BLAIR o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-11-26 published
A scholar and a gentle man
'Fine example of a great Canadian' who founded Ontario's Brock University was once private secretary to prime minister Mackenzie KING
By Ron CSILLAG, Special to The Globe and Mail Wednesday, November 26, 2003 - Page R9
In an almost Zen-like fashion, James GIBSON knew the value of not acting. In the late 1960s, when a group of student radicals seized part of Brock University, hoping to be dragged away kicking and screaming, Dr. GIBSON, who had helped found the institution a few years earlier, reacted in a way no other university president did when faced with the same problem: He did nothing. The protesters, he reasoned, may have had legitimate grievances, but their unseemly actions offended his firm sense of propriety. In time, the students simply went away.
It was an effective, though uncharacteristic, action for a man who embodied Brock's Latin motto: "Surgite," freely translated as "push on." That he did, through some 65 rich years of advancing higher education and in public service, most notably as a private secretary to former prime minister Mackenzie KING, whose penchant for soothsaying and assorted eccentricities Dr. GIBSON kept mainly to himself until later in life.
Just five days before his death in Ottawa on October 23 at the age of 91, Dr. GIBSON was doing what he loved: Watching a new group of graduates receive their diplomas at the fall convocation of Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, the school he had launched as founding president in 1963.
At a recent memorial service at Brock, David ATKINSON, the university's president and vice-chancellor, recalled a man whose attributes a strong moral fibre, clarity of thought and a general uprightness, all tempered by a warm and gentle touch -- harkened to a quaint, bygone era. "It's unlikely we will meet anyone like him again," Dr. ATKINSON said.
In the House of Commons on October 27, Dr. GIBSON was praised by St. Catharines Liberal member of parliament Walt LASTEWKA as "a fine example of a great Canadian."
Dr. GIBSON, whose knowledge of Canadian history and government were legend, was in the news this past summer as the oldest of over 1,000 Rhodes Scholars who flew to England for a five-day bash honouring the centenary of the trust. With his brother William, also a Rhodes Scholar, Dr. GIBSON dedicated a re-leaded stained-glass window at the chapel of Oxford's New College.
A normally discreet man, he had sharp words for former prime minister Brian MULRONEY, not an Oxford graduate, who surprised guests at the alumni dinner -- and raised a few eyebrows -- when he took a seat on the podium alongside Oxonians Bill CLINTON and Tony BLAIR, and guest Nelson MANDELA. Many alumni, Dr. GIBSON included, felt that Mr. MULRONEY, who had been invited by The Independent newspaper chain, had no business being there. Though upset, Dr. GIBSON retained his dignity, saying simply, "I was offended."
James Alexander GIBSON was born in Ottawa, in 1912, to Canadian-born parents of Irish-Scottish stock with strong Methodist and Quaker leanings. Raised in Victoria, he graduated with a B.A. in history from the University of British Columbia at age 18. Less than a year later, he was one of the youngest boys at Oxford.
"That was the real dividing line in my life," he told The Globe and Mail last July. "The economic depression was beginning to take over and some of the graduates in my year at University of British Columbia ended up digging ditches, but I had a guaranteed income for three years."
The annual stipend was only £400 but it enabled Dr. GIBSON to live comfortably and travel to the rest of Europe when he wasn't studying modern history, debating in the Oxford Union Society and keeping wicket for the New College cricket squad, the Nomads.
