South Huron’s sounds of success

School bands bring home gold, two silvers, and big awards from MusicFest Canada Story and photos by Casey Lessard

They’re the best percussion ensemble in Canada, and they’re right here in our backyard. Led by music director Isaac Moore and coach Dave Robilliard, South Huron District High School’s percussionists won the Zildjian Outstanding Percussion Section Award at this year’s MusicFest Canada national competition in Ottawa May 22; graduating student Jon Gill of Grand Bend, who is attending UWO for music in the fall, won the Zildjian Outstanding Percussionist Award. Judge and seminar leader Wayne Toews called the group the best student percussion ensemble in Canada, and could challenge any group in the world. If that’s the case, says Robilliard, it’s because the students are fully committed to success. “We challenge our students in a way that other percussion ensembles I’ve seen in Canada are not challenged,” says Robilliard. “We give them – and they’ve requested – very difficult material that requires extra time and rehearsal on their time. It’s one of the best things (judge) Wayne Toews has seen in high school percussion ensembles, so in his eyes, it’s world class. It’s a very flattering statement.” The accolades came hours after performing at the nationals; the percussionists performed last and earned a gold standard, while two other groups led by Moore and fellow teacher Matt Weston – the senior concert band and senior jazz bands – performed earlier the same day, each earning the silver award. “A lot of kids in the music program are goal-oriented students,” says Moore, “and they respond well to having a goal. Whether we go to nationals or regionals, that goal is one of the things that motivate them to continue to get better. MusicFest Canada is on a different level because you have 10,000 kids from across Canada who are passionate about music. Something really special gets created when you put them together in the same place.” To compete at nationals, the bands had to earn either gold or high silver with invitation at the regional competition in London. When the nationals are held in Ottawa, South Huron finds it convenient to attend, and a great experience as well. “Ottawa is a great place to play, and the National Arts Centre is one of the best concert halls in the country, as it should be,” Moore says. “The experience of playing in that building and hearing other bands in that building, it’s incredible for them. It’s probably something a lot of them won’t have the opportunity to do again, so it’s important for me that every student experience the nationals if possible.” During the years when the competition is not in Ottawa, Moore and Weston take the music students on non-MusicFest trips, including last year’s trip to Chicago. It’s part of Moore’s mission to give a rounded music education. “A teacher I had while at university asked, are you giving your students a fantastic four-year band program, or are you giving your students a fantastic band program for four years, as in the same program for four years,” he says. “A lot of what we do is based on routine and tradition, and it called into question for me how you maintain tradition and routine, but also offer the kids a different experience over the four years they are here. It opened my mind to the different options of where kids can go and what they can learn. In the four years you’ve got, you can do a lot.” This year’s trip to the nationals was the second for Robilliard, whose father Bob was music director at South Huron for many years. After returning to Canada from graduate school in Oklahoma, Dave Robilliard joined Moore and Weston – the three studied percussion together at UWO – three years ago to lighten their load. “I am able to focus on techniques and sound concepts that Isaac and Matt can’t focus on in the large classroom or band settings,” says Robilliard, who, unlike education majors Moore and Weston, pursued performance at university. He now works with the Stratford and International Symphonies, serves as a substitute for the Kitchener and Windsor Symphonies, and performs in a percussion group called DuO. His contribution has led to great success for the students. “We received a gold standard in 2008,” he says, “which was my first year working with percussion ensemble. There was still a large number of carryover of students this year – Jon Gill, Joe Pavkeje and Jeff Penn – and we won gold again. But we don’t do it for the awards. We want to see students grow as musicians and see their confidence grow on stage.” While South Huron has a full trophy case – and that’s just from this year – Moore agrees that they’re not looking for pats on the back. “The real measure of success is how we feel about our performances when we’re done. I measure our success as a teacher how we fare when we compete at a higher level (the 2008 bronze winning senior concert band competed in a higher bracket this year and earned silver). If we were not taking the kids to an uncomfortable place, it would be an exercise in self-confidence. It makes more sense to shoot a little beyond where you might be so you can develop.” The success can be attributed to the approach of the teachers, and the commitment of the students. “It’s a lot of practice, a lot of one-on-one with your section and Mr. Moore,” says graduating student Trish Pavkeje, who performed in the concert and jazz bands. “It helps that Mr. Moore and Mr. Weston are easy to talk to. It’s easy to ask them for help.” “Everyone’s on the same level and enjoys being there with everyone else,” says Joe Pavkeje, a member of all three groups, winner of the national honour award for the jazz band, and SHDHS student of the year. “Our school isn’t segregated into athletic kids and music kids. Everyone is doing everything. It feels cohesive for that reason.” Clarinet player Stephanie Pratt agrees. “Kids from all over the school are in this, so you get a sense of diversity,” Pratt says, noting music is attractive because of the lessons you learn. “Self-discipline is important, you learn a lot of patience and togetherness.” For Stephen Mills, who has experienced bullying at school, the inclusivity makes the music room a refuge. “We have to work together to do anything in the band,” Mills says. “We all have to talk to each other, and when you have to talk to someone, you appreciate them for who they are.” And that’s exactly what Isaac Moore wants to hear. “If a student is willing to commit themselves to the educational experience, we try not to discriminate in any way. Students can find their place in the band based on their strengths and weaknesses. Without your strong players and weaker players, you can’t maintain consistency. Eventually the weak players become strong and take over the leadership roles.” Now that many members of the successful bands are graduating, Moore, Weston and Robilliard look to the future. “We take it year by year,” Robilliard says. “The younger students will now have an opportunity to succeed at a higher level than they’ve had in the past. We’re going to do a lot of different pieces in different styles, and give everyone an opportunity to learn and grow.”

