres or in the cloud.

She says all Canadians will benefit as a result of a strong platform for the delivery of programs and services.


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13Apr

Top-ranked Canadian trampolinist speaks openly, hopefully about having cancer at age 22

by admin

Weeks after winning a silver medal in double-mini trampoline at the 2017 World Games, Tamara O’Brien felt a strange lump under her chin while watching TV in her mother’s Coquitlam duplex.

She received an ultrasound and a biopsy, but life went on as usual for the 20-year-old athlete who continued to train and then flew to Spain for another international competition, where she won silver again. After she returned home, she was summoned to her doctor’s office.

It was Friday, Oct. 13.

“The dermatologist says, ‘So they found melanoma in your lymph nodes.’ And I just started bawling,” O’Brien recalled. “It was this really weird shocking thing that was going on. I thought, ‘Oh my God I just got diagnosed (with cancer).’ I thought, ‘How am I going to tell anyone this?’”

O’Brien’s surprise is understandable, as it is relatively rare for someone her age to get cancer. Just two per cent of the new cancer diagnoses each year in Canada are in people 15 to 29 years old, representing about 2,250 people annually, says the Canadian Cancer Society.

As a result, experts say, there is a lack of programs, and sometimes even treatment, for these young people who are trapped between services for children and those designed for much older cancer patients. 

“We are kind of the forgotten generation,” said O’Brien, who has Stage 4 melanoma.

“Most people think about their 20s as these years of figuring out their shit. And I feel like that all got taken away from me, right? I so desperately would love to move out of my house and start a career and think long-term with my boyfriend. But I don’t get to think about that — that’s not on my priority list any more. It sucks. It’s a really weird stage in your life to be diagnosed.”

O’Brien, who spent her childhood on her sport’s world stage, is now opening up about her difficult health journey. She hopes she can help other youth battling cancer who are struggling, as she initially did, to connect with people their own age.

“I was thinking: What do I want someone to take away from reading this story? A huge part of it is that my life isn’t sad. When people hear I have cancer, they must think, ‘Oh my God, that’s so depressing. She must be so sad. Her life must suck,’” she said.

“But, honestly, I’ve had some of my happiest days. … Your whole perspective changes when death sits right at your door. As morbid as it sounds, that’s true.”

O’Brien has her ups and downs, said her mother Tina Geulen, but “for the most part she is really positive. And she really tries to be.”

The pride in her voice dissolves into sorrow, though, when she talks about the injustice of this illness. “To watch this happen and not be able to have any control over the outcome and what is happening, is the hardest thing in the world.”

O’Brien has transferred her strong work ethic and determination to become one of Canada’s top trampoliners to her task of battling cancer, said former coach Curt De Wolff.

“I’m just so amazed by how it has brought out more passion for life in her,” said De Wolff, who coaches at the Shasta Trampoline Club in New Westminster.

“Sometimes you can look at something like this as an end, but I think it has almost been her second beginning. She has almost treated every day as a new beginning. It’s crazy impressive.”

By her own account, O’Brien has good days and bad days, days of determination and days of dark depression.

When Postmedia met with her just over a week ago, she was having a good day. But she was feeling “crappy” on Monday, when she posted on her blog that she just wanted to be “normal” again — although she wasn’t even sure what normal was anymore.

“Cancer at 22 is not ideal. Well, cancer at any age isn’t ideal,” she wrote. “I wake up some mornings so tired my eyes are literally glued shut wondering how I’m going to get out of bed. It’s a strange feeling knowing that cancer has taken up a huge part of my life and always will.”

The next day she was admitted to Vancouver General Hospital with abdominal pain, where she will remain over the weekend as doctors investigate what is causing her discomfort.

“I realize how powerful my story is to people. I think that is a huge purpose in my life, just being able to share and help, in whatever people decide to take out of my story.”


Tamara O’Brien.

Pam Kriangkum

O’Brien had “an abundance of energy” when she was a toddler. “I used to stack stuff together when I was young and stand on it. My mother put me into gymnastics when I was two.”

