A seminar in Brandon featuring a man who was convicted for failing to provide the necessaries of life for his late son has been cancelled.
The owners of Hedley’s Health Hut announced on Sunday evening that they would not be hosting a seminar Monday by David Stephan, who in 2016 was found guilty, along with his wife Collet, of failing to provide the necessaries of life for their son, who died in 2012 from what a medical examiner determined was bacterial meningitis.
The couple had treated their 19-month-old boy with garlic, onion and horseradish, rather than take him to a doctor, and although they eventually called 911 once the boy stopped breathing, he later died in hospital.
Stephan was sentenced to four months in jail, while his wife was ordered to spend three months under house arrest.
In November, the Alberta Court of Appeal upheld the conviction in a split decision, prompting a scheduled date in May for the case to be heard in the Supreme Court.
Titled "Achieving Brain & Thyroid Health — Rising to Your Potential!" Stephan’s seminar in Brandon was described on Facebook as a chance to "learn how our moods and outlooks on life naturally change as we improve brain and thyroid function, allowing for us to become more energetic, positive and vibrant beings."
Hedley’s Health Hut had initially decided to host the event and owner Randy Kuz said doing so was not in support of what had happened in Stephan’s personal life.
"We are interested in the products that the company he works for (offers) and their potential ability to help and change people’s lives. That is what Hedley’s Health Hut is all about."
By 6:30 p.m., the company had a post on its Facebook page saying it had cancelled the event altogether.
"Because of all the negative publicity in the press about David’s personal life, the Truehope seminar for Monday February 12th has been cancelled. We feel that any good information that would have been shared about their products would have been overshadowed by this."
Stephan has been touring through Western Canada for Truehope Nutritional Support and has made recent stops in Calgary and Saskatoon.
News of his events, including a scheduled appearance at the Health and Wellness Expo in Winnipeg this week, made headlines over the weekend and prompted a backlash on social media.
On Sunday, Sobeys announced that it would be pulling out as a sponsor of the Health and Wellness Expos of Canada and would not be associated with any future events.
Stephan’s name was also removed from the expo’s website and links to the events’ schedules no longer worked.
"He’s no longer involved with our company in any way shape or form," said Rick Thiessen, the expo’s owner.
Thiessen said he had no knowledge of the Stephans’ conviction until Saturday, when a post on the expo company’s Facebook page criticized his inclusion.
He said Stephan was brought to his company last year by another vendor. Thiessen said he also looked at the website for Truehope Nutritional Support and was impressed by it.
"I didn’t really know about anything else, any other parts of their history, and I didn’t search their family history. Why would I? I hired a company off the internet from their website." Thiessen said.
"When you’ve already worked with somebody, and you see that he’s there and he fills the room with people, and they all leave excited and overjoyed with what he’s offering them in terms of his company’s product — from a show manager’s point of view, that’s what we all hope to get."
Thiessen did not support or condemn Stephan, but said sponsors and vendors are pulling out of the expo and he believes his company, and others who work with him, are a casualty of someone who wanted to hurt Stephan.
"I just don’t know enough about what the problem was that’s got everybody in a tither. So rather than try to pretend that I know more, I just parted company with him this morning," Thiessen said.
"I just know that I have a business to run."
Stephan told The Brandon Sun by phone in Saskatchewan that he had pulled out of the Health and Wellness Expos of Canada out of respect for the other vendors, but pointed to "pharma-trolls" as having used his recent public appearances as an excuse to attack him.
Earlier, Stephan went on Facebook to address the recent backlash in a nearly 25-minute long, live-streamed video, in which he disputed the cause of his son’s death and criticized the media for its coverage of both his trial and recent events.
Stephan denied that his son died from bacterial meningitis and instead, pointed to the lack of intubation equipment in the ambulance his son was transported in as evidence of an alternative cause.
"I do public presentations all the time, all the time," Stephan told The Brandon Sun. "I’ve done 30 in the past 13 months and I’ve done seven in the past three weeks, and yet you hear nothing about them, and there’s a good reason why, other than positivity," he said.
"This is nothing more than a mob mentality that’s been generated by these faceless trolls on social media."
As for what he plans to do next, Stephan said he will "try to help some more lives in another way."
Stephan’s father, Anthony Stephan, co-founded Truehope Nutritional Support in Raymond, Alta., in 1996, after his wife took her own life.
The company’s website says the woman and some of the couple’s 10 children had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, so Anthony Stephan formed the company with a friend to find a natural treatment.
The company says one of its products, EMPowerplus, helps treat bipolar disorder, depression and even autism. In the fine print, the website states that its claims have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the product is not intended to "diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."
» mlee@brandonsun, with files from The Canadian Press
» Twitter: @mtaylorlee