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‘Chair Girl’ fined $2,000, given two years probation and community service

TORONTO — A young woman who made headlines with a viral videotaped toss of a chair from a 45th-story balcony in Toronto was fined $2,000 on Tuesday, with the judge saying it was lucky no one was hurt.

In passing sentence, Ontario court Judge Mara Greene rejected prosecution calls to jail Marcella Zoia, who was 19 at the time.

A video of the incident went viral after being posted to social media, drawing widespread condemnation, and led to Marcella Zoia’s being dubbed ‘Chair Girl.’ (Lisa Calderon/Facebook )

“I cannot find that she intended to hurt anyone when she threw that chair,” Greene said.

In addition to the fine, which Greene called significant, Zoia will have to put in 150 hours of community service and will be on probation for two years.

Zoia had pleaded guilty to mischief endangering life in the February 2019 incident. The chair crashed near a woman with a child in a stroller but no one was injured.

A video of the incident went viral after being posted to social media, drawing widespread condemnation, and led to Zoia’s being dubbed “Chair Girl.”

The Crown had wanted a six-month jail sentence. Greene, who said Zoia was clearly playing to the cameras, said a suspended sentence as the defence had asked for was also inappropriate.

In the sentencing hearing, conducted by conference call due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Greene said the fact that no one was hurt played into her decision. She also said Zoia’s young age and potential for rehabilitation mitigated against a jail term.

Evidence at trial was that Zoia had been drinking the night before and was still intoxicated on the morning she threw the chair off the high-rise balcony. The video was taken with her phone but Greene made no finding as to who had actually filmed it.

The video was deleted hours later, but had already made the rounds on social media and garnered international notoriety. Zoia turned herself in days after Toronto police asked for help in identifying her.

Zoia’s lawyer, Greg Leslie, said earlier that his client had dropped out of school, lost modelling contracts, and was suffering from anxiety. She also had a major drinking problem, he said. He argued his client was immature and had succumbed to peer pressure.

The prosecution, however, had maintained Zoia had minimized the gravity of the incident.

Zoia had previously apologized in court for the incident.

“I’m sorry. A lot of people could have been seriously hurt because of my actions,” Zoia said. “I know this was a very immature and stupid mistake which I will take responsibility for.”

The judge ordered Zoia to follow any counselling regimen her probation officer might order.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 21, 2020.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

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Judge grants stay to Quebec English school boards as legal challenge plays out

MONTREAL — Quebec Superior Court has granted a stay to English school boards challenging a provincial government law abolishing them, pending the outcome of a legal challenge on its merits.

The province passed the law — known as Bill 40 — in February, abolishing school boards and replacing them with service centres, eliminating school board elections for French boards in the process.

The province’s nine English school boards were permitted to maintain elections and had been given until November to hold them for an eventual shift to service centres later this year.

The Quebec English School Boards Association was among several groups that filed an injunction in May, challenging the governance plan on the basis it doesn’t respect Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

That section guarantees minority language educational rights to English-speaking minorities in Quebec.

In a decision Monday, Justice Sylvain Lussier wrote there was a debate to be had on the English-speaking minority’s right to make decisions in matters of education and whether the provincial law takes the concerns of the community into account.

“Abolished by law, English-language school boards, spokespersons for the minority, will suffer irreparable damage if the law comes into force,” Lussier wrote.

“Despite the presumption of the validity of the legislation, in the particular circumstances of this case, the preponderance of disadvantages favours the applicants.”

The Coalition Avenir Quebec had long promised to abolish school boards and replace them with a more decentralized governance structure.

Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge told a news conference Monday the government intends to discuss the matter with its lawyers.

“We are fully confident that we respect the right of the English community to manage and control their school boards,” Roberge said.

The Quebec Community Groups Network, an advocacy group for English-speaking Quebecers, called the decision great news for the community.

