Day: February 8, 2019



LONDON — British actor Albert Finney, the Academy Award-nominated star of films from Tom Jones to Skyfall, has died at the age of 82.

Finney’s family said Friday that he “passed away peacefully after a short illness with those closest to him by his side.”

Finney was a rare star who managed to avoid the Hollywood limelight for more than five decades after bursting to international fame in 1963 in the title role of Tom Jones.

The film gained him the first of five Oscar nominations. Others followed for Murder on the Orient Express, The Dresser, Under the Volcano and Erin Brockovich.

In later years he brought authority to action movies, including the James Bond thriller Skyfall and two of the Bourne films.

Displaying the versatility of a virtuoso, Finney portrayed Winston Churchill, Pope John Paul II, a southern American lawyer, an Irish gangster and an 18th-century rogue, among dozens of other roles over the years. There was no “Albert Finney”-type character that he returned to again and again.

In one of his final roles, as the gruff Scotsman Kincade in Skyfall, he shared significant screen time with Daniel Craig as Bond and Judi Dench as M, turning the film’s final scenes into a master class of character acting.

Although Finney rarely discussed his personal life, he told the Manchester Evening News in 2012 that he had been treated for kidney cancer for five years, undergoing surgery and chemotherapy.

He also explained why he had not attended the Academy Awards in Los Angeles even when he was nominated for the film world’s top prize.

“It seems silly to go over there and beg for an award,” he told the paper.

The son of a bookmaker, Finney was born May 9, 1936, and grew up in northern England on the outskirts of Manchester. He took to the stage at an early age, doing a number of school plays and — despite his lack of connections and his working-class roots — earning a place at London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

He credited the headmaster of his local school, Eric Simms, for recommending that he attend the renowned drama school.

“He’s the reason I am an actor,” Finney said in 2012.

Albert Finney as Winston Churchill in “The Gathering Storm.”

Finney made his first professional turn at 19 and appeared in several TV movies, including She Stoops to Conquer in 1956 and The Claverdon Road Job the following year.

Soon some critics were hailing him as “the next Laurence Olivier” — a commanding presence who would light up the British stage. Britain’s pre-eminent theatre critic, Kenneth Tynan, called the young Finney a “smouldering young Spencer Tracy” and warned established star Richard Burton about his prowess. In London, Finney excelled both in Shakespeare’s plays and in more contemporary offerings.

Still, the young man seemed determine not to pursue conventional Hollywood stardom. After an extensive screen test, he turned down the chance to play the title role in director David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia, clearing the way for fellow RADA graduate Peter O’Toole to take what became a career-defining role.

But stardom came to Finney anyway in Tom Jones where he won over audiences worldwide with his good-natured, funny and sensual portrayal of an 18th-century English rogue.

That was the role that introduced Finney to American audiences, and few would forget the lusty, blue-eyed leading man who helped the film win a Best Picture Oscar. Finney also earned his first Best Actor nomination for his efforts and the smash hit turned him into a Hollywood leading man.

Director Tony Richardson said his goal for Tom Jones was simply to produce an enjoyable romp.

“No social significance for once,” he said. “No contemporary problems to lay bare. Just a lot of colorful, sexy fun.”

Albert Finney as Ebenezer Scrooge in “Scrooge.”

Finney had the good fortune to receive a healthy percentage of the profits from the surprise hit, giving him financial security while he was still in his 20s.

“This is a man from very humble origins who became rich when he was very young,” said Quentin Falk, author of an unauthorized biography of Finney. “It brought him a lot of side benefits. He’s a man who likes to live as well as to act. He enjoys his fine wine and cigars. He’s his own man, I find that rather admirable.”

The actor maintained a healthy skepticism about the British establishment and even turned down a knighthood when it was offered, declining to become Sir Albert. Finney once said he did not believe in such honours.

“Maybe people in America think being a ’Sir’ is a big deal,” he said. “But I think we should all be misters together. I think the ’Sir’ thing slightly perpetuates one of our diseases in England, which is snobbery. And it also helps keep us ’quaint,’ which I’m not a great fan of.”

Instead of cashing in by taking lucrative film roles after Tom Jones, Finney took a long sabbatical, travelling slowly through the United States, Mexico and the Pacific islands, then returned to the London stage to act in Shakespeare productions and other plays. He won wide acclaim and many awards before returning to film in 1967 to co-star with Audrey Hepburn in Two for the Road.

This was to be a familiar pattern, with Finney alternating between film work and stage productions in London and New York.

Finney tackled Charles Dickens in Scrooge in 1970, then played Agatha Christie’s super-sleuth Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express — earning his second Best Actor nomination— and even played a werewolf hunter in the cult film Wolfen in 1981.

He earned more Best Actor Oscar nominations for his roles in the searing marital drama Shoot the Moon in 1982, co-starring with Diane Keaton, and The Dresser in 1983.

