David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during their appeals trial in Calgary on March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

No guarantee of third trial for parents in Alberta child’s death: law professor

No guarantee of third trial for parents in Alberta child’s death: law professor

CALGARY — A law professor says there is no guarantee the Crown will move ahead with a third trial for Alberta parents first convicted and then found not guilty in their ill son’s death.

Lisa Silver from the University of Calgary says a senior prosecutor will likely be asked to assess whether the case should go forward.

“You would get concerned as a Crown that if you don’t prosecute, then you’re not messaging something about parental responsibility. I could see the Crown believing there’s public interest in doing this,” Silver said.

“On the other hand, it’s been ongoing since 2012, so it’s nine years and that has to be considered by the Crown, too. It’s the third time. How many trials?”

The Alberta Court of Appeal on Monday overturned a judge’s acquittal in 2019 of David and Collet Stephan in the death of 19-month-old Ezekiel on a charge of failing to provide the necessaries of life.

They were accused of not seeking medical attention sooner for the toddler, who died in 2012.

A jury convicted the couple in 2016, but the Supreme Court of Canada overturned that verdict and ordered a second trial at which a judge acquitted them.

The Appeal Court ruled that critical comments made by Justice Terry Clackson about the speech and demeanour of the original medical examiner during his testimony showed a reasonable likelihood of bias. The court ordered a new trial.

Dr. Bamidele Adeagbo, who was born in Nigeria, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service said the file will be assessed based on public interest and reasonable likelihood of conviction.

David Stephan said in a message to The Canadian Press that he and his wife have not yet decided if they’ll appeal the decision for a third trial to the Supreme Court of Canada.

He also posted an angry commentary on his Facebook page in which he noted it was nine years ago this month that Ezekiel died.

He said legal matters have left him and his wife so broke he had to represent himself at the second trial.

“Ultimately, at the base of this agenda, it’s not about me and my wife. It’s about you. It’s about each and every one of us,” Stephan said.

“Why? Because at the core … this is nothing more than a massive attack on parental rights and medical choice rights here in Canada.”

The Stephans testified at both trials that they thought Ezekiel had croup, an upper airway infection, and treated him with natural remedies, including a smoothie with tinctures of garlic, onion and horseradish.

They said he appeared to be recovering at times and they saw no reason to take him to hospital, despite his having a fever and lacking energy.

They called an ambulance when the boy stopped breathing.

Timothy Caulfield, a professor of health law at the University of Alberta, has been a critic of alternative medicine and hopes a third trial goes ahead.

“It’s about the expectation on parents to take care of their children and the role of alternative health practices in that space,” said Caulfield, who is also research director of the university’s Health Law Institute.

“It would be useful in having a precedent … (on) the use of alternative medicine and a parents responsibility to their children. Parents don’t have a right to neglect their children, and that’s what this case is really about.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2021.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Instructor Brandt Trimble leads an outdoor spin class at RYDE RD. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Fitness facilities continue to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions

‘It’s really frustrating to be one of the targeted businesses’

Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins (Photo contributed)
Federal budget strangles job growth, says MP Blaine Calkins

‘It is most certainly not a balanced budget’

Kids at Lotsa’Tots West Day Care in Red Deer act out how a caterpillar moves with co-owner and instructor Shireen Sewcharran-Wiebe. Child care providers are hoping Alberta’s provincial government will help fund the national child care program announced this week. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Alberta day care providers hope Alberta will get onboard with national child care program

Some question whether the UCP’s ideology will stand in the way

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney shakes hands with Jason Nixon, minister of Environment and Parks after being sworn into office, in Edmonton on Tuesday April 30, 2019. Town council from the largest municipality in Nixon's constituency is concerned over the province's consultation plans for open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Town of Rocky Mountain House wants better coal consultation

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE, Alta. — Town council from the largest municipality in… Continue reading

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange was in Red Deer on Friday to provide an update on the province's COVID-19 response in schools.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Alberta government aiming for more financial literacy learning in junior and senior high schools

Government providing grants to organizations who will help design financial literacy programming

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks at a television screen as he listens to United States President Joe Biden deliver a statement during a virtual joint statement following a virtual meeting in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘We hope to help a little more’: Biden says he spoke to Trudeau about more vaccines

WASHINGTON — Canada can look forward to an unexpected shot in the… Continue reading

The Mission Correctional Institution in Mission, B.C. is pictured Tuesday, April 14, 2020. A new federal study found that people released from prison were much more likely than the general population to have trouble finding gainful employment, even over a decade after returning to society. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Ease employment hurdles for former prison inmates, federal study urges

OTTAWA — A new federal study found that people released from prison… Continue reading

Governor of the Bank of Canada Tiff Macklem holds a press conference at the Bank Of Canada in Ottawa on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Bank of Canada keeps rate on hold, sees brighter economic outlook

OTTAWA — The Bank of Canada is keeping its key interest rate… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. Tam says new information on COVID-19 and variants prompted the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to suddenly cancel its planned update on who should get the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
AstraZeneca advice from national panel delayed by new data on COVID-19 and variants

OTTAWA — Canada’s chief public health officer says new information on COVID-19… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks at a television screen as he listens to United States President Joe Biden deliver a statement during a virtual joint statement following a virtual meeting in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pressured to adopt tougher emissions target for Biden climate summit

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under pressure to step up… Continue reading

Passengers from Air India flight 187 from New Delhi wait for their transportation to quarantine after arriving at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Wednesday, April 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
ICU pressures mount as COVID fells younger people; Ottawa mulls India travel ban

TORONTO — Amid mounting pressures on critical care in hospitals and concerns… Continue reading

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland delivers the federal budget in the House of Commons as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on in Ottawa on Monday April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Three confidence votes to determine fate of minority Liberal government

OTTAWA — A pair of proposed changes to the federal budget put… Continue reading

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland talks with parents during a virtual discussion on child care in Ottawa, Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Freeland is calling for patience and “flexibility” in response to questions about the government’s criteria for reopening the economy and border. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Freeland urges patience as business looks for answers on reopening border, economy

OTTAWA — Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is urging Canadian companies to… Continue reading

Most Read