If you ask a resident of British Columbia what the murder capital of Canada is they may well tell you it’s Surrey. But they’d be wrong. The latest statistics tell us that it is Regina, Saskatchewan, followed by Toronto, Ontario.
However, that is cold comfort for victims of violent crimes across Canada, and in particular the family of Julie Paskall, the 53-year old Surrey mother who was attacked while waiting in the Newton arena parking lot to pick up her 16-year old son who was refereeing a hockey game.
Her son left the arena expecting to see his mom waiting for him as she regularly did, but instead he saw her on the ground surrounded by blood and scrambling paramedics. She had been brutally beaten and was rushed to hospital where she died two days later, on December 31, 2013.
Ms. Paskall’s murder shocked the neighbourhood and surrounding communities, who had become complacent with the ever-increasing toll of gangland slayings. But this was entirely different. This was a loving mother of three children, happily married to her high school sweetheart, and well-known in the community for her volunteerism.
A public memorial was packed with friends, neighbours and strangers. Her husband remarked that the outpouring of grief and sympathy was overwhelming, with cards and condolences coming from all over Canada and as far afield as Hong Kong and Sweden.
Mayor Diane Watts reminded the community their anger was understandable but that justice would prevail.
Unfortunately, Ms. Watts was wrong on that score. Last week Yosef Gopaul pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 12 years in prison for Ms. Paskall’s death and a second robbery that took place two weeks before he attacked Ms. Paskall with a rock the size of a grapefruit. His DNA was on the rock and he confessed to an undercover police officer.
He said he only wanted to steal her purse and couldn’t believe he had caused her death. Gopaul had only been in B.C. for eight weeks prior to the murder, coming from Ontario.
While Gopaul attempted to say all the right things at his sentencing hearing his words rang hollow. The Crown informed the Court that at age 28 he had rung up 29 convictions, including six for violent offences, and although charged with second degree murder, a “deal with the devil” saw him escape with only a manslaughter conviction. With time served his sentence will be ten years, and he will likely only serve a portion of that before work release and parole.
In my view the sentence is unfit and an insult to the Paskall family and the community of Surrey who were told and expected that justice would prevail. I suspect it is easier (and cheaper) for the Crown to offer a plea deal than to run a challenging second degree murder trial. Even with DNA and a confession, the Crown refused to roll the dice which I suspect was because Ms. Paskall died from a pre-existing cardiac condition that took her life when she was beaten by this habitual criminal.
Perhaps if the Crown and the Courts had taken Mr. Gopaul’s previous serial criminality more seriously, he would have been locked up after his sixth violent offence. As it is, he will be free sooner that you think, making the Paskall murder beyond a tragedy.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang