Justice Glen Donald’s judgement Friday (Nov. 15) at the Elgin County Courthouse infuriated the fur baby fans in the front row but, in the end, he had no other option.
Following a three-day trial last month in which Tarrick Fakira-Martin – charged with unlawfully killing his dog, Lady – often wept and buried his head in his hands at graphic witness testimony, Justice Donald acquited him but noted there was no question the dog had been neglected.
Fakira-Martin was charged last July after St. Thomas Police received reports from residents in the area of St. Catherine and Meda streets regarding the well-being of a dog.
He pleaded not guilty to charges of injuring an animal on the trial’s opening day, Oct. 7.
Fakira-Martin has always maintained the dog drowned in Kettle Creek near an area known to some as Suicide Hill.
Justice Donald observed Fakira-Martin should have been charged with neglect in the first place following the discovery of Lady’s body.
He found Fakira-Martin not guilty on that lesser charge since he did not have the opportunity to mount a defence as assistant Crown attorney Vanessa Stewart did not bring forward the charge until the trial opened.
It was one of several weak links in the Crown’s case against Fakira-Martin.
Justice Donald noted the problem with testimony from Fakira-Martin’s neighbour Aaron Watt was the “lack of impartiality,” and Watt “does not trust the justice system.”
A significant concern for me, stressed Justice Donald, was “how far would he (Watt) go to have me find Fakira-Martin guilty?”
During testimony on Day 2 of the trial, Watt admitted to defence lawyer William Glover he posted on Facebook a call for “justice for Lady,” and labelled Fakira-Martin “a scumbag.”
Watt continued, “We need to fix this, please share.”
He then noted in a video posted afterward, “He (Fakira-Martin) got the shit kicked out of him pretty good. Fuck the system.”
I am unable to accept his evidence, said Justice Donald. “Watt has an agenda to see Tarrick Fakira-Martin found guilty.”
Likewise, a video taken by witness Jennifer Curtis alongside Kettle Creek near Athletic Park in St. Thomas the day Lady died, showed “no evidence of Fakira-Martin acting inappropriately,” stated Justice Donald.
Indeed, the video appeared to show the body of a wet dog lying beside the creek while owner Fakira-Martin, wearing nothing but shorts, also looked as though he might have been in the water.
“It doesn’t matter, you are still a killer. Justice will be served.”
Curtis had said his appearance could be due to the high humidity that day.
The video, stressed Justice Donald, led to a state of “reasonable doubt.”
The expert advice of Dr. Murray Hazlett, a veterinary pathologist at the University of Guelph, also did not prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, how Lady died that day.
“Dr. Hazlett could not rule out drowning,” advised Justice Donald.
Yes, Lady was neglected, he added, “but was it willful?”
He continued, “No one questioned Fakira-Martin about his financial situation,” in light of the fact he, at times, had to seek food for his dog and himself.
When Justice Donald advised Farkira-Martin, “You are free to go,” one woman in the gallery turned to him and sneered, “It doesn’t matter, you are still a killer. Justice will be served.”
SW ONTARIO BUSINESS INVESTMENT
In a first step designed to transform business supports in the province, southwestern Ontario and communities in eastern Ontario will soon benefit from a more than $100 million investment over a four-year period.
Initially announced earlier this month by Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, specific details of the program and how it will impact St. Thomas and Elgin county were outlined Wednesday (Nov. 13) by Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek.
Surrounded by community political and business leaders in the council chambers at the Elgin County Administration Building, Yurek stressed the Doug Ford government was elected “to get the province moving again and making sure our business framework is inviting for entrepreneurs and businesses to grow and for people to invest in this province.”
Under the Regional Development Program, area businesses can get financial support through the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund (SWODF), in addition to access to a variety of complimentary services and supports.
The program is particularly geared to small businesses with under 100 employees, a sector which makes up 98 per cent of all businesses in Ontario, advised Yurek.
Of particular note, businesses who apply under the program will be notified of whether the funding is forthcoming within a 60-day period.
“So that applicants can plan their investments and know when to expect a decision,” stressed Yurek.
To make it easier for small- and medium-sized business owners to qualify, the job creation threshold has been reduced from 10 to five.
“This announcement is exciting news for businesses in Elgin county,” added Alan Smith, Elgin’s general manager of economic development.
“Elgin county is a firm believer that by investing in the local business community, by supporting entrepreneurship, by providing them with the necessary resources, the result will be a strong economy with the creation of sustainable jobs which results in a strong community.”
