January 12, 2017 5:55 pm
Updated: January 12, 2017 9:03 pm

BC health store defends father convicted in Alberta meningitis trial death

WATCH ABOVE: An Alberta man convicted of failing to provide the necessaries of life to his son, is now facing backlash in B.C. Global’s Quinn Campbell explains.

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Health store Ave Maria Specialties in Prince George, B.C. is responding to backlash after it brought in David Stephan Tuesday night to talk about a product he promotes that claims to aid mood issues. Global News confirmed the store has hosted Stephan a number of times to speak about this product.

Stephan and his wife Collet were convicted in April 2016 for failing to provide the necessaries of life after their 18-month-old son Ezekiel died in 2012 from bacterial meningitis.

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READ MORE: Alberta couple found guilty in meningitis death of 18-month-old boy

The court heard Ezekiel had been sick for days and his parents tried to treat him with a variety of natural remedies including garlic, horseradish and hot peppers, despite hearing from a friend who is a nurse, that the boy might be gravely ill.

According to a post on the Ave Maria Facebook page, staff received a very negative reaction after announcing the most recent talk with Stephan.

“The fury of hate that was started when we posted that we were hosting David Stephan was begun from people outside Prince George including people from Fort McMurray, Toronto, and as far away as the Netherlands.”

Global News requested an interview with Ave Maria staff, but were told they are not speaking with the media at this time.

READ MORE: Timeline of Ezekiel Stephan’s final days, the Alberta boy who died of meningitis

In the Facebook post, attributed to Dave Fuller and staff of Ave Maria, they empathize with the journey Stephan and his family have gone through since the loss of their son. They said the small dose of hatred they experienced after announcing they were sponsoring Stephan to come to their store gave them a chance to know what daily life for the Stephans must be like.

The store’s defence of its decision to bring Stephan in included requests from customers to hear from him again, belief in the product he promotes and the need for forgiveness in society.

But the post also suggested they might not make that same decision again.

“We didn’t realize the stress, uproar, fury and hate that would be directed at David, his family, and our staff. (In hindsight we probably would not have proceeded).”

According to Global News sources, there were two people who showed up at the store Tuesday to protest Stephan’s presence, despite threats from many people who said they would be there to express their displeasure.

Ave Maria has been in Prince George for 26 years.

In April 2016, David Stephan was sentenced to four months in prison, while his wife Collet was sentenced to three months house arrest.

The Crown prosecutor appealed that decision in July 2016, partly because they felt the sentence was too lenient. The couple from southern Alberta will be back in court March 9, 2017.

READ MORE: Appeal hearing date set for Stephans in Alberta meningitis case

To read the full Ave Maria Specialties Facebook post click here.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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