Missed me on TVO’s program The Agenda with Steve Paiken on February 26? You can watch the entire program online (embedded after the jump). The segment, a panel discussion on honour killings, featured Deeyah Khan (inset), whose film about the honour killing in 2006 of Banaz Mahmod in England won the 2013 Emmy Award for best International Documentary. The panel also featured activist and educator Aruna Papp, a South Asian immigrant to Canada who wrote a book about her struggle against the oppressive honour and shame code to which her family subscribed, and Hafsa Lodi a freelance journalist based in London, England and Dubai, who is a former Ryerson University (Toronto) student who wrote a column about media coverage of honour killings in Canada, particularly the Shafia case.
I’m not surprised that Kingston criminal lawyer David Crowe (inset) has sued convicted mass honour killer Mohammad Shafia. Crowe claims in a civil lawsuit that Shafia agreed to pay the trial legal bill of his accomplice/killer/wife Tooba and has now reneged on final payment. Crowe represented Tooba during the trial. Sources tell me that Crowe has been complaining for more than a year that he was never paid in full for his work on the trial. Maclean’s reporter Michael Friscolanti has this excellent story about the legal action. I’m not surprised, given what many people told me after I began covering the case in 2009 – that Shafia was a wealthy but incredibly stingy man who worshipped money. My book on the case, Without Honour, includes revelations you won’t find elsewhere about the depths of millionaire Shafia’s tightfistedness – such as his insistence in staying in cheap hotels and eating at discount restaurants during a lengthy business trip to China. One lawyer I spoke to who had dealings with Shafia noted that: “It’s one thing to have lots of money, but parting with it is another matter.”
James Giff (inset), an imprisoned killer who raped and stabbed a 16-year-old girl, leaving her dying in a snowbank, has been granted permission to leave prison with no supervision. Giff, who was diagnosed as a sadist – someone who derives sexual pleasure from inflicting pain – was granted unescorted passes that will permit him to leave prison for short periods of time. The decision was made at a parole hearing held in Quebec, where Giff is serving his life sentence. He has been in prison since 1985, when he killed Heather Fraser, a popular high school student in Smiths Falls, a small community in eastern Ontario.
So maybe it’s an exaggeration to say that I learned to love the killers in my life. I certainly learned how to tolerate them, to interrogate them and to expose them, in some cases. It’s part of the story you’ll hear if you pop by the John Dutton Theatre at the main branch of the Calgary Public Library (616 Macleod Trail S.E., Calgary) this Saturday (February 1) where I’ll be speaking about life as a writer of true crime stories – which includes many tales of murder. My talk, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., is one of six on Saturday that is part of the Writer’s Weekend. All of the sessions are free, though you should register at the library’s website. If you attend, I’ll explain the remarkable backstory of that charming fellow (inset), one of the many strange characters I’ve met during a crime-writing career of 20+ years.
I was thrilled today to learn that Without Honour, my book about the 2009 Shafia honour killings, has been longlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction (formerly the Charles Taylor Prize). This prestigious award is given annually to a book that “combines a superb command of the English language, an elegance of style, and a subtlety of thought and perception.” It’s an honour to earn a place on a roster of gifted writers – and award events often feature great parties – though I’ll have to get on the shortlist for that. The shortlist will be announced January 15 and the winner revealed March 10. It’s humbling to see that I’m in the company of formidable literary figures, including past Taylor nominees such as personal idol Stevie Cameron, the legendary investigative journalist who was on the Taylor shortlist in 2011 for On the Farm, her definitive account of the Pickton serial murder case.
Imprisoned serial rapist Selva Subbiah(inset) is an outrageous manipulator, in addition to his well-established record as a pernicious predator who has exploited and assaulted women and young girls, but his latest ploy fell flat. The Federal Court rejected Subbiah’s claim of negligence and breach of privacy against Corrections Canada and the Parole Board of Canada. Though the court didn’t say it, Subbiah’s claim was a laughably transparent attempt to extort money from the government after Subbiah was stabbed in May 2009 during a dispute with other convicts at Kingston Penitentiary. Remarkably, Subbiah claimed that he was attacked because his monstrous criminal past was exposed when Cancrime posted online a copy of a December 2008 parole decision. [Read more...]
Triple killer Daljit Singh Dulay (inset), who murdered his sister, her husband and another man, in a bid to restore his traditional Indian family’s honour, has won the right to leave prison with no supervision. At a hearing this month, the Parole Board of Canada decided to give Dulay unescorted passes (full record of hearing after jump) that will permit him to leave prison for short periods. He will be able to visit family at their homes in the Lower Mainland in British Columbia, unless the Border Services Agency decides to deport him. He’s subject to a deportation order imposed in 1993 but authorities could choose not to act on it immediately. Dulay is incarcerated at a minimum-security prison in B.C.
A labour tribunal decision has exposed an ugly feud between Alfred Legere (inset), former warden of Nova women’s prison in Truro, Nova Scotia, and top bosses at Corrections Canada, in a case related to the controversial death of Ashley Smith, a teenage prisoner who choked herself to death in October 2007 at Grand Valley Institution, a federal prison for women in Kitchener, Ontario. Smith’s death is now the subject of a highly publicized inquest that has revealed dramatic CSC failures in the handling of a difficult inmate with serious mental health problems. Legere, who already has testified at the inquest, claims, in internal grievances he has filed, that he has been subjected to harassment, gross mismanagement and he has been scapegoated by CSC over the Smith case. Legere claims that a transfer to another prison was, in fact, a double demotion that amounted to disguised punishment. The details of Legere’s battle with his bosses appear to have been kept quiet, until now. The fight isn’t over so more details may yet emerge.
The CSC Pipes & Drums performed “Amazing Grace” from an upper tier catwalk overlooking the main dome of Kingston Penitentiary during the private decommissioning ceremony held at the prison on October 24 (video after jump). VIPs, including former staff, family of staff who died at KP, and Corrections brass were on hand for the formal event marking the end of the facility’s life as a functioning penitentiary, 178 years after it opened in 1835 at Hatter’s Bay. No decision has been made about the fate of the vast property, which comprises more than 40 buildings within the 20-acre walled compound on the shore of Lake Ontario.
The Harper government has done a good job of silencing critics from within, bureaucratics and caucus members who disagree with the government’s often regressive and ideologically-driven policies on crime and justice. But the Cons face a formidable new foe who can’t be silenced or dismissed as a crackpot. Six months after retirement, a long-serving and universally admired architect of federal crime and justice measures, Mary Campbell (inset), has unleashed withering criticism of the Tories, calling their so called tough-on-crime measures a series of “slogans and failed policies” that reflect a “deep, visceral nastiness” and “do nothing to reduce or address crime.”