B.C.’s youngest mayor ever pleads guilty to sexually assaulting four boys
The former mayor of Burns Lake, Luke Strimbold, elected at the age of 21 back in 2011, has pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual assault involving four boys who were under 16.
Following an appearance in the B.C. Supreme Court in Smithers, Stimbold’s lawyer Stanley Tessmer said that Strimbold is very remorseful and is a good person who has made some grave mistakes.
“He wants these boys not to feel guilty about what happened, and for them to know it’s not their fault,” Tessmer said. “This is the time for the cycle of abuse to end and the healing to begin.”
A total of 29 charges were approved by a special prosecutor against Strimbold, including sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching. These charges are alleged to have involved six people all under the age of 16.
The charges Strimbold pleaded guilty to took place between May 2014 and September 2017. The names of the minors involved cannot be published because of a publication ban.
A psychological and pre-sentencing report have been ordered as Strimbold’s sentencing hearing is likely to take place on September 23.
Tessmer expects the defence and the Crown to put forward separate submissions for sentencing, rather than make a joint request. He also added that he expects the remaining 25 charges will be stayed until after sentencing.
The charges shocked the small, rural town of Burns Lake, where Strimbold served as mayor from 2011 to 2016. Last year, the former chief of nearby Lake Babine First Nation said his community was angry and disheartened.
“When I first heard about it, I was very, very upset,” said Wilf Adam. He added that the mayor left “quite abruptly” and that they haven’t spoken since.
Strimbold stepped down as mayor in 2016 to further his education and spend more time with his family.
Previous to this, Strimbold helped the community recover from a deadly sawmill explosion and fire in 2012 which killed two people and injured 19 others.
The following year he received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his community service. In 2014 he was named by BC Business as one of the top 30 leaders under the age of 30 in the province.
When the charges were first filed against Stimbold in February 2018, he was the membership chair for the B.C. Liberal Party. Party officials became aware of the charges the next month and he resigned from the party at that time.
A special prosecutor was appointed in the case because Strimbold was a former elected official with “significant connections” to the B.C. Liberal Party, the B.C. Prosecution Service said in March 2018.
Disclosure: Lawyer John Carpay is President of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca), which represents Candice Servatius in her court action against School District 70.
Public schools in British Columbia are not complying with court rulings, because children are required to participate in religious rituals and spiritual practices in the classroom.
For most of Canada’s history, children in public schools have recited the Lord’s Prayer, while children in Catholic schools recited the Our Father, the same prayer. The “public” schools were, in fact, Protestant schools, inculcating the general principles of non-Catholic Christianity. In recent decades, following trends in Canadian culture, public schools have gradually ceased to be Christian.
Starting in the 1980s, a number of Jews, atheists and others launched successful court challenges to the practice of requiring children in public schools (formerly Protestant schools) to say the Lord’s Prayer. Courts accepted the argument that public schools should be neutral in regard to religion, and should not teach any one faith or creed. Requiring children to recite the Lord’s Prayer in public schools is government imposition of Christianity, and this imposition violates the Charter. The courts also ruled that exempting the children of atheists, Jews and other non-Christians from saying the Lord’s Prayer was not an adequate compromise: no child should be required to announce or declare his or her non-belief in Christianity. The courts reasoned that for a child to make use of the exemption would effectively force that child to express his or her unwillingness to say the Lord’s Prayer. This could result in unacceptable stigma or ostracism; a person has the right not to disclose his or her religious belief or non-belief to other people.
In spite of clear court rulings, John Howitt Elementary School (JHES) in Port Alberni, B.C., forces children to participate in aboriginal smudging ceremonies, in which the smoke of burning sage is waived over children to “cleanse” their “spirits” of “negative energy”. As JHES explained in a note to parents in September of 2015: without this cleansing ritual the classroom and even the furniture would harbour negative “energy” and would not be safe until the “energy” was “released”. The letter stated that each student would participate in the cleansing ritual by holding onto a cedar branch while having “smoke from Sage fanned over [their] body and spirit.”
This “Traditional Classroom/Student Cleansing” was performed by a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth, the term used to describe fifteen related First Nation tribes who live on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. The school’s letter to parents also described Nuu-chah-nulth religious and
spiritual beliefs: “everything has a spirit” and “everything is one, all is connected”.
Concerned about the explicitly supernatural and religious nature of the cleansing ritual, and how it conflicted with her own family’s religious beliefs, Candice Servatius immediately went to the school to learn more, after receiving the JHES letter in September of 2015. But when this Port Alberni mother arrived at the school, she was shocked to find out that the ritual had already been imposed on her nine-year-old daughter.
The daughter explained that she had been coerced or pressured by the teacher to participate in the ritual against her will. When the nine-year-old girl told her teacher that she did not want to participate, the teacher told the girl that it would be “rude” not to participate in the ritual and that “all” the students were “required” to participate.