“The ruling means that unwelcome changes to the management of our schools are now on hold while the courts review the constitutionality of Bill 40 — a case that will help clarify the rights of official language minority communities across Canada,” QCGN president Geoffrey Chambers said in a statement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2020.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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Toronto film festival announces venues, pricing for pandemic-shaped showcase

TORONTO — The Toronto International Film Festival is giving more details on a hybrid festival that will largely feature digital screenings for home viewers but will also offer in-person screenings at venues such as TIFF Bell Lightbox and the Isabel Bader Theatre.

TIFF co-heads Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente say the cost will be the same whether in-person or online, with regular screenings priced at $19 including taxes and fees, and premium ones going for $26.

Cars of one or two people can catch TIFF titles at the Visa Skyline Drive-In at CityView, and RBC Lakeside Drive-In at Ontario Place for $49 including taxes and fees, while cars with three or more people cost $69.

And open-air screenings at the West Island Open Air Cinema at Ontario Place can accommodate two people on a “lawn pod” for $38 including taxes and fees.

Anyone in Canada will be able to check out TIFF’s secure digital platform, called Bell Digital Cinema, and stream watermarked titles to their TV through Chromecast or a newly developed TIFF app set for release at the Apple App Store on Sept. 9.

Staggered presales to TIFF contributors and insiders start Aug. 28, with sales to the general public opening Sept. 5. The Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 10 to 19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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‘Horrific:’ Witness says Alberta doctor slain while working in medical clinic

RED DEER, Alta. — A witness to a fatal attack at a central Alberta medical clinic says the victim was her family doctor.

The assault happened at the Village Mall Walk-In Clinic in Red Deer just before noon on Monday.

RCMP said in a release that one man was in custody and officers were not looking for other suspects. 

Anina Mullin said she waiting in the lobby of the clinic with her 13-year-old daughter when they heard a commotion.

“We heard banging and then, ‘Help Me! Help Me! Call 911! Call 911!'” Mullin told rdnewsNOW.

“That was the doctor screaming, yelling. One of the receptionists ran to the door. It was at the far end of the walk-in clinic and she came running back like she had seen a ghost and was like, ‘Can someone help him?'”

Mullin said two larger men nearby sprang into action to assist. They came back quickly, telling everyone to get out.

“I grabbed my teenage daughter’s hand and we just ran as fast as we could out the doors. Once we got outside, we got into the truck and waited. And she’s like, ‘Mom can we go?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m too shaken. I can’t.”

Mullin said the two men who had helped stood at the clinic door and held it shut until police arrived.

“The one police officer went to the door and opened the door and had his gun drawn and he yelled, ‘Put it down, put it down or I will shoot you!'” said Mullin.

“At that time, a hammer flew at the police officer and bashed into the door and then flew outside. It was drenched in blood … like you couldn’t see any metal on it. It was just covered in blood.”

Mullin said the officer then ordered someone to ‘put down the machete’ and went inside. He was quickly joined by other officers, who brought out the suspect in handcuffs.

“He was wearing a hooded sweater with his hood up,” said Mullin.

“He had blood all around the rim of his sleeves and large clothes. From there, the ambulances came and they all rushed in with medical bags and a stretcher … they also brought out the other patients I assume were in the other waiting rooms along with two other doctors and a bunch of nurses.”

After that, Mullin said her doctor was brought out on a stretcher.

RdnewsNOW is not naming the physician. RCMP would not say if the victim was a doctor.

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said he was “deeply saddened to hear of this horrific incident.”

“Sending my condolences to the physician’s family and loved ones.” he said Monday on Twitter. “My thoughts and prayers are with all staff and patients who witnessed this tragic attack.”

Dr. Christine Molnar, president of the Alberta Medical Association, also sent condolences to the physician’s family, colleagues and the Red Deer community.

“The AMA will be reaching out to local medical staff to learn how we can best provide support at this time,” said in a statement.

Mullin said her physician was an amazing doctor.

“I’ve never seen anything quite as horrific as that.

“It’s definitely affected my daughter. It’s hard to get out of your mind,” she said. “I don’t know if I could ever go back into that clinic. It’s awful.” (rdnewsNOW)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2020

— With files from Bill Graveland in Calgary

Sheldon Spackman and Troy Gillard, rdnewsNOW, The Canadian Press

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