Day: February 15, 2019

A Letter Of Support To Jody Wilson-Raybould, From One Indigenous Woman To Another

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould talks with media in Ottawa on June 6, 2017.

A version of this open letter originally appeared on

Dear Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould,

It’s been just over three years since I wrote my first open letter to you. You were named Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. You were the first Indigenous person to hold such a title. I remember that day clearly. I sat in the back of my laws of evidence class and, as the news poured in, I struggled to hold back tears of joy. Immediately after class ended, I went home to cry and pray. I am now a recently called lawyer with barely a fraction of your experience.

In the past few weeks, you were moved to a different portfolio. Some people called it a demotion. You saw the new role as a “great honour.” Shortly after, news broke that the Prime Minister’s Office attempted to press you to intervene in the prosecution of a major corporation.

I know you do not need my words of support, but I want you to know that you still give me hope, as an Indigenous woman and most certainly as an Indigenous lawyer. For other people like me, especially in the face of public degradation of your work ethic by unnamed individuals, you continue to remain an inspiration for all. And, while we may not be the same, we are somewhat similar in what you are experiencing today.

Integrity is word that is rarely talked about, and if you asked someone what integrity means to them, some people might draw a blank. Growing up, I was taught that bravery was one of the seven grandfather teachings, and to be brave is to show integrity — to do what is right despite the consequences, good or bad. I still believe in this teaching today as an Indigenous woman.

For lawyers, however, to have integrity is to also have good character, a requirement for all licensed lawyers. And, for me in particular, this is why you continue to inspire me.

If someone wonders what integrity is today, I hope they think of you. I know I will.

From June 2017 until February 2018, I was under a good-character investigation by my regulator, the Law Society of Ontario. I was under this investigation after my own self-disclosures, as required by the lawyer licensing process and in my own desire to be honest in my application to become a lawyer licensing candidate. I note, however, that not all lawyer licensing candidates undergo a good-character investigation. During those nearly nine months, I was greatly impacted by the investigation, mentally, emotionally and financially. I was told not to discuss the investigation until after I was called to the bar.

While you may not be able to speak or say the things in order to defend yourself publicly, I know that many have done so to date, even if some of them disagree with your politics. This is why I write this letter.

What is happening in the public domain is a sad state of affairs from a political party that I have supported since my first vote. I am saddened that the prime minister and/or his office have chosen to take a toxic and manipulative approach, one in which you are significantly limited, professionally, from defending yourself. As an Indigenous woman who tries to live by the seven grandfather teachings, especially bravery, it makes me sick to my stomach.

I know that you have good people in your corner, especially as your dad defends your integrity in the public sphere. Just like you, I also had a father who would have defended my integrity. During my good-character investigation, I had to defend why my own traditional way of being, as dictated through my cultural practices, could meet the threshold for being a lawyer in a colonial legal system. Despite the years of experience distancing us, I understand what you are going through, even if on a less significant scale, and I wholeheartedly support you.

I believe in living with bravery and integrity is important. Your actions over the last few days, which speak volumes on their own, only make being a young Indigenous lawyer even more of a privilege. It is not a privilege because only a select few can be a lawyer; it is a privilege because Indigenous people, particularly Indigenous women, continue to live with integrity, as we have always done. If someone wonders what integrity is today, I hope they think of you. I know I will.

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You have worked hard to get where you are, and I know that you will continue to exemplify integrity because you are also an Indigenous woman that comes from a long line of ancestors that demonstrated integrity, long before reference to any colonial legal system.

You will always be an inspiration for me. I am forever grateful for Indigenous women like you who make way for others. In the end, it is a shame that the prime minister and his office continue to act without integrity in the face of these allegations against you.

Miigwetch (thank you) for everything.

Naomi Sayers Ozaawaagiizis’okwe

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By Steph Crosier

A Kingston man arrested on Thursday faces three charges of first-degree murder in cases dating back to 1995.

Michael Wentworth, also known as Michael Verney, has been charged in the deaths of Henrietta Knight in 1995, Richard Kimball in 1996 and Stephen St. Denis in 2001.

