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Family honours Selim Esen at memorial service

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Inside St. Stephen’s-in-the-Fields church, Ferhat Cinar rose from his front-row seat and accepted a gift. It was the handiwork of his youngest brother, Selim Esen — a painting he would never complete.

Esen’s plan for the piece is sketched out in faint pencil strokes of abstract shapes, each fitting inside the other like a puzzle. He had begun carefully filling each one with vibrant red, green and yellow — a kaleidoscope of colour meant to fill the canvas.

Ferhat Cinar, brother of Selim Esen, allegedly murdered by Bruce McArthur, stands outside St. Stephen’s-in-the-Fields church on Friday. Ferhat and brother Omer were on hand at a memorial in their slain brother’s honour.
Ferhat Cinar, brother of Selim Esen, allegedly murdered by Bruce McArthur, stands outside St. Stephen’s-in-the-Fields church on Friday. Ferhat and brother Omer were on hand at a memorial in their slain brother’s honour.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

Esen started the painting in the peer support program at St. Stephen’s, a group for adults recovering from trauma and substance abuse. There, Esen was known for his intensity — a curious, exacting mind. Early on, when asked to bring in a single meaningful quote for group discussion, he’d arrived with two handwritten pages of his own thoughts. His usual meticulous approach can be seen in the painting, said program leader Richard Kikot — “he had big ideas, very intricate plans, because he was a masterful thinker.”

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Cinar held the painting, then turned to face the small group gathered at his brother’s intimate memorial Friday evening.

“This is so meaningful,” he told them.

For nine months, Cinar and his family have been waiting to mark Esen’s death. In January, Cinar and his brother, Omer Esen, were informed that their brother was among the alleged victims of accused serial killer Bruce McArthur. Police believe Esen, 44, was killed in April 2017, the seventh of McArthur’s alleged eight victims.

Their brother’s remains finally released to them this week, Cinar and Omer Esen travelled from their homes in London, England, for the funeral.

The service was both a ceremony and a fact-finding mission. Since they’ve arrived, the brothers have been determined to colour in the last parts of Esen’s life, a final period he’d spent away from his family and native Turkey.

“Any small thought, any small story,” Cinar told the group gathered in the church, “please come and share, because we want to hear.”

One of seven siblings, Esen was the youngest of six brothers, closest with his sister, the baby. Growing up, he’d had interminable energy. It fuelled him through an undergraduate, then a Master’s, degree in sociology at Ankara’s Haceteppe University, all while working to help support his family.

Selim Esen, alleged to be among the victims of accused serial killer Bruce McArthur, was honoured at a memorial on Friday.
Selim Esen, alleged to be among the victims of accused serial killer Bruce McArthur, was honoured at a memorial on Friday.  (Family photo)

His early adult life saw the bond of family and the pull of adventure. Handsome, with a strong jaw and dark eyes, he looks out from photos played in the memorial slide show. He cuddles his young nieces and nephews, he stands in the sun in the Australian countryside, where he moved with a former boyfriend.

His move to Canada had been in pursuit of love, too, but the relationship didn’t last. He’d struggled with substance abuse. Those he met at St. Stephen’s saw Esen’s recent graduation from the peer program as a sign he was dedicated to recovery.

A similar path meant Kikot and Esen spoke freely about life outside the margins. Kikot grew to look forward to Esen’s contributions to group discussions, which he shared through a “philosophical lens — he loved to unpack things.”

“He was soft, in a dignified, strong way,” Kikot said.

A book of condolences for the family told a similar story, filled by the end of the night with messages. Virtually every one used the same descriptor: gentle.

Gab Laurence, a manager at St. Stephen’s, was struck by Esen’s authenticity — that he was himself, no matter who he was with.

Selim Esen's brother, Ferhat Cinar, holds a painting his brother began but never finished, at a memorial held for Esen on Friday. Esen is alleged to be the 7th victim of accused serial killer Bruce McArthur.
Selim Esen’s brother, Ferhat Cinar, holds a painting his brother began but never finished, at a memorial held for Esen on Friday. Esen is alleged to be the 7th victim of accused serial killer Bruce McArthur.  (Wendy Gillis/Toronto Star)

“It’s very hard to be yourself in this world,” she said during the service.

After the memorial, as attendees cried and reminisced, Cinar and Omer mingled, speaking to each person and taking a group photo. Esen’s remaining siblings back in Turkey had made impassioned requests for pictures, unable to afford to attend.

The funeral will bring only partial closure. Cinar says that won’t fully come until he, and everyone else, understands the scope of the tragedy that claimed his brother.

He will watch McArthur’s trial, and the ongoing independent review of Toronto police handling of missing persons cases, commissioned amid outrage over past police probes of the disappearances of men now alleged to be McArthur’s victims. Saying he feels police should have done more to find the missing men earlier, Cinar says there must also be a public inquiry to expose what happened.

“The public can’t feel in the dark,” he said.

This weekend, Cinar and Omer will collect their brother’s ashes and scatter them, something they see as honouring Esen’s lifelong quest for freedom.

They will bring Esen’s painting back home, but Cinar doesn’t know what he’ll do with it. He is considering painting the rest himself, but may leave it as it is.

“It’s an unfinished story,” he said. “Just like him.”

Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at wgillis@thestar.ca or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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