She started trampoline at age nine and by age 10 was training 36 hours a week. She made the national team at age 11 in 2009, and competed that year in an international competition in Belgium. When she was 12, she won an unprecedented seven medals at the Canadian nationals, qualifying her for the world championships in Russia.

But the trip to Russia was going to cost $3,500 and O’Brien, who was raised by a single mother, didn’t think she could afford to go.

Publicity from her seven-medal haul led to Elaine Tanner, a 1968 three-time Olympic swimming medallist, offering to help O’Brien find funding, and eventually to Woody’s Pub in Coquitlam offering to sponsor the young trampolinist through its Dare to Dream Foundation.

“Her enthusiasm caught my eye,” pub owner Gordon Cartwright told The Province in 2009.

Woody’s Pub paid for all her travel expenses until she turned 18, for which both mother and daughter are eternally grateful.

“Without that she would never have been able to continue,” said Geulen.

 


Tamara O’Brien (front) with Gordon Cartwright (left), Gordon Kendall Payne (top) and Vicki Cartwright (right) of Woody’s Dare to Dream Foundation in Coquitlam on Oct. 28, 2009.

She estimates the pub could have spent up to $40,000 supporting her daughter.

Medals piled up as O’Brien competed around the world.

“She was a very exceptional athlete. Amazing work ethic and very committed to what she was doing,” recalls coach De Wolff.

After she turned 18, O’Brien worked two jobs to continue to pay for her training and travel.

O’Brien’s discipline of double-mini trampoline — an acrobatic performance involving triple somersaults and twists, first on a mini-trampoline and then on a landing mat — is not in the Olympics, so the highest honour for her sport is the World Games very four years. When she became one of three Canadian trampolinists to qualify for the 2017 World Games in Poland, she changed her diet and trained even harder.

But something didn’t feel right.

“Every single day I was so tired,” she recalled. “I thought, ‘I just need to suck it up. I’m an adult now.’”

She put in the performance of her life, earning her best marks ever, and won silver for Canada.

“It was this really special moment because the hard work had paid off.”


Tamara practising in 2009.

Ward Perrin

After she returned home, she found the lump under her chin. It was near a spot where, the previous year, she’d had a mole removed that would test positive for melanoma.

“I never called it cancer. It didn’t seem like a big deal,” she recalled. “I never in a million years expected it would have turned into anything like it has now.”

O’Brien underwent an ultrasound and a biopsy, then focused on training for her meet in Spain in October.

Soon after, back home, she cried in the dermatologist’s office. “I never thought that this melanoma was going to come back,” she recalled thinking.

O’Brien knew her battle with cancer would force her to quit the national trampoline team and focus her energy entirely on her health.

While the vast majority of melanomas are caused by exposure to the sun or tanning beds, O’Brien grew up inside a gym and when outside always wore sun block. She is among the minority of melanoma patients whose cancer is linked to genetics, doctors have told her.

On Oct. 25, doctors removed the cancerous lymph nodes. “I had no cancer left in my body but there was a 50 per cent chance it could come back because it had metastasized,” she said.

She was told chemotherapy was not successful against melanoma, which made her happy because as a young woman with a boyfriend, she didn’t want to lose her hair.

But about a month after her surgery, a new lump appeared under her chin. The melanoma was back.

“So that was really awful to hear that I had recurrence six weeks after surgery. It was really, really aggressive.” 

She would have four more surgeries, between January and March 2018, but doctors couldn’t remove all the stubborn cancer spreading microscopically through her neck. After a scan in April 2018, her oncologist delivered the worst news yet.

“She said, ‘You have spots in your lymph nodes, in your neck, under your armpit, in your groin. You have spots in your liver, you have spots along your bones. … It’s on your ribs. It’s on your vertebrae. It’s on your pelvic bone,’” a stoic O’Brien recalled.

The cancer was now Stage 4, the most severe.

The next day was April 20 — the date of the annual marijuana counterculture celebration — and O’Brien was starting immunotherapy treatment at the B.C. Cancer agency. “I remember joking, ‘It’s 4/20. I’m getting my drugs.”

