AKKAD firstname.lastname@example.org_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2007-06-04 published
The chase, the taxi and a neighbourhood in mourning
By Margaret PHILP and Omar EL AKKAD, Page A1
Toronto -- Monique and Aleisha were best Friends taking a taxi home from a relative's house in the early hours of Saturday morning. They would never know it, but they shared many mutual Friends with the 15-year-old boy racing blindly toward them in a stolen Acura being chased by two police cruisers. The three teens had even grown up in the same northwest Toronto neighbourhood.
The stolen car smashed into Monique and Aleisha's taxi at 2 a.m. on Saturday. By the time the sun came up, two of the three teens were dead and the third in hospital, clinging to life.
Friends have identified Monique McKNIGHT - a 16-year-old Grade 11 student at Toronto's Emery Collegiate Institute - as the teenager instantly killed in the collision, which took place when the stolen car crashed into two taxi cabs near the intersection of Finch and Islington in northwest Toronto.
Seated next to Ms. McKNIGHT was her best friend, 17-year-old Aleisha ASHLEY. Ms. ASHLEY was in critical condition at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre yesterday. The 15-year-old boy driving the stolen car was also taken to hospital, but died a few hours later.
Friends flocked to cyberspace to remember Ms. McKNIGHT, a girl described as a "sweetheart" who was funny and had a smile that "could light up a room."
"I couldn't believe it when I heard it. She was such a nice person she really didn't deserve to die," a friend named Vanessa said yesterday. "I just saw her and she was fine, now [she's] gone. Monique was one of the nicest people anyone could ever meet."
The 15-year-old boy who slammed into the taxis was speeding northbound in a stolen blue Acura on Islington Ave. near Finch in Etobicoke about 2 a.m. when two marked police cars, responding to a gun call, started a chase. After the collision, the teenage driver was taken to Sunnybrook, where he died from his injuries five hours later. The drivers of the two taxis escaped with minor injuries.
Friends of the 15-year-old driver described him as a social young man who grew up near the site of Saturday's accident and attended Monsignor Percy Johnson Catholic High School. Many of his Friends last saw the teenager late Friday night, when he attended a prom after-party.
Because of the two deaths, 12 investigators from the province's Special Investigations Unit have taken over the case from the Toronto Police Service, whose officials remain tight-lipped. Two Toronto police officers involved in the chase are being investigated, while five others are considered witnesses: in the probe into whether police should be charged in the accident.
The deaths are rekindling debate about the wisdom of police launching high-speed chases, some of which have killed and maimed scores of innocent bystanders over the years.
In recent years, following public outcry over the deaths of people mowed down by out-of-control vehicles fleeing pursuing officers, police services across North America have adopted tougher rules governing police chases.
In Ontario, new regulations to the Police Act were passed seven years ago that compel officers to weigh the urgency of arresting a suspect against the risk to public safety of a high-speed chase.
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AKKAD email@example.com_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2007-10-04 published
Housekeeper's death at Mississauga mansion treated as foul play
By Omar EL AKKAD and Jessica RAFUSE, Page▼ A15
The death of Jocelyn DULNUAN, a Filipino-born, 27-year-old housekeeper found inside a multimillion-dollar mansion on Monday, is likely the result of foul play, Peel Regional Police say.
That sums up just about everything homicide detectives are willing to say.
"The location was targeted for a specific reason that I am not prepared to comment on today," Inspector Norm ENGLISH, head of the homicide bureau, said yesterday at a terse news conference.
"I do believe, though, that there was property taken from the residence, however this needs to be determined after doing a proper walk through with the homeowners," he said.
Ms. DULNUAN came to Canada last year on a work visa and worked as a nanny in various locations across the Greater Toronto Area before moving into the massive Mississauga home as a housekeeper, Insp. ENGLISH said.
Both Ms. DULNUAN and the home - estimated to be worth more than $10-million - may have been targets, he said, adding that Ms. DULNUAN's mother, who lives in Hong Kong, has been notified of her daughter's death.
But as to what condition Ms. DULNUAN's body was in, the cause of her death, what items were taken from the home and a host of other questions, Insp. ENGLISH would only reply: "I'm not prepared to discuss that."
Peel police spokesman Constable Adam MINNION said homicide detectives can sometimes choose to withhold information so as to not compromise an investigation. "If [homicide detectives are] reluctant to provide information, they must have their reasons," Constable MINNION said. "Every situation's different. There must be something they've seen there."
Police received a 911 call around 5 p.m. on Monday from one of the homeowners inside the home. The homeowners, Vasdev (Dave) CHANCHLANI and his wife Jayshree, were not home at the time of the incident, Constable MINNION said.
Police have not yet publicly named any suspects.
At several Toronto churches with strong Filipino followings, no one recognized Ms. DULNUAN by name or photo yesterday.
She was also not registered with Intercede, a group that advocates for the rights of domestic workers and caregivers.
