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Police charge truck driver in death of animal rights activist during protest

Activists condemn police for laying non-criminal charge.


July 27, 2020
By The Canadian Press

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Animal rights groups and mourning relatives expressed outrage on Monday after police in southern Ontario announced the driver of a truck that struck and killed an activist during a protest last month would not face criminal charges.

Regan Russell’s family members, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Toronto Pig Save condemned the Halton Regional Police Service for laying a non-criminal charge against the driver whose truck hit the long-time advocate on June 19.

There was no evidence to suggest the 28-year-old driver acted with criminal intent when the truck he was driving struck and killed Russell, police said.

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Instead, the department chose to charge the man with careless driving causing death, a provincial traffic offence that could result in anything from a fine to two years in jail.

“Losing Regan has been a terrible experience, and the lax charge in response to her death has only made that pain deeper,” read a statement issued by Russell’s stepson Joshua Powell. “Grief is now compounded by anger, frustration, and confusion.”

“Our family is committed to revealing the truth in Regan’s death, and will be pursuing all avenues before us that work to that end.”

The charge against the driver “must be upgraded to reflect the death of a kind and gentle soul who did no wrong,” PETA said in a statement.

Russell, 65, was giving water to pigs that were en route to the Fearman’s Pork slaughterhouse when she was struck and killed.

Temperatures had reached 30C on that day and much of southwestern Ontario was under a heat warning issued by Environment Canada.

Police said they interviewed several witnesses and reviewed video of the incident as part of their investigation, which helped them reach the conclusion of a non-criminal charge.

According to Anita Krajnc, founder of Toronto Pig Save, the video in question was provided to police by the company that owns the slaughterhouse.

Krajnc called on police to release the video so the public can decide for themselves whether the driver acted carelessly or with malice.

“If you don’t have a video, you can get away with so much,” Krajnc said in an interview. “We are demanding the police release it for people to judge.”

Animal rights groups will be hosting a protest in front of Halton police’s Burlington detachment Tuesday morning to demand the release of the video, Krajnc said.

Sofina Foods, which owns the slaughterhouse, expressed condolences to Russell’s family and friends and said in a statement that it “fully co-operated with the police investigation.”

Krajnc said Russell was an active member of the animal rights community since 1977 and “was always concerned about safety.”

Russell’s friends, family and colleagues were “shocked and stunned” by her death, Krajnc said.

Members of Toronto Pig Save have long protested the slaughter of pigs at Fearman’s Pork, and the group drew international headlines in 2015 when Krajnc was arrested while giving water to the pigs on a hot day at the same spot.

She was later found not guilty of criminal mischief when the case went to trial.