God can ‘even forgive you’, grieving mom tells Kelowna’s Canada Day killer

A mother and father wept and held each other for support in a courtroom Thursday as they spoke of the pain and suffering they’ve endured since their son was killed outside Kelowna City Hall on Canada Day 2018.

Robert and Nazneen Carriere said the death of their 24-year-old son Esa has left them bereft and in an enduring state of disbelief.

“I had so many hopes and dreams for my son. They’ve all been taken away,” Nazneen said. “My eyes are always filled with tears. It’s so unreal. Sometimes I still think he’s coming home.”

“For me, everything has stopped,” Robert said. “A massive hole was torn into my life when Esa died. And I’ve been looking through that hole ever since.”

Turning directly to their son’s killer, Noah Vaten, Nazneen asked him if he was sorry for what he had done.

“I am, I am,” Vaten, who also appeared to be crying, responded from the prisoner’s box.

In a remarkable display of the power of their faith, the Carrieres, devout Muslims, also told Vaten they hoped he would sincerely atone for his actions.

“If you are remorseful, ask God for forgiveness because he is the most merciful,” Nazneen said. “He can even forgive you.”

Robert, also speaking directly to Vaten, expressed a similar desire but added a caveat.

“My heart longs to see you hold yourself accountable. But not just as a facade to avoid jail time,” he told Vaten.

Crown counsel Colin Forysth has asked Judge Alison Beames to sentence Vaten, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter for stabbing Carriere in the heart with a knife after an argument, for between six and seven years in jail.

Vaten has already been given credit for almost 2 1/2 years in custody. His defence lawyer, Glenn Verdurmen, suggested that was enough jail time.

Judge Alison Beames sentenced Vaten to four years, three months. Minus the time he’s already served in custody, Vaten’s additional jail time amounts to just under two years.

The circumstances of the killing amounted to a “near murder”, Forsyth said, with Vaten making a deliberate decision to plunge a knife into Carriere’s heart as the man was on the ground outside city hall being kicked and punched by others.

Carriere had moved to Kelowna in spring 2018 from Mississauga, Ont., where his parents still live. He was employed at the Kelly O’Bryan’s restaurant on Bernard Avenue and had worked a full-day shift on Canada Day.

He stayed downtown to celebrate the holiday, and wound up in an argument with Vaten, the precise details of which are uncertain, near the entrance to Kasugai Gardens behind Kelowna City Hall. During the argument, Carriere punched Vaten, who had been drinking and doing drugs, in the face, then took off running. Pursued by Vaten and four or five other people, Carriere was yelling, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

He either tripped or was pushed onto the lawn between city hall and the Queensway bus terminal. Several of his pursuers began assaulting Carriere, who pleaded with them to stop. Instead, Vaten took out his knife and stabbed Carriere in the chest, puncturing his heart.

The shocking attack played out as Canada Day fireworks exploded overhead and horrified bystanders, including teenagers and children, looked on. Two nearby security guards quickly intervened, detaining a young woman, but the others involved in the attack fled.

The attack had “characteristics of a swarming on a day of celebration,” Forsyth said, adding that Vaten was caught on a surveillance camera wiping blood off the knife he had used to kill Carriere.

Paramedics were on the scene within minutes and Carriere was quickly taken to hospital. But he died at 12:25 a.m. on July 2.

“Today, it has been 1,341 days since you took my son’s life,” Robert Carriere told Vaten, adding he was haunted by the “lonely and painful” way his son died.

“I am doubtful you understand your actions,” Carriere told Vaten. “All I can do is pray you realize what you’ve done is immensely wrong.”

Since Esa was killed, Nazneen said, her Islamic faith has given her moments of serenity but she also admitted to times of “blissful guilt” when she looked forward to her own death.

“Because that’s when I will be able to see my son again,” she said.

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