Back in Ottawa and armed with a doctorate in history, he joined the Department of External Affairs. On his second day on the job, he was whisked to the prime minister's office for a six-month secondment that lasted nine years. Mr. KING, who was also External Affairs minister, blocked Dr. GIBSON's promotions to postings abroad three times because "he told me I stopped him getting into trouble."
The prime minister was a notorious taskmaster, calling on his assistant to work most evenings and weekends to draft letters and speeches. Throughout, "Dad never complained about anything," said his daughter Julia MATTHEWS. " But as he got older, he loosened up a little."
According to his daughter, he came to describe the famously erratic leader as "a very grumpy man and a very lonely man, insensitive, and quite damaging to work for."
Ultimately, it occurred to the clan that perhaps the unmarried prime minister was simply jealous of Dr. GIBSON's status as a beloved family man and father of three children. "Whenever we went on a family holiday, Dad always got called back," remembered Ms. MATTHEWS.
But a high point came in the spring of 1945, when Dr. GIBSON accompanied Mr. KING and 380 other delegates to San Francisco and the founding of the United Nations. During the historic two-month conference, Dr. GIBSON got personal glimpses of such leaders as the Soviet Union's Andrei GROMYKO and Britain's Anthony EDEN, but the task at hand, he later recalled, was to keep the Canadian prime minister "on the rails."
Fearing he would never advance in the public service, Dr. GIBSON resigned in 1947 and took a teaching post at Ottawa's Carleton University, where he later served as the first dean of arts and science and deputy to the president. By the early 1960s, he was courted by a group of community leaders in the Niagara peninsula to establish Brock University. When he began as founding president, the school had seven faculty (known as "the magnificent seven"), 29 students and a "library" consisting of a shelf of books. Today, it boasts more than 15,000 students and 47,000 alumni.
His first order of business at Brock was the creation of a library.
Now housed in the campus's Schmon Tower, it has become something of a landmark on the Niagara Escarpment. Dr. GIBSON, fondly known by faculty as "James A.," remained as Brock's president until 1974. He was named to the Order of Canada in 1992, and the library was named after him in 1996.
He was also a leading figure in the Unitarian faith, serving for a time as chaplain of the Unitarian Congregation of Niagara.
Asked what dinner-table conversation was like at home, Ms. MATTHEWS sighed good-naturedly. "Oh, God. There was a lot of current events. He had all the answers. He was always lecturing, but he could be really charming." Even after his vision started to fail, he travelled, read and wrote. "He never felt old."
After moving from his beloved St. Catharines to an Ottawa retirement home, Dr. GIBSON lectured residents on "governors-general I have known."
Dr. GIBSON was predeceased by his wife of 57 years, Caroline (née STEIN,) and leaves three children, seven grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, his brother, and a sister, Isobel SEARLS.
His final days were summed up poetically by Josephine MEEKER, a former professor at Brock. After attending the university's convocation last month, Dr. GIBSON "went for a long walk, returned to his residence, went into the lounge area, took off his coat and folded it up, put it on the back of his chair, sat down, folded his hands in his lap, closed his eyes, and died."

