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Police Act report finds retired B.C. sgt-at-arms commits neglect of duty

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VICTORIA — British Columbia’s recently retired sergeant-at-arms committed neglect of duty and didn’t tell the truth during an investigation into misconduct at the provincial legislature, a report released Tuesday concluded.

The report by former Vancouver Police Department deputy chief Doug LePard came days after Gary Lenz announced his retirement, saying the damage to his reputation couldn’t be fully repaired after he was placed on administrative leave last year when questions were raised about his spending.

Former clerk of the house Craig James retired last May after former Supreme Court justice Beverley McLachlin concluded he improperly claimed benefits and used legislature property for personal reasons. But McLachlin found Lenz did not engage in misconduct. 

Legislature Speaker Darryl Plecas appointed LePard in June to conduct an independent Police Act investigation into allegations Lenz didn’t uphold his duty as a special provincial constable in over the removal of a truckload of alcohol from the legislature in April 2013 by the former clerk.

“I have concluded the evidence in its totality demonstrates that sergeant-at-arms Lenz did not uphold his oath as a special provincial constable and appears to substantiate that sergeant-at-arms Lenz committed neglect of duty for the failure in his sworn duty as a special provincial constable to adequately investigate the misappropriation of liquor by Mr. James,” LePard’s report says.

Lenz said in a statement Tuesday he rejects the findings in LePard’s report.

“I do not accept the conclusion reached by Mr. LePard that I did not give truthful testimony about my decision not to commence a formal investigation in to the removal of alcohol from the legislative precinct by Mr. James in 2013,” Lenz said. “I dispute that finding in the strongest possible terms.”

He said he has always told the truth while employed as sergeant-at-arms and was truthful in his testimony to LePard.

Lenz and James have denied any wrongdoing since they were placed on administrative leave in November 2018.

McLachlin’s report looked at administrative allegations made by Plecas in a report he released in January.

The Speaker alleged that Lenz and James engaged in inappropriate spending on personal items and foreign trips. His report also alleged inappropriate vacation pay outs and retirement allowances.

The RCMP said last November that it was investigating staff at the legislature, but it has not said who is the subject of the probe. Its investigation was aided by two special prosecutors, who have not commented on the case.

Lenz is a former RCMP detachment commander in nearby Sidney, B.C., who was appointed the legislature’s sergeant-at-arms in 2009. James was appointed clerk of the house in 2011.

The sergeant-at-arms is responsible for maintaining order in the legislative chamber and other areas used for the business of the house.

LePard’s report said he interviewed 14 witnesses, including Plecas, Mullen and Lenz. LePard said he also reviewed documents and some of Lenz’s cell phone records and emails.

The report said Lenz, with his lawyer present, was interviewed on Sept. 5 about the removal of alcohol from the legislature by James.

“He agreed it was a large load of liquor Mr. James took, but said that he assumed he was taking it to the liquor distribution branch for a refund,” the report says.

The report says Lenz told LePard he did not recall having a conversation with a witness who gave evidence that he confronted Lenz about the incident as being wrong and a theft.

“In my view, the evidence is clear that sergeant-at-arms Lenz was not telling the truth when he said orally and in writing to justice McLachlin that he assumed the liquor was being returned for refund and ‘is not aware of any theft of alcohol,’ ” LePard said in the report.

LePard said in the report it was not in his mandate to recommend discipline, but concluded “I find that sergeant-at-arms Lenz’s false oral and written statements to justice McLachlin constitute misconduct that is at the most serious end of the range of misconduct under the Police Act.”

The report, concluded prior to Lenz’s retirement announcement, said disciplinary action would range from suspension without pay to written and verbal reprimands or dismissal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 8, 2019.

 

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press is a national news agency headquartered in Toronto, Canada. It was established in 1917 as a vehicle to permit Canadian newspapers of the day to exchange their news and information. For most of its history, The Canadian Press has been a private, not-for-profit cooperative, owned and operated by its member newspapers. In mid-2010, however, it announced plans to become a for-profit business owned by three media companies once certain conditions are met.

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First Nations displaced by storm share concerns with Scheer campaign

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WINNIPEG — Families forced to flee the Lake Manitoba First Nation are expressing frustration around evacuation efforts following a recent snowstorm that’s left thousands of people in the province without electricity for days.

Babies and seniors alike were crowded into a Winnipeg hotel lobby on Monday waiting for buses in one what woman described as a maddening series of events that have left people feeling like animals.

They said they weren’t sure where the buses would be taking them.

By coincidence, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s campaign arrived at the hotel and some of the evacuees asked for a chance to express their concerns to the media.

Margaret Missyabit’s voice broke as she described walking out of her home on Saturday when the power went out to try and find out what was going on, saying the community was given little time to gather the things they needed before leaving.

Nearly 21,000 Manitoba homes and businesses remained without power early Monday in the wake of a snowstorm that the province’s Crown energy utility said had left an unprecedented amount of damage to transmission lines, towers and more, and will take days to repair.

The Canadian Red Cross opened a warming shelter at the RBC Convention Centre in downtown Winnipeg over the weekend for the First Nations, which it said was necessary because of the potential number of evacuees as well as a lack of available hotel rooms.

Premier Brian Pallister declared a state of emergency early Sunday morning.

The move makes it easier for Manitoba Hydro crews to access private land and invokes help from neighbouring provinces and states — Ontario, Saskatchewan and Minnesota — who were being asked for workers, poles and even transmission towers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 14, 2019

The Canadian Press

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‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his wife’s death

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TORONTO — Cialin Dany knew he was in trouble when he saw a massive palm tree laying on the ground next to the Abaco Lodge.

