St. Mike’s hospital trauma surgeons are using battlefield techniques to treat victims of gun violence


“One major difference is that today, when someone comes in, we start to give them a blood transfusion very early on,” he said, noting that until just over a decade ago, these patients were immediately given saline IV fluids with blood to follow.

But a 2007 study, of which Rizoli was a contributing author, showed that trauma patients suffering from major hemorrhagic bleeding have much better outcomes if they are immediately given massive blood transfusions.

“They do much better if they get blood from the start,” he said.

Many of these survivors owe their lives to the health professionals such as Rizoli.

St. Mike’s — one of three trauma centres in the city — sees about one shooting victim a week and is able save approximately 80 per cent of them, Rizoli said.

The Star recently spent some time with a Rizoli and the team of trauma surgeons at the hospital to learn how they are trying to keep more of these patients alive.

Rizoli said it stands to reason that shooting victims are faring better today. The increase in gun violence sadly means trauma surgeons are getting much more experience in dealing with these patients.

These days, St. Mike’s averages about one victim of gun violence a week.

“During my training 25 years ago, gunshot wounds were uncommon and many Canadian surgeons had to train in the U.S. to gain experience in treating them. The growth in the number of victims to gun violence and the progression to more lethal weapons had been fortunately balanced by enormous advances in trauma science and practice,” Rizoli said.

Advancements have been made in research, technology, drugs hospital design, workflow, protocols and best practices, he noted.

Much of the learning has come from the battlefield.

“We have learned from wars that patients who have lost a lot of blood cannot clot appropriately,” Rizoli explained.

They suffer from what is known as “trauma-induced coagulopathy,” and if not treated quickly, it can lead to a patient bleeding to death.

“We give them blood, and tons of blood, to start with. Then we try to diagnose, as quickly as possible, exactly what is wrong with their coagulation,” Rizoli said.

They do this by using a piece of equipment, purchased by the hospital about five years ago, which quickly analyzes blood-clotting properties. Called ROTEM, short for rotational thromboelastometry, it guides health professionals in determining what blood products trauma patients require so that their blood clots properly.

St. Mike’s surgeons have recently begun to use another technique developed on the battlefield, this one to stop traumatic bleeding.

The minimally invasive procedure is known as REBOA, or Resuscitative Endovascular Balloon Occlusion of the Aorta. It involves running a catheter up the femoral artery and into the aorta. A balloon at the tip of the catheter is inflated, stopping the flow of blood.

The procedure can be done in the trauma bay. Previously, patients would have been moved to the opening room where their chests would be opened and aortas clamped. That took much longer, was more invasive and carried a higher risk of death.

Before using the new REBOA catheter on patients, St. Mike’s tested it out on a high-tech mannequin. The simulation served to educate those in the trauma program — including nurses, respiratory therapists and surgeons — on how it works.

“It’s like crash-testing a car. You wouldn’t drive a car if it hadn’t been crash-tested first. We do the same thing with new processes. We crash-test them and make sure they work like we anticipate they will,” said Dr. Andrew Petrosoniak.

He and colleague Dr. Chris Hicks are emergency physicians, trauma team leaders and simulation educators at St. Mike’s. Their work on simulation exercises has helped improve the workflow in trauma resuscitation care. It has also informed the design of a new trauma bay at the hospital, scheduled to open in 2019.

One of their exercises involved tracking the movements of three nurses treating a simulated trauma patient. It was videotaped and the movements of each nurse were followed, using an overlay tracing tool, with a different colour for each nurse.

The end result looked like colourful child’s scrawl to the untrained eye. But to Petrosoniak and Hicks, it revealed how the nurses lost time criss-crossing the trauma bay to get different pieces of equipment.

If the equipment needed was closer at hand, nurses would need to criss-cross the room and seconds could be saved. There would be less risk of nurses bumping into each other and dropping instruments.

“So now we understand where they’re moving and we can improve their efficiency,” Petrosoniak said. “The whole point of efficiency is to get the care faster. If you are thinking about gunshot wound patients, time matters significantly.”

