2 former paramedics appealing convictions in death of Hamilton teen Yosif Al-Hasnawi

Two men sentenced Tuesday for failing to provide the necessaries of life to a Hamilton teen while they were paramedics are appealing their convictions in the unprecedented case.

Lawyer says appeal will answer whether 'labelling them criminals' was correct in law

Court sketch shows Justice Harrison Arrell reading his judgment last summer in the trial in Hamilton court of Christopher Marchant and Steven Snively, who were charged in the death of teen Yosif Al-Hasnawi. The former paramedics are appealing their convictions. (Pam Davies/CBC)

Two men sentenced Tuesday for failing to provide the necessaries of life to a Hamilton teen while they were paramedics are appealing their convictions in the unprecedented case.

Christopher Marchant, 33, and Steven Snively, 56, also have 30 days to appeal their sentences, which include having to serve 18 months in the community, in the 2017 death of 19-year-old Yosif Al-Hasnawi.

Toronto-based lawyer Michael Lacy said Marchant and Snively have filed notices to appeal their convictions.

In an email to CBC News, Lacy described Al-Hasnawi's death as a "tragedy" that impacted many.

"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," he wrote.

"They are exercising their right of appeal so that an appellate can assess whether labelling them criminals for what happened was correct in law."

Majed Al-Hasnawi, Yosif's father, previously said the convictions gave his family some peace.

Reached by phone Wednesday, he said he fears the appeal might be successful.

"That's how the system works," he said. "We're still suffering."

'This issue is still not fully concluded'

Staff at the Ontario Court of Appeal confirmed a notice of appeal for Marchant was filed on Oct. 19, 2021, with a separate one filed for Snively the next day.

The court's website notes that once notice has been submitted, the next steps include filing all documents necessary for the appeal, such as court transcripts, an exhibit book and factum.

Mario Posteraro, head of OPSEU Local 256, the union that represents Hamilton paramedics, mentioned the appeal outside court following sentencing Tuesday.

"We have retained expert appellate counsel that would be appealing the initial verdict and it remains to be seen what the outcome of that appeal will be," Posteraro said.

"As much as the sentencing occurred today [Tuesday], this issue is still not fully concluded."

Al-Hasnawi recites the Qur'an during a religious ceremony moments before he got into an altercation outside the Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre in 2017, and was shot and killed. (Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre)

Ontario Superior Court Justice Harrison Arrell found Marchant and Snively guilty in June following a 33-day trial.

The judge said the now-fired paramedics "listened to rumours and innuendos" at the scene about the wound being superficial. He also found they made numerous mistakes, including not leaving the scene fast enough, going to the wrong hospital, not following protocol for penetrating wounds and lifting him dangerously.

Arrell said Snively's and Marchant's actions that night amounted to a "marked departure" from the minimum standard expected of properly trained paramedics.

Reaction to men's sentence 

Al-Hasnawi died about an hour after being shot outside the Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre, where he tried to intervene as two people accosted an older man. 

The ground-breaking case marked the first time paramedics in Canada were found guilty for their part in someone's death as a result of their actions while working. Experts have said it may change how emergency responders do their job in the future.

Snively and Marchant were spared jail time.

They will be under house arrest for the first six months of their 18-month term. After that, the men will have a curfew of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., the judge said.

They also have to complete 150 hours of community service during the last year of their sentence.

It's an "easy sentence," said Yosif's father. "It's like nothing happened."

Firas Al Najim, a family friend who sometimes acts as a spokesperson, said the trial was difficult for Yosif's loved ones and the wider Muslim community.

"It continues to be a tragic situation. All of these developments always bring back the memories and it's very sad."