Long live the king!

Grand Bend gambler Richard Webb will travel globe after winning the Canadian Poker Tour crown Richard Webb hit it big January 21 when he won the Canadian Poker Tour Invitational Finals at Ocean World Resort and Casino in the Dominican Republic. Webb was the best of Canada’s top 43 players, who were invited to the Caribbean resort to compete for the $60,000 title and a sponsorship contract worth $100,000. With the win, Webb will represent Canadian Poker Tour as the Canadian poker champion, and the company will pay his entry fee and all expenses when he competes in tournaments across Canada and around the world this year. He also gets to keep most of his winnings from any tournaments where he places “in the money”. It’s a high level of success for this 48-year old Dashwood native, who grew up playing cards and still plays poker weekly with his friends and family.

Photos and photo illustration by Casey Lessard As told to Casey Lessard

When did I start playing poker? Probably with my dad when I was a young child. He would deal hand after hand of seven-card stud, and practice and play. He was a card player, and I learned my card skills from him. As we were growing up, we played cards all the time: euchre, solo, hearts – all the card games you play as a family. Along came the charity casino days, and I played poker at those not knowing much of what I was doing. It was mainly limit poker, so there’s a fixed small blind and large blind, and there are only three or four raises. Each game would be $5 to $20 per game. We started playing out at a local establishment in Exeter on Monday and Tuesday nights, and we moved out here for a regular Tuesday night poker game (his basement has a poker room complete with a beautiful poker table, comfortable chairs, and a painting of dogs playing poker). We had been playing various types of games, but we could see that no-limit hold ‘em was where the future of poker was. In no-limit, you can raise any time. This was in the fall of 2004 after Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker, which really was the start of the explosion of the poker trend. In February 2005, I entered my first tournament, the Bluewater Championships at Point Edward charity casino, which was their first. There were about 400 people putting up $500 each. Lo and behold, I finished second. That was a good start. I took a good portion of the winnings and took a month long motorhome trip across Canada with my family. I played the Bluewater Championships again in February 2006, and won it that time. They had another one in September, and I won that, too. I think first prize was something like $50,000 each, so that set me off. I made headlines in poker magazines, and the international poker rankings mentioned it because it’s unusual to win back-to-back. In 2007, I made the money again at Bluewater, finishing 12th. Then I went to Regina, where I won a tournament. It’s not the biggest tournament in Canada, but it’s one of the best. In 2008, I came back and won the Bluewater for the third time. That gave me entry into the Canadian championships, which were put on by the Canadian Poker Tour. They decided to have a tournament for the top point getters throughout the year. In any given year, I’ve never been the top points person, but I’ve always come close. Historically, since I started, I am number one overall.