Hicks said the information has also been used in the design of the new trauma bay to show how much room is needed around each bed.

The pair have also worked on creating a new “massive transfusion protocol.” They examined steps taken by everyone involved in the transfusing large amounts of blood into trauma patients.

That includes, as an example, porters charged with picking up blood from the blood bank at the other end of the hospital and carrying it over to the trauma bay.

Petrosoniak and Hicks realized seconds could be lost by waiting for an elevator, so now porters must take the stairs. As well porters must announce themselves when entering the trauma bay instead of waiting to be noticed.

Through changes such as this, delivery time for blood has been cut by 12.5 per cent to nine minutes.

“In the past you might have been waiting for blood,” Hicks said, citing research showing that every minute blood is delayed results in a 5 per cent increase in mortality.

Trauma surgeons at St. Mike’s are also working to reduce the need for their services by campaigning to reduce access to guns. Two surgeons with much to say on this happened to be on duty the night of the Danforth shooting in July. Drs. Najma Ahmed and Bernard Lawless say that the Danforth shooting prompted them to increase their activism.

“I think there is greater public awareness that this is a public health crisis. I think there is also greater awareness that guns can be lethal beyond just crimes. They are very often used in adolescent suicide in Canada,” Ahmed said.

This past fall, she helped draft a position statement, calling for limited civilian access to firearms, and then assisted in getting endorsements for it from medical associations, including the Trauma Association of Canada and the Canadian Association of General Surgeons.

She and Lawless have also been lobbying politicians to take steps to crack down on gun violence.

“Dr. Ahmed and I have been contacting decision-makers at all levels,” Lawless said. “It’s going to take political fortitude to make change. When you look at this from a common sense perspective, it’s really not a difficult issue.”

Calling gun violence a “disease,” Ahmed said it makes perfect sense for physicians to be involved in trying to eradicate it.

“It has its own risk factors and own epidemiology, its preventable strategy,” she said.

Lawless said the profession has a long history in working on injury prevention: “Trauma surgeons have long played a role in injury prevention, whether it’s around seatbelt use, drinking and driving, and even working with engineers on how cars and roads are designed.”

Rizoli said diseases can be eradicated and points to smallpox as an example.

“No one should be injured by a disease that is completely preventable. No one in Canada should he a victim of gun violence. There could come a time when this could end.”

Theresa Boyle is a Toronto-based reporter covering health. Follow her on Twitter: @theresaboyle


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Police continue to watch for anyone possessing or uploading the St. Mike’s video


Months after a sexual assault scandal rocked the St. Michael’s College School, Toronto police said they are continuing to investigate the video distribution of the original incident.

“Despite the various warnings, we have credible evidence to suggest that people are still in possession of this video and/or have made attempts to upload it on social media,” said Insp. Domenic Sinopoli, the head of Toronto police sex crimes unit, at a press conference Wednesday.

St. Michael's College School is shown in Toronto on Nov. 15, 2018. A sexual assault scandal has rocked the school.
St. Michael’s College School is shown in Toronto on Nov. 15, 2018. A sexual assault scandal has rocked the school.  (Frank Gunn / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

He said police consider the video to be child pornography and altering or cropping it does not change its digital identifiers. The video, which captures parts of the alleged sexual assault that took place in a locker room on Nov. 7, shows a group of boys holding down a teen boy and allegedly sexually assaulting him with an object that looks like a broomstick.

Sinopoli warned the public that whoever is making these sharing attempts will be caught and charged.

“The video and its distribution is a constant reminder to victims of the trauma they have endured,” he said at the conference. “In many ways, this can be far more detrimental than the assault itself.”

The alleged continued circulation of the video is one of the “terrible” outcomes of the rise of social media, said Judith Taylor, a sociology and gender studies professor at University of Toronto.

“It’s hard to believe that this kind of thing happens,” said Taylor, whose research includes issues of toxic masculinity. “It is a shocking thing, and so people want proof of it themselves, and they can’t really imagine the conditions under which it happens.”

