Canada briefs – December 3

The Ontario government is looking for “creative” new ways to get the attention of Craigslist after the American company ignored repeated requests to remove prostitution ads from its Canadian websites, Attorney General Chris Bentley said Thursday.

Ontario gets frustrated with refusal to drop hooker ads

TORONTO — The Ontario government is looking for “creative” new ways to get the attention of Craigslist after the American company ignored repeated requests to remove prostitution ads from its Canadian websites, Attorney General Chris Bentley said Thursday.

Bentley first wrote to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster in September, just after the San Francisco-based company bowed to pressure from several U.S. attorneys general and removed the prostitution ads from its sites south of the border.

Since then, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the federal government have also written the online classified ad service to ask that the prostitution ads be removed in Canada.

So far, Craigslist has done nothing other than to request a meeting with Ontario officials, allowing hundreds of ads for hookers to be posted on its Canadian sites every day.

“They seem not to think the steps they’ve taken in the United States are not important in the province of Ontario,” said a clearly frustrated Bentley. “I’m very disappointed.”

Craigslist has not responded to requests for comment on the story.

Nor has the company explained why it has so far refused to do what it did in the United States and prohibit ads where sex is sold, often with detailed menus of what’s on offer, price lists and explicit pictures.

Bentley, along with Children’s Minister Laurel Broten and Community Safety Minister Jim Bradley, sent a second letter to Buckmaster Oct. 20, expressing disappointment that “Craigslist has ignored the interests of Ontarians,” but has had no reaction from the company.

In her letter to Craigslist, Alberta Justice Minister Alison Redford said the prostitution ads “appear to be thinly-veiled cover for human trafficking,” and help support a “despicable” crime.

The provinces and Ottawa are concerned the online ads fuel human trafficking and make it easier for pimps to force young women and even children into prostitution, and say there’s no need to wait for a meeting before Craigslist takes the appropriate action.

“We’ve made it quite clear that if Craigslist takes a step in the United States that will have the effect of protecting young people and children, they should take the same step in the province of Ontario,” said Bentley.

“I don’t know why they haven’t, and we’ll have to look for ways of getting their attention in a more creative way.”

Clearly after their quick action to appease American justice officials, Craigslist would have no problem immediately shutting down the prostitution ads in Canada if it wanted to, added Bentley.


Man killed in crossbow shooting at Toronto library; suspect caught

TORONTO — Police were questioning a suspect Thursday night after a man was fatally shot with a crossbow inside a Toronto library.

Linus Smith said she was sitting in a restaurant across the street when a man came out of the library with something in his hand, got into a U-Haul truck and drove off.

Smith said another man came out of the Main Street Library at Gerrard and Main streets and took down the licence number of the truck as it drove off.

“He came out of the library, he was calm, he went into the U-Haul and he drove off,” she said of the first man. “He didn’t speed off or anything, he just drove.”

Smith said she went over to the library to speak to the librarian and was told a man “got hit” inside the library.

“Everybody just came out of the library to the back,” she said. “It’s very traumatizing.”

“He died,” Smith said.

“This street is full of kids … the school is just below the library,” she said.

There’s no word on what led to the altercation, but a man in his 40s was shot in the back with an arrow from a crossbow.

Police said a suspect in his 30s was arrested in east-end Toronto and investigators were in the process of taking witness statements.

Residents near the library said they were bewildered by the unusual and deadly attack.

“It’s shocking, this close to home,” said Troy Ross, 39, who lives across the street from the library and often takes his kids there.

“You don’t think of a crossbow as something for killing people, just as something for recreation,” he added.

Another neighbour, Rory MacGregor, said he hoped it wasn’t a random attack.

“If something random is happening in your neighbourhood with crossbows…” he said, shaking his head.

Incidents involving crossbows aren’t unknown in Canada.

A Mission, B.C., father was charged in July with attacking his son with a crossbow.

RCMP said the 36-year-old man was shot in the forearm with an arrow from the crossbow.

And in December 2009, Montreal police arrested a 42-year-old man following a six-hour standoff. Police later said the man had been holed up inside a house, armed with a crossbow.


Charges withdrawn in child death case

A woman who was wrongfully accused of killing her baby in a case involving discredited former Ontario pathologist Dr. Charles Smith is “relieved” to learn that all charges against her have been dropped, her lawyer said Thursday.

The woman, who can only be identified as C.M. due to a publication ban, said she pleaded guilty in 1994 to killing her child because she thought no one would believe her story over Smith.

Ontario’s top court quashed her conviction in October and ordered a new trial. The Crown in an Ontario court withdrew the manslaughter charge on Thursday.

C.M. was not in court, but her lawyer, James Lockyer, reached her by phone soon after the case concluded.

“She said, ‘Thank God,’ and was obviously pleased and relieved,” he said outside court.

C.M. was 21 years old and didn’t know she was pregnant when she gave birth in the bathroom of her parents’ home in 1992, according to court documents.

The body was discovered in a toilet bowl.

It was a “horrific experience,” Lockyer said.

C.M. maintained her baby boy was stillborn, but Smith concluded that the baby was born alive and died of asphyxiation after conducting an autopsy. C.M. was charged with second-degree murder and spent about a month in jail.

“It was a pretty dreadful scene, as you can imagine, and she was alone when she gave birth,” Lockyer said.

“And then, 24 hours later, as you heard, she’s sitting in a jail cell for the next four weeks. It’s hard to imagine what she went through.”

C.M. pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 1994, saying it “seemed like the only thing to do” given Smith’s stellar reputation at the time as a pediatric forensic pathologist.

Her lawyer had “difficulty” finding a pathologist who was willing to challenge Smith’s findings, court heard. But they were able to convince the Crown to accept a guilty plea to the lesser charge and spare her a jail sentence.

C.M. fulfilled her 300 hours of community work and was on probation for three years, Lockyer said.

A judicial inquiry has since found Smith’s work was responsible, in part, for several people being wrongfully convicted of killing children.

Attorney General Chris Bentley acknowledged there’s still a long road ahead for those who are trying to clear their names, but the province is working to expedite the process.

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