Her body reacted poorly to the immunotherapy and the cancer worsened, leading to severe back pain that forced her last summer to quit her waitressing job.

Her grandfather took her to the B.C. Cancer to start radiation, where the staff assumed it was he who had come for treatment.

“I was like, ‘No, it’s actually me,’” she recalled. “The young adults are forgotten. There are supports out there, but I really had to look for it. Which is sad.”

One of the groups she found was Callanish, which provides a space for people to support each other through this life-altering disease. O’Brien counts on the group’s monthly drop-in sessions.

“You basically can sit there and bitch about your problems without anyone telling you how to be or that you can’t feel that way or that your feelings aren’t valid. Everybody in the room gets exactly what you are going through,” she said.

“They’ve helped me so much through my own struggles.”


Tamara O’Brien in 2009.

Ward Perrin

There are a handful of programs and support groups for adolescents and young adults, including the Kristian Domingo Foundation and Young Adults Cancer Canada (YACC).

But there is a need for more, said art therapist Sara Hankinson, who offers an art therapy program in Vancouver for young adults through the B.C. Cancer. Last week, she started an online group using Skype for young patients in other parts of the province.

Participants can discuss issues that are relevant to their lives, said Hankinson, such as body image or fear of losing their fertility after cancer treatments.

“Figuring out how to return to work can be a really big struggle for them. A lot of them are dating or in new marriages, which can often times be really challenged,” Hankinson said.

The challenges can also be medical for this age group, which is dubbed AYA, for adolescents and young adults, in health circles.

The survival rate for this group is improving, but not at the same pace as the advancements for children, said Dr. Karen Goddard, medical director of the Adult Childhood Cancer Survivorship Program at the B.C. Cancer.

“Some of the reasons are that AYA, in clinical trials and research, they are very under-represented,” Goddard said.

These patients often have one foot in childhood and one in adulthood and would benefit from a team approach. England has created special AYA clinics, and the B.C. Cancer hopes to develop one here, too.

“We need to bring adult and pediatric oncology together, so they can better look at treatment planning and psycho-social needs for these patients,” Goddard said. “I’ve talked to guys who say, ‘Everyone else (getting treatment) was over 60 and I’m here and I’m 25.’ They feel completely out of place and sort of abandoned and on their own. And cut-off from their peer group.”

Goddard is creating a program that would give young patients, after discharge, a document that shows their treatments, possible long-term health risks, and how they should be screened years down the road.

In the fall, O’Brien’s doctors put her on new pills that try to slow down the cancer, and they appeared to be working — although the nasty side effects include hair loss.

“I have had two stable scans showing disease regression, so things are getting smaller. They are doing their job for now, which is really awesome,” she said. “The problem with these drugs is that the cancer will become resistant to them, at some point, and it will start growing again.”

When that will happen and what she’ll do next remain uncertain, although her doctor is looking into a clinical trial in Toronto.

A GoFundMe page started for O’Brien last fall raised $16,000. She gave some money to her mom and thinks she may use the remaining $10,000 to fly back and forth to Toronto during the clinical trial.


Tamara O’Brien, centre, with her mother Martina Guelen and boyfriend Jamie Moors at last year’s Cayford Gala, was the first recipient the Forward Foundation, which was created to help terminally ill young adults make the most of their time.

Pam Kriangkum Photography

Geulen is an on-call clerical worker for a local school district, a job that has given her flexibility to be with her daughter during appointments and hospital stays. But the less she works, the less she gets paid, often making it difficult to cover monthly expenses.

“This is just such a surreal life at the moment, and you can’t believe that it’s happening to you and you can’t believe it is happening to your child, and you can’t understand what you did to deserve this and what she did to deserve this,” she said.

After back pain forced O’Brien to quit her job last summer, she went on disability payments. She is grateful for the money, but notes she could never support herself on the meagre payments if she didn’t live with her mother.

“You are 100 per cent in poverty on disability, which I think people don’t even understand.”