Canadian championships It was a very good field of experienced players, all of who had won tournaments or come close, and we played in Puerto Plata. It was well put together with a big reception party. I went through day one, not as the top chip player but as one of the top 12 moving into day two. By the time we got to nine players, I started to take the lead. When we made the final table, I was the chip leader. Not by a lot, but I was chip leader. I played well. I made two bad calls throughout that time where I actually got in the hand when I was behind. In one case I lost the hand, and the other I drew out on a guy from Toronto. He had an ace/nine versus my king/jack. You get two cards and you’re trying to make a five-card hand. Three cards are flipped – the “flop”. The “turn” brings another card, and then there’s the “river”. I got a jack on the flop to make a pair and that eliminated him. That was good luck. You want to get in when you’re the favourite. His hand was 55 per cent favoured to my 45 per cent because he had the ace. He had one card that was over my two, but my two were over his bottom card. He had to hit an ace to win. It worked out for me. I proceeded to knock out the rest of the field. I got down to playing heads-up with a guy named Robert Beveridge, who won two Grey Cups as a CFL player and now coaches football at the University of British Columbia. I trapped him on a hand. I had pocket queens and he had ace/seven. I was 75-80 per cent favoured to win the hand and luckily he got an ace in the flop. The very next hand I picked up pocket sevens and moved all in against his ace/queen. A seven on the flop gave me three of a kind and I won the tournament. With the $60,000 prize, I get a $100,000 contract to go around the world and play poker. I give them 20 per cent of what I win and I give 10 per cent to charity in the city where I win. If it’s an international win, I’ll donate it in Grand Bend, Dashwood or Calgary, where the Canadian Poker Tour is based. I’ve worked my schedule so I can still run my business (Stewart Webb & Sons septic systems, which he runs with his brother), and have already started touring. I went to Los Angeles for the LA Poker Classic, which is one of the premier events. The winner takes $1.7 million, and I played well, but didn’t make it into the top 63 to get into the money. I jumped on a plane a couple days later to Calgary and finished 38th, which was in the money, and came home. I’m going to Regina this month; to Sanremo, Italy in April, to play in the European Poker Tour event there; Calgary for the Canadian Open; Las Vegas for the World Series; Barcelona, Spain; hopefully the North American championships in Niagara; and a whole bunch of tournaments across Canada to represent the tour coast-to-coast. For the World Series of Poker, there will be 7,000 players putting up $10,000 each, so first prize is about $9 million. Last year there were two Canadians at the final table.

Keeping everything in perspective Cards are a hobby for me. You see the glamour and glitz on TV, but there’s so much more that goes into it that it isn’t something I would want to have to depend on for rent payments at the end of the month. It would certainly subsidize my income if I decided to retire, but the pressure wouldn’t be there to perform. I’ve been fortunate. But if I never won another tournament again, I’d be quite satisfied with what I’ve achieved. That said, the Canadian Poker Tour wants me to win. Next year they’re planning to do the same thing but offer contracts to all of the players that make the final table. If I walk into a poker room anywhere in Canada, they know who I am because of the previous years. I play as hard as I can, but it’s always about the W for me. I don’t look at the money – I look for the win. That might help me be more relaxed at the end, and I think that’s one of my strengths. Plus I have a lot of final table experience. I wear sunglasses and a hat, and I’m listening to music a lot of the time. I try to establish how good someone’s hand is, and if I’m right 60 per cent of the time, I’m doing well. The more hands you see, the better. In no-limit poker, there’s raising (the stakes) and folding (your hand); no calling. Calling will just get you into trouble unless you’re trying to trap somebody. A good fold is as good as a good call. Maybe better. You’ve got to be able to fold when you’re beat. If you don’t, you’re going to be out of the tournament in a hurry. It doesn’t matter if it’s for $10 or $10,000; it’s still about winning. I still like to play. Cards are a social sport. At tournaments, you’re sitting at tables for 10-12 hours, so I want to be able to talk to the person next to me. If you’re likable, maybe people don’t try to knock you out as hard. I always shake hands and say goodbye to everyone. I’m definitely living the dream. It’s always nice to take Jackie and Sarah with me to places where it’s nice and warm, or places they want to see. Jackie will be going with me to Italy, and hopefully Jackie and Sarah will go with me to Barcelona. When I’m there playing, I don’t do anything other than play, but if I take an extra week, we can enjoy the places together. The money I’ve won has been used for things for my family and extended family, so it goes to good use and isn’t wasted. We still play every Tuesday night with the boys, and they beat me all the time. I play with my father every Tuesday and he beats me quite regularly. I like the ability to play with my dad. I’ve taken him to some tournaments; he sees the success I’ve had, and he’s proud of that. If I win $50,000 Sunday night, I still go to work Monday morning. If I were given a long-term contract to represent an organization, I probably would take it. I like the ability to get out there and meet people. If they want me to do charity events, I’m happy to do it. If I have interviews to do, I’m happy to do that. If I win one of the big tournaments this year, it’s not going to change the way I am and I’ll probably still come to work the next day. Well, maybe I’d take a couple days off before coming back.

