Father convicted in son's meningitis death a featured speaker at Wellness Expo

The owner of Health and Wellness Expos of Canada is defending his decision to invite David Stephan to speak at events in Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Edmonton.

Stephan and his wife Collet were convicted in 2016 of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their son Ezekiel, who died in 2012. The Stephans attempted to treat their 19-month-old son with natural remedies when he fell ill with meningitis.

Stephan was sentenced to four months in jail while Collet was given three months of house arrest, with each also ordered to complete 240 hours of community service. The conviction was appealed and has made it to the Supreme Court of Canada docket, where arguments are expected to be heard in May.

Rick Thiessen, owner of Health and Wellness Expos of Canada, said he knew all about Stephan’s history before he booked him. Thiessen said he judges his vendors based on their products, not on their personal lives.

“Having seen and looked at all the documentation and had conversations about what happened, it’s between them and their god, it’s not between me and them,” he said. “The issue that Dave had in terms of being arrested has nothing to do with his healthcare product that he’s selling.”

Online, people were calling out sponsors of the event such as Sobeys.


Thiessen said his group researches all the companies featured at its event and rejects any companies with unsafe products or poor customer service history.

Stephan promotes EMPowerplus, “daily multi-vitamin replacement” capsules, which are meant to help with mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, ADD/ADHD and stress. The product is distributed by Truehope Nutritional Support, a company that was co-founded by Stephan’s father.

Truehope bills the product on its webstore as “the most powerful daily supplement in the world.”

Organizer admits controversy sells

Stephan spoke in Saskatoon on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and is scheduled for to appear at next week’s expo in Winnipeg, as well events in Calgary and Edmonton later in the year.

Thiessen said Stephan’s presentations in Saskatoon have been well attended.

Stephan declined to speak to CBC News, but it was clear Saturday there was support for him personally and the product he promotes despite the outcome of his criminal trial.

After Stephan’s talk on Saturday afternoon, over a dozen people lined up to speak with him. Stephan hugged everyone he greeted, and attendees thanked him for sharing his knowledge.

Thiessen has been running the expositions for 24 years. He said inviting controversial speakers like Stephan is an important part of what he offers.

“In 24 years of doing this show, I’ve had some of the most controversial speakers and products known to man come through our doors,” he said.

“I look for the most controversial thing I can,” he added. “If it’s out there and it’s controversial, that means people are talking about it. There’s no better place to talk about something than at a place where you can actually find out the facts from the original person.”

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