He was nominated again in 1984 for his role as a self-destructive alcoholic in director John Huston’s Under the Volcano.

Even during this extraordinary run of great roles, and his critically acclaimed television portrayal of the pope, Finney’s life was not chronicled in People Weekly or other magazines, although the British press was fascinated with his marriage to the sultry French film star Anouk Aimee.

He played in a series of smaller, independent films for a number of years before returning to prominence in 2000 as a southern lawyer in the film Erin Brockovich, which starred Julia Roberts. The film helped introduce Finney to a new generation of moviegoers, and the chemistry between the aging lawyer and his young, aggressive assistant earned him yet another Oscar nomination, this time for Best Supporting Actor.

His work also helped propel Roberts to her first Best Actress Oscar. Still, Finney declined to attend the Academy Awards ceremony — possibly damaging his chances at future wins by snubbing Hollywood’s elite.

He went on to star in director Tim Burton’s Big Fish and portrayed Britain’s wartime leader, Winston Churchill, in The Gathering Storm.

Finney also tried his hand at directing and producing and played a vital role in sustaining British theatre.

Finney is survived by his third wife, Pene, son Simon and two grandchildren. Funeral arrangements were not immediately known.

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Police charge Hamilton woman in the 2017 death of her four-year-old son

Hamilton police have charged a woman with manslaughter in connection with the death of her four-year-old son back in September, 2017.

Police say that they responded to a residence on Idelwood Drive on the morning of Sept. 27, 2017 after receiving a 911 call about an unresponsive child.

They say that officers and paramedics arrived “within minutes,” at which point they found four-year-old Kane Driscoll “obviously deceased.”

As per police policy, the investigation into the death was assigned to the Major Crime Unit since it involved a child under the age of five.

Police say that the subsequent investigation initially uncovered no signs of foul play.

Furthermore, police say that Kane’s parents were “cooperative” with the investigation at first.

Police say that investigators learned that Kane was born with numerous medical issues which led to several major operations and many months of hospitalization. The child, however, had recently started junior kindergarten and by all accounts had overcome “the worst of his challenges,” police say.

After a post-mortem was conducted on Kane and no cause of death could be determined, toxicology tests were ordered.

Police received the results of those toxicology tests in December, 2017 and learned that there was a lethal dose of drugs in Kane’s system. Following that determination, police say that investigators classified the death as a homicide but for “strategic and investigative purposes” opted not to share that news with the public.

In February of 2018, police say that investigators notified Kane’s parents of the cause of death and advised them that they were being considered as suspects.

That revelation prompted both of Kane’s parents to seek legal advice and cease cooperating with the investigation, police say.

Police say that investigators eventually found “reasonable grounds” to charge Kane’s mother with manslaughter.

However, after learning that Kane’s mother was pregnant, police say that they decided to notify the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society, which decided to apprehend her newborn baby.

The CAS took the step of notifying area hospitals so it could be alerted when the baby was delivered but in October it was determined that Kane’s mother had went to Newfoundland and delivered the baby there.

On Wednesday, members from the Hamilton Police Major Crime Unit travelled to Bonavista, Newfoundland where they arrested 39-year-old Lisa Strickland for manslaughter in the death of Kane Driscoll.

Police say that the newborn that Strickland gave birth to in Newfoundland was apprehended by the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development in Newfoundland.

Strickland was returned to Ontario on Thursday and appeared in court in Hamilton earlier this morning, where she was remanded into custody.

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Serial killer Bruce McArthur to learn sentence today

A Superior Court judge will release his decision today on how long serial killer Bruce McArthur will have to wait to apply for parole.

McArthur has pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder, an offence which carries an automatic sentence of life in prison without the chance of parole for 25 years.

But the Crown is asking that McArthur’s parole eligibility be set at 50 years, a decision which would mean the serial killer would be 116 years old before he could apply for parole.

“Time to time, a crime in our criminal justice system is so deplorable, so devoid of mercy, so cold-blooded, denunciation, retribution, and giving a sense of justice to the many victims in the community at large become the paramount and virtually singular consideration,” assistant Crown attorney Craig Harper said in his sentencing submissions earlier this week.

McArthur brutally murdered eight men with ties to the city’s LGBTQ community between 2010 and 2017. The 67-year-old hid their dismembered bodies at a property in Leaside where he stored tools for his landscaping business.

Harper noted that McArthur was “relishing in the gratification” of his crimes when he staged his naked victims in photos after killing them.

The serial killer “compounded the degradation,” Harper said, by putting his victims in planters and moving them around, preventing them from having a final “resting place.”

“He, in essence, created his own macabre cemetery of his victims, victims he often visited several times a day as if he could not let them go,” Harper said on Tuesday.

“Everything Mr. McArthur did after the murders points not to shame or remorse but relishing in gratification, wanting to relive each murder.”