The 65-year-old also faces a slew of other charges: armed robbery, disguise with intent, hostage taking using a firearm, possession of an explosive device, endangering life by planting an explosive device, and intentional and reckless cause of damage by detonating it.

His former-spouse, 52-year-old Sandra Carr, was also arrested Thursday and charged with obstructing justice and as a party to first-degree murder.

The charges come after the Kingston Police and OPP searched two properties in the east end late Thursday evening.

The properties were a yellow bungalow at 966 Cottage Farms Rd. off Highway 2 and a former feed mill at 1121 Middle Rd. On Thursday afternoon, multiple officers, some in uniform and others not, searched through and around the properties.

An OPP officer adjusts a poster showing at Kingston police headquarters that shows three cold case victims Henrietta Knight, Richard Kimball and Stephen St. Denis at a press conference in Kingston, Ont. on Friday Feb. 15, 2019. Police in eastern Ontario say they have solved three cold case homicides in Kingston, Ont. Ontario Provincial Police and Kingston police allege a 65-year-old man murdered one woman and two men between 1995 and 2001.

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Flight academy, instructor sued over fatal 2017 plane crash

HARTFORD, Conn. — The sister of a student pilot who died in a small plane crash in Connecticut in 2017 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit accusing the instructor of failing to prevent the crash and the flight school of failing to maintain the plane.

It’s the second such lawsuit against the now-defunct American Flight Academy in connection with two fatal plane crashes in a five-month span in late 2016 and early 2017. Students died in both crashes, while the instructors survived.

Marie Matta-Isona, the administrator of her brother’s estate, filed the latest lawsuit Monday in New Haven Superior Court, seeking an undisclosed amount of money.

Her brother, Pablo Campos-Isona, 31, died after a Piper PA38 crashed in East Haven while he and instructor Rafayel Hany Wassef, of New London, were practicing touch-and-go landings near Tweed New Haven Airport on Feb. 22, 2017.

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded there was a fuel selector valve failure that likely caused the engine to stall. Officials also said Wassef contributed to the crash by allowing the plane to exceed the “critical angle of attack” during an emergency return to the airport.

The lawsuit alleges American Flight Academy and its owner, Arian Prevalla, failed to properly maintain the plane and inspect the fuel selector valve. A lawyer for the academy and Prevalla, Kevin Dehghani, declined to comment Friday.

The lawsuit also blames Wassef, who suffered multiple broken bones.

“Wassef failed to assume the controls of the aircraft … at an earlier time and in an effective manner, when he should have, and could have done so if he had exercised proper judgment for a prudent flight instructor with his training, experience and background,” the lawsuit says.

A message seeking comment was left for Wassef, 22. It’s not clear whether he has a lawyer who could respond to the allegations.

American Flight Academy also made news in October 2016 when one of its planes, a twin-engine Piper PA-34 Seneca, crashed on Main Street in East Hartford near jet engine-maker Pratt & Whitney — sparking early but unfounded concerns about possible terrorism. The wreck killed student Feras Freitekh, of the country of Jordan. Prevalla, the academy’s owner, was the instructor and survived.

Prevalla told investigators Freitekh was a disgruntled student who crashed the plane on purpose as they argued during the flight. Freitekh’s family and friends have said they don’t believe that story.

Federal agents have been investigating that crash and seized records from the academy’s office at Hartford-Brainard Airport. No findings have been released.

Freitekh’s father also filed a wrongful death lawsuit, which remains pending, against the academy. The lawsuit also alleges that the plane was not properly maintained and that Prevalla failed to prevent the crash by not assuming control of the aircraft earlier during the flight. The academy has denied wrongdoing.

Three former students of the academy also are suing the school , saying they spent thousands of dollars for commercial pilot training and were left in the lurch when the academy closed following the two fatal plane crashes. Dehghani, the academy’s lawyer, has said the school denies the students’ allegations.