"We've been getting calls all day," said counsellor Columbia DIAZ, who is hoping to use the agency's contacts to get in touch with Ms. DULNUAN's Friends. "A lot of Filipina maids are worried and want to know more, but there's not much that we know."
Ms. DIAZ said many caregivers and domestic workers prefer to work in populated areas instead of secluded homes with limited contact with the outside community.
Jo ACUNA, owner of Brampton-based Sunrise Placement Services, said live-in nannies tend to apply for a work permit under the federal live-in caregiver program.
The program stipulates that such employees must work in a private home and be provided a private, furnished room within that home.
Ms. ACUNA said the largest portion of such workers arrive from the Philippines, usually after first working in Hong Kong.
A representative from the Philippines consulate in Toronto said the consulate has been in contact with Ms. DULNUAN's mother, who is trying to arrange the transportation of her daughter's body back home.
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AKKAD firstname.lastname@example.org_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2007-12-12 published
Teen tried to leave strict family
Father now faces murder charge
By Omar EL AKKAD and Kenyon WALLACE, Page▲ A1
Aqsa PARVEZ was largely estranged from her family and sleeping away from home in recent days. The 16-year-old's Friends said she returned to her home in Mississauga on Monday only to collect her belongings.
Shortly afterward, she was taken to hospital, where she died early yesterday morning - leaving Friends grief-stricken and igniting a public debate on religious extremism in Canada.
Her father, 57-year-old taxi driver Muhammad PARVEZ, is charged with murder. Her brother, 26-year-old Waqas PARVEZ, is charged with obstructing police.
Ms. PARVEZ's Friends described the Grade 11 student at Applewood Heights Secondary School as someone who was drawn to Western culture even as her family adhered to a devout form of Islam. Friends paint a picture of a hardworking and cheerful girl who loved dancing, fashion and photography - interests that often clashed with her strict home environment.
"Aqsa was always trying to get us to go shopping with her," schoolmate Dominiquia HOLMES- THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON said. "We were supposed to go to the mall together today."
Last week, Ms. PARVEZ temporarily moved in with a friend from school.
"She said she wasn't getting along well with her family and that things weren't right," said Trudy LOOBY, the mother of one of Ms. PARVEZ's Friends, Alisha. " When she was here, she was very happy."
Ms. LOOBY said she told Ms. PARVEZ to inform her parents about where she was staying. "She notified me that the school was aware of where she was staying and that that was okay," the mother said.
During her stay, Ms. LOOBY said, Ms. PARVEZ didn't wear the hijab, a head scarf that Friends said was a hot topic within her family.
Krista GARBUTT remembers walking down the street with Ms. PARVEZ earlier this year, when the two of them spotted Ms. PARVEZ's brother walking toward them. Panicking, the teenager quickly fumbled for her head scarf, trying to put it on. "There were times when we'd be walking down the street and she'd see her brother and she wouldn't be wearing her hijab and she'd have to put it on," Ms. GARBUTT said. "She said, 'He'll kill me, he'll kill me.' I said, 'He's not going to kill you,' but she said, 'Yeah, he will.' And nobody believed it."
On Monday morning, Peel Regional Police responded to a 911 call from a man who said he had just killed his daughter. When officers arrived at a single-family detached home on Longhorn Trail, they found Ms. PARVEZ suffering from life-threatening injuries. She was taken immediately to Credit Valley Hospital and later transferred in critical condition to the Hospital for Sick Children, where she died.
Peel police said the Crown is waiting to decide whether Mr. PARVEZ should be charged with first- or second-degree murder, pending a police investigation. Although police would not elaborate on the ongoing homicide investigation, the difference between laying a first- or second-degree murder charge often rests on proving that the killing was premeditated.
Ms. GARBUTT said the teenager went home on Monday to collect her belongings, at which point her father "basically went ballistic."
For weeks before, Ms. PARVEZ had been living something of a double life, Friends said.
"She wanted peace with her family," Alisha LOOBY said. "She wanted to make them happy but she wanted to be herself at the same time, and there's nothing wrong with that."
A makeshift memorial is already in place at Applewood Heights, full of mementoes and messages left by grieving students.
"Aqsa was honestly the brightest girl around. She had the biggest smile and was the happiest person in school. She loved to dance and take pictures," one student wrote.
Across Canada, the killing has taken on larger proportions. On call-in shows and websites, many have used the incident as part of a wider indictment of fundamentalist Islam. One Canadian conservative blogger suggested Canadians boycott taxicabs driven by Muslims.
In a statement yesterday, the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Canadians of all faiths to address issues of domestic abuse, and called for "the strongest possible prosecution" of those responsible for Ms. PARVEZ's killing.
Trudy LOOBY, who let Ms. PARVEZ stay at her home last week, said she now wishes the teen had not left.
"I was feeling that whatever it was she was dealing with at home was a bit too personal to involve me in," Ms. LOOBY said. "I wish she would have stayed longer, that's all. It's a sad waste of life."
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