To see Richard Webb win the Canadian Poker Tour Invitational Finals, you can watch The Score in April. Air dates and times are not yet set, but will be listed at

“It all happened so fast”

How a day at the beach changed Reagen Robinson’s life Exeter toddler Reagen Robinson’s life will never be the same after an outing to a private beach near Grand Bend in August. Soon after arriving at the beach with his parents Brad and Katrina and brother Jordon, Reagen ran toward an extinguished, but still hot, firepit and suffered third degree burns to his hands and second degree burns to parts of his legs.

As told to Casey Lessard

Katrina Robinson: We’re lake people. It’s nice to live next door to one of the most beautiful places in the world, and we take advantage of it. We have two small kids and two dogs who enjoy to swim. We’re beachgoers. It’s a fun, inexpensive day to have family time. It was a Friday afternoon, and after Brad finished work we decided to go to the beach. We were at a private beach. We had just sat down and I noticed he went toward the fire pit and I literally just about had him. I couldn’t catch him fast enough. He fell into a fire pit full of ashes that were still fairly warm. I picked him up and threw him in the water with me. I didn’t know what else to do. Brad came down and took one look at him and said we had to go to the hospital. It all happened so fast. It seemed like we got there one minute, and the next we were driving back down the road with a screaming baby. Shock took over. Usually I’m a very queasy person, but for some reason I was the pillar of strength. I carried him into Exeter hospital and they took him from me so I could give them information. I went back and all you could see was his skin was charred. It was all grey. I don’t know how else to describe it because I try not to think about it; it’s so horrific. I remember having to stand in the hospital room and hold cold cloths of saline solution over top of him. They explained what they were going to do and gave him a drug called ketamine to knock him out. Before I knew it, he was being taken to Victoria Hospital. We dropped Jordon off at Brad’s parents’ house in Ailsa Craig, and it felt like forever to get from Ailsa Craig to London. We got lost and finally found where we were supposed to be. I don’t think the severity of it sunk in until the next morning, Saturday. Having been brought up to speed by his team, the plastic surgeon came in and had a look and said flat out that Reagen had to have skin grafting. He said he would wait until his normal surgery days, which were Wednesday and Thursday, but then he came back and changed his mind. He said if it was okay with us, he would do it the next day, Sunday. On his first surgery, they skin-grafted up his forearms, the back of his hands and the fronts of his fingers. They placed pins in his fingers to keep them straight so he didn’t move any of the skin grafting. It takes between three and seven days for the skin grafts to be fully attached. Originally they thought they would have to skin graft his palms, a spot on his knees and a spot on his toe. But after two hours, the surgeon came to us and was excited, saying he didn’t think his knee or his palms needed the surgery. We were in the hospital for four weeks. They were shocked at how fast he healed, and Dr. Scilley was calling him his Superhealer. They were pleased enough to let us go home, but reminded us that we would have to have home care come in every day because he had sores that would need dressings. We went home with some dressing instructions and we were to wrap Cobans (a type of compression bandage) to add some tension into form before we got into gloves. We were home doing that for about a week before we had to go see Dr. Scilley. The Coban, because it wasn’t wrapped properly, started to cut into the bases of the fingers and added new wounds. Unfortunately, because of the way the health system works, no one from the hospital could come out and teach our home care workers how to use them properly, and you have to be a pro at it for it to work properly. The physical therapist, surgeon and a couple of nurses went to a conference in Montreal, and discovered gloves that had some tension in them with silver to help the healing. These were eventually replaced by the full pressure gloves he uses now. His left hand was burned worse than his right hand; he has about 95 per cent use of his right hand, and we’ve had issues with his left hand. His web spaces grew in a bit and the gloves are cutting into the web space. We’re trying to get it to heal, but you need pressure on it to keep it functional. It’s just getting better now. The body is still trying to repair its own skin because it doesn’t understand skin grafting. The blood vessels are still up at the surface, so if he were to pick his finger, it would bleed like crazy. The gloves help put pressure on his blood vessels and add form to his fingers. His fingers will never look like yours and mine, but he’ll be able to bend them. With the home care workers, I hold on to him and we go through six exercises to bend his joints and stretch the skin to its maximum potential. Even in a 24-hour period, you can have a lot of contraction, so you have to manipulate it while it’s still not completely healed.