She would like to get another job, but doesn’t have the strength to return to waitressing. “I’m trying to figure out what work would be good for me physically, and how I could make some money. So that is challenging right now, for sure.”

A highlight for O’Brien in the past six months was being the first recipient of the Forward Foundation, whose mission is to “provide young adults who are terminally ill with meaningful end-of-life experiences.” It was started by a remarkable young man, Christopher Cayford, while he was dying of cancer, and is now run by his mother, Claire Conde.

O’Brien’s chosen experience was to attend the 2018 Trampoline Gymnastics World Championships in Russia last November, so she could say goodbye to her Canadian teammates.

When she arrived in Russia, she received one heartfelt surprise after another: the Canadian team members wore “We Jump for Tamara” T-shirts, she was asked to be their flag bearer, and Olympic gold medalist Rosie MacLennan gave her one of the bronze medals the team won.


Trampoline gymnast Tamara O’Brien, with gold medallist Rosie MacLennan at the World Trampoline Championships in Russia in November.

Pam Kriangkum Photography

“I ended up walking away from that competition with the exact opposite outcome: It was not a goodbye. It was: My community is with me and they will always be with me,” O’Brien said, adding that she felt Cayford’s presence while in Russia.

“I definitely feel like he’s almost looking out for me. I feel like I know him but we never met. It’s super bizarre, and I’m not one to believe in stuff like that.“

For the last four months, since she returned from Russia, her cancer has been fairly stable. O’Brien has had two recent hospital stays: a two-week admission for a blood infection and her current treatment. To remain as upbeat as possible, she hung a poster board in her hospital room, and recorded the things for which she was grateful: her mom, nurses, friends who visit.


Tamara O’Brien on Apr. 5, 2019 with her hospital poster board.

But the hospital stays taxed her spirit, which happens at other times, too. “I’ve had really dark days, days when I’ve been in the car driving and thinking this would be a good song at my funeral.”

She said, though, that she has good support from her mother, her boyfriend and some “true” friends.

Cancer, she jokes, can be “quality control” for relationships. Some people don’t know what to say and bolt, while others provide unwavering support.

“It was really, really hard initially getting diagnosed and thinking, ‘Well, this is my life now. So how do I introduce myself? ‘I’m Tamara and I have cancer.’ But it’s not a defining feature for me anymore.” she said.

O’Brien has now lived for one year as a stage 4 cancer patient — a thought that brings questions about her future but also relief that she is feeling more or less OK at the moment.

“I think it’s a celebration that I have had this year. And that hopefully I’ll have another,” she wrote on her blog. “I count my blessings each day because what else can you do when a huge chunk of your life is filled with uncertainty and with fear.”

lculbert@postmedia.com

Twitter:@loriculbert




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13Mar

Canadian specialists not entirely shocked by U.S. admissions scandal

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The massive university admissions scam in the U.S. disturbs, but does not entirely shock, Canadian specialists in exam writing, career advancement and cheating.

“It’s tricky. There’s the cynical side of me that says, ‘Yep, that doesn’t surprise me.’ Then there’s the other side of me that says, ‘That sucks. It’s just unfair,’” says University of B.C. geologist Brett Gilley, who takes a special interest in rooting out cheaters.

In a similar vein, Richard Dalton, whose Vancouver company tutors students in how to gain admission to leading U.S. universities, said he is troubled that authorities have charged 50 people in a scheme in which wealthy parents are said to have bribed insiders to get their children admitted to elite American schools.

“It really bothers me, because we have students who work hard to do well in the tests by studying for many hours and doing diagnostic tests. Then to have someone come in and pay to pass the test fraudulently? It’s really disturbing,” said Dalton, owner of Your Score Booster.

Vancouver businessman and former CFL player David Sidoo is among those charged with conspiracy in the far-reaching FBI investigation. Sidoo is alleged to have made two separate $100,000 US payments to have others take entrance exams in place of his two sons, including by providing falsified ID cards for someone who came to Vancouver to write the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) for a U.S. institution.

The sweeping U.S. investigation details multiple alleged university entrance scams by parents, including Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. The parents involved, officials said, spent anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5 million US to guarantee their children’s admission.