Dave Collins, The Associated Press

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Roopesh Rajkumar, Father Of Girl Who Died After Amber Alert, To Face Charges: Police

Riya Rajkumar, 11, and Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, are seen in this undated police handout photo.

BRAMPTON, Ont. — A father who allegedly killed his 11-year-old daughter while the two were supposed to be celebrating the girl’s birthday is in police custody and will soon be facing charges in her death, officers west of Toronto said Friday.

Peel regional police Const. Danny Marttini said Roopesh Rajkumar was en route back to Brampton, Ont., the city where his daughter Riya was found dead late Thursday. He was arrested by provincial police some 130 kilometres away, near Orillia, Ont.

Riya was briefly the subject of an Amber Alert on Thursday night, hours after her mother went to police to report that 41-year-old Rajkumar, her former boyfriend, was allegedly making comments indicating his intention to harm both himself and their child, Marttini said.

“She came in already fully concerned saying, ‘this is what he’s saying to me, I’m concerned for the well-being of my daughter, I need some help,”’ Marttini said. “Obviously our investigators took action right away.”

‘Spectrum of charges’ being examined: police

The girl did not live with her father on a full-time basis, police said, but had been dropped off at a gas station in nearby Mississauga, Ont., at about 3 p.m. so her father could take her out for her birthday.

Riya was found dead at her father’s home shortly after the Amber Alert was issued at around 11:30 p.m., Marttini said.

OPP Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne said a motorist driving on Highway 11 in Oro-Medonte, Ont., shortly before midnight noticed Rajkumar’s vehicle, which had been described in the Amber Alert broadcasted to cellphones across the province.

“As a result of the Amber Alert, they observed the vehicle and gave us the coordinates,” she said. “Thankfully … we were able to apprehend this man.”

Marttini said it’s too early to know what charges the father will be facing, but indicated he will officially be accused in Riya’s death.

“There’s obviously the potential for first-degree (murder), second-degree or manslaughter,” Marttini said. “That conversation has to happen between our homicide bureau and the Crown attorney … That is the spectrum of charges we’re looking at.”

We were really hoping last night she would be found alive, not knowing this morning we’d have this tragic news.Emmanuel Okafor, neighbour

The area around Rajkumar’s Brampton home was cordoned off by police Friday morning and officers were seen moving around the area.

Several people stopped by the scene to leave flowers and pay their respects.

Emmanuel Okafor, who lives nearby, paused near the home, clasped his hands and said a silent prayer.

“I pray to God the family lives through this,” he said. “No family should ever go through this … It breaks my heart.”

Okafor said he followed the situation closely after the Amber Alert was issued.

“It’s senseless,” he said. “We were really hoping last night she would be found alive, not knowing this morning we’d have this tragic news.”

Local resident Jennifer Fuller places flowers at the scene outside of a house where a young girl was found dead in Brampton, Ont. on Feb. 15, 2019.

Christopher Willis, who also lives nearby, said the neighbourhood was stunned by the news.

“It’s shocking to know this could happen close to home,” he said, adding the story has particular resonance for him as the father of a three-year-old girl. “It just seems impossible.”

Jennifer Fuller, who has a daughter around the same age as Riya, laid flowers a snowbank near the home.

“It’s sickening and it’s sad,” she said.

Grief and shock were also setting in at Meadowvale Village Public School in Mississauga, Ont., where Riya was a Grade 5 student.

The school issued a statement expressing shock at the girl’s “tragic” death, announcing flags would be lowered to half-mast, and outlining supports available to students struggling to cope with the news.

“Riya was a well-liked student, and her death is deeply felt by everyone at the school,” Principal Stacy Service said in the letter. “Even students who did not personally know Riya will also be affected.”

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie called Riya’s death “senseless,” and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown called the alleged killing a “horrific act.”

Both Peel and provincial police said they continued to deal Friday with another form of fallout from the Amber Alert — people calling to complain about the late-night alerts or repeat broadcasts that were issued after Rajkumar was in custody.

Dionne lamented that some people valued their own convenience over the safety of a child, a sentiment echoed by Marttini.