  B... Names     BL... Names     BLA... Names     Welcome Home

BLAIR - All Categories in OGSPI

BLAKE o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-01-24 published
Norman Harold McCLELLAND
By Robert McCLELLAND Friday, January 24, 2003, Page A20
Hockey player, business entrepreneur, family man. Born June 21, 1913, in Toronto. Died January 2 in Toronto, from complications of Alzheimer's disease, aged 89.
It's fitting that Norman McCLELLAND was born on June 21, the summer solstice, as he lived every day as though it were the longest of the year. Norman spent his childhood in Cache Bay, Ontario, a tiny lumber village on Lake Nipissing. Norman was proud of his small-town roots. It was there he developed his respect for the outdoors and his simple, honest outlook toward life.
Norman taught himself how to play hockey. He would wake up early in the morning, scurry down to Lake Nipissing with his second-hand skates and stick and clear the ice himself with a shovel. In Grade 9, Norman left his close-knit family in Cache Bay to attend high school in Toronto and eventually play Junior A hockey. He met his lifelong partner, Margaret CHOWN, soon after his arrival. Last November, they celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary.
From 1933-1937, Norman studied science and education at the University of Toronto. He also played for the Varsity Blues hockey team and was the squad's captain in 1935-36. Norman managed to pull in good grades while playing in a semi-pro league to pay for his tuition and coach the women's hockey team. Not a big man, (he was 5 foot 6 and, at his heaviest, 155 pounds) Norman was known for his speed -- he once beat Montreal Canadiens star scorer Toe BLAKE in a race for $5. During a tournament, scouts from the Boston Bruins approached Norman's long-term friend and coach, Ace BAILEY, asking him if his protégé wanted to turn professional. Norman never pursued the offer as salaries back then were only a small fraction of what they are today.
For a while after university, Norman taught high-school math and physics. When the Second World War came, Norman joined the navy. Margaret, by then his wife, often joked that he only enlisted so he could play on the naval hockey team, which boasted several National Hockey League players on its roster. Yet Norman took his work seriously. He spent three years in a special branch of the navy, opting to stay on after the war to help returning soldiers find civilian jobs or attend school.
When he left the navy, Norman worked for a while with Imperial Optical where he sold waste receptacles. Metal for the containers was scarce following the war and Norman soon took advantage of this niche in the market. With no engineering experience, he started his own company, Erno Manufacturing, making metal household and business products. With his strong work ethic and straightforward and friendly business demeanor, Erno burgeoned from the back of a garage to a building the size of a city block.
During this time, Norman also helped Margaret raise three boys. He coached baseball and hockey from peewee to major-junior teams. Among his charges were four-time Stanley Cup winner Peter MAHOVLICH and Mike KILKENNY, who went on to pitch for the Detroit Tigers.
In 1968, Norman bought Margaret the birthday present of her dreams: a cottage on Lake Joseph in Muskoka. After he retired, Norman and Margaret spent up to six months of the year there, revelling in the lifestyle: canoeing at dusk and fishing at dawn. Norman also took up watercolour painting and golf -- at 75, he shot his age at a nearby 18-hole course.
Norman spent his last decade suffering from the advanced stages of Alzheimer's. The disease stole Norman from the world, but his spirit will never be forgotten. Within 10 minutes of meeting someone he became a trusted and, often, a lifelong friend. He played the piano, read extensively and enjoyed political debates with his family over dinner and Margaret's apple pie. He loved life, and no disease could take that memory of him away.
Robert McCLELLAND is Norman's son.

