Ryan Jake Applegarth of Ponoka, 28, is scheduled to appear at Ponoka Provincial Court on March 12, 2021. (File photo)

Ryan Jake Applegarth of Ponoka, 28, is scheduled to appear at Ponoka Provincial Court on March 12, 2021. (File photo)

Discussions about justice continue as Ponoka murder victim’s case proceeds

Reaction to comments Ponoka Staff Sgt. Chris Smiley made to town council last month

What started as a report to Ponoka town council about year end policing stats has turned into a larger discussion about the justice system, court procedures during COVID-19 and the families of victims who are still seeking justice.

Ponoka RCMP detachment commander Staff. Sgt. Chris Smiley spoke to town council Feb. 9, not mincing words when it came to the prevalence of repeat offenders and the murder of a young Ponoka mother in November.

READ MORE: Staff Sgt. Chris Smiley on murder of Chantelle Firingstoney: ‘Nobody carried a sign for her in our town’

Chantelle Firingstoney, 26, a mother of four, was killed on Nov. 5, 2020.

Ryan Jake Applegarth of Ponoka has been charged with second degree murder in the case as well as failure to comply with a release order.

He had been released on bail after a bail hearing at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Wetaskiwin on Sept. 3, 2020. Presiding at that hearing was QB Justice Kevin Feth. The Crown Prosecutor was Katrina Stewart-Lund and the defence was Kenneth Sockett.

Applegarth had already been charged with the first degree murder of Jamison Samuel Louis, 34, who was killed in Wetaskiwin on Jan. 3, 2020.

Indigenous women and girls are five times more likely to experience violence than any other population in Canada, and the violence tends to cause more serious harm, according to the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).

Indigenous women make up 16 per cent of all female homicide victims and 11 per cent of missing women, despite Indigenous people being only 4.3 per cent of the population of Canada (afn.ca).

Katherine Swampy, a Samson Cree Nation councillor and member of the Pamihowin restorative justice committee, has been a voice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW).

Swampy says she’s not just an “advocate,” but a survivor of the ongoing grief and loss as MMIW is personal to her, as she has family members “on the list.”

After fighting for change and justice for several years, she says she is feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted. She added that after speaking publicly about her losses, she hasn’t felt supported because “nothing gets resolved.”

Although Swampy says she didn’t know Firingstoney personally, a vigil may not have been held due to the ongoing pandemic, and Ponoka “has never been very welcoming.”

Smiley had told council that “nobody carried a sign for her” when Firingstoney was killed.

“I was referring to local protesters around central Alberta who, after watching American news, got support from some mainstream media and a few politicians to perpetuate what I know is a false narrative about policing in this country,” said Smiley in a follow-up interview.

“My comments were not directed at anyone for not holding vigils or anything like that,” he said.

“Everyone grieves differently and during COVID-19 precautions having an event like that presents numerous challenges.”

A central Alberta-based group, the Black and Indigenous Alliance (BIA) had been protesting weekly in Ponoka throughout the summer and the fall in 2020.

Calls to Kisha Daniels, co-founder of BIA, were not returned.

The Town of Ponoka confirmed that the town responded to a letter Daniels sent to council Sept. 17, 2020, requesting space for a rally for October, and to have a delegation come before council.

“The town responded to Ms. Daniels’ letter on Sept. 28, 2020 and again on Oct. 6, 2020. The town’s response included an invitation to appear before council, but we have not received a response back from her,” said Sandra Smith, town communications manager.

In his presentation to council, Smiley also took aim at the justice system, claiming that during the pandemic, some prisoners were automatically released throughout the year in Canada, and that proceedings were stayed or charges were withdrawn to deal with backlogs.

A statement provided by the Justice and Solicitor General (JSG) communications and public engagement department acknowledged that while there were court backlogs, prosecution standards were upheld.

“The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) worked closely with the courts and other stakeholders to support the operation of the justice system while prioritizing serious and violent matters to help ensure the safety of Albertans,” the statement reads.

“The ACPS continues to employ its prosecution standard (is there a reasonable likelihood of conviction and is the matter in the public interest) during its ongoing assessment of matters for prosecution.”

As for releasing prisoners, JSG says that is solely up to the courts.

“Provincial correctional facility inmates are not and will not be released early due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The statement went on to say only those who have completed their sentences or have been granted a temporary absence are being released. Those with intermittent sentences (i.e., served on the weekends, i.e.) are instead on 24-hour house arrest for the remainder of their sentenced custody.

According to the Provincial Court of Alberta’s website, albertacourts.ca, precautions designed to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 included “adjourning low-complexity out-of-custody criminal trials other than domestic violence cases, the closure of in-person traffic services, and an increased reliance on remote appearances.”

Applegarth was scheduled to enter an election and plea for the second degree murder charge of Firingstoney at Ponoka Provincial Court on Dec. 11, however his case was adjourned until March 12, 2021 at Ponoka Provincial Court.

He was to have a preliminary hearing on the Wetaskiwin file on Jan. 15, 2021 at the Wetaskiwin Provincial Court, however, that was also adjourned until March 31, 2021.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CourtMMIWPonokaPonoka RCMP

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Eckville Town Office. (File Photo)
Town of Eckville planning pathway around Manor and Villa

Plans for the pathway has changed slightly following feedback from the community

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

Erin O’Toole said he supports a woman’s right to choose and will personally vote against the private member’s bill

A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. The Alberta government says schools in Calgary will move to at-home learning starting Monday for students in grades 7 to 12.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary schools to shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12 due to COVID-19

The change, due to COVID-19, is to last for two weeks

A man wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID-19 spike in B.C. could overwhelm B.C. hospitals: modelling group

There are 397 people are in hospital due to the virus, surpassing a previous high of 374 seen in December

Ron Rauch and his wife Audrey are photographed at their home in Victoria, Friday, March 5, 2021. Their daughter Lisa Rauch died on Christmas Day 2019 when a tactical officer with the Victoria Police Department shot her in the back of the head with plastic bullets after barricading herself in a room that was on fire. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. families push for changes as special committee examines provincial Police Act

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth acknowledged the need to update the legislation last year

Major-General Dany Fortin, left, looks on as Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. The Public Health Agency of Canada has set aside up to $5 billion to pay for COVID-19 vaccines. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada negotiating contracts to secure COVID-19 booster shots for next year: Anand

Most of Canada’s current vaccine suppliers are already testing new versions against variants

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Health Canada headquarters in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Health Canada releases guidelines for reducing COVID-19 transmission at home

Improve indoor air quality by opening up your windows and doors, among other encouraged ventilation measures

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. Alberta is set to join three other provinces in exploring the feasibility of small modular reactors as a clean energy option. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Four provinces to sign memorandum of understanding to explore small nuclear reactors

Alberta government said in August that it would enter into the agreement to help diversify its energy sector

Sharis Carr, a nurse at the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Service Center in Clarksdale, Miss., holds a box containing doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, April 7, 2021. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
EXPLAINER: What’s known about COVID vaccines and rare clots

These are not typical blood clots – they’re weird in two ways

Most Read