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BC victims seek justice after voyeur fled Canada before sentencing – CBC.ca

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Michael Gordon Lowry robbed Leah Brown of her privacy in a way that makes the Campbell River, B.C., woman shudder when she thinks about it: by placing a hidden camera in a bathroom.

Brown says she’s a victim. But she refuses to act like one.

The 54-year-old went to B.C. provincial court last month along with a number of Lowry’s other victims to ask a judge to lift a publication ban they claim was doing more to protect the offender than the women he surreptitiously filmed.

Lowry allegedly left for England between the date he pleaded guilty to voyeurism and the day last spring when he failed to show for sentencing; Brown says it’s important for others to know about the man who preyed upon her family.

“We are not embarrassed. We may be victims but we are not embarrassed. We did nothing wrong,” Brown told the judge, who ultimately decided to lift a ban on the publication of most of their names.

“It is all of our mission to protect others.”

In Manchester instead of court

Lowry pleaded guilty to voyeurism in November 2020; he placed a hidden camera in the bathroom of Brown’s mother — whom he had dated since 2015.

The CBC has obtained recordings of court proceedings in the case.

Danica Armbruster (left) and her mother Leah Brown spoke to CBC after asking a judge to lift a publication ban on their names in relation to Lowry. Both women were captured on a hidden camera Lowry placed in a bathroom (Submitted by Leah Brown)

Crown counsel Nicholas Barber told a judge last month that police found images and videos of victims disrobing and doing “all the things you can imagine in a bathroom” on Lowry’s laptop.

A judge issued an arrest warrant in May after the 69-year-old’s lawyer told a judge his client was in Manchester, receiving treatment for a fungal infection instead of where he was supposed to be: in court being sentenced.

Lowry’s guilty plea came with the understanding a charge of possessing child pornography would be dropped on sentencing. Because he didn’t show, the charge is still on the books.

A judge agreed last month to lift publication bans on the names of Brown and five other adult victims. The identity of a minor is still protected by a court order.

The situation highlights confusion around bans that scare those involved out of speaking publicly for fear of breaching a court order designed to protect victims.

Even Barber told the judge that it was “quite complicated trying to figure out what you can and can’t do in these circumstances.”

‘Nothing was being done about it’

Both Brown and her 22-year-old daughter Danica Armbruster — also a victim — spoke about the case with CBC.

“We felt that we weren’t being heard. We felt that nothing was being done about it,” Armbruster said.

“And just the fact that other families could have been involved in being hurt by him at the same time. And the fact that we weren’t able to speak on it.”

Leah Brown holds a picture of Michael Gordon Lowry that she found on her mother’s phone. (Submitted by Leah Brown)

Brown says her mother met Lowry on a dating website in 2015. 

She says the camera in question was hidden inside a small digital clock. Brown says she was stunned to find videos of herself in the shower on Lowry’s laptop. She felt like vomiting when she saw them.

Brown and her mother went to the RCMP. They feel like the authorities have not taken the case seriously enough, culminating in Lowry’s ability to slip out of the jurisdiction after his guilty plea.

Brown believes he travelled on an Irish passport.

She says her mother has been traumatized by the violation of her trust. Brown says none of the victims know enough about the dark web to have any idea if the images have a life beyond Lowry’s laptop.

Armbruster sobbed as she described the ongoing impact of the offence.

“It’s kind of hard,” she said. “It’s definitely hard because you honestly have no idea if he has them or what he did with them.”

‘Not really any end in sight’

According to court records, Lowry was originally supposed to be sentenced on April 29, but his lawyer told a judge his client showed up the day before “looking horrible and announced he’d been diagnosed with meningitis.”

At that time, Barber expressed skepticism about Lowry’s sudden illness.

“My only pointed question — based on Mr. Lowry’s reports and everything I know about him — is whether this is mentally induced or a bit of malingering?” Barber asked.

The sentencing was moved to May 26. By then, Lowry was allegedly in England.

“He never attended, and we never heard from him again,” Barber told the judge at the August hearing on the publication ban.

“There’s not really any end in sight to this file.”

While Lowry has been absent from B.C.’s criminal courts, Crown counsel noted he has been active in the civil courts, filing documents in relation to a legal battle over a hotly contested land deal on Vancouver Island.

Brown’s mother told the judge he had also filed a claim against her in relation to the collapse of their relationship: “He sued me out of revenge … for being caught committing this crime in my home.”

Barber told the judge that had Lowry shown up for sentencing, he might have been looking at a non-custodial sentence, but “that has changed now.”

A spokesperson for the RCMP Tuesday insisted that police have taken the allegations against Lowry seriously.

Brown says she wants Canadian authorities to contact Interpol.

“I know that he is out there. He’s a predator,” Brown told the judge last month.

“He doesn’t work. He’s never worked. He uses women to survive … he looks for widows and divorced women and he uses them that way. Unfortunately in our case that was what happened to my poor mum.”

