Sarah Leamon: I'm appalled that the killer of a Vancouver sex worker was invited to speak to Calgary teachers

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      A gathering of teachers doesn’t normally sound like the kind of event that would attract a great deal of controversy, but the 2019 Calgary City Teachers' Convention is raising some serious eyebrows…and for good reason.

      Andrew Evans, who is identified as “Andy” and as a representative of the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre, was going to deliver a speech on adolescent addiction

      Before the event was cancelled, the conference website described his presentation as being about how schools and families can better support addicted youth. He was initially scheduled to present alongside Const. Andrew Morton of the Calgary Police Service. The event organizers said that, together, they were going to deliver a message of hope.  

      On the surface, nothing about this session sounded terribly contentious or even mildly questionable.  

      Learning about adolescent addiction is important. The voices of recovering addicts and others who have experience with addiction are of profound assistance in gaining a greater understanding and insight with respect to this issue. 

      Just one thing…

      Andrew Evans is a convicted murderer. 

      In 2007, Evans brutally beat, strangled, and murdered Nicole Parisien in Vancouver.  Evans was 25 years old at the time of the offence. Parisien was 33. 

      Court records indicate that Evans confessed to the murder. 

      In doing so, he explained that he had become enraged after he was unable to maintain an erection in the presence of Parisien, whom he had hired to perform sexual services. At the time, Parisien was working as a sex worker. 

      Evans said that his sexual incompetence caused him to lose control. 

      After he had beaten and strangled Parisien to death, Evans attempted to cover up his crime by hiding her body in some nearby bushes. Parisien was eventually found outside of a Kitsilano apartment building, lightly covered in brush. 

      Evans fled to Calgary in an attempt to evade detection, but ultimately turned himself into police. 

      Evans was charged and convicted at trial. Although he appealed, he was unsuccessful. 

      His conviction was upheld. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.

      However, a provision in the Criminal Code allowed Evans to gain parole in 2014—a mere seven years after he had committed murder. 

      And now—12 years after beating, strangling and killing a woman in a fit of rage over his own sexual dysfunction—he was invited to publicly deliver a message of “hope” to educators in Calgary. 

      It’s almost completely unfathomable.   

      What’s more, nothing on the Calgary Teachers' Convention website mentioned the fact that Evans is a convicted murderer. Nothing indicated that Evans would make mention of his heinous criminal history or speak to his crime. 

      It appears as though this information would have been all but glazed over. Or perhaps worse—the details of his deplorable acts would have been disclosed to a group of unsuspecting and unprepared listeners. 

      After facing a backlash for his inclusion, the Calgary Teachers’ Convention initially stood by its decision to offer Evans a platform. It pointed out that, unlike teachers, speakers at the convention do not require police clearances or background checks. 

      And although a criminal conviction should not forever rob a person of their voice or preclude them from contributing to their communities, the organizers' decision to choose this speaker, at this time, on this topic—without transparency—is problematic, to say the least.  

      Andrew Evans recently committed one of the most heinous crimes imaginable.  He selfishly snuffed out the life of a young woman.

      In one way, it appears that the pervasive social stigma around sex work has served to somewhat destigmatize Evans's crime. It has gifted him with a greater degree of public amnesty and compassion than have been granted to other murderers. 

      After all, it would be difficult to imagine that a man who had hired and subsequently murdered a woman in the course of more conventional employment, perhaps as a physiotherapist or a registered massage therapist, would be invited to speak to public educators about “hope” just 12 years later. 

      In the past, Nicole Parisien's family has spoken out about the trauma and the pain that Evans caused them. 

      It is difficult to imagine how they must feel today, burdened with the knowledge that their daughter’s killer is not only free, but also free to be given the opportunity to deliver an uplifting message of hope to a room full of professionals (before this was cancelled). 

      The Calgary Teacher’s Convention is set to commence on February 14.  Over 1,000 teachers are expected to be in attendance. Thankfully, Andrew Evans is not.

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