“We’re talking about a child that was missing,” Marttini said. “I feel for everyone, but given the circumstances, I think it did lead to the arrest of the individual. I think that’s what we have to focus on.”

The Amber Alert that helped lead to Rajkumar’s arrest is a special bulletin issued when a child under 18 is abducted and believed to be in imminent danger. In order to meet the criteria for the alert, police must also have a description of either a suspect or a suspect vehicle.

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Girl found dead after Amber Alert was a ‘sparkle’ and ‘very well liked,’ her school says

The 11-year-old girl found dead at a Brampton home after allegedly being abducted by her father was a “sparkle” and a high-achiever, her school said Friday.

Riya Rajkumar was supposed to be celebrating her birthday with her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, on Thursday evening, but when she wasn’t returned to her mother on time, concerns about her wellbeing grew.

Her mother contacted police at around 7 p.m., authorities said, after Roopesh Rajkumar allegedly made alarming comments to her about plans to harm both himself and his child.

“She (the mother) came in already fully concerned saying, ‘This is what he was saying to me, I am concerned for the wellbeing of my daughter and I need some help,” Peel regional police Const. Danny Marttini said.

“Obviously our investigators took action right away.”

Riya became the subject of an Amber Alert at around 11:30 p.m., several hours after her 41-year-old father failed to bring her home. Police said they exhausted all other avenues before activating the alert.

Within an hour, the young girl was found dead in the basement of a Brampton duplex where the suspect is said to live. The discovery led to the cancellation of the Amber Alert.

Riya’s peers and teachers arrived at Meadowvale Village Public School in Mississauga on Friday morning to a memorial table assembled in the Grade 5 student’s honour.

Principal Stacey Service said Riya’s death is being felt “deeply by everyone at the school.”

Grief counsellors have been made available at the school for those struggling with the news of her death. Teachers were also provided with a “script” to deliver to students about the situation.

Students and staff have been encouraged to visit the memorial in the school library and leave messages of condolence or memories of the young girl.

“What I understand from the staff in the building is that Riya was a sparkle,” Carla Pereira, the communications director for Peel District School Board said.

“She was a firecracker. She was very well liked. She achieved very well, she was successful in school. She had lots of friends and was very popular.”

Charges still pending against father

Roopesh Rajkumar was arrested about 130 kilometres away, near Orillia, Ont., by Ontario Provincial Police in what’s been described as a “high-risk takedown.” He was transferred into the custody of Peel Regional Police on Friday morning.

Police said Rajkumar was located as “a direct result” of someone receiving the Amber Alert.

Charges against the suspect are still pending.

Const. Danny Marttini said she expects Rajkumar will be charged within the next 24 hours, but that investigators need to meet with Crown attorneys to discuss the “level of charges” before they do so formally.

Meanwhile, forensic teams have descended on the Brampton home near Queen Street and Highway 401, where they continue to comb for evidence.

The home is completely taped off by police and several cruisers remain parked nearby.

Marttini described it as an “active scene.”

“They will be taking photographs, they will be collecting pieces of evidence… Everything we need to make sure we have all the information about what occurred inside the residence,” she said.

Riya did not live with her father on a full-time basis, according to police. She was reportedly dropped off at a gas station in Mississauga at around 3 p.m. on Thursday, where her father picked her up to take her out for her birthday.

Marttini said this kind of case can be particularly difficult for officers and that support services will be made available to all who attended the scene.

“It can be very difficult, especially for those who arrive first on scene and have to see and help and assist however they can with everything. It can be very emotional for some,” she said. “The officers will be debriefed, so they too can process what’s going on.”

Reaction to Amber Alert activation

The activation of the Amber Alert System for Riya Rajkumar was heard and seen on mobile devices across Ontario.

Peel police said the fact someone spotted Roopesh Rajkumar after reading the alert proves that “the system works.”

Despite this, the police service reported receiving numerous 911 calls from people complaining about the alert and the time it was issued. Police called the reaction “unfortunate” and urged people to consider the gravity of the situation they were being notified of.

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