Inflicting pain daily They’re hopeful that he will have full mobility. With his left hand, he doesn’t do a whole lot because it’s still sore. He favours his right hand, and we hope the mobility’s there in his left hand, but he can’t talk so we don’t know. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s not an easy thing to watch a child go through pain. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t have to assist in inflicting pain on him. I honestly thought when they first taught me how to do the exercises in the hospital that it would get easier. It doesn’t. In fact, it gets worse because it’s been four or five months continuous. When you have a burn, you have a burn for life. He will require surgeries until he is fully grown because his fingers and arms will grow but his skin won’t grow with them. It has its downfalls for being as young as he was, but it has its upside, too. He’ll never remember what happened, and he’ll never know any different. He’ll just have to adapt. It’s life. You can’t go back and it’s never going to get any worse than it was that day. We just have to teach him that everyone is different, and you can do anything you want as long as you set your mind to it.

A November fundraiser in Parkhill raised almost $20,000 to offset the medical costs. Reagen needs gloves, which are covered 75 per cent by OHIP every six months, but the family has to pay for any additional gloves in the interim. Medical supplies and other expenses, such as parking for regular visits to the hospital, also come out of their pocket. Donations are still being accepted. Cheques made out to the “Parkhill Lions Club in trust to Reagen Robinson” can be sent to the club at P.O. Box 207 Parkhill, ON N0M 2K0. Tax receipts will be issued.

Looking evil in the eye

By Casey Lessard Similar to the crowd at a Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church, familiar faces fill the rows of seats at today’s gathering. I see Steve Dietrich, Pat and Marion Sullivan, Marty and Teresa Larkin, Don O’Rourke, and many Regiers. Instead of seeing Father Ray Lawhead at the front of this room, though, he is among the many. Family friends fill the seats house left, with Carlos Rivera’s family at the front. The Regiers occupy the entire house right side. Altogether, the court seats about 100. We, the media, number 20 and have the privileged position of occupying the jury boxes on either side of the court.

It is now several minutes past ten o’clock on October 27, 2008, and we are waiting for Jesse Norman Imeson’s murder trial to begin. Unlike the Riveras, who used the front entrance, the Regier family was able to avoid the throng of reporters and photographers by using the back entrance. Their sober faces bely the fact that they must wonder what the lawyers at the front have to chuckle about. Perhaps today’s proceedings will bring good news. Hopefully those in attendance will leave with a lighter load than they carried in.

At 10:10 a.m., Imeson’s defense lawyer Don Crawford comes to speak with the reporter ahead of me, Peter Edwards of the Toronto Star (he wrote the book One Dead Indian about the Ipperwash crisis). “We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” Crawford says. “Is this what it takes to get you out of Toronto and into the sticks?”

My stomach growls. Knowing the courthouse would be full, I left home at 6:30 to ensure a seat. Normally I would be fine after a few hours without food, but the tension in the room makes my gut constrict. It is quiet, with only a spattering of whispers here, then there. The audience is still, staring forward. The court reporter fidgets, police stand on guard, and lawyers chat among themselves.

It’s 10:20, and the bailiff looks over her shoulder at the judge’s door. No action yet. “Go ahead and bring him out,” a voice crackles through an intercom behind the door to my right. Chains rattle beside me and the door opens. Police offices guide Jesse Imeson behind me and to the prisoner’s box in the middle of the court room.

“All rise.” Imeson stands and his face wrinkles. His chains restrict him from scratching his nose. “Let me apologize for the delay,” says Superior Court Justice Roland Haines. “I realize this will e an emotional morning, but I ask you to please restrain yourself from any outbursts during the proceedings.” Crown Attorney Robert Morris reads the charges against Imeson. He will be pleading not guilty to first degree murder charges, but guilty to three counts of second degree murder. Morris tells the court that a guilty plea carries an automatic life sentence, with no parole for at least 10 years and up to 25. The lawyers have agreed that Imeson will serve concurrent life sentences with no parole for 15 years for the murder of Carlos Rivera, and no parole for 25 years for the murders of Bill and Helene Regier. Morris notes this is the maximum sentence available according to Canadian law, and is the same as a first degree sentence. Because he has killed more than one person, he is not eligible to reduce his sentence after 15 years.

