CANADA Supreme Court won't hear appeal from parents who face...

Supreme Court won’t hear appeal from parents who face two lawsuits over son’s death


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David and Collet Stefan leaving the Lethbridge courthouse in 2016. The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear an appeal in a case in which they were tried twice in the death of their sick toddler. (David Rossiter/Canadian Press)

The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear an appeal in a high-profile case in Alberta in which a married couple was tried twice for the death of their sick baby.

David and Colle Stefan were accused of not seeking medical attention before their 18-month-old son Ezekiel did before he died in 2012.

They testified that they had treated the boy with natural remedies for what they believed to be croup.

In 2016, a jury found them guilty of failing to provide themselves with basic necessities, but the Supreme Court of Canada overturned that verdict and ordered a retrial.

In 2019, a judge hearing a second trial without a jury found them not guilty.

In March 2021, the Alberta Court of Appeal granted the Crown’s request to overturn this acquittal and ordered a new trial.

Then in June 2021, the Crown Prosecutors dropped the charges against the Stephans, but an application for leave to appeal the third trial decision had already been filed with the Supreme Court.

As usual, the Supreme Court did not give reasons for its decision.

Sarah Langley, Chief Attorney for Appeals and Specialized Prosecutions at the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service, thanked the Supreme Court for addressing the matter.

“While the court upheld the order for a new trial, on June 22, 2021, the proceedings were suspended … on the charges against the Stefanovs,” she wrote in an email.

“A key duty of the Crown Prosecutor is to constantly evaluate their case and ensure that all aspects of the evidence are carefully considered at every stage of the prosecution.”

Langley said it’s been more than nine years since Ezekiel died and the available evidence has deteriorated after two previous trials.

“The available evidence is no longer sufficient to meet the (Royal Alberta Attorney’s Office) standard for prosecution, and a reasonable likelihood of conviction no longer exists,” she said.

Jason Demers, the Stefanovs’ lawyer, said in an email to CBC News Thursday that his clients are disappointed that the Supreme Court won’t hear their appeal, “thus leaving what we consider to be ambiguity in the law.”

“Obviously, the CPC thought differently, and although we may not agree with this decision, we accept it,” Demers said.

“My clients are very concerned about what this decision will mean for other parents who find themselves in a situation similar to the one they were in.”

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