‘I was terrified:’ Woman testifies in trial for former residential school priest
A First Nations woman told a courtroom she was left scared and sick to her stomach after a priest allegedly assaulted her at a residential school more than 50 years ago — accusations the now-retired cleric has denied.
Arthur Masse, 93, is charged with one count of indecent assault from when the woman was a 10-year-old student at the Fort Alexander Residential School, north of Winnipeg.
RCMP charged Masse last summer following a criminal investigation that started in 2011. The tall, slender man with thinning hair and glasses quietly entered his plea of not guilty as his trial began Tuesday. He was wearing all black and a priest’s collar.
Victoria McIntosh was the first to testify at the two-day, judge-alone trial overseen by Court of King’s Bench Justice Candace Grammond.
Wearing a gold ribbon skirt and a beaded medallion, McIntosh swore on an eagle feather after she took the stand. An eagle feather staff from her community of Sagkeeng First Nation was placed at the front of the courtroom to provide her with strength from the First Nation and her ancestors. The community’s chief and council, as well as family members, attended the trial in a sign of support.
GRAPHIC WARNING: The following details may disturb some readers.
McIntosh testified she was in the bathroom at the school when she heard someone enter. She said she recognized it was Masse because of his collar. The priest then opened the stall door, she told court.
“(Masse) came in,” she recalled before taking one of a few long pauses during her roughly two-hour testimony. “He picked me up. He tried to fondle me and he tried to kiss me. Well, he actually did.”
“I was scared and nauseated at the same time. I slipped away from him and I ran out of there.”
She said the alleged assault lasted approximately a minute, during which Masse used one of his forearms to hold her against a wall while he used his other hand to “fondle” her above her clothing.
“It just happened so quick. I just felt him there and I was terrified,” said McIntosh.
Before she was able to get away, McIntosh said Masse kissed her quickly and roughly on her face.
“He said: ‘Don’t say nothing,'” said McIntosh.
The Canadian Press doesn’t typically name complainants in such cases, but McIntosh has said she wants to speak publicly and no publication ban was ordered.
Following the alleged assault, McIntosh said she avoided Masse and did not speak with him. The first time she reported the alleged assault was to police in 2015.
RCMP received allegations of sexual abuse at the Fort Alexander Residential School at the beginning of 2010. Officers conducted archival research and spoke to more than 700 people across North America with the hope of locating possible victims or witnesses. In total, police obtained 75 witness and victim statements.
Police said the alleged assault took place sometime between 1968 and 1970.
George Green, Masse’s lawyer, suggested during cross-examination that memory fades over time and questioned how McIntosh could be certain the person who assaulted her was his client.
McIntosh said for many years following the assault, she tried to forget Masse’s name and what happened until a 2013 meeting regarding a residential school settlement claim triggered memories.
“Prior to 2013, you forgot what his name was?” Green asked.
“Yes and no,” McIntosh responded. “I didn’t want to say his name.”
Masse spent most of his career working with Indigenous communities in Ontario and Manitoba before retiring in 1999. During his own testimony, Masse recited the names of many students and staff he worked with throughout the years before adding he did not recall having any interactions with McIntosh.
He told the court he did not follow students into the bathroom or touch students inappropriately. He denied McIntosh’s allegations outlined on Tuesday.
“Did you ever try to kiss Ms. McIntosh like she’s alleging?” Green asked his client.
“No, definitely not,” Masse responded.
Outside the courthouse, McIntosh told reporters there is “no doubt” in her mind Masse was the one who assaulted her.
“I remember the grin. We remember details like that when it’s so horrible,” she said. “You never forget those details. You never forget those faces.”
Masse and his lawyer declined to speak after the trial wrapped for the day.
Closing arguments are expected Wednesday.
The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2023.
Risk of a hard landing for Canadian economy is up, former Bank of Canada governor says – CTV News
Former Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz says Canada’s economy is at a greater risk of a “hard landing” — a rapid economic slowdown following a period of growth and approaching a recession.
Amid the central bank’s interest rate hikes intended to tame inflation, inflation cooled to 5.2 per cent in February. That’s down from 5.9 per cent in January, after 40-year record highs over the summer, reaching as high as 8.1 per cent in June.
Poloz told CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos — in a joint interview with former Liberal finance minister John Manley airing Sunday — the Bank of Canada and federal government’s efforts to rein in inflation are working, but the chances of a hard landing remain.
“The risk of a hard landing has definitely gone up, given that so much has already happened, and we’re still waiting for the rest of the effects of interest rate rises to work their way through,” he said, adding he is “heartened by the response of the supply side of the economy.”
“That’s really where a soft landing comes from,” he said. “It’s not fancy engineering on the part of the central bank. But as the supply side continues to grow — such as new entrants into the workforce, from immigration and from parents who are taking advantage of the new childcare policy — those kinds of things are giving us, coming up from below, strengthening the economy.“
While Poloz said the supply growth is a good sign, at this point it would require “some luck” to achieve a soft landing and avoid a recession.
Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland meanwhile is set to table the budget on Tuesday.
She’s long been signalling Canadians can expect fiscal restraint to avoid stoking inflation, but also some significant investments. Namely, the government has been teasing targeted measures to help relieve the impacts of inflation, plus the already-announced $196 billion in health care funding for the provinces and territories over the next 10 years, and clean economy spending to help compete with the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, which offers billions of dollars in energy incentives south of the border.
Poloz however called last year’s federal budget a “missed opportunity” to “have a different mix” of spending, and in doing so “lower the trajectory of the Bank of Canada’s interest rates.”
He said there’s now less risk government spending will counteract the impacts of the Bank of Canada’s interest rate hikes.
“I think we’re mostly beyond that point as an issue,” he said, adding last year would have been a more opportune time to stimulate the economy.
