A man convicted of killing an Indigenous woman in Vancouver in 2007 will no longer be speaking at a convention for the Alberta Teachers’ Association in Calgary.
Andrew Evans, was a scheduled speaker with the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre for a session called “Adolescent Addiction: A Treatable Disease”
Evans was found guilty of second-degree murder in the 2007 strangling death of Nicole Parisien at an illegal massage parlour in Vancouver.
The Alberta Teachers’ Association announced Wednesday night the session was being cancelled.
“We became aware late last week that the other speaker had been convicted of murder and a rather heinous murder as well, a murder of an Indigenous sex worker in the city of Vancouver,” said Alberta Teachers Association President, Greg Jeffrey in a phone interview with APTN News.
“The gentleman convicted of that crime was under the influence of drugs and was in fact and addict and the reason he’s been included as a speaker was that by sharing his story, maybe future tragedies could be prevented.”
Jeffrey said the decision to host the session was initially supported.
Jeffrey said the thinking was “there’s some value in talking about, here’s one of the dangers of addiction” but it later determined it was the wrong decision.
On Wednesday night, after speaking with convention organizers, the president of the teachers association announced the session was cancelled.
There was an “enormous concern presented” said Jeffrey who added the negatives far outweighed the positives.
“To Nicole’s family, the additional hurt we’ve caused, we are hugely apologetic for that. And also the impact it has had on other survivors of sexual violence and on family and loved ones of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls” Jeffrey said.
Jeffrey said he is considering trying to reach out to the family.
Hilda Anderson-Pyrz is the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls liaison at Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO).
She was “shocked” to see a convicted killer was scheduled as a speaker at teacher’s convention.
“It must have been very traumatizing and painful for the family and the impacted community who lost a loved one to hear this individual was selected to present at a teacher’s convention,” Anderson-Pyrz said.
“It’s unfortunate that individuals are so unaware and ill informed of the magnitude of violence that is being experienced by women and girls across Canada.
Anderson-Pyrz said there should be a formal public apology offered to the family and trauma supports provided.
Sarah Leamon is criminal defense lawyer in Vancouver and is a board chair at the PACE Society, a non-profit organization working in Vancouver’s downtown eastside that provides services for frontline sex workers.
She is happy to see that the event has been canceled, but says the fact the Calgary school board was originally “including him as a speaker to deliver a message of hope just simply adds insult to injury” to family of Parisien and “creates trauma to people who have been affected personally by this horrendous act but also trauma to others in the community like sex workers, people that have experienced violence at the hands of individuals like Andrew Evans.”
Leamon calls it a grave misstep.
“If the message is that sex workers are disposable and you can murder one of them and be on a stage 12 years later delivering a message of hope, I have a problem with that,” Leamon said.
In a press release issued on Thursday, Jeffrey wrote “the message sent over the past few days does not align with the Association’s values. Alberta’s teachers are allies in supporting survivors and combating sexual violence.
“We are committed to reconciliation, learn from and supporting Indigenous peoples across this land. We want justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. I am sorry for this mistake. We are committed to reviewing practices so this does not happen again. We will do better.”
The Alberta Teachers Association “in recognition of this commitment” will be making a $5,000 donation to the Stardale Women’s Group in Calgary “in honour of Nicole Parisien.”