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Yosif Al-Hasnawi, 19, was shot and killed in Hamilton in December 2017 as he tried to break up a fight, police said.AL-MOSTAFA ISLAMIC CENTRE PHOTO/Handout

Two former paramedics in Hamilton have been sentenced to house arrest and community service after providing inadequate emergency medical care to a teenager who had been shot.

Steven Snively, 56, and Christopher Marchant, 33, each received an 18-month conditional sentence on Tuesday. They were convicted last year of failing to provide the necessaries of life to Yosif Al-Hasnawi.

The 19-year-old was suffering from a gunshot wound to the abdomen when they were called to his aid on Dec. 2, 2017, but the two paramedics erroneously believed he was shot with a BB gun, or that he was having psychiatric or substance use issues, and did not act with urgency, the trial heard. When they did transport him, they went to a non-trauma hospital, further reducing his chances of survival.

Mr. Al-Hasnawi died that night of massive internal bleeding, the result of the .22-calibre gunshot that perforated an artery, a vein and two major blood vessels.

In his sentencing decision on Tuesday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Harrison Arrell found the men’s actions that night were “a marked departure from what should have been expected from reasonably trained primary-care paramedics.”

They may have genuinely believed it was a non-penetrating wound and from a BB gun, he said, but such a belief is objectively unreasonable, given their training.

During the trial, court heard that Hamilton police officers, who were first on scene, relayed over the radio that the injuries were from a “BB gun, possibly,” and appeared “minor” and “superficial.”

The province’s Special Investigations Unit, which probes cases involving police that lead to serious injury, death or allegations of sexual assault, cleared the first constable on scene of any criminal wrongdoing. The SIU did note that witnesses described behaviour by police – including accusing the teen of faking his injuries and waving off help from firefighters before the paramedics arrived – that was, if not criminal, “far from commendable.”

When the paramedics arrived, they let unconscious bias cloud their response, Justice Arrell said. Still, while their moral blameworthiness is significant, he stressed they did not cause the fatal injuries.

The shooting itself was the subject of a separate previous trial.

Mr. Al-Hasnawi had just left a nearby mosque that evening, when he came across two men, Dale King and James Matheson, harassing an older man on the street. He confronted them, and Mr. King shot him. Mr. King was acquitted of second-degree murder in 2020, after arguing that he pulled the trigger in self-defence. The Crown has appealed his acquittal.

Mr. Al-Hasnawi’s family has struggled since his death, court heard, including his younger brother, who was with him that night.

The case has also affected the Muslim community, Justice Arrell said, citing a community impact statement submitted by the director of the Al-Moustafa Islamic Centre, which Mr. Al-Hasnawi attended.

“He speaks of how this incident has shaken their confidence that they are safe in Canadian society, and has added to their stress level,” the judge recalled. “How it has increased their perception of racial inequities between Muslims and the rest of the community, and added to their feelings of discrimination in Hamilton, and indeed, the rest of the country.”

The crime of failing to provide the necessaries of life carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Justice Arrell disagreed with the Crown’s argument that prison time was necessary.

Mr. Snively and Mr. Marchant, who were terminated from the paramedic service in 2018, will serve the first six months of their conditional sentences at home, leaving only for medical emergencies or preapproved appointments. They will abide by a curfew for the remaining 12 months, and complete 150 hours of community service.

Jeffrey Manishen, a lawyer who represented Mr. Marchant, said the former paramedics plan to appeal their convictions.

“The death of Yosif Al-Hasnawi was a very real tragedy which impacted many lives,” he said. “The circumstances giving rise to the charges against Mr. Marchant and Mr. Snively, two hard-working and dedicated paramedics, were exceptional and the consequences for them most unfortunate, both personally and professionally.”

Justice Arrell said he believes this case was an anomaly for the two men, and that deterrence was not as pressing a factor in his decision as denunciation.

Both men face lawsuits seeking significant damages, he said, and are in financial difficulty. Mr. Snively had been working as a loss prevention officer, court heard, but lost that job after his conviction. Mr. Marchant, 33, has been unemployed, save for occasional part-time construction work.


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