I have an odd vantage point. Jesse Imeson’s prisoner’s box is directly in my line of sight over Morris’ shoulder. We stare at each other, and it is an odd feeling to know he is helpless. This court controls his fate as he controlled the fate of his victims.

Imeson stares at the bailiff as she reads the charges. As she tells him that he is charged with killing Bill Regier, his head drops. When she tells him of the charge regarding Helene Regier, he stares ahead. When she is finished, she asks how he wishes to plea. This is the first time I hear his voice. “Not guilty as charged, your honour,” he says the first of three times. “Guilty to the included offence of second degree murder.” His eyes widen as he finishes, and he stares at the judge. “Do you understand that by pleading guilty,” Justice Haines asks, “that by pleading guilty that you by your unlawful acts caused the deaths of Carlos Rivera, Bill Regier and Helene Regier?” He nods. “Yes, your honour.”

Crown attorney presents the evidence of the case, and it’s shocking to hear the details of the deaths. Regier granddaughter Nicole Denomy’s audible wail breaks the silence when Morris recounts how Bill Regier was tied in a crucifixion pose while Helene was tied on the floor before being shot to death in the basement of their home. These are details I’ve never heard before this day, and it’s impossible to believe the crown did not have a case to find Imeson guilty of first degree murder.

The court takes a break and returns to hear victim impact statements. The Riveras – Carlos’ mother and father and two brothers (one brother was unable to attend) – had intended to present their own statements, but are too overcome with emotion to speak. Their lawyer Jennifer Holmes presents on their behalf, and tells the court that Carlos’ mother, Maria, is unable to work, and is financially and physically insecure. “I’m a different person now. I cry constantly. I walk around in a daze thinking about him. At night, the thought of Carlos invades my mind. I have thoughts of taking my life. “Carlos was everything to me. This murderer killed Carlos’ dreams and my dreams as well.” Carlos’ father, Carlos Sr., wonders: “Did (Carlos) ask for help, or did he try to defend himself?” Carlos’ brother, Javier, would speak to Carlos every day after work. “Sometimes I come home and wait for the phone call that never comes.” The words of Alvero Rivera make Holmes break down. “He took me under his wing and made me into a man. He loved taking care of me. I love you. I miss you.” “Carlos helped take a demon out of society,” Hugo Rivera writes. Imeson reacts with a toothless grin, and it’s hard to tell whether he wants to laugh or growl. Clearly uneasy at this point, Imeson appears infuriated to have to listen to their testimony.

The Regier family is next to speak, and they choose to face the killer directly. Daughter Carol Denomy speaks first: “Our lives are changed forever. In everything we do at work and at home, we see them. “We can no longer go to Mass with them, and sit on the front porch to watch the sunset. Our conversations with Mom and Dad kept us stable and rooted, always reminding us of what was important in life. “We will never forget this deep sorrow. It was sudden, violent, undeserved, and defenseless. The pain is sharp, raw, intense. “Violence is foreign to us. Our hearts are wrenched between an emotional torment of evil, grief, sadness, and fear. Breaking into the sanctuary of one’s home is a bizarre and barbaric act. “We carry on our lives because that is what our parents would have wanted us to do. “We are consumed by their absence.” Brother Paul Regier: “On that night, Bill and Helene looked evil in the eye. This tragic event has opened wounds of despair. We work obsessively to dull the pain of that warm summer’s evening when this cowardly act changed us forever. “There is no justice… neither sentence nor compensation will euthanize our sense of loss and anger. Although this tragedy has shattered the peace and tranquility in our families and community, for our own health we are all trying in our own ways to graft on to the wound in our family’s tree a healthy memory of happier times.” Granddaughter Nicole Denomy: “We have all become more skeptical of how safe we really are in our homes. Moving out on my own has been postponed because every night I am reminded of how my grandparents were taken from this earth. “It is ironic that two selfless people who lived their entire lives for everyone around them were taken at the expense of one person’s incredible selfishness. Grandma and Grandpa would have given him a chance if only he had done the same for them. “Our family is tired of associating Grandma and Grandpa’s wonderful life with the wickedness of this man.” Granddaughter Kelli Rathwell: “Our Grandpa had said in a conversation a couple weeks before his and Grandma’s heinous death, ‘This world is changing, you just watch.’ “I believe that when a person is at their very worst, it is because no one is around. “Please know that you have done our family no favours on this day. But always remember, although you did not listen to the plea of our beautiful grandparents for their life, their family has listened to yours.”

