More than 100 people gathered in protest Saturday outside the McQueen home of a man freed from the Edmonton Remand Centre on charges of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a neighbourhood girl.
Neighbourhood children, local bikers — including at least one patched member of the Hells Angels — and residents from surrounding communities gathered at 2 p.m. outside Wade Stene’s mother’s McQueen home with signs of “keep our children safe” and “no justice, victims’ lives matter,” calling for him to be removed the community.
“Our gathering today is a show of support for an eight-year-old victim and her family and to bring awareness of how our current legal system favours the rights of an accused above the rights of a victim,” said Melanie Depalma, who organized the gathering.
Stene, 37, was arrested after an eight-year-old girl was pulled into a car and sexually assaulted in March. He has been charged with kidnapping and sexual assault and was released Wednesday on bail with conditions.
That same day, the Edmonton Police Service released a public warning over Stede’s release, saying he was a serious threat to the community, prompting concerns from both the community and legal experts for differing reasons.
Stene is also charged with making threats to cause death/bodily harm; make, print, publish child pornography; possession of child pornography; as well as two counts of sexual contact with a child.
Mark Jordan, Stene’s lawyer, wrote a letter to Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee, saying the public warning undermines the justice system and has led to dozens of people standing outside Stene’s mother’s home every night. He said on one occasion a woman forced her way into the home.
“I ask, too, that the EPS issue an immediate ‘public warning’ that Mr. Stene’s mother has banned anyone from entering her property,” wrote Jordan in the Friday letter.
A handful of uniformed officers at the Saturday protest kept an eye on the scene that remained peaceful.
Depalma said the justice system failed by releasing an accused back into the community where the crime happened. The Stene home is less than 200 metres from where the young girl lives.
“It’s unjust, it’s an atrocity of our justice system and it has failed this family and it has failed this child,” said Depalma.
Rick Atkins has been standing outside the home every night since the public warning was released Wednesday. He, too, said the decision to grant bail is wrong.
“There’s people that perpetrate victimless crimes like drug users who are only hurting themselves and whatnot, and these folks are getting more time in lockup prior to their trial and they’re not getting house arrest,” said Atkins.
Conditions of Stene’s release require him to wear a tracking monitor on his ankle and he cannot leave the home. Any medical or legal travel must be pre-approved and he cannot have any contact with people under the age of 18. He must also refrain from possessing or consuming alcohol or non-prescribed drugs.
As protesters shouted “lock him up” and “victims’ lives matter,” Depalma argued those conditions are inadequate.
“Children can’t have that freedom and innocence that a child should have to play in their yard to ride their bike out of fear …,” said Depalma.
Stene is next scheduled to appear in court on July 2 at 9 a.m.
Source: Edmonton Journal by Dylan Short