She said it is unlikely that students at St. Mike’s would circulate the videos, as their parents would have warned them they are part of a criminal investigation and sharing the video could land them in trouble.

But the fact the video could still be circulation, shows a lack of understanding as to how awful and detrimental it is to the victims and society at large, said Kale Munro, a Toronto psychotherapist.

“It’s bad enough for the victims to have gone through this, but to think that others are distributing and looking at it, and you could run into somebody who has seen it, it’s just horrifying,” she said.

While the issue will inevitably create a “great deal” of trauma and shame, those affected need to know that it is mainly being talked about in a supportive manner, said Munro. Victims need ongoing and long-term therapy to understand it’s not their fault, but this kind of experience can be haunting for years, she said.

“If it gets pushed aside too quickly, then it will linger,” she said.

Gilbert Ngabo is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo


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Former St. Mike’s students in court for sex assault case as police update media on investigation


The case of six former St. Michael’s College School students facing criminal charges in connection with a cellphone video shared on social media showing the sexual assault of another student in a locker room returned to a Toronto court Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, Toronto police say they will update the media on the police investigation into ongoing allegations of assault and sexual assault at the school at 11:30 a.m.

Police last week revealed they are investigating a total of eight incidents at the school.

The six boys are each charged with sexual assault with a weapon, gang sexual assault and assault. All were granted bail at a court hearing in November. Their identities are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The Crown in court Wednesday said she has not yet finished vetting the evidence that must be disclosed to the defence, including videos that require redaction. She noted some of the disclosure requires judicial authorization to release — likely in part because police have said the video connected to the charges is considered child pornography.

The court appearance comes as police investigate eight incidents at the prestigious, private all-boys school. Police have released limited information about the incidents, but they include two alleged sexual assaults, three alleged assaults and one incident related to threatening.

Last week, the school announced that members of a “respect and culture review” committee will examine the school’s culture and policies relayed to physical, verbal and sexual abuse, including hazing.

The school’s interim principal also announced the cancellation of the varsity basketball season for this school year and the junior and varsity football seasons for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Lawyers appeared in court on behalf of two of the boys on Wednesday.

The boys are scheduled to return to court Jan. 28.


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I loved being class president at St. Mike’s. Here’s what it is getting wrong


Liam Mather is a former class president at St. Michael’s College School who graduated in 2013. He holds a B.A. in History from McGill University. Mather is now based in Beijing where he manages a high school debate league. This piece is adapted from a posting he originally wrote on Facebook.

After much painful reflection about the recent sexual assault at St. Michael’s College School, I have a few thoughts that I want to share.

Liam Mather seen in Beijing this year. He is wearing a St. Mike's sweater.
Liam Mather seen in Beijing this year. He is wearing a St. Mike’s sweater.  (Courtesy Liam Mather)

I am deeply saddened for the victim. The assault was unspeakably violent. I am disturbed that he was repeatedly victimized as images of the assault were shared across social media, and I am upset by the school administration’s initial response. I pray that this boy is receiving support.

There is a powerful stigma against victims of sexual violence. Our conversations must be focused on caring for this boy and other victims that are coming forward. We must talk about how the school can prevent and respond to future assaults, or this story will repeat itself.

Personally, I have been struggling to reconcile my overwhelmingly positive experience at St. Mike’s with this horrific assault. I cherished my time at the school. Serving as the student government president made me proud. I wasn’t an athlete, but I benefited from the school’s academic rigour and rich extracurricular programming. I had wonderful mentors, such as Father Malo, who taught me values like compassion, personal discipline, and love of scholarship. I became politically conscious through the fine teaching of Paul Barry, Norah Higgins-Burnham, and too many others to name. My parents made sacrifices to send me and my brother, Thomas, to St. Mike’s — and we worked hard to make those sacrifices worthwhile. I had great friendships that transcended social cliques. I felt safe, happy, and supported.

