Canvin hearing set for Feb. 22

David Canvin in a 1988 photo.
David Canvin in a 1988 photo.
Journal File Photo

Looking haggard and disoriented and clad in a bright orange jumpsuit, David Canvin appeared in court via video feed Wednesday afternoon to face one charge of first-degree murder.

During the five-minute hearing, the Queen’s professor emeritus conferred briefly with his lawyer and was then remanded pending a bail hearing.

Canvin will continue to be held in the Quinte Detention Centre until his hearing, now set for Feb. 22.

On Friday evening, Sarah Canvin, 41, was rushed to hospital with a single gunshot wound, the Kingston Whig-Standard reported Tuesday. She was pronounced dead on arrival.

Her father is currently the only suspect in her death, the cause of which has not yet been released.

David Canvin’s lawyer, Felicity Hawthorn, told the Journal the criminal court in which Canvin appeared Wednesday doesn’t have the authority to give him a bail hearing, which can only be accomplished through a superior court.

Before she applies for a hearing in superior court, Hawthorn said, she needs to have more information on the case in the form of a disclosure. This consists of the information the Crown has collected to date concerning the circumstances of the crime.

“I need to get information I haven’t got,” she said. “There’s a lot of process [that] goes into these things.” Hawthorn said Canvin is not doing very well in the detention centre.

“He’s an older man and not in a situation he’s ever imagined he would be in,” she said. “It would be wrong for me to say he’s doing fine … He’s in shock—he’s in a very traumatized state.”

News of the murder charge against the former biology department head and dean of graduate studies had the University abuzz with queries from members of the media.

“Queen’s has been hounded about this,” said Chaplain Brian Yealland, referring to numerous requests the University has received from various media sources looking for photos of Canvin. “What are we doing giving out much of anything, really?”

The University has been concerned enough about the sudden interest in its connection to Canvin that it removed his portrait from the Biosciences Complex, where it hung alongside the portraits of other former Biology department heads.

Dr. Mel Robertson, current head of the biology department, said the portrait was removed for security reasons.

“The issue is that it’s not a secure room in the sense that there’s a lot of traffic in it,” he said. “[The picture is] down only for the reason that we’re concerned that somebody steals it, to be quite frank.”

Yealland said it was also a matter of sensitivity.

“Is this a family neighbourhood issue, or is this a Queen’s issue?” he asked. “I can see the family being concerned that me or any of us is [discussing Canvin.]”

Yealland said he hopes the media realizes that allegations against Canvin have nothing to do with his time at the University.

“That’s a good thing, because we can just be now, in whatever way, supportive of [Canvin’s] family members,” he said. “That gets us out of the limelight and allows us to be the human beings that [we] are.”

Stephen Murphy, who is a professor of environmental research studies at the University of Waterloo, said he knew Canvin as a graduate student at Queen’s in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

“He was very robust, gregarious, [an] extremely outgoing man,” he said. “Definitely one of those guys, you know, sort of, ‘hail fellow well met,’ the kind of guy you go have a beer with.”

Murphy said he was shocked when his mother called him with the news that Canvin was charged with murder.

“It’s one of those things you don’t expect to hear,” he said. “I’m still a bit numb from the whole experience.”

Murphy said that while he didn’t know Canvin’s family well, he had heard speculation that Sarah Canvin wasn’t well.

“There’s some speculation I’ve seen where she was manic depressive or at least had some degree of illness in that direction,” he said. “It was just along the lines of, somebody would sort of say ‘Where’s David?’ ‘Well, he had some family issues to deal with.’

“Beyond that, there was nothing anyone could say about it.”

Hawthorn said that while she could arrange for a hearing at a superior court within a few days, she doesn’t want to rush into it.

“I need a few days to talk to [Canvin], talk to the family,” she said. “Everyone in the family is traumatized.”

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