In January of 2016, Mrs. Servatius learned that a prayer based on First Nations spirituality had been performed at a JHES student assembly, with explicit references to an unspecified “god”.
JHES did not notify parents.
Mrs. Servatius’ daughter has recounted her experience in the classroom to her mother, and has also sworn an Affidavit, filed with the court action against School District 70 (Port Alberni).
School District 70 claims that the ceremonies and prayers that children are required to participate in are merely “cultural” and therefore not religious or spiritual. This assertion is contradicted by what the School District itself told parents in the letter in September of 2015.
School District 70 has offered to exempt children from these rituals, when a parent or child requests such exemption. But courts have explained why exemptions from spiritual or religious practices are not an acceptable solution: no child should have to face stigma or ostracism by needing to signal her disagreement with an aboriginal cleansing ritual. Further, consistent with clear court rulings, section 76 of the B.C. School Act requires public schools to be conducted on “strictly secular and non-sectarian principles”.
Witnesses for the Attorney General of B.C. and the Nuu-chul-nuth Tribal Council, both of whom are intervening in the case, have already stated that it is contrary to First Nations practice to compel anyone to be smudged against their will, and that it is “unnecessary” to hold smudging
ceremonies in classrooms in order to teach about First Nations culture.
The Charter exists to protect the right of Canadians to live and participate in public life in accordance with their own conscience and beliefs. This includes the right to live free from government-imposed religion.
The state should not enforce or impose any sectarian creed or ideology on children, by requiring children to say a prayer or participate in a religious or spiritual ceremony. It’s one thing to teach children about Islam, but quite another to require children to kneel on prayer rugs and recite Islamic prayers while facing in the direction of Mecca. Public schools can teach children about Christianity’s central prayer, but cannot ask children to recite that prayer.
Likewise, it’s possible to teach children about aboriginal spiritual rituals without requiring children to participate in them.
The Supreme Court of B.C. will hear this case in Nanaimo from Nov. 18 to 22, 2019.
Councillors in Victoria, British Columbia are trying to raise their salary by more than 50 percent. They are also hoping to provide additional benefits, according to the Times Colonist.
In an online survey on Victoria’s budget, the City asked respondents whether they would agree to raise their salary to $70,100. This figure is the same median salary for city employees. Overall, this is an increase of $25,000.
Councillors are currently paid around $45,000 a year, and the mayor of Victoria receives $113,000 a year. There are no plans to alter the mayor’s salary.
Speaking to the Times, a councillor justified their pay raise by saying the city wanted to “attract professionals and others, and not just have very wealthy people serve on the council, I think we do have to set the compensation at a level that [would attract] younger people.”
The current salaries were set in 2009 upon the review of an independent commission.
Major companies who operate throughout British Columbia have been unable to explain a 13 cent per litre difference between southern B.C. and the rest of the province. This fall, a governmental commission noted this gap during a province-wide inquiry and gave the companies an opportunity to explain it, according to the CBC.
In a statement published by the commission, the companies have failed to provide any evidence to their explanations. The commission went on to say that their evidence was “inconclusive or conflicting.”
British Columbian gas prices have soared over the past few years. Nearly $500 million is spent on gas in the province alone. Compared to the neighboring U.S. state of Washington, British Columbians are paying far more than their American counterparts.
Despite there being an outcry in B.C. over the high gas prices, Premier John Horgan has legislated the country’s highest carbon tax and has fought adamantly against the TMX pipeline, which would dramatically alleviate the strain of these gas prices.
The grandson of a British World War II veteran who died on the beach in Dunkirk in 1940 during the evacuation of Allied forces is going back to where his grandfather made the ultimate sacrifice.
Thomas Michael McDonald, who himself never met his grandfather, had a love of Canada instilled in him by his father, just as his own father instilled it in him.
Shane McDonald, father of Thomas, says his father described Canada as a “wondrous mystical far off place” by his father before he fought in the war, moving to Canada to raise his young family in a new, booming young country.
With that in mind, the McDonald’s made the journey to the beaches of Dunkirk to pay tribute to where the patriarch made his sacrifice.
McDonald says it was overwhelmingly emotional to be on the beaches where his grandfather waited in the sand for a rescue that never came.
Shane was also able to locate his grandfather’s name on the memorial nearby, and attended the Remembrance Day ceremonies in Dunkirk.
Shane was also noticed by French locals at the ceremony, having conversations with others in attendance.
“I don’t know whose English or French was worse … but the actual meaning behind the conversation was one hundred percent understood,” said Shane McDonald.
“Part of his posthumous legacy, I truly believe, is I am a Canadian citizen,” said Shane. “He gave me one of the greatest gifts any parent or grandparent can give.”