They were both men, both shot dead on the same day. Their deaths, however, were played very differently in the media, speaking volumes about how unequally we value the living, Shree Paradkar writes.
Toronto’s 40th murder victim of the year had a few things in common with the city’s 41st.
They were both men, both killed on the same day, for starters. Sept. 17. They were both killed by gunshot. While they are unrelated, they were both targeted killings, police say.
Both victims were 54 years old. Both have two children. Both have ex-wives.
Neither was “known to police,” as police say; it’s a tool they use to confirm or negate shadiness.
Their deaths, however, were played very differently in the media, speaking volumes about how unequally we value the living.
Victim No. 41 was Simon Giannini, the real-estate agent killed at a downtown restaurant named Michael’s on Simcoe.
We don’t know why he was targeted. We don’t know what, if anything, he was involved with — but he got the benefit of respect, and rightly so.
Subsequent media stories about him consigned to him a more rounded character than a mere victim, describing a fun-loving guy, a great dad who was laughing moments before he was killed.
Until yesterday, victim No. 40 got no such benefit.
Everone Paul Mitchell was by all accounts an upstanding government of Ontario employee of 20 years, working for the Family Responsibility Office (FRO). He was killed in Regent Park in the early hours of that day.
His family and co-workers were devastated. Then came the second blow.
Their tears had not yet dried up when our mayor spoke the next day. Keep in mind police had not released a motive.
“The fact of the matter is — and these are facts coming right from the police — that the majority, significant majority, of these incidents that are happening of this kind are gang-related or have some suspicious relationship to gang activity,” said John Tory, as he pushed for a redevelopment of the area.
“He’s not gang-affiliated. No way. No how,” said his co-worker Kevin Douglas, who sat beside him for 10 years. Mitchell grew up in Regent Park and moved out years ago. He loved hockey and often went to Regent Park on weekends to play basketball with friends.
“He gives back to the community. He actually goes back to visit his friends and deals with kids in the community,” Douglas said. “This is the story of the good Samaritan. I don’t know what happened. I heard he broke up a fight.”
For those who knew and loved Mitchell, Tory’s statement added a layer of rage to the grief of the injustice of his death.
“The statement Tory made is pathetic,” said Douglas, who wants a retraction and apology.
If Tory or the police knew something about Mitchell that nobody else did, they should have either come out and said it or not said it at all.
“By no means were my comments directed at any individual,” Tory told me on Thursday.
“I understand how people might have taken the implication was about that this case.
“We always have the benefit of hindsight, and I should have said I’m not talking about Mr. Mitchell here but I’m talking about these kinds of incidents that the police describe as targeted, that many of these are gang-related.
“But I certainly regret the fact that it was even possible for anyone to draw a connection between those words and Mr. Mitchell.
“I send my heartfelt condolences to Mr. Mitchell, his family and his neighbours.”
In any case, Mitchell — the man those who know him say went above and beyond to help everyone — ended up damned by the circumstances of the neighbourhood he happened to be in.
“There are lots of so-called bad neighbourhoods,” said Douglas. “It may be 2 per cent of the people in those neighbourhoods that are really bad. Sometimes it’s people that don’t even live there that are being bad.
“If you are a good Samaritan and you’re giving back, you shouldn’t be ridiculed and your name drawn through the mud.
“He doesn’t deserve that. He was a good man. His kids don’t deserve to read their mayor talking foolishness about their father.”
I hope Tory’s words here offer him some comfort.
The co-workers I spoke with as well as those on online forums remember Mitchell as a “wonderful, kind passionate man,” a man with a “million-dollar smile.” They admired and respected him.
“I can’t even express the level of devastation in our office,” said Diane Gillies, a legal counsel at the FRO. “They are as upset about what happened in the media … as they are by his loss.”
Nobody expected front-page coverage, but neither did they expect such a narrow lens applied to the tragedy. All they wanted was an acknowledgement that he was a decent, upstanding person.
On Wednesday, the Sun published a story saying that Mitchell “was no thug,” after interviewing his friends.
That was welcome, but it also highlighted a subtle but clear difference between the two cases. The details of Giannini’s targeted death are not known, either, but his loved ones did not have to defend his character to the media even before they buried him.
“I came to court the next morning, and I was very distraught,” said Gillies. “And almost every single person without exception said, ‘Well, what was he doing in Regent Park.’ That was the first question. It made me think over the day that if I had been shot in Regent Park, there would have been a story, right? An accomplished white woman was in Regent Park and got shot. There must be a story behind it.”
Mitchell’s case, of a Black man killed in Regent Park, meant certain assumptions were already made.
“Targeted,” “gang-related” and “Regent Park” together translate into “not surprising” and the implication in parentheses: not worthwhile.
He was far from worthless for those who knew him; he was uniquely valued. The social committee at the FRO made the unanimous decision to put all the funds it had gathered in the course of the year towards the funeral Saturday.
Mitchell’s children are students; his son goes to high school, his daughter, Tiffany, is in university. Tiffany and her mother, Mitchell’s ex-wife, are helping arrange a funeral Saturday at the Covenant of Promise Ministries at Penn Dr. in North York.
Tiffany also set up a GoFundMe drive to raise money for the funeral.
What are the odds that someone will Google Mitchell’s name, read the media stories and send money? So low, that it has just managed to raise less than $2,000 of the $40,000 goal.
Giannini’s loved ones were no doubt shattered by his loss. So were Mitchell’s. The difference was that in death, Mitchell wasn’t publicly allowed the dignity he embodied in life.
This needs to be acknowledged, and repaired.
via The Toronto Star