Smith noted, “This support will enable local industries to invest in technology and innovation which will enable them to remain productive and competitive on the global stage while exploring new markets.”
In St. Thomas, “Small businesses are leading the pack in job creation and it’s programs like this from the provincial government that really make it quite a bit easier to do,” pointed out Mayor Joe Preston.
The Regional Development Program “will see growth, job creation and economic opportunity for years to come,” concluded Yurek
HEY, NOW YOU ARE INVITED
Members of the public were denied an opportunity to present at the Oct. 22 Thames Valley District School Board meeting dealing with the fate of two Elgin county schools.
Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek had hoped to speak at the meeting in support of a motion from Elgin trustee Meagan Ruddock that would reverse the decision to close New Sarum and Springfield public schools.
They are slated to close next year as the result of an extensive accommodation review in 2017 that recommended closing five area schools.
The closure of these two schools was contingent upon Ministry of Education approval of capital funding for a new Belmont public school and a new southeast St. Thomas public school.
When told he would not be allowed to participate Yurek said, “I think it is a missed opportunity and I am hoping the school trustees will listen to Bruce (Elgin trustee Bruce Smith) and Meagan and support that change and we can keep some rural schools open.”
Well, guess what?
Now the school board thinks public input would be a swell idea.
Did the lights just go on?
The next school board meeting is 6 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 19) at the TVDSB Education Centre, 1250 Dundas Street in London.
If you wish to make a presentation you need to complete a public input application by noon on Monday (Nov. 18).
Presenters will be scheduled in the order they are received. The time allotted for approved delegations is five minutes for individuals and organizations/groups and 10 minutes for school councils and Home and School Associations.
Public input application forms are available here.
The future of the city’s much-maligned transit system is to be discussed Monday (Nov. 18) during the reference committee meeting – open to the public – which begins at 6 p.m. in Room 304 in city hall.
At that time, Brian Putre of Stantec Consulting and Justin Lawrence, Director of Environmental Services at city hall will provide a powerpoint presentation relating to the St. Thomas Transit Strategic Plan.
To no one’s surprise, the city’s bus service proved to be an election issue in last fall’s municipal vote.
At that time, mayoral hopeful Joe Preston described the transit system as “beyond broken.”
He noted, “We have a transit system we can’t count on. The stores are open to 9 p.m. but the buses stop at 6:30 p.m.”
Release of the St. Thomas Transit Strategic Plan comes on the heels of a funding announcement this past August where MPP Jeff Yurek indicated the provincial government is committing $1.8 million for transit projects in St. Thomas.
The money will be used for fleet upgrades – including the purchase of 10 new buses with an additional four vehicles for future expansion – and transit technology, including priority signalling for buses at designated intersections.
AND, THE HONOUREES ARE . . .
The city will host a dinner 6 p.m., Dec. 11 at the St. Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre to recognize the recipients of the civic honours for their accomplishments in 2018.
Here are the groups and individuals to be showcased that evening.
Anderson Farms for their breeder success with Queen’s Plate winner Wonder Gadot.
Mary Ellen Bolt for her volunteer efforts with Meals on Wheels and at Knox Presbyterian Church.
Shawn Jackson who volunteers as a board member with the Elgin St. Thomas Foundation, coaches in the St. Thomas Minor Hockey Association and is a member of the Optimist Club.
Lois Hamilton has volunteered for 10 years with the STEGH Foundation and Susan O’Brien has done the same with the foundation for eight years.
Sandra Westaway gives of her time at Inn Out of the Cold at Central United Church.
Rhonda and Deryl Dawdy have volunteered with Shock Basketball for the past 30 years.
And, St. Thomas-Elgin Interact Club is being recognized for the efforts of its teen members in fundraising for various city organizations.
Congratulations to all of these very worthy recipients.
The event is open to the public and tickets are available in the parks, recreation and property management office inside the Joe Thornton Community Centre.
FOR THE CALENDAR
This evening heralds Santa’s first official visit of the festive season in St. Thomas with a parade held in his honour. To accommodate the lengthy procession, First Avenue will be closed between Talbot and Redan streets from 3 until 9 p.m. The parade route along Talbot Street, from First Avenue to William Street, will be closed to traffic from 6 to 9 p.m.
Another in a series of climate strikes is to be held Nov. 29 in St. Thomas. Participants are encouraged to meet up at noon at the CASO station for a march to city hall “to show St. Thomas city council that declaring a climate emergency is the first step in responding to a global climate crisis,” according to a Facebook invite.
Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope
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