  B... Names     BL... Names     BLA... Names     Welcome Home

BLAKE o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-10-16 published
Father figure to the Canadian stage
British-trained Stratford character actor never craved starring roles
By Allison LAWLOR, Special to The Globe and Mail, Thursday, October 16, 2003 - Page R11
For Mervyn " Butch" BLAKE, entering a theatre was a magical experience, something he never tired of during an acting career that spanned close to three-quarters of a century. Mr. BLAKE, one of the most loved members of the Stratford Festival Company, died on October 9 at a Toronto nursing home after a long illness. He was 95.
"Theatre seems to give me life," Mr. BLAKE said in 1994. "I just feel marvellous when I enter the theatre... it's one of the things which keeps me going."
Over his long stage life that included 42 consecutive seasons with the Stratford Festival of Canada, Mr. BLAKE "had the distinction of playing in every single play of Shakespeare's," said Richard MONETTE, Stratford's artistic director.
"He had a great life in the theatre," Mr. MONETTE said.
Adored by both audiences and fellow actors, the veteran actor was known across Canada for his enormous talent and generosity of spirit. When he wasn't working at Stratford, he acted on the country's major stages and in television and film.
For seven seasons, he toured with the Canadian Players, bringing professional theatre to smaller towns. And in 1987, he won a Dora Mavor Moore Award for best performance in a featured role in a production of Saturday, Sunday, Monday at what was then called CentreStage (now CanStage).
"Everyone loved Butch without exception," said John NEVILLE, a former Stratford's artistic director.
Mervyn BLAKE was born on November 30, 1907, in Dehra Dun, India, where his father was a railway executive.
His father wanted him to become an engineer but after falling in love with the theatre, Mr. BLAKE was able to persuade his father to allow him to study at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. In 1932, he graduated and soon made his professional stage debut at the Embassy Theatre in London
During the Second World War, he served in the British Army as a driver. It was during the war years that he is said to have got his nickname Butch. A witness to the horrors of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Mr. BLAKE was present at the liberation of the camp by British troops. It was an experience that haunted him for the rest of his life.
At the war's end, he returned to England and to the stage. He married actress Christine BENNETT and spent the years between 1952 and 1955 at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. There he worked with many of the great British actors such as Sir Laurence OLIVIER, Sir Michael REDGRAVE and Dame Peggy ASHCROFT.
Despite his success on the British stage, he decided to join the Stratford Festival of Canada, then in its fifth season. With his family in tow, Mr. BLAKE moved to Canada and in 1957 appeared in a production of Hamlet with Christopher PLUMMER in the title role.
"He wasn't a leading actor," said actor and director Douglas CAMPBELL. "He was a supporting player. As a supporting player you couldn't get better."
Mr. BLAKE always saw himself as a character actor who never cared that much about starring roles, said Audrey ASHLEY, a former Ottawa Citizen theatre critic and author of Mr. BLAKE's 1999 biography With Love from Butch.
"He was one of those actors you never had to worry about," Ms. ASHLEY said. "You knew Butch was always going to do a good job."
Known for his unfailing good nature and even temper, he enjoyed re-telling gaffes he had made on stage. Mr. MONETTE remembers one performance where Mr. BLAKE appeared on stage as the Sea Captain in Twelfth Night. The character Viola asks him, "What country, Friends, is this?" And instead of responding "This is Illyria, lady." Out of his mouth popped, "This is Orillia."
To the younger actors at Stratford, Mr. BLAKE was a father figure. "He was very fond of the young actors and would take them under his wing," Ms. ASHLEY said.
Stephen RUSSELL remembers arriving at Stratford for his first season in the mid-1970s. He was placed in the same dressing room as Mr. BLAKE, an experience he still holds close to his heart.
"He was one of the most generous human beings," Mr. RUSSELL said.
One of the areas Mr. BLAKE was most helpful in was teaching fellow actors how to apply stage makeup. He loved makeup and on his dressing-room table he had an old rabbit's foot that he would use to apply his face powder, Mr. RUSSELL said.
Aging didn't stop him from applying his own elaborate makeup. Playing the role of old Adam in As You Like It required him to go through the same makeup ritual when he was 70 years old as it did when he performed the role years earlier as a much younger man.
Aside from the stage, one of Mr. BLAKE's passions was cricket. During his first season in Stratford, he played on the festival's team and was responsible for starting a friendly, annual cricket match against the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Each season, members of the two acting companies would come together for a civilized afternoon of cricket and tea. The Stratford team still goes by the name of Blake's Blokes.
In honour of his talent and dedication to the theatre, Mr. BLAKE was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in May, 1995.
"When he entered, the stage just lit up," Mr. RUSSELL said.
Mr. BLAKE leaves his wife Christine BENNETT; children Andrew and Bridget; and stepson Tim DAVISSON.
Details of a memorial service to be held in Stratford, Ontario, have yet to be announced.

