Calgary

Alberta parents convicted in son's meningitis death call for courthouse rally in anti-vax interview

In an interview with the producers of a controversial anti-vaccination film, David Stephan called on supporters to rally at the courthouse in Lethbridge, Alta., later this week, when he and his wife Collet face sentencing hearings for failing to provide the necessaries of life to their son, Ezekiel, who died of meningitis in 2012.

Controversial filmmakers ask audience to support David and Collet Stephan against 'lying machine'

David and Collet Stephan were found guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their son, Ezekiel in April 2016. (Facebook/CBC)

In an interview with the producers of a controversial anti-vaccination film, David Stephan called on supporters to rally at the courthouse in Lethbridge, Alta., later this week, when he and his wife Collet face sentencing hearings for failing to provide the necessaries of life to their son, Ezekiel, who died of meningitis in 2012.

"We're in a bit of a predicament here but this isn't just our battle; this is everyone's battle," David told Del Bigtree and Polly Tommey, who were in Calgary to promote their movie Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe.

The film made headlines earlier this year when it was pulled from the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

In a video interview that was livestreamed on Facebook, David asks viewers to show up at the Lethbridge court on Friday wearing blue jeans and white shirts as a show of support for him and his wife.

"We need to get people out to the courthouse to take a stand for this," he said.

"Ultimately it comes down to whether we have the right to vaccinate or not vaccinate without being held criminally liable, or whether or not we have to rush our children to the doctor every time they get even just the sniffles, in fear that something may just randomly happen and then we're held criminally liable."

In April, a jury found David, 32, and Collet, 36, guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their 19-month-old son.

The criminal conviction carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Court heard that Ezekiel died of meningitis in March 2012 after exhibiting symptoms for weeks that his parents, who lived on acreage in southwestern Alberta at the time, initially believed were due to croup or the flu.

They treated him for two and a half weeks with natural remedies and homemade smoothies containing hot pepper, ginger root, horseradish and onion. but avoided taking him to a hospital.

Court heard the boy's back had become so stiff that he was unable to fit in a car seat and had to ride on a mattress in the back of the couple's vehicle when they took him to a naturopathic clinic in Lethbridge on March 13 to pick up an echinacea mixture for him.

That night he stopped breathing, prompting the couple to call 911.

Hear David Stephan's first 911 call 3:42

Ezekiel resumed breathing while David was on the phone with a 911 operator, and the couple then decided to drive him to the hospital in Cardston, Alta.

He stopped breathing again en route, prompting another 911 call.

Hear David Stephan's second call to 911 11:56

An ambulance met up with the couple and Ezekiel was rushed to the Cardston hospital, then taken to the emergency room in Lethbridge, then flown to the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary.

There, he was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and declared brain dead.

In the Facebook Live video, David reiterated his claim that Ezekiel's condition took a sudden turn for the worse and again blamed paramedics for being ill-equipped.

"He (Ezekiel) wasn't severely ill, and then everything just came to a crash on an evening, and he ended up in an ambulance that didn't have the right equipment and subsequently he ended up brain dead," he said.

A physician's report presented as evidence at the trial, however, stated that Ezekiel "was blue by the time EMS arrived," as Collet had been performing CPR on the child for the previous 10 minutes with "no spontaneous return of breathing."

The Facebook interview concludes with Bigtree urging viewers to "send letters of support to this wonderful couple that are facing this incredible, lying machine."

"We're all surrounding you in prayers and love and we will keep your children in prayers and love," the filmmaker tells the couple.

"Just know your family extends far beyond your immediate family. There's a whole world out here and we're all rooting for you."

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