Lowry is shown in an undated photograph provided by Brown. Lowry pleaded guilty to a count of voyeurism, but has not shown up for sentencing. (Submitted by Leah Brown)

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Vaccines continue to dog Canada's Conservative leader – CTV News

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CAMBRIDGE, ONT. —
The issue of personal choice around getting vaccinated against COVID-19 continued to dog Canada’s Conservative leader Saturday as he spent the day vying for votes in seat-heavy Ontario, a crucial battleground for any possible election win.

As Erin O’Toole shifted his focus from making policy promises to cheerleading volunteers to get out the vote for Monday’s election day, he faced renewed questions about his decision not to require his candidates to be immunized. He did not answer queries Saturday about whether he knew how many of his party’s 336 candidates had received their shots.

“We have a rule that everyone that’s campaigning for us — candidates, people going door-to-door — have to use vaccines, and if someone is not fully vaccinated they must use a daily rapid test and follow all the public health guidance in the provinces they’re in,” he said at a small rally in Hamilton.

“We’ve said that from the beginning of the campaign and here’s something interesting, we’ve followed it.”

The issue is one that has dogged the leader over the course of the campaign, largely because the Liberals have raised it repeatedly and used it as grounds for numerous attacks. O’Toole is an outlier among the main party leaders for not requiring candidates to be fully immunized with two doses of vaccine before hitting the campaign trail.

At the heart of the matter is the party’s belief in personal freedoms, and its position of promoting vaccines without disrespecting the choices of those who don’t want one.

O’Toole is himself inoculated, and has committed to appointing a health minister who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But he didn’t say on Saturday whether he would be asking his candidates for their immunization status or how he would confirm who is or isn’t immunized.

“We need to encourage as many Canadians as possible to get vaccinated,” O’Toole said. “We’re not going to be doing that by wedging people, like Mr. Trudeau, always dividing people. Using even a health-crisis for his own benefit.”

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has called the crowds of protestors that have followed him throughout the campaign “anti-vaxxer mobs” for their resistance to his plan to make vaccines mandatory for federal workers and airline passengers. The protesters also oppose his support for vaccine passport systems used by a growing number of provinces.

Alberta and Saskatchewan recently joined the list of jurisdictions to adopt such a program after weeks of first opposing the idea and then changing their minds when a wave of cases driven by a more infectious virus variant filled hospitals with COVID-19 patients who are not fully vaccinated.

Before her province announced it would introduce such a system, Saskatchewan incumbent Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall posted a video to YouTube asking people to advocate against it.

“Right now, we, fortunately, are living in a province where our premier does not mandate passports and has not mandated vaccines. I encourage you to contact the premier and your MLA to thank them and to encourage them to continue to persevere in the face of pressure to implement such a passport that discriminates against those who choose not to take the current vaccines being offered by our federal government,” she said.

Wagantall said in a statement Saturday she was asking residents to thank their provincial representative for not introducing such a system, but now that it has, she respects that decision.

And this past week, incumbent Conservative Martin Shields told a federal candidates forum, “I’ve never been asked as a member of Parliament by my party whether I’m vaccinated.”

“It isn’t an issue in our party, it’s your choice, so I’ve never been asked,” the Alberta legislator said, adding he believes getting a shot against COVID-19 should be left up to an individual.

Neither campaign for Wagantall or Shields have returned a request for comment.

While also campaigning in Ontario, the Liberal leader attacked O’Toole for “protecting anti-vaxxers” in his caucus.

O’Toole started his second-last day of campaigning by jogging past a farmers market outside of Waterloo, Ont., without appearing to go inside to capitalize on one of his final chances to meet prospective voters.

During the day, he twice stopped to thank volunteers on different campaigns for a candidate in Waterloo, and then in Cambridge. At the latter location, he appeared to ignore a woman seen standing on a sidewalk near the patio where he had been bumping elbows with campaign workers and shouting questions about what he planned to do for the city and Indigenous Peoples.

Those decisions reflect the party’s overall campaign strategy, which has relied more on O’Toole answering questions from people through virtual townhalls in a broadcast studio in downtown Ottawa rather than pressing flesh in local communities.

He defended taking a more physically distanced approach by saying he’s met thousands more people this way and run a safer campaign than the Liberal effort, which has seen Trudeau appear in crowded rooms and at hospitals.

“I’m proud of the campaign we’re running,” O’Toole said. “I’m proud I’m not a celebrity taking people for granted like Mr. Trudeau.”

O’Toole also received an endorsement Saturday from retired vice-admiral Mark Norman, who was at the centre of a failed prosecution by the Liberal government in a politically heated case that ended his military career.

In a video clip the Conservatives shared on social media, Norman said Canadians have an important decision to make as to who should lead the country through the challenges it faces at home and abroad.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2021.

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U.S. lawmakers push Biden to lift Canadian travel restrictions – CTV News

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WASHINGTON —
Four U.S. senators on Friday asked U.S. President Joe Biden to lift restrictions that have barred travel by Canadians across the northern U.S. border since March 2020.

Democratic Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Jon Tester of Montana and independent Angus King of Maine asked Biden to allow Canadians vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel to the United States before October. The border state senators said in a letter the restrictions have led to “economic and emotional strain in our communities.”

The senators added: “A plan with some indication of when your administration would feel comfortable lifting border restrictions based on public health data would provide clarity to businesses and families along the northern border.”