  B... Names     BL... Names     BLA... Names     Welcome Home

BLAKE - All Categories in OGSPI

BLAKELY o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-02-19 published
SMITH, Margaret Blakely (née BURNS)
Died peacefully at the Scarborough Hospital, Grace Division, of cancer, on February 16, 2003. Daughter of Charles BURNS and Sara Margaret BLAKELY. Sister of Katharine Steele (BURNS, YOUNG) PICKEN. Beloved wife of James Edwin (Ted) SMITH and a wonderful mother to Katharine Blakely SMITH and James Charles SMITH (Cheryl.) Grandmother of Althea ALISON and Michelle Meagan SMITH, and ''Grandma'' to Robin MILLER and Ciera and Ryan GAUTREAU. Born in Ottawa, she was a graduate of Glebe Collegiate and Queen's University where she was a member of the Senior Ladies hockey and basketball teams. For five years she enjoyed teaching high school in Manotick until her marriage to Ted in 1948. The family moved from Ottawa to Toronto in 1963. A memorial service will be held at the Trinity Presbyterian Church, 2737 Bayview Avenue (south of Hwy. 401), on Saturday, February 22, 2003 at 11: 00 a.m. Spring interment of cremated remains will be held in Norway Bay, Quebec. If you wish, in lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Trinity Memorial Fund, 2737 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M2L 1C5.

  B... Names     BL... Names     BLA... Names     Welcome Home

BLAKELY - All Categories in OGSPI

BLANCHETTE o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-09-06 published
Parachute officer dies after jump over water
By Estanislao OZIEWICZ Saturday, September 6, 2003 - Page A6
The man who commanded parachutists at Canada Forces Base Trenton died yesterday morning after jumping from a helicopter over Lake Ontario's Bay of Quinte.
Lieutenant-Colonel Michel BLANCHETTE, 49, was participating in his unit's annual water-landing refresher qualifications.
The Montreal native was a 20-year veteran who had experienced more than 2,000 parachute jumps. He is survived by his wife and two children.
A Forces public affairs spokesman confirmed that witnesses: said Lt.-Col. BLANCHETTE separated from his parachute too early before hitting the water at Baker's Island. His parachute had opened.
Lt.-Col. BLANCHETTE was pronounced dead at Trenton Memorial Hospital.
Major Jean MORISSETTE said an investigation, with the results to be made public, is under way. The training exercise involving about 75 soldiers was called off.
Lt.-Col. BLANCHETTE was the first of six parachutists jumping from a helicopter at about 300 metres. Parachuting over water can be very tricky because a jumper, for example, may misjudge height coming down in clear, sunny weather over glassy water. Parachutists must separate from their parachutes upon hitting the water to avoid being tangled in their paraphenalia. "You have to separate from your parachute because if the canopy gets on your head, it could cause problems," Major MORISSETTE said. "You have to separate as soon as you touch the water. It appears he separated before, and we don't know the reason."
Governor-General Adrienne CLARKSON, commander-in-chief of the Canadian Forces said in a statement that she was shocked and saddened by the fatal accident. She said Lt.-Col. BLANCHETTE was highly respected by soldiers and fellow officers.
Major MORISSETTE said such dangers are part of military life.
"It's a risky business. Even though we take all safety precautions at every turn, there is always inherent risk associated with military life," he said.
The mission of the parachute centre is to support "the generation and deployment of combat-ready forces through the conduct of parachute-related training and aerial delivery operations."