Many of the well-heeled parents are charged with bribing SAT exam supervisors, including to change their children’s score results.

They are also alleged to have falsely claimed their children were disabled, in part to get special treatment writing the exams. Others are charged with bribing at least nine college coaches to lie that their offspring are sought-after athletes, making them eligible for fast-track admission.


University of B.C. geologist Brett Gilley.

Arlen Redekop /

PNG

Gilley said there are at least two things about the way Canadian universities and colleges generally handle the admissions process that may make them less vulnerable to corruption and cheating than institutions of higher education in the U.S.

The first is that many Canadian universities, including UBC, don’t require SAT test scores from most students, Gilley said. Secondly, he said most Canadian universities do not place an extreme emphasis on building revenue-producing football, basketball, volleyball and other teams. So athletic scholarships are not as common in Canada as a side-door entry into higher education.

Related

UBC’s deputy registrar Andrew Arida issued a statement Wednesday saying it has “a variety of safeguards in place expressly designed to help prevent abuse” of the admissions process. “To preserve the integrity of our systems, we do not discuss the details of the protections in place.”

The deputy registrar said that, unlike most post-secondary institutions in the U.S., UBC does not require SAT and ACT test results for every undergraduate applicant. It only asks U.S. high school applicants to provide those scores.

“The quality of secondary school education is consistently high across Canada, making standardized academic aptitude test scores unnecessary,” Arida said. He maintained UBC’s system has “much-clearer determinants of how applicants are ranked” compared to other universities, which he said can be more “subjective.”

SFU registrar Rummana Khan Hemani also said the post-secondary admissions systems in Canada differ from the U.S. with regards to SAT results, adding that SFU is confident in its registration safeguards.

Dalton said it can, unfortunately, be relatively easy for a wealthy person to deceive, or bribe, some of the staff hired by companies to supervise SAT and other admissions exams.

Some test supervisors, known as “invigilators,” are prone to making mistakes about exam protocol, Dalton said. “And some of these people are also not paid very well. That could mean the ones who aren’t ethical are susceptible” to bribery — either to allowing bogus test takers to use fake identities or to upgrade exam results.

Both Dalton and Gilley were intrigued by media reports that some of the parents charged in the U.S. scams had claimed their children were disabled, to help trick officials and give the children an advantage in exam writing and in the overall admissions process.

A recent Wall Street Journal article said almost one in four students at some elite U.S. colleges and universities are now classified as disabled, often in regards to anxiety and depression, entitling them to a wide array of special accommodations such as longer times to take exams. Dalton and Gilley were curious about how exactly such false disability claims could work in tricking the admissions process.

Even though the focus of the FBI investigation has been on various scams and bribes parents have used to get their children admitted to top U.S. schools, Gilley said he regularly focuses in Canada on working with faculty to track down classroom cheating by enrolled students.

That often means catching students who are plagiarizing or hiring “ghostwriters” to do their essays and assignments, he said. Gilley usually reports blatant cheats to university authorities on their first offence. Most students, he said, will be expelled after two or three incidents.

“People who tend to cheat always rationalize it by saying, ‘Everybody cheats,’” Gilley said. “I would say that about five per cent will cheat, no matter what you do. But that also means 95 per cent do not cheat. And you want to make sure you’re not punishing all the students to catch the few.”

Even though it can sometimes be difficult, Gilley said every effort must continue to go into rooting out fraud, cheating and general unfairness in all aspects of higher education.

“You want to hope, and the great dream is, that universities are a meritocracy.”

dtodd@postmedia.com

@douglastodd


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14Jan

‘Your country deserves much better’: B.C. judge warned Canadian sentenced to death in China

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A B.C. judge told Robert Lloyd Schellenberg he was lucky to be living in Canada when he sent him to jail for drug trafficking in 2012.

As the Abbotsford man faces the death penalty in China, Justice Neill Brown’s admonition now reads like a chilling warning.

“Your country deserves much better from you. You are in one of the best places in the world to live,” Brown said as he sentenced Schellenberg in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack. 