They also noted that Canadians can fly to the United States. “We struggle to understand the public health rationale for the disparate treatment in modes of travel,” the senators wrote.

The White House did not immediately comment on Friday, but White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said on Wednesday that given the Delta variant of the coronavirus, “we will maintain the existing travel restrictions at this point.”

U.S. officials and travel industry executives say the White House is set to renew the restrictions before the latest extension expires on Sept. 21.

In August, the United States again extended restrictions closing its land borders with Canada and Mexico to nonessential travel such as tourism despite Ottawa’s decision to open its border to vaccinated Americans.

Canada on Aug. 9 began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors for nonessential travel.

The United States has continued to extend the extraordinary restrictions on Canada and Mexico on a monthly basis since March 2020, when they were imposed to address the spread of COVID-19.

The U.S. land border restrictions do not bar U.S. citizens from returning home.

The United States separately bars most non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in the United Kingdom, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

  • Getting kids active after COVID-19 will be a ‘substantial challenge,’ says public health researcher.

Italy is reporting up to a 40 per cent increase in the number of people getting a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine following a government decree requiring a health pass for all workers, public and private, starting Oct. 15.

The office of Italy’s coronavirus czar says there’s been a 35 per cent one-week rise in first doses compared with last Saturday. Italian regions nationwide reported upticks of 20 per cent to 40 per cent for appointments this week to get the shot.

On Thursday, Italy became the first major European economy to require all workers to present a “Green Pass” to work next month. It requires proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or recovery from COVID-19 in the past six months.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza says the requirement is aimed at boosting the vaccine campaign while creating safer workplaces. Italy, once the epicentre of the outbreak in Europe, has fully inoculated 75 per cent of its population aged 12 and older. Italy has reported more than 130,000 confirmed deaths, the third-highest toll in Europe after Britain and Russia.

“The Green Pass is an instrument of freedom that will help us make workplaces safer,” Speranza told a news conference. “The second reason is to reinforce our vaccine campaign.”

Slovenia and Greece adopted similar measures this week. But Italy’s 2-trillion-euro ($2.35 trillion US) economy, the third-largest in the European Union, is a far larger target, and the measure underscores the government’s determination to avoid another lockdown, even as the number of new virus infections creeps up, mostly among the unvaccinated.


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Doctor holds counter-protest against demonstrators targeting hospitals: 

Doctor holds counter-protest against demonstrators targeting hospitals

10 hours ago

Dr. Raghu Venugopal, an emergency room doctor in Toronto, held a counter-protest against demonstrators targeting Toronto General Hospital in opposition to COVID-19 measures and vaccine mandates. He says the protests are ‘unacceptable’ and ‘un-Canadian’ and that the government needs to legislate against demonstrations outside hospitals. 6:54


What’s happening around the world

As of Saturday, more than 227.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.6 million.

In the Americas, South Carolina is setting records for COVID-19 hospitalizations, and new cases in the state are approaching the peak levels of last winter. Case numbers have risen from 150 a day to more than 5,000. The state hit nearly 2,600 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in early September, a record.

WATCH | What we know about COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people: 

What we know about COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people

21 hours ago

Two doctors answer questions about the safety of vaccines on pregnant people, and the risks unvaccinated pregnant people face when they catch COVID-19. 5:44

In the Middle East, the capital of the United Arab Emirates has ended a policy requiring those coming in from other emirates to have a recent negative COVID-19 test. Abu Dhabi made the announcement on Saturday, saying that people from the UAE’s six other emirates could enter the capital from Sunday without getting a test.

In Asia, Vietnam has approved Cuba’s Abdala vaccine for use, the government said on Saturday, as the Southeast Asian country battles its worst outbreak of COVID-19. Abdala becomes the eighth COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Vietnam, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the region, with only 6.3 per cent of its 98 million people having received at least two shots.

In Singapore, health officials reported 1,009 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, the highest since April last year. A recent rise in cases after the relaxation of some COVID-19 measures has prompted Singapore to pause further reopening. More than 80 per cent of its population has been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Police in Australia used pepper spray to subdue protesters on Saturday at an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city. About 1,000 demonstrators gathered in the suburb of Richmond after the location of the protest was changed at the last minute to evade authorities.

Anti-lockdown protesters encounter police officers on Burnley Street in Richmond, an inner suburb of Melbourne, Australia, on Saturday. The protesters gathered three kilometres from Melbourne’s central business district despite COVID-19 restrictions prohibiting large outdoor gatherings. (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

There were minor scuffles as well as a violent confrontation involving a handful of protesters. Several protesters were arrested. Most of the demonstrators defied regulations by failing to wear masks. Some 2,000 police officers were deployed at road checkpoints and barricades, as well as on roving patrols, to try to stop the rally from going ahead in breach of public health orders.

Melbourne is the capital of Victoria, which on Saturday reported 535 new infections and one COVID-19 death in the latest 24-hour period. The city’s sixth lockdown began on Aug. 5 Across Australia, health officials recorded 1,882 new coronavirus cases on Saturday.,

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