  B... Names     BL... Names     BLA... Names     Welcome Home

BLANCHETTE - All Categories in OGSPI

BLATCHFORD o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-12-12 published
A tragic last drive for a car lover and his wife
By Christie BLATCHFORD, Friday, December 12, 2003 - Page A1
Toronto -- At the beginning of October, Stella ANDERSON took her dad to get his driver's licence renewed: He was turning 82, and Ontario law calls for seniors to be tested every two years after their 80th birthdays. So they'd been through it before, but it didn't make it any easier.
"It's so traumatic for these seniors," she said last night, "a waiting room filled with these nervous old people. But he passed, without his glasses. It was pretty amazing. And happy? This was a guy who has been driving since the early fifties, when a lot of people didn't even have cars."
Steve YAREMA always drove with his right arm, Mrs. ANDERSON said with a catch in her throat -- the other out the window, perfecting his perpetual driver's tan. For years, because he loved to drive and because in his job he got a new company car every two years, he was pretty much the neighbourhood chauffeur.
That Mr. YAREMA, and his wife of more than 50 years, Tekla, died in their car seems particularly cruel. As Mrs. ANDERSON's husband, Lance, put it last night, referring to his father-in-law's war years in his native Ukraine, "He made it through Stalin and Hitler but not through the streets of Etobicoke."
Mr. and Mrs. YAREMA -- she was 78 -- went missing last Thursday. They were found six days later in the blue 1995 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme that was Mr. YAREMA's last car; it was spotted by a soccer field not far from the couple's neat-as-a-pin bungalow.
Toronto police now believe that the YAREMAs somehow lost their bearings, and ended up where they did, the car travelling through the bushes, down a hill, and coming to a stop by the soccer field.
It was clear that Mr. YAREMA had tried to back the Cutlass out. It was neither badly damaged nor stuck, but it appears that in the anxiety of the moment, he suffered a fatal heart attack: He'd had an arrhythmia this summer. Mrs. YAREMA had glaucoma, and may have passed out or been knocked out when the car went out of control: In any case, she stayed with her husband, and died of hypothermia.
He worked for Dufferin Construction, in the days when the company did many of the major road projects in the Toronto area, and it seems in retrospect Mr. YAREMA's whole working life was tied up with highways and paving:
He was the superintendent for the 400 Highway project that went north from the city; he was the boss for the airport, back when it was called Malton; his last big job was Canada's Wonderland.
He had the sort of real, visceral connection to the city as a living, changing beast that only those in the building business have.
Mrs. ANDERSON, who spent an awful day yesterday, "picking out two of everything" for the coming double funeral, was last night beating herself up a little.
"Who's the one who took him to get his licence renewed?" she said. "You know, shoulda, woulda, coulda." If only she'd been home that Thursday at noon, when her parents phoned. If only she and her sister Irene had got her folks OnStar (the on-board system which locates vehicles and allows its operators to talk to motorists in distress).
I told her not to feel guilty, and meant it: There is no one who loves his car as much as an old man, or an old woman.
I had one of each once -- my own parents -- and I know what the car meant to them, and it was a hell of a lot more than it means to most of the rest of us.
They may write songs about teenagers and their cars, but they could write grateful odes about the elderly and theirs.
My father always named his: There was Cleverly (a Ford of some sort, blue, I think); Handsomely (a Mustang). The last one he owned, which he bought when still in relatively good health but obviously knowing it wasn't going to last, he called with great amusement, Finally.
He loved Finally the most, I think. It was a big sedan-type car, also blue, and he was able to drive it almost until he died, in 1986. My mother, who died almost two years ago, was not so lucky: She had to give up hers (and yes, it was still Finally) about two years before her death.
She had been diagnosed with emphysema, and put on oxygen 24 hours a day, and as portable as her traveller was, and as adept as she became, she couldn't manage it and the wheel.
She'd always been a nervous if excellent driver, and only ever ventured out within about a two-mile radius of her apartment anyway, and had all sorts of self-imposed rules: She wouldn't drive after dark; she wouldn't drive in traffic; she wouldn't go on highways. And she depended a lot on me, in any case, so stupidly, I didn't anticipate what an enormous loss it would be.
It knocked the stuffing out of her. She stalled as long as she could, finally selling Finally in exchange for a charitable receipt, and giving up her parking spot. She was depressed for months, and really never recovered. Even for my clingy, dependent mom, who phoned me a couple of times a day, who only ever drove to the Dominion and the drugstore, the car was a symbol of her independence and pride.
Steve YAREMA was the same, Mrs. ANDERSON said. He and her mom only ever did a little circuit of doctors, banks, and grocery stores. Once in a while, they'd venture over to the Cloverdale Mall area -- not so far from where they were discovered two days ago -- and she figures they might have been heading there or to a nearby supermarket.
"When I realized they were late coming home," she said last night, "I thought, 'I'm making them get a brand-new car' ", as she had thought about before, maybe with OnStar. But the mileage on the Cutlass was ridiculously low, because they really never went anywhere.
The YAREMAs were still living in their own home. Mr. YAREMA was still taking in his neighbour's garbage cans when he was feeling up to it, and they still kept the garden beautiful and the lawn trimmed. After he got out of hospital in the summer, neighbour Natalie CHYRSKY noticed that he'd get his wife mowing the lawn, but would follow behind, pointing out spots she'd missed. They had two loving daughters -- Irene would phone at least once a day, Mrs. ANDERSON at least a couple of times a week -- and five grandkids they adored.
And they were still driving. It was a lousy bit of bad luck that killed them, but they died with their hard-won pride intact. There are worse deaths.

