Canada briefs – October 14

A lawyer is suggesting to the Manitoba Court of Appeal that a five-year-old girl may have sought refuge in a basement after she was repeatedly beaten, shot at and verbally abused.

Murder victim may have sought refuge in basement: lawyer

WINNIPEG — A lawyer is suggesting to the Manitoba Court of Appeal that a five-year-old girl may have sought refuge in a basement after she was repeatedly beaten, shot at and verbally abused.

And if the girl was there voluntarily, first-degree murder convictions against her mother and the woman’s boyfriend should be reduced, Mike Cook argued Tuesday.

“There is some doubt as to whether the parents forced her down there,” Cook said. “Perhaps she liked to be away from them.”

Cook is one of the lawyers appealing the convictions of Samantha Kematch and Karl McKay in the death of Phoenix Sinclair. The little girl died in 2005 on the concrete basement floor of the family’s home after a final assault.

The death, on the Fisher River reserve north of Winnipeg, caused a public outcry. Phoenix had been in foster care for much of her life, yet her death went undetected for nine months.

A social worker who visited Kematch at a Winnipeg apartment about three months before Phoenix’s death saw a sibling playing outside and decided everything was fine.

A jury convicted Kematch and McKay of first-degree murder last December and they were sentenced to life in prison.

Under the Criminal Code, a slaying committed while forcibly holding someone elevates the crime to first-degree murder rather than second-degree murder or manslaughter.

Judicial recount in ends in tie

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A judicial vote recount ending in an exact tie has squelched the hopes of a teenager who was briefly thought to be Canada’s youngest mayor ever — at least for now.

Kurtis Coombs, 19, made national headlines when it at first appeared he’d won the top political job in Paradise, near St. John’s, N.L., by just three votes on Sept. 29.

The stunning victory was short-lived.

Incumbent Ralph Wiseman demanded a recount that found the two candidates were in a dead tie.

The statistically boggling stalemate was decided when the two men’s names were put in a recycling bin to be drawn — in accordance with municipal elections law — and Wiseman’s was chosen.

Coombs then asked for a judicial recount in provincial court.

The result Tuesday was the same as the first local review: an exact tie of 1,821 votes for each man after the judge ruled to accept or reject a handful of disputed ballots.

The judge put the matter back to Paradise returning officer Joyce Moss.

She said Wiseman’s victory-by-draw would stand.

“The draw has been done,” she said in an interview, stressing that by law the new council must be sworn in within 14 days of the vote — or before tomorrow.

Coombs and his lawyer interpret the law to indicate that, after a judicial review resulting in a tie, another draw should be held.

They have vowed to take their case to Newfoundland’s Supreme Court if Wiseman is sworn in.

Moss said they can go ahead.

Sixteen per cent of deportees deemed criminals or security threats

MONTREAL — Canada has booted close to 19,000 foreign criminals and security threats from the country in the last decade.

Figures from the Canada Border Services Agency show those cases represent only a small fraction — 16 per cent — of all deportations from the country.

Hundreds of those deportees were sent to countries deemed among the most dangerous in the world — places like Haiti, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Iraq.

Removal orders are generally not carried out for such countries, which are listed on Canada’s Temporary Suspension of Removals list.

The list exists to ensure people are not deported to places were war or natural disaster could prove life-threatening, but criminals are exempt from non-removal orders.

Immigration advocates say that while many removals are well-founded, some people are deported to dangerous places for very minor indiscretions like shoplifting.

Chopper inspected for gearbox cracks

HALIFAX — The same model of helicopter involved in a fatal crash off Newfoundland this year is undergoing safety checks in the United Kingdom due to cracks in the footings that attach the gearbox to the aircraft.

A letter sent by Sikorsky to all S-92 helicopter operators says the U.S.-based firm has dispatched engineers to examine the gearbox of a Scottish-based operator after unexplained cracks were discovered in the footing.

Earlier this year, the entire S-92 fleet was grounded after a crash off Newfoundland in which 17 people died.

Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board said that a mounting stud that held the oil filter to the gearbox broke off, leading to a sudden loss of oil minutes before the fatal crash.

A letter from Sikorsky sent Oct. 7 says all of the reported cracks have occurred on helicopters that fly in the North Sea region of Europe.

The Sikorsky letter, provided to The Canadian Press by a British labour union that sits on a joint safety committee, says the most recent crack occurred on a new gearbox which had experienced the same problem just three days earlier.

A spokesman for Sikorsky was not immediately available for comment.

Trial begins for man accused of killings

VANCOUVER — The trial for a man facing four counts of first-degree murder starts today in Vancouver.

Charles Kembo is accused of killing his wife, step-daughter, girlfriend and business partner over a three-year period starting in late 2002.

His wife’s body has never been found.

Kembo, a government-sponsored refugee from Malawi who arrived in Canada in 1989, was arrested shortly after the body of his step-daughter was found in Richmond, B.C., in July 2005.

He was ordered deported in 1994 after a fraud conviction, but wasn’t removed from the country because Citizenship and Immigration didn’t have what’s called a “danger opinion” that proved he posed a threat to Canadians.

Once it gets underway, the trial could last up to eight months.

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