Mayor, council praise the ‘heroism and resilience’ of Yonge St. van rampage first responders

Photo: RANDY RISLING / TORONTO STAR

 

In the aftermath of the Yonge St. van rampage, Toronto responded to hate and “toxic misogyny” with compassion, beginning with the first responders who descended on the chaos to save lives, Mayor John Tory said one month later.

At council Thursday, Tory acknowledged police officers, firefighters, paramedics, special transit constables and city staff for their response to the attack April 23 that killed eight women and two men, and injured 16 others.

Mayor Tory on Thursday recognized first responders, faith communities and city staff involved with the Yonge St. van attack.
Mayor Tory on Thursday recognized first responders, faith communities and city staff involved with the Yonge St. van attack.  (RANDY RISLING / TORONTO STAR)

“I offer our thanks for your response that demonstrated absolutely without exception professionalism, courage and compassion for our residents,” Tory said. Councillors stood and gave a long, loud round of applause to the 50 or so uniformed men and women in attendance.

On the floor and in the audience, people cried.

What happened between Finch and Sheppard Aves., Tory said, was “mostly, tragically, an attack aimed at women.”

Alek Minassian, the 25-year-old man facing 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder, allegedly posted to his Facebook account shortly before the van attack a reference to the misogynist “incel” movement. The lead homicide investigator, Det.-Sgt. Graham Gibson, previously told the Star there’s no evidence the driver expressly aimed the van at women.

“Such hatred directed at women, the misogyny, particularly some of the toxic misogyny we’ve seen spreading online, is absolutely unacceptable in Toronto,” Tory said on Thursday. “As elected officials we have a responsibility to speak out about it.”

In the days that followed the van attack, faith leaders, city staff and elected officials planned the interfaith vigil for Sunday. About 30,000 people attended, Tory said. Thousands of others watched it on TV.

Councillor Joe Mihevc was part of that planning team, and said that while the vigil was a success, they missed something: “the misogynist terror at the root of this tragedy. This was a terrorist attack on women.

“Perhaps we didn’t give it the full weight we should have. The homework for us all is to reflect on this and recommit to building a Toronto community safe for women.”

In the weeks since the attack, first responders have focused on their mental health. Council’s acknowledgement of their work helps with the healing process, said Fire Services Chief Matthew Pegg afterwards.

“Today is a very important part of the healing process,” Pegg said. “It’s nice Mayor Tory and council took time to acknowledge women and men who work so hard every day, but extraordinarily hard that day.”

TTC special constable Bill Perivolaris was one of the first on scene and attempted to revive a number of victims.

“It did impact me because these were innocent victims,” said the TTC veteran. “Being recognized by city council means a lot to us. It means they recognize our professionalism and our dedication to the city.”

Councillor John Filion, whose ward the van attack happened in, said this work and the generosity of countless others has reaffirmed Toronto’s identity.

“We just saw remarkable examples of heroism and resilience, of empathy and compassion, of kindness and generosity. We saw a real raising up of the soul and outpouring of humanity,” Filion said to the council chamber.

To date, $3 million have been raised for the Toronto Strong fund, said Tory.

The city has dispersed $500,000 to families directly impacted by the van attack to cover immediate financial needs, said city spokesperson Andrea Martinelli.

Toronto’s deputy police chief says the officer who peacefully arrested the suspect in April’s deadly van attack doesn’t want to be called a “hero.” Peter Yuen says Const. Ken Lam has a mindset to “help as many people as possible.” (The Canadian Press)

A steering committee is working to determine the allocation of the remaining funds “in a timely manner and based on a needs assessment that takes into consideration all those who were killed, injured and directly affected,” she said.

Source :

Toronto Star

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