Accepting the crown’s evidence, Don Crawford says the DNA stands for itself, but tells the court that Imeson did not go to the Regier farm with the intention of killing anybody. “Things,” he says, “unfortunately got out of hand.” Defending the plea bargain, Crawford tells the court that the families “have been spared the anguish of having to testify at a preliminary inquiry and a subsequent trial. “I can’t imagine the amount of money that would have been spent,” he reminds the judge. While Imeson chooses not to apologize in the courtroom, he has given his lawyer a statement to read. “I will be an old man when I am released, if ever. I am truly sorry. Please forgive me.” The judge’s reaction seems more honest. “It is apparent they were extraordinary people,” Justice Haines says. “I would like to express my sympathy and extend my condolences.”

After finalizing the details, the judge sends Imeson to serve his sentence at a federal facility outside of Ontario. We get one last look at Imeson, and I am the last person he sees before he leaves the court. We stare at each other as we have done many times this day. Feeling no fear, I hold my stare with an emotionless face. I now know the depth of his transgression. He breaks and looks to his left. Is this one moment of true embarrassment? The door closes. “This court is closed for the day,” the bailiff says.

John Byrne interview re: Grand Bend beach lifeguards

If it is foreseeable, it is preventable.- Lifesaving Society Canada, Ontario Branch This is the third year in a row someone has drowned at Grand Bend, and each drowning happened after lifeguards went off duty. To help prevent deaths in the future, Lambton Shores last fall commissioned a Lifesaving Society report, and recently purchased life rings, a measure witnesses believe could have helped save at least one of the victims. The Lifesaving Society has audited the facility, will review policies and procedures, and will interview staff. Their report is due this fall. Typically they recommend lifeguards or rescue equipment. The Grand Bend Strip spoke with Lambton Shores Chief Administrative Officer John Byrne about the situation.

Casey Lessard: I understand you are buying life rings for the beach. What is the status of that? John Byrne: They went up last Friday (Aug. 1). There are four stations, and we bought a dozen of them in anticipation that some of them will be stolen, and one was stolen that very evening. We’re just replacing them to keep them stocked until we get the report from the Lifesaving Society and can plan for this for future years. It’s an interim measure at this point. They’re about $100 a piece. The Lifesaving Society was seen as a measure of saying, Okay, let’s do this thoroughly and have professionals come in and objectively look at this and see what can we do to improve things. They were also asked, Look, if there are things that are obvious to you and that we should be doing immediately, please let us know and we’ll do those; don’t wait for the final report. As it turns out, there was a tragic event in tragic circumstances. Certainly a life ring is something people can go to. It’s a lot more difficult than what meets the eye in turns of running to get a life ring and tossing it in time to get it to somebody. I don’t want to say it’s to pacify anybody, but it’s certainly there and we’re going to see if the Lifesaving Society recommends more, less, or different deployment of those or what. CL: In terms of lifeguards, what is the view of whether they should be working longer? JB: That’s all part and parcel of the Lifesaving Society. What we’ve done in terms of a protocol was just follow what preexisted pre-amalgamation, and what was going on previously in Grand Bend, and carried that on. We always interview and talk to the lifeguards before and after seasons to figure out what can we do different, and that’s why we’re changing lifeguard stands and we provided new surfboard equipment and so on and so forth. The frustrating thing is that everybody can come in after the fact and suggest this, that and the other thing. As I said, that’s why we wanted this done professionally by the Lifesaving Society and we’re going to go from there.

CL: So, do you see it as a coincidence that each of the last three years, somebody has died after the lifeguards have gone off-duty. JB: Again, let me ask you the question, what time should they be on in your mind? CL: My attitude is, if there are people on the beach in a strong enough mass of numbers… JB: What’s that number for you? Again, these are all subjective things. It’s easy to say, but you come down there, you look around and see that there are no lifeguards sitting in the lifeguard stands. Does that register with you that maybe there are no lifeguards on duty, number one. You look at the water conditions, the high wave activity going, Gee, I’m not sure that’s the safest place to go swimming. Or do you just throw caution to the wind and go running into the lake saying, Let’s see what will happen? CL: But a lot of people will swim until sundown, and I think sundown is a reasonable… JB: This isn’t a budgetary thing at all as some people have implied. It’s based on what has happened before. For most people, families and so forth, that’s the dinner hour and they’re less likely to access the beach after hours.

