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Judge accused for mocking an accent

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Dozens of medical and legal experts have filed a complaint with the Canadian Judicial Council against an Alberta judge, alleging he made comments that could be perceived as racist about a medical examiner from Nigeria.

Queen’s Bench Justice Terry Clackson made the comments in the Lethbridge trial of David and Collet Stephan. Last week, Clackson found the parents not guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life in the death of their 18-month-old son Ezekiel in 2012.

The couple testified they thought their son had croup and used herbal remedies to treat him. They called for an ambulance when he stopped breathing, but he later died in hospital.

A letter dated Thursday signed by 42 doctors and lawyers from across the country asks the judicial council to investigate Clackson’s comments about Dr BamideleAdeagbo.

“In reading Justice Clackson’s reasons, he makes a number of ad hominem attacks on Dr Adeagbo which lack a judicial mien, and in which some may perceive racism,” the letter says.

Norman Sabourin, executive director and senior general counsel with the Canadian Judicial Council, confirmed Friday it had received the complaint but was unable to provide a copy of it.

“Council takes seriously all allegations of misconduct against judges,” Sabourin said, adding over 80 per cent of all complaints are reviewed within three months.

In his written decision in the trial, Clackson took issue with Adeagbo’s inability to communicate with the court.

“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.

The judge, without explanation, also called out Adeagbo for “body language and physical antics … not the behaviours usually associated with a rational, impartial professional imparting opinion evidence.”

Darryl Ruether, executive legal counsel for Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench, said the court is aware of the complaint against Clackson, who will continue to sit on the bench while it is investigated. He provided no further comment.

University of Calgary bioethicist Juliet Guichon was one of the experts who helped write the letter. She said Clackson’s words were shocking.

An Alberta Justice department spokesman said he can’t comment on the complaint. “That said, we, of course, believe that all Albertans deserve to be treated with dignity,” said Dan Laville.


He added that no decision has been made on whether the Crown will appeal Clackson’s verdict.

The trial was the second for the Stephans. A jury convicted the couple in 2016 but the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a new trial.

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