“You are not caught up in Libya or Syria; I do not have evidence of any abuse in your childhood and I accept that you have your own struggles to deal with, but you have to confront those. After all, it’s not as if you are 18, and having to storm Juno Beach.”

The journey that carried Schellenberg from that courtroom in the Lower Mainland’s Fraser Valley to the centre of an international story is detailed, in part, in court documents obtained by CBC News. 

The 36-year-old was sentenced to death Monday in the Dalian People’s Court in China’s northeast province of Liaoning.

The ruling came after a sudden retrial of a 15-year sentence for allegedly conspiring with others to smuggle 222 kilograms of methamphetamine from China to Australia in 2014.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is shown in Vancouver after her release on bail as she awaits extradition proceedings. Critics have suggested Schellenberg’s death sentence is part of China’s response to the Huawei case. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the sentence, which comes amid speculation Schellenberg is one of several Canadians whose fates are enmeshed in a battle between Canada and China over extradition proceedings for Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou currently underway in Vancouver.

Brown sentenced Schellenberg to two years in 2012 for possession of both cocaine and heroin for the purpose of trafficking as well as simple possession of cannabis resin and methamphetamine.

Because of time served, Schellenberg’s ultimate sentence was 16 months and 12 days.

‘Do not ever underestimate the seriousness’

Schellenberg pleaded guilty to all four counts, which came about as a result of an investigation into a high-volume drug sales operation that saw his apartment in Abbotsford used as a “distribution centre.”

According to the reasons for sentence, Schellenberg was on probation at the time that police raided his fourth-floor apartment, seizing $6,080 worth of cocaine and heroin as well as $3,205 in cash from pill profits.

The judge said Schellenberg was not considered to have been at the “lower rung” of the operation.

His criminal record dates back to February 2003, when he received a six-month sentence for possession for the purpose of trafficking.

In this image taken from a video footage run by China’s CCTV, Schellenberg listens as he is sentenced to death at the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court in Dalian, northeastern China’s Liaoning province. (CCTV via Associated Press)

At the time Brown sent him to jail, Schellenberg was struggling with addiction.

“He had a work-related accident in which he injured his femur,” Brown said. “At the time of his arrest, indeed, he was wearing a cast, and apparently because of his injury, was abusing pain medications.”

The judge noted that Schellenberg’s father “had turned his back on him because of his criminal history although he still has the support of some family members.”

“You are fortunate that you have some family members supporting you,” the judge said. “Do not ever underestimate the seriousness of this kind of an offence.”

At the time of his sentencing in 2012, Schellenberg’s lawyer told the court he was “deeply ashamed, worried about his father and any embarrassment that he is experiencing in the community.”

‘I hope this is the last time’

Schellenberg’s parents could not be reached for comment Monday, but his aunt Lauri Nelson-Jones called the decision the family’s “worst-case fear confirmed.”

“Our thoughts are with Robert at this time. It is rather unimaginable what he must be feeling and thinking. It is a horrific, unfortunate, heartbreaking situation. We anxiously anticipate any news regarding an appeal.”

It is unclear what Schellenberg did between his relase from provincial jail, which was set for mid-2013 and his alleged involvement in the Chinese drug case. Some reports have suggested he worked in the Alberta oil patch.

According to the Chinese court, Schellenberg was part of a group that concealed 222 bags of methamphetamine in plastic pellets and shipped it from Guangdong to Dalian. He allegedly planned to conceal it in tires and tubing and ship it via container to Australia.

Chinese state television said in an earlier report that Schellenberg argued in court that he was a tourist visiting China and was framed by criminals. His lawyer told The Associated Press that he argued during the one-day trial that there was insufficient evidence for his client’s conviction.

Back in 2012, as Brown prepared to send Schellenberg off to jail, he told the drug dealer he was at a critical point in life.

“He has had his chances in the past. He is either going to cure himself of his addicton and reform himself and turn off the path that he has been on or he is not,” Brown said.

“Your basic task is to overcome your addition and reform your life. I hope this is the last time you appear in court.”


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