  B... Names     BL... Names     BLA... Names     Welcome Home

BLATCHFORD o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-12-30 published
witnesses: are silent as the slain weep
By Christie BLATCHFORD, Tuesday, December 30, 2003 - Page A1
Even on its face, what unfolded in two parts of the Beechwood Cemetery at noon yesterday is a gripping story.
There, in Section 7, the family of Godfrey "Junior" DUNBAR -- including his three astonishingly beautiful children, aged 12, 8 and 7 -- were holding a vigil for their lost son, brother and father at his grave. Mr. DUNBAR and Richard BROWN, respectively 27 and 29 years old, were gunned down precisely four years earlier at a North York nightclub jammed with upward of 800 people.
The case went cold and has stayed that way -- Toronto police offered a $50,000 reward yesterday as a last resort -- not because it isn't solvable, not for a lack of potential witnesses, but rather because none of those witnesses, including many Friends of the two men, is talking.
Among those who were at the Connections II club that night and who would not tell detectives what they saw was one Kirk SWEENEY.
And who was being buried yesterday in Section 17 of the cemetery, about 400 metres away from the vigil? None other than young Mr. SWEENEY, himself the victim of an execution-style killing just before Christmas at a downtown club called the G Spot.
There was a big crowd of mourners at the mound of fresh earth by his grave. Funerals for the young black men who form the city's largest single group of homicide victims are always well attended, as Mr. DUNBAR's terrific older sister, Trisha, noted yesterday. At her brother's, for instance, she remembered, people did what they could to console the family. "But money is not what we wanted," she said. "We wanted for one of them to come forward." It is the cruellest irony, she said, that her brother, who so "valued Friendship," should have been betrayed by those who were with him the night he died.
At the vigil, the crowd was tiny, composed only of relatives, media (invited because the DUNBARs are hoping renewed publicity will see someone belatedly speak up) and other black mothers who have lost sons to gun violence.
One of them was Yvonne BEASLEY. I'd been told her son had been killed, and after introducing myself, asked if the case had been solved. She looked at me as though I was mad. "Oh," she said, "they're all unsolved."
"What was your son's name?" I asked, apologizing for not remembering. "I don't blame you," she said. "There have been so many."
Her boy was Sydney HEMMANS. One day shy of his 19th birthday, in July, 2001, he was shot and killed in his old downtown neighbourhood. "Were there witnesses?" I asked Ms. BEASLEY. " There are always witnesses," she said. "That's why all us moms are here."
Another was Julia FARQUHARSON, whose 24-year-old son, Segun, was shot and killed on May 17, 2001, the victim of what began as an attempted robbery and ended in an utterly senseless murder.
Mr. FARQUHARSON was carrying his basketball at the time of his death, and, realizing the gravity of the situation he was in, had called his own cellphone's voicemail to secretly record the voices of the two men wanting to rob him. That two-minute call, played publicly by homicide detectives not long after Mr. FARQUHARSON's murder, is a terrifying mélange of Mr. FARQUHARSON clutching his basketball and pleading for his life, and one of his attackers shrieking, "Yo, let me fucking kill you, dude."
Police were hoping someone would recognize the voices on the tape, and call them. That was more than two years ago. They continue to wait, and despite a recent $50,000 reward, Mr. FARQUHARSON's slaying remains unsolved.
That is one of the other stories here -- that police, despite dogged work and the fact that so many of these killings take place in public places, cannot successfully close these cases without witnesses: willing to testify and that, on the rare occasion they are able to get a case to court, the witnesses: are by then demonstrably unreliable, having given several versions of what they saw before belatedly telling the truth.
All of this goes to undermine the administration of justice.
But the other, broader story is that because of the intimate connections that often exist among the slain and their killers and the mute witnesses: to their deaths -- and the fact that so much of the gun violence in Toronto is committed by young black men upon other young black men -- there is a growing cynicism, captured in an e-mail I got yesterday.
In Monday's paper, I'd written about the case of Adrian Roy BAPTISTE, a handsome 21-year-old who was shot five times, in broad daylight, last Saturday, just eight days after he was found not guilty by a properly constituted jury, and freed, in another shooting in Hamilton almost two years previous.
This is what the note said: "Let them all shoot each other. Leave the rest of us in peace. And let God sort it all out. Enough said."
I understand the weariness there, but strongly disagree.
The killing spree now going on in the city -- not the first one, merely the latest -- is not a problem confined to the lawless, and it ought not to be left to the black community to solve.
There are often perfectly innocent victims, and even those with lengthy criminal records die so young that they never get the proverbial second chance that ought to be a given in a civilized society.
Junior DUNBAR's mother, Jamela, bent low in the rain yesterday and whispered to her son's tombstone, "You had so many Friends. None of them came forward to speak on your behalf; no one has the decency. Where are your Friends now?" His older son, Marquel, left a little drawing of him and his dad holding hands.
The baby son, D'angelo, stood with his small face utterly stricken, his big sister, Deondra, keeping an arm around him.
Aside from a few reporters, the only white face at the vigil belonged to Gary BRENNAN, the detective who was one of the original investigators of Mr. DUNBAR's killing; he has moved to another squad now, but still was good enough to show up.
It's rarely the cops who have to be motivated to give a damn. It's the rest of us.