CL: The Lifesaving Society has said they leave it up to the municipality based on the statistics they have… JB: I haven’t read the report. I haven’t seen the report. I haven’t talked to them either. We’re leaving them free to interview us and I haven’t heard a thing from them in terms of what they’re recommending. CL: They allow the municipality to decide based on statistics you collect on how much your beach is used, so do you keep track of those stats based on the number of people who are using the parking lots or the number of people that come to the town? JB: The lifeguards make assessments all the time. That’s why they expand or shrink their coverage areas, and they notify people to move in and deploy their lifeguards accordingly. There’s a certain deployment during the week and at weekends and holiday weekends they ramp up their lifeguard decisions they make. We don’t interfere with how they’re going to be doing it. If the lifeguards came back to us and said, We need to be on until 9 o’clock, we’d present that to council and see whether we can do it. CL: So what is the turnaround time on that? If they want to be on beyond 5 o’clock any day, do they have to come to council and wait for a council meeting to decide that, or do they have the authority to do that? JB: Well, again, I couldn’t answer that. You have to think about that. Are you suggesting that we give total attitude to lifeguards to determine their hours of deployment? They try to work with us… CL: You just said you give them discretion to decide what their deployment is. Who’s deciding their deployment then? JB: They decide their deployment meaning where they’re dispersed on the beach. CL: My point is, if there are still 10,000 people on the beach at 5 o’clock, do the lifeguards leave? JB: The lifeguards will announce on the PA system that they’re done. There are different hours for the weekend. You could fence the beach off. Tell everybody to get off the beach, lock the gates and walk away. Do you think somebody’s not going to climb that fence after hours and go in swimming? And are we responsible for that? So should we have 24-hour surveillance and security people around there? This is why we’re trying to figure out what’s the reasonable thing to do. Let’s get it right, let’s not fly by the seat of our pants and react to things. Let’s figure out from the professionals what we should be doing.

CL: So what is the municipality’s measure of liability when drownings happen in Lambton Shores water? JB: There’s always a liability… again… you know, we don’t determine where liability comes. If people want to sue the municipality for something that has occurred, that is their right to do. The courts will sort out and attribute liability. That’s not something we assess. We’re not making decisions based on that. It’s, Are we doing the right things? We think based on past experience, past discussions with lifeguards, the response has been reasonable. You get extreme circumstances. Do the municipality and the council feel terrible about a drowning on the beach? What do you think? (pause) What do you think? CL: You can tell me. JB: (sighs) Okay. CL: I used to be a lifeguard at a pool and we were always on until 8 o’clock. JB: And what happens if someone climbs the fence at 8:30? We’ve had people drown at pools, too. They jump the fence after hours and so forth. There’s no easy answers to this. There’s no perfect solution. That’s why we’re working with professionals. We’ll see what the report says, and we’re going to implement their recommendations.

CL: Does it not seem like a little too much time goes by between commissioning a report last November and getting a report after this summer? JB: Does council wish it could be faster? Sure. CL: You were saying earlier that it’s not a budgetary issue… JB: It’s not a budgetary issue. This is not a matter where we’re putting people at risk for the sake of the limited amount of dollars that we’re spending on this thing. That’s foolish. Council’s never made such a decision to say, Let’s risk this and cut it back here. They’ve always followed through and that’s why we have these reports from the lifeguards about what’s going on and what we can do to improve.

While Byrne did not have figures on hand, we followed up with an email asking for specifics, and received these responses: 1) Lifeguard hours during the week and on weekends/holiday weekends? Noon to 5 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fri, Sat, & Sun and holiday Mondays.

2) Start and end date for lifeguard season? Lifeguards start the 2nd last Friday of June till Labour Day Monday.

3) Peak number of vehicles parked in beachfront lots this summer or last, during lifeguard hours and during off-duty hours? No data available.

4) Average pay per hour for a lifeguard at Grand Bend? Wages for lifeguards range between $15.00 to $18.00 per hour.

5) Total income from beachfront parking lots for the year? We generate approximately $350,000.00 from the parking lots each year depending on weather, but it must be kept in mind that these revenues are not necessarily beach specific as they serve the downtown commercial areas as well. The monies generated go to offset operating costs and retiring of capital debt for the Beach House etc.

6) Current budget for lifeguards per year? The Beach Patrol Budget is about $48,000.00 annually.