As hurricane Dorian whirled at the door, Dany, 32, took his Canadian wife, Alishia Liolli, and two of their children and hunkered down in a room at the fishing resort where he worked. Then another tree slammed into the building.

“The bolts start popping, like popcorn, pop, pop, pop, pop,” Dany said. “Then whoosh, the roof flew off.”

The family and a friend who was with them ducked for cover under the bed and prayed. They watched as the wall in the back of the room swayed.

“Then the wall came down,” Dany said as he recalled the events of Sept. 1.

The wall pinned all five underneath the bed. Their 18-month-old son Evans and Dany’s 11-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, Kescianna, wailed with fear.

Dany’s breathing laboured — the bed frame dug into his neck and right shoulder.

“Daddy, daddy, you don’t sound too good,” his daughter said.

“Count to 500 and I’m going to figure something out,” he said.

“I say to God, ‘if you give me 45 minutes, I swear to you I can save them.'”

He grabbed a piece of wood that flew into the room, jammed it under the bed frame and hit it repeatedly. The pressure on his neck eased. He moved a bit and grabbed another errant piece of wood and smashed the wall. He kicked his way through the rubble and slipped out from underneath the bed.

He scrambled to his feet, grabbed another piece of wood to lever the bed, but the wood broke. 

“I need help,” he said to his family.

Liolli told him to get a sledge hammer that was in another room. Dany slammed the tool into the wall, trying to break it up, but the handle snapped in two.

“I’m in really big trouble now,” he thought to himself.

He tried lifting the bed near his friend, Luke Saint Victor, figuring if he could get another adult out, the two of them could save the rest. 

“I ask God for one pound of strength more,” he said.

He moved the bed up a bit, enough for his daughter to get out, then he turned to his wife, who was pinned under the wall.

“I say, ‘Alishia, come on baby, it’s your turn,'” Dany said.

“She threw me Evans and said ‘save the kids!'”

Meanwhile, the water outside the one-storey building continued to rise.

“I’m going for help,” he yelled.

He took the children and got into his car, but glass in the doors began to burst. A shard lodged near baby Evans’ eye. Blood flowed.

“Everything was flying, shingles flying, wood flying,” Dany said.

The water rose fast. The car doors would not open, and his daughter started screaming.

“You are a track star,” he told her. “You can do it, just run. When I tell you to move, we move.”

Dany crawled out the window, took the kids and sprinted to a dumpster that had been blown on its side. They hid there for hours as maggots crawled everywhere.

A slight reprieve came when dawn broke and the sun peeked out. He returned to the lodge to try and save his wife and friend, but  he couldn’t lift up the wall.

Liolli told him to go get help.

Dany dropped his children off at their pastor’s home, found a chainsaw that he hoped would free his wife and friend, and headed back to the lodge, which by then had been flooded.

He called out to his wife and heard his friend, Luke Saint Victor, say in a faint voice “the water came up, the water came up.'”

When the chainsaw failed, Dany used an axe to cut the wall into pieces and finally removed the bed.

Underneath, his wife wasn’t breathing. He performed CPR, but it didn’t work.

“The problem was when she went under the bed, she went on her belly and Luke went on his back,” Dany said. “The water came up, not much, like an inch or two, but it was enough.”

Liolli had drowned.

“My head went blank,” Dany said. “I was crying like a crazy man, just freaking out. I held her in my arms.”

But there was no time for a long embrace. He flagged down a passing power truck, placed Liolli and Saint Victor on the flatbed and then rushed to the clinic. The chief of police, who was there dealing with a flood of bodies being brought in, saw Liolli.

“She’s already gone,” he told Dany.

Dany said he had to get back to his kids. He left Liolli there and prayed Saint Victor would pull through. His friend would die a few days later in Nassau.

After reuniting with his children, Dany called Liolli’s family in LaSalle, Ont., to deliver the news.

Dany later returned to the clinic to figure out how to get Liolli’s body off the island. The authorities moved it to a courtyard along with dozens of other bodies, hidden from the public, but it took a while for Dany to figure that out.

“Nobody would give me an answer, nobody was helping,” he said.

Time was a problem. A body doesn’t last long in the Bahamas heat.

“The smell was starting to rise up on the island,” he said. “I needed to get the boy out of there. It was crowded, dark, and I didn’t trust anyone.”

The airport and docks were overrun with crowds, so he drove to Treasure Cay where he and Evans spent two days outside, getting bit by spiders and bugs, as they waited for a flight off the island. His daughter Kescianna stayed with his ex-wife.

The pair got to Nassau, where Deny was faced with a bureaucratic nightmare that went on for days. Back in Canada, Liolli’s mom, Josie Mcdonagh, tried frantically to get the authorities to help. 

About a week later, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called the family.

“She helped a lot,” Mcdonagh said.

Liolli’s body finally made it to Nassau on Sept. 11. Dany had to identify it.

“I did not want to see her like that, but I had to,” he said. “I had to.”

Liolli’s body was too decomposed to be transported, so he and the family decided on cremation.

It took 20 days to get her remains to Canada.

“I just wanted her family to have something, so they could go somewhere and know where she is,” Dany said.

The family held a funeral and placed Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont. Afterward, they held a wedding for Liolli and Dany — they were common law wife and husband for years — complete with open bar.

“She’s home now,” her mother said.

Last week, Liolli’s family and friends gathered at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto to celebrate her life. Her former sociology professor, Jean Golden, has launched a fundraising campaign to help rebuild Every Child Counts — a vocational school for children with special needs in Abaco that Liolli helped build and run. The school was destroyed during the hurricane.

“Alishia’s dream will never be destroyed,” Golden said through tears.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2019.

On the web:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/every-child-counts-school-in-abaco-bahamas

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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