“That might have been better for everybody,” Poloz continued. “But that missed opportunity is behind us and now the economy is clearly slowing down. We got all that news in the fourth quarter, sooner than most people expected.”
“All the interest sensitive parts, such as housing and business investment, had been down three quarters in a row already, so in that sense, it feels recessionary already,” he added. “So in that sort of space, I think that business about causing inflation is off the table.”
With files from CTV’s Question Period Senior Producer Stephanie Ha
Questions raised about safety of Old Montreal building destroyed by fatal fire
MONTREAL — More than a week after a fatal fire tore through a building in Old Montreal, accounts from former tenants and victims of the blaze are raising questions about the safety of the heritage property.
Four bodies had been found as of Friday afternoon and three people were missing in the shell of the once-elegant greystone building.
Police and firefighters have said it’s too soon to say what caused the fire. But witnesses have raised questions about safety, including whether smoke detectors were working and whether there were proper emergency exits.
A rental tribunal decision shows that in 2012, the owner, Emile-Haim Benamor, blamed actions of a tenant for creating a risk of fire in the building. The comments are found in a Sept. 6, 2012, decision from Quebec’s Régie du logement, stemming from a dispute between Benamor and a tenant whose lease he was trying to end. According to the document, Benamor claimed the tenant was “manipulating electricity” and had “modified or added” electrical systems and overloaded the building’s circuits.
“The landlord insists that in the current state of things, the building is not profitable, he is unable to have access to the apartment … that there is a risk of fire and he says he is being monitored by insurance companies, especially since it’s a historic building,” the tribunal’s decision says.
The landlord also called a witness from the insurance company Lloyd’s, who testified that the unit presented safety concerns. In an affidavit included in the tribunal decision, Michel Frigon said the unit was not originally intended to be an apartment but rather a storage area. Frigon noted that access to the unit was required to perform maintenance of the building’s heating and electrical systems.
“The shower adjoining the electrical entrance to the dwelling presents a real danger of electrocution,” he added, saying a new insurer would likely have to be found if the problems weren’t fixed.
But in her written decision, administrative judge Jocelyne Gascon concluded there was little convincing evidence to suggest the tenant, Piotr Torbicki, was to blame for any electrical issues.
“The various electrical systems, although they appear to the court to be non-compliant, obsolete, the evidence offered did not establish that it was a recent addition,” Gascon wrote. She did not offer an opinion on Benamor’s comments about the risk of fire.
The building, known as the William-Watson-Ogilvie building, was built in 1890 and originally housed the offices of a flour company. It was gradually converted to residential use between the late 1960s and the 1980s, with the office of an architecture firm remaining on the ground floor. Municipal property records show Benamor, a lawyer, bought the building in 2009.
Since the fire, both the father of a missing woman and a former tenant have said at least one of the units had no windows or fire escape, while survivors of the fire have suggested the fire alarms never went off.
Louis-Philippe Lacroix said his 18-year-old daughter Charlie, who is presumed missing in the fire, called 911 twice within several minutes to say she was unable to get out of the unit she and a friend were staying in, which had no window and no fire escape.
A survivor of the fire, Alina Kuzmina, said that while the semi-basement unit she’d rented with her husband had fire alarms, she doesn’t remember hearing them go off. Kuzmina was able to escape the building by breaking a window and crawling out.
The owner this week responded to the claims through his lawyer, saying the alarm system was replaced in 2019 and regularly tested. Regarding the emergency exits, lawyer Alexandre Bergevin said the building’s layout is complex.
“It has always been deemed compliant in the past,” he said in a text message.
A former tenant spoke on condition that he not be identified, saying he fears reprisals from Benamor, who owns multiple buildings in the city. The former tenant said that in recent years long-term tenants have gradually left and been replaced by units rented on the short-term rental platform Airbnb. He also said some units had been subdivided, and at least one did not have windows.
Benamor’s lawyer, Alexandre Bergevin, said in an interview Friday that the short-term rentals in the building were the work of tenants and not his client. He said one person was renting seven units in the building and “illegally” listing them on Airbnb. He said that Benamor had told the person to stop the short-term rentals, and they had reached an agreement for him to leave the building by July 1.
“It’s a real scourge, it’s uncontrollable,” Bergevin said of the Airbnb rentals. “He had doubts on several tenants in several buildings, but it’s quite difficult to get the proof of all that.”
The lawyer acknowledged that one apartment in the building “didn’t have a window in the traditional sense of the term,” but it did have a skylight.
Asked whether the smoke detectors were working, he replied: “That’s an excellent question. We don’t know yet.” But he said there were detectors in all apartments, the central detector had been working the day before the fire and it would be surprising if all of them failed.
Bergevin said he was not aware of any specific electrical problems, including those raised in the 2012 rental tribunal decision, but noted that the building dates to the 19th century.
“It’s certain that it’s not the electricity we know today,” he said, adding that at certain points when issues arose, qualified electricians worked in the building.
Benamor, he said, has felt under attack since news broke that people had died in the fire.
“The public trial, while we have no idea of the causes of the fire, is causing him a lot of psychological distress,” he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2023.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
St. John’s, N.L., airport closed after late night fire on 2nd floor forces evacuation
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A fire on the second floor of the international airport in St. John’s, N.L., resulted in the facility being closed late Friday night.
The airport authority said today the main terminal building was evacuated due to a “significant event” on Friday at 11:30 p.m.
No other details were immediately available.
The authority said in a release today it is working with police and the fire department to ensure all protocols are being followed before reopening the building.
The news release says the terminal building was expected to remain closed to the public until 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Passengers are being advised not to visit the airport until there is a public advisory the terminal has reopened.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2023.
The Canadian Press
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