  B... Names     BL... Names     BLA... Names     Welcome Home

BLATCHFORD o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-12-31 published
Slain man was central to case that altered confession rule
By Christie BLATCHFORD, Wednesday, December 31, 2003 - Page A7
The late Kirk Alexander SWEENEY, who was buried just this week, may be best remembered by the general public as one of a number of young black men gunned down over the Christmas holidays.
Toronto homicide detectives may think instead of how crude street justice got Mr. SWEENEY in the end: He was, they say, essentially executed at the G-Spot nightclub in the early-morning hours of December 22.
The handsome 26-year-old allegedly had been a witness, four years ago, to a double murder that took place at another crowded club.
But Mr. SWEENEY, like dozens and dozens of others who were within an arm's length of the victims, refused to tell police what he knew of the shooting of Godfrey (Junior) DUNBAR and Richard BROWN.
The result of their collective silence has been that those two slayings remain unsolved, the killer or killers still at large.
And now, of course, the same hear-, see-, and speak-no-evil rule appears to be applying to the investigation of Mr. SWEENEY's slaying. Detectives find few people who were within eyeshot, among the crowd of 150, willing to co-operate.
But Mr. SWEENEY made a rather more lasting contribution to Canadian criminal law -- aside, that is, from compiling a not unimpressive record of his own on various weapons-related offences.
In the fall of 2000, he was the person at the centre of an important legal case, the outcome of which made it far more difficult for police to get suspects to talk and virtually impossible for prosecutors to take any resulting confessions to court if even a hint of a whiff of a threat had been used to obtain them.
The background goes like this.
On December 31, 1996, a taxi driver -- a hard-working new immigrant picked up two men and drove them to a townhouse complex in Toronto.
One man, allegedly Mr. SWEENEY, was in the front passenger seat, the other in the rear. Once they reached their destination, the man in the front switched off the ignition, while the rear passenger purportedly put his arm around the driver's neck.
The man in the front then allegedly pointed a gun at the driver, threatened to kill him, and demanded his money.
As the driver was reaching to get it, he told police later, the man in the front pistol-whipped him about the head.
The two men fled with the money; the police were called, and within an hour, a police dog was tracking a scent from the cab to the rear entrance of the townhouse of Mr. SWEENEY's family.
As Mr. SWEENEY left the home, he was arrested, along with another suspect.
Mr. SWEENEY subsequently made two statements to police.
One officer said if Mr. SWEENEY could tell them where the gun was, they would not have to execute a search warrant on his mother's home.
Mr. SWEENEY told the detective he had thrown the weapon out a window, but police still couldn't find it.
At Mr. SWEENEY's original trial, Judge David HUMPHREY disallowed the statement on the grounds that it was the product of "an inducement" by the detective.
But Mr. SWEENEY gave another statement.
A second officer said police had prepared a search warrant for the house -- this was true -- and told Mr. SWEENEY that officers would "trash" the house, looking for the gun, if he didn't tell them where it was. Mr. SWEENEY apparently hesitated, and the officer added, "Your mom is already upset. Just be a man and make this easier for her." Mr. SWEENEY told the officer the gun was in a box in his mother's closet, and even drew a little diagram for him.
The police executed the warrant and, as sure as cats like litter, found the gun, right where Mr. SWEENEY said it was.
At trial, Judge HUMPHREY concluded -- sensibly, I'd argue, to the average Joe -- that this statement was also the result of an inducement, and thus involuntary, but found it admissible under what's called the St. Lawrence rule. That rule, taken from an old case of the same name, held that even involuntary statements are admissible if they are reliable -- if, in other words, the suspect is proved to have been telling the truth. In this way, those who make false confessions are still protected.
As Judge HUMPHREY wrote with considerable understatement of the purported inducement, "There was no aura of oppression, no torture it was almost a gentlemen's agreement, if you will."
Mr. SWEENEY was duly convicted by a judge and jury of robbery, assault while using a weapon and two other weapons offences, and sentenced to six years in prison.
Fast forward to the Ontario Court of Appeal, where Mr. SWEENEY's new lawyer, Howard BORENSTEIN, successfully argued that his client's Charter right to remain silent had been violated by the police having held over his head the "threat" of the raucous search.
In a September 25, 2000, decision, Mr. Justice Marc ROSENBERG, writing for the unanimous court, threw out the involuntary confession, thundered that "a threat to destroy the property of a family member by abusing the authority given to the police by the search warrant is not properly characterized as a technical threat" and said that if the confession were allowed, "it would be condoning the use of threats to abuse judicial process" and would "raise serious concerns for the administration of justice."
More broadly, Judge ROSENBERG said that the old St. Lawrence rule was now so undermined by the Charter that it "would only be in highly exceptional circumstances" that a trial judge would be entitled to admit a confession like Mr. SWEENEY's.
And because the poor cab driver -- remember him? -- had had only a glimpse of his attacker, and there was virtually no other evidence against Mr. SWEENEY, the Court of Appeal set aside the conviction and entered an acquittal.
Mr. SWEENEY went on to compile his lengthy criminal record, allegedly witness a double murder about which he remained mute, and die on the floor of the G-Spot. I wonder what all that does for the glory of the administration of justice.
Clarification Due to my inability to read my own notes, I wrote the other day that Adrian BAPTISTE, gunned down last Saturday in a North York parking lot and only eight days out of jail after being acquitted of second-degree murder, had been talking of straightening out his life, and thinking of going into law enforcement. In fact, as his lawyer David BAYLISS told me, Mr. BAPTISTE had dreamed of becoming a lawyer.

  B... Names     BL... Names     BLA... Names     Welcome Home

BLATCHFORD - All Categories in OGSPI