Muhammad Parvez, who strangled his 16-year-old daughter Aqsa (inset) to death because of his distorted belief that she had tarnished his family honour, has died in prison. His death comes nearly a decade after the murder that became a flashpoint for a national debate about cultural traditions imported to Canada by newcomers. “I killed my daughter. . . with my hands,” Parvez said, in a 911 call placed minutes after the murder in the Parvez home in Mississauga, Ontario in December 2007. The Parvez case sparked a sustained and furious national debate about the spread of misogynistic and patriarchal practices that put women and girls at risk of violence and death, though there had been many such murders dating back decades before Aqsa’s death. The debate intensified two years after Aqsa’s death, when four members of the Shafia family were murdered in June 2009 in Kingston, Ontario in a mass honour killing – the case that is the focus of my true crime book, Without Honour: The True Story of the Shafia Family and the Kingston Canal Murders.
Is a witness to evil, who does not intervene, culpable or guilty only of cowardice? Annette Rogers has been to this precipice. Her scarred conscience reflects her failure. She did not do the difficult thing, the right thing. If Rogers had, 16-year-old Heather Fraser (inset) might have survived her encounter with a killer. Fraser was raped and stabbed by James Harold Giff on a cold Monday evening, January 28, 1985, in Smiths Falls, a small town in eastern Ontario on the historic Rideau waterway. Rogers was Giff’s girlfriend at the time. For nearly 25 years, she kept a terrible secret about the murder, until she spoke to me in 2009 (the podcast, after the jump, features her interview). Rogers revealed that she was taken by Giff on the night of the murder – in an act that would forever bind her to that night’s horror – to the snowy park where he had left his victim after raping her and stabbing her twice. Heather wasn’t dead. Bleeding profusely, she was crawling on her hands and knees through nearly two foot deep snow toward a nearby street. Rogers says she heard – but could not see in the dark – Heather’s faint cries for help. Rogers did not do the right thing. She did not run to Heather’s aid, or call police or for an ambulance. She agreed with Giff’s demand for silence, and assistance. She became, for a time, an accomplice. Heather was found hours after she was attacked and was rushed to hospital where she later died. Rogers says her inaction stemmed from fear that Giff would kill her. He had threatened her many times in their abusive relationship, she says. After Giff was jailed for Heather’s murder, Giff warned Rogers that he would hunt her down after release and kill her. This lingering threat has driven Rogers, in an act of self flagellation, to attend every one of Giff’s parole hearings, to listen over and over again to the sordid details of his crimes, and to plead with authorities not to free him. Giff was granted day parole to a halfway house in Montreal in January 2015, but nine months later, his release was suspended, then reinstated. Corrections Canada, which was responsible for supervising Giff’s freedom, refused, at the time, to disclose why Giff’s parole was suspended. Recently, the Parole Board of Canada released documents (read them after the jump) that reveal Giff had a “change of attitude” that sparked concern.
NOTE: This is an updated version of a story first published in 2009. It includes new information, new documents and a new podcast that includes portions of my recorded interview with Annette Rogers not previously released.
Former radio star Jian Ghomeshi (inset) is not guilty of four sexual assaults and one charge of choking, a judge in Toronto ruled today, citing the “deceptive and manipulative” evidence of his accusers. The charges were laid against the former CBC personality after allegations that he assaulted three women between 2002 and 2003. The judge in the sensational case, William Horkins, made it clear in his ruling (read complete decision after the jump) that a finding of “not guilty” doesn’t mean the incidents didn’t happen. Horkins wrote that his finding “is not the same as deciding in any positive way that these events never happened.” But Horkins had harsh criticism for the accusers, saying he found it impossible to have “sufficient faith in the reliability or sincerity of these complainants.”
Through my late teens and early 20s – in late 70s and 80s – heavy-duty plastic milk crates had one notable use, as containers/carriers for long-play, 33 rpm records. Albums fit perfectly into the rugged, square containers that were designed to transport jugs and plastic bags of milk and other products from dairies to retailers and restaurants. It turns out the crates have an entirely unexpected use inside a federal penitentiary, as the raw material for fabrication of a sturdy and lethal prison shank. I dug out of my personal archive a photo I snapped of one of these marvels of convict engineering (inset, in full after jump), after seeing a recent decision of a Federal Court judge who tossed out the internal prison conviction of an Ontario inmate after a five-inch long Fibreglas knife was found inside the convict’s cell.
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.
Muscling in prisons and jails is pernicious, prevalent, and for square johns – folks who live law-abiding, straight lives – a confusing concept. Muscling is akin, in many ways, to bullying, except that in prison, it is a means to secure drugs, weapons, sex, information or just about anything that one convict, or a group of convicts, wants. It’s rare to see a muscling incident examined publicly, with names attached. The heavies – gang bosses, drug lords and psychos who are most active behind bars as musclers – don’t want their corrupt schemes exposed because that threatens to disrupt supply chains. Muscling is the spigot through which contraband flows into prisons. A recent decision of the Federal Court offers rare, detailed insight into a fairly common muscling scam in which the family member of a prisoner is under pressure to smuggle goods into a penitentiary.
In an unequivocal, unanimous decision, three judges of Ontario’s top court dismissed an appeal by a convicted honour killer, a decision that could have implications for appeals in the infamous Shafia mass honour killing case. The Court of Appeal for Ontario refused to overturn the conviction of Hasibullah Sadiqi (inset), who shot to death his sister and her fiance in Ottawa, Ontario in 2006. Sadiqi is serving life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years after he was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder. He acknowledged that he pulled the trigger and had intended to kill both victims, but he claimed that the murders were not planned but were the result of provocation. The prosecution established that Sadiqi, like the Shafias, carried out the murders because he believed his Afghan family’s honour had been tarnished and he believed the slayings would cleanse the shame. In its decision, the Court of Appeal concluded that the Sadiqi case was built on a “strong web of circumstantial evidence,” it relied on “straightforward and powerful logic” presented by a Crown prosecutor and the testimony of an expert on honour killings was “necessary,” “relevant,” and “balanced.”
A Montreal man, convicted along with his mother and father of murdering four family members, has complained to Ontario’s top court that the trial was “unfair” because of “abusive” questioning of his mother by a Crown lawyer during the trial. The new claim is contained in a document (read it after the jump) filed at the Court of Appeal for Ontario on behalf of Hamed Shafia, 21, (inset) who was convicted in January of four counts of first-degree murder, along with his mother Tooba Yahya Mohammad, 43, and his father, Mohammad Shafia, 59. The three, natives of Afghanistan who came to Canada in 2007, were sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.