David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during their appeals trial in Calgary, Alta., on March 9, 2017. A naturopath has testified she recommended an Alberta couple take their toddler to a hospital emergency room before he died of bacterial meningitis. David and Collet Stephan have pleaded not guilty to failing to provide the necessaries of life for their 19-month-old son, Ezekiel. The couple initially treated the child with herbal supplements and alternative remedies before he died in 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during their appeals trial in Calgary, Alta., on March 9, 2017. A naturopath has testified she recommended an Alberta couple take their toddler to a hospital emergency room before he died of bacterial meningitis. David and Collet Stephan have pleaded not guilty to failing to provide the necessaries of life for their 19-month-old son, Ezekiel. The couple initially treated the child with herbal supplements and alternative remedies before he died in 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

Association of Nigerian doctors calls Alberta judge’s comments racist

Justice Terry Clackson found David and Collet Stephan not guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life to 19-month-old Ezekiel

An Alberta judge’s comments about an expert witness at the trial of parents who were accused in their son’s death were “prejudiced, racist, xenophobic and anti-immigrant,” says a letter by a group that represents Nigerian doctors in Canada.

The letter is signed by Adeyemi Laosebikan, president of the Canadian Association of Nigerian Physicians and Dentists, and is one of three complaints being investigated by the Canadian Judicial Council, which oversees federally appointed judges.

“In a multicultural society such as Canada, these comments are disturbing, divisive and unacceptable,” the letter reads.

“Professionally, these comments are unethical and socially immoral. A position of influence such as that of a judge should be occupied by individuals who understand and truly apply the universal principles of natural justice, equity and fairness.”

Last month, Justice Terry Clackson found David and Collet Stephan not guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life to 19-month-old Ezekiel. The Stephans testified they thought their son had croup and that they used herbal remedies to treat him before he died in hospital.

In his decision, Clackson said the medical examiner called by the Crown, Dr. Bamidele Adeagbo, was hard to understand and spoke with an accent.

“His ability to articulate his thoughts in an understandable fashion was severely compromised by: his garbled enunciation; his failure to use appropriate endings for plurals and past tenses; his failure to use the appropriate definite and indefinite articles; his repeated emphasis of the wrong syllables; dropping his Hs; mispronouncing his vowels; and the speed of his responses,” Clackson wrote in the decision.

Adeagbo, who is originally from Nigeria, did the autopsy on Ezekiel and testified that the boy died of bacterial meningitis. The judge sided with a forensic pathologist called by the defence, who said the boy’s death was caused by a lack of oxygen.

“Mr. Justice Clackson in his written judgment unnecessarily smeared Mr. Adeagbo for his accent, that which he had no control over any more than the opposing medical expert had over her French accent,” says the association’s letter.

It asks that Clackson make a formal and public apology to Adeagbo. It also calls on the judicial council, the Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Medical Association to publicly lend their voice.

“(Adeagbo) has been an expert witness for the Crown in the province of Alberta in more than 50 medico-legal cases and is actively involved in training medical students and postgraduate physicians,” the letter says.

“Justice Terry Clackson’s condescending comments and disposition to Dr. Bamidele Adeagbo on the basis of his accent and grammar fall short of honourable conduct and diminishes administration of justice.”

Laosebikan, whose association has 2,000 members, said there was no choice but to respond to Clackson’s comments once they became public.

“Any responsible organization would react in the same matter,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

“This is a fellow medical professional who is being unduly maligned in the court of law while performing his professional and civic duty.”

A group of 42 professors of medicine and law from across Canada filed a similar complaint last week with the judicial council.

Norman Sabourin, the council’s executive director, said it has received a third complaint from an individual, but he did not name the person.

“All complaints are being reviewed in accordance with council’s complaints procedures,” Sabourin said. “The judge will be given the opportunity to comment.”

Darryl Ruether, executive legal counsel for Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, said Clackson will continue to sit as a justice.

“Because this matter is the subject of complaints before the CJC, and because it may be subject to appeal to the Alberta Court of Appeal, it would be inappropriate for the court to comment on it,” he said.

Katherine Thompson with Alberta Justice said Wednesday that the Crown had not yet decided if it would appeal the verdict.

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced the province surpasses one million COVID-19 tests Friday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up by 100 in last 24 hours

Most central Alberta communities under province’s enhanced measures list

Sylvan Lake RCMP, Fire Department and Victim Services will be out on Dec. 5 for the annual Charity Check-stop. File Photo
Give Sylvan Lake RCMP the bird at Charity Check-stop

Sylvan Lake RCMP will be accepting frozen turkeys for the food bank during the charity check-stop

Ecole H.J. Cody School. File Photo
Sylvan Lake high school temporarily moves to online classes

Over the weekend, H.J. Cody reported six positive cases of COVID-19

.
Alberta confirmed more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases Sunday

Central zone active cases slightly up

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Russ and Luanne Carl are sharing about their experiences of fighting COVID-19 this past summer.
photo submitted
Stettler couple opens up about COVID-19 battle

Luanne and Russ Carl urge others to bolster personal safety measures amidst ongoing pandemic

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following party caucus in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental health as grounds for assisted death is likely temporary: Lametti

Senators also suggested the exclusion renders the bill unconstitutional

Claudio Mastronardi, Toronto branch manager at Carmichael Engineering, is photographed at the company’s offices in Mississauga, Ont., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. As indoor air quality becomes a major concern in places of business, HVAC companies are struggling to keep up with demand for high quality filtration systems. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Business is booming for HVAC companies as commercial buildings see pandemic upgrades

‘The demand right now is very high. People are putting their health and safety ahead of cost’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

Traffic crosses over the Lions Gate Bridge from North Vancouver into Vancouver on July 2, 2015. Motorists would have to pay a fee to drive into downtown Vancouver under the city's plan to slow climate change but one expert warns it could pose financial hardship for some. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver’s climate plan ‘first 10 steps in a journey of 10,000,’ says expert

Almost 40 per cent of Vancouver’s carbon pollution comes from vehicles

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
After COVID-related transplant delays, 16-year-old N.S. girl gets lung transplant

‘This is the difficult time now of seeing Tahlia in ICU hooked up to 15 IVs and sedated’

Most Read