Toronto man found guilty of impaired
operation of a canoe in precedent-setting case
Specialist Global News
An Etobicoke man
has been found guilty of impaired operation of a canoe causing death, the first
time charges of impaired operation of a vessel have been laid in which the
individual operating the canoe had consumed alcohol and marijuana prior to
going for a ride.
David Sillars was also
convicted of three other charges, including operation of a vessel with a
blood-alcohol content over 80 milligrams causing death, dangerous operation of
a vessel causing death and criminal negligence causing death.
The trial was heard by
Justice Peter C. West alone.
On April 7, 2017,
40-year-old Sillars took his girlfriend’s eight-year-old son Thomas Rancourt
for a canoe ride down the Muskoka River. The canoe capsized, and
Sillars was able to swim to shore, but Thomas, who was wearing a life-jacket,
continued downriver, went over the waterfall at High Falls and drowned. Two OPP officers were
later able to rescue Thomas from the bottom of the falls, but it was too late.
Court heard that school
buses had been cancelled that day due to poor road conditions and that the
water was turbulent and fast-flowing. Thomas’ mother, Jessica Hooper, testified
during the trial that Sillars was like a stepfather and a role model to Thomas
and that she did not believe Sillars showed any signs of impairment prior to
the deadly canoe ride.
In his judgment, West
wrote: “In my view, there is a reasonable inference based on the evidence that
David Sillars’ intellectual abilities, particularly in respect to choice
reaction time and decision making were significantly impaired.”
Court heard Sillars’
minimum blood-alcohol content was 128 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres
of blood and that he had 14 nanograms of THC in his blood. Outside court, Thomas’
father expressed relief about the guilty verdicts. “I couldn’t be happier
knowing that he (Thomas) didn’t die for nothing, “ said Jamie Rancourt, choking
grandmother, Donna Posnikoff, said justice had been served, though it doesn’t
bring back her grandson.
“He was such a smiling,
happy, caring boy, and my worst fear is that he was coerced into going into
that canoe. I hope he went happy and I hope he went into that canoe thinking he
was going on an adventure because Thomas was so pleasing,” she said.
Sillars remains free on
bail until sentencing. West set aside a day in August for sentencing submissions
and victim impact statements. Neither Sillars nor his
lawyer had any comment as they left court.