McArthur’s lawyer James Miglin argued that extending the parole eligibility would be unduly harsh” and noted that McArthur’s release on parole after 25 years is “highly unlikely.”

Miglin said McArthur’s decision to waive his preliminary inquiry and plead guilty spared the family and friends of the victims a lengthy and traumatic trial. He said McArthur’s actions should be considered mitigating factors in sentencing.

Justice John McMahon is expected to release his decision at 10 a.m.

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British, Irish leaders to meet amid Brexit tensions

LONDON — The British and Irish leaders are meeting to discuss the Irish border — and mend fences — amid a tense U.K.-EU standoff over Brexit.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will dine with Irish premier Leo Varadkar in Dublin to press her case for changes to Britain’s divorce deal with the EU. Britain’s Parliament rejected the agreement last month, largely over concerns about a provision designed to ensure an open border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

Britain is due to leave the bloc on March 29. The bid for last-minute changes has exasperated EU leaders.

But the parties have at least agreed to keep talking. The British and Irish attorneys general are holding talks Friday to see if there is any common ground on the border.

The Associated Press

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‘Time did not heal:’ Slain Saskatchewan Cree man’s mother still looks for relief

REGINA — Debbie Baptiste says she was hopeful when she went into the trial of the man accused of killing her son. 

Hopeful that she would find justice for Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Cree man who was shot and killed on a farm near Biggar, Sask., in August 2016.

But after two weeks in court and 13 hours of jury deliberation, she left angry.

Farmer Gerald Stanley, who admitted he fired the gun on the day her son died, was found not guilty of second-degree murder. He walked away a free man.

“I just have to keep living a nightmare over and over again,” Baptiste said in an interview this week.

“It doesn’t get better. Time did not heal.”

Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the controversial, high-profile verdict in the Stanley trial. A pipe ceremony and candlelight vigil are planned in North Battleford, Sask., and Boushie’s family members are expected to share their thoughts about the last year.

Stanley took the stand at his trial and testified that his gun had gone off accidentally. He said he was firing to scare off some young people he thought were stealing from him after they drove onto his property.

Boushie was sitting in the driver’s seat of a Ford Escape when he was shot in the back of the head.

Public reaction to the acquittal was immediate and intense.

While some rural property owners, fed up with high crime rates, saw justice in the verdict, social media also lit up with rage and grief.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that he empathized with the pain felt by Boushie’s family. Jody Wilson-Raybould, federal justice minister at the time, pledged that Canada “can and must do better.”

The next day, rallies were held from coast to coast. A protest camp quietly set up on the lawn of the Saskatchewan legislature and stayed there for more than six months.

Within two months of the verdict, the federal government brought forward legislation that proposes to abolish peremptory challenges, which allow lawyers to reject potential jurors without having to provide a reason.

Such challenges were criticized during the Stanley trial for allowing the defence to exclude visibly Indigenous people during jury selection. 

“If they go through, these are probably the most fundamental changes to the jury system that I’ve seen in 30 years of teaching criminal justice,” said Kent Roach, a law professor at the University of Toronto.

“Just like the case was extremely polarizing for the public, it’s also been very polarizing for the legal community.”

Roach, who recently published a book about the Stanley case and its racial and historical context, said the trial received worldwide media attention because of the push by Boushie’s family for change.

“They’ve had to grieve in public,” said family lawyer Eleanore Sunchild.

Roach believes there ought to have been a coroner’s inquest into Boushie’s death. It could have examined what happened against the backdrop of racism, rural crime, policing and treaties, he said.

“What I fear is that we will continue to have polarized opinions about this case and that, with the exception of these controversial Criminal Code amendments, it may actually fade into history as just … another example of where Canadian justice has failed Indigenous people.”

One year after the acquittal, Baptiste has lost hope she will ever have justice for her son, but is still looking for “change in the justice system — that we have equal rights in that courtroom.”

She wants a public inquiry.

The provincial government, saying the trial laid bare the facts of the case, has rejected that.

Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan who, along with Premier Scott Moe, met with Boushie’s family after the verdict, said the province wants to expand restorative justice and culturally sensitive programs.

“We should never forget the tragic death of Colten Boushie and how it changed the lives of two Saskatchewan families forever,” Morgan said in a statement.

Alvin Baptiste, Colten’s uncle, wants a law firm established that would be devoted to helping Indigenous people through the justice system. He also wants a museum in North Battleford to teach people about First Nations history in the region.

Beside seeing more Indigenous peoples on juries, Debbie Baptiste wants more Aboriginal judges and Crown prosecutors. Of the 88 judges currently serving in Saskatchewan, four have self-declared as Indigenous.

But no matter what changes may come, Baptiste knows she faces one unending reality.

“I still miss my son,” she said.

“That will never change.”


Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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