Calgary

Killer's message 'of hope' at Calgary teachers' convention sparks criticism

An Alberta educator is criticizing the decision to book a convicted murderer to deliver an inspirational presentation about addictions recovery to teachers this month. Andrew Evans was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2007 killing of Nicole Parisien.

Andrew Evans, convicted of second-degree murder, will share his addictions story with Alberta educators

Andrew Evans, who spent seven years in prison for second-degree murder, is set to speak at the 2019 Calgary teachers’ convention. (Calgary City Teachers’ Convention website)

Read the latest update on this story: Calgary teachers' conference cancels convicted murderer's presentation

The original story appears below.


An Alberta educator is criticizing the decision to book a convicted murderer to deliver an inspirational presentation about addictions recovery to teachers this month.

Andrew Evans, a former drug counsellor, was convicted of second-degree murder for strangling a woman in B.C. and hiding her body.

He's since been released and is now scheduled to speak at a teachers' convention in Calgary this month.

That's troubling for one educator, who reached out to CBC News after seeing the schedule.

"I just think of the family of the murder victim," the educator said.

CBC News has granted the educator confidentiality over concerns their employment could be affected by their comments.

In 2007, then 25-year-old Evans killed Nicole Parisien in Vancouver.

He confessed to becoming angry after being unable to get an erection, and beat Parisien before strangling her and hiding her body in the bushes, according to a Supreme Court judgment.

At trial, court learned that Evans had relapsed three months before he killed the 33-year-old woman, the Times Colonist reported.

Evans appealed the conviction, but it was upheld.

He was sentenced to life in prison but was released seven years later. He moved back to Calgary upon his release.

Parents won't be happy, educator says

The message of his addictions recovery "is one of hope," according to the description for his panel at the Calgary City Teachers' Convention.

"When I read this, I was concerned about how it would reflect on the teaching profession," the educator said.

"I think parents would not be very happy.… We should be using our time in a way that enhances our profession as a whole, but also our own teaching practice."

The Calgary City Teachers' Convention website says Evans is now a quality assurance co-ordinator with the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre (AARC), supporting them with accreditation and human resource requirements. He graduated from the program as a teenager after struggling with addiction.

Teachers capable of 'critical thought'

A spokesperson for the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) says teachers can choose from nearly 600 sessions at the mandatory conference, and Evans' session, Adolescent Addiction: A Treatable Disease, will remain an option on the schedule.

"Teachers are smart and thoughtful professionals capable of examining contentious issues and sensitive topics with critical thought," the association said in an emailed statement.

"For this reason, the association's convention organizers do not shy away from scheduling controversial sessions or speakers."

"We trust in the professionalism of teachers to understand and appreciate different perspectives on issues that relate to their work," the statement continued.

A day after this article was initially published, the ATA sent an updated statement expressing condolences to Parisien's loved ones.

"Mr. Evans committed a violent and heinous act, for which he confessed, was convicted and served his sentence. We in no way condone his past actions. We would like to express our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Nicole Parisien for their terrible loss," the statement read.

Andrew Evans is set to speak with a Calgary police officer in a session titled Adolescent Addiction: A Treatable Disease. (Calgary City Teachers’ Convention website)

The session description says educators can learn from his story to gain a greater awareness of addiction and how to better support students and families.

"Andy knows well the struggles and challenges that addiction continues to bring into our communities," reads the description on the event website.

"His message is one of hope and speaks to the many avenues communities can access to face these challenges and support the many people directly and indirectly affected by addiction."

He is set to speak Thursday alongside Const. Andrew Morton, who will offer information "regarding the stages of addiction and the role played by [the] Calgary Police Service and front-line officers," and explain AARC's role in the treatment process.

​"Mr. Evans will join Constable Morton to share his personal story, which provides a tragic lesson about the terrible damage addictions can cause to the addicted person and the innocent people around them. By sharing this story with teachers, it is hoped that lives can be saved and other tragedies can be prevented," the new statement, sent by the ATA the day after this article was published, continued.

'Somebody else could have been found'

The description does not note Evans' murder conviction.

The educator, who has attended the convention for more than a decade, said that unlike employees in schools, presenters do not require police clearances.

"I would think of all the speakers that would be available for a convention that somebody else could have been found," they said.

AARC did not confirm Evans' employment with the organization by the time of publication.

The Calgary Police Service issued a statement Tuesday on the participation of Const. Morton, who works with AARC to help families, raise awareness and educate other officers on addiction issues.

"Presenting with speakers like Andy Evans helps achieve these goals by sharing real people's lived experience. It helps demonstrate that addictions can lead to immense tragedy and loss, as well as irreversible consequences for the addict and the community. By helping to share these stories, we hope people can learn from others and that further tragedies can be prevented by addressing youth addictions in our communities."

All certified teachers employed in Alberta public school boards are legally and professionally obligated to attend their designated teachers' convention each year.

Being absent from the convention could result in consequences ranging from lost wages to termination and removal of their teaching certificates. More than 10,000 teachers attend.

Clarifications

  • This story was updated the day after it was originally published to include an updated statement sent by the Alberta Teachers' Association.
    Feb 06, 2019 3:10 PM MT

With files from Elissa Carpenter and Rachel Ward

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