Read more:

Rosie DiManno: Media are not the enemy in the St. Michael’s sex assault scandal

St. Michael’s College School president and principal resign in wake of sexual assault scandal

What we know and don’t know about the scandal at St. Michael’s College School — and what we can’t report

Since news of the sexual assault broke, I’ve felt a range of emotions: depression, anger, humiliation, confusion, even guilt. I felt devastated that such a violent assault occurred on campus. I also felt discomfort watching national and international media outlets attack the sanctity of my positive memories of the school. Were they wrong? Or had I overlooked something as a student?

But let’s be clear about the main issue. The school is not a victim. The alumni who feel defensive are not victims. A student was sexually assaulted within the school. He is the victim. The ones who perpetrated the assault, the ones who filmed and posted it on social media, and the ones who stood by and said nothing as the assault happened, they were also students. What compelled them to commit or enable this terrible crime?

It is morally imperative and prudent that graduates critically reflect on the school’s culture. It is convenient, dishonest and dangerous for graduates to frame the assault as the independent behaviour of a few exceptionally bad students. The school needs to assess the factors that contributed to these students’ destructive behaviour — and prevent this story from happening again. As alumni, if any harmful values were cultivated during our time at the school, we need to identify those values and discard them. That is the courageous way to move forward.

Liam Mather, right, with his younger brother, Thomas, at Thomas's graduation from St. Mike's in 2017.
Liam Mather, right, with his younger brother, Thomas, at Thomas’s graduation from St. Mike’s in 2017.

My personal reflections and my discussions with some alumni have led me to the following conclusions.

First, the assault absolutely reflects a cultural failure of the school. The notions that define manhood are changing. Society used to demand that men be physically strong, emotionless and chauvinistic. But increasingly, empathy and intelligence are valued. What version of manhood is St. Mike’s imparting onto its boys?

The school seemed to be grappling with this question when I was a student. Long renowned for its athletic programs, the school also began promoting music, dance, theatre, media production and visual arts. It built a multimillion dollar performance centre on campus, which opened in 2010. The space for artists, writers and dedicated students expanded; I genuinely felt that the school encouraged my intellectual curiosity. Teachers and the administration began promoting mental health awareness. The Basilians preached a liberal interpretation of doctrine. There was more collaboration with girls’ schools.

However, the school retained a hypermasculine subculture, in which conventional masculine values were incubated. When I was a student, this subculture lurked in the shadows of the locker hallways and the changing rooms. If you put teenage boys together, without adult supervision, aggressive behaviour can carry social rewards. Boys can feel an urge to act dominant; other boys will feel reluctant to challenge the alphas. This is well-established in psychology literature. When I was at St. Mike’s, hypermasculinity sometimes degenerated into bullying. I think the recent assault is a particularly heinous outgrowth of hypermasculinity. This subculture might not be unique to St. Mike’s, and might not define St. Mike’s, but it is there.

The St. Mike’s administration has a responsibility to correct the perverse psychological incentives of its students. It must establish a zero-tolerance policy for “boys being boys” behaviour. It needs to delineate the spaces where controlled aggression is acceptable (on the football field) and where it is not (in the locker room, everywhere else). It needs to reaffirm to all of its boys that it is OK to be gentle, caring and artistic. While there is obviously a significant difference between a dust-up in the hallway and sexual assault, the line is finer than people think. I don’t say this to be glib, but consider Piggy’s death in Lord of the Flies. The dominant tendencies of young boys, when unchecked, can have catastrophic consequences. St. Mike’s never fully focused its efforts on stamping out these tendencies.

A second and related problem is that St. Mike’s, overall, was not a nurturing place for gay students. I am straight, and I do not wish to speak on behalf of all gay former students. I have reached this conclusion after speaking with many of my close friends at St. Mike’s who were gay, as well as through personal retrospection about the culture. Many gay students thrived at the school. However, they did not receive outward institutional support and faced widespread homophobic attitudes from students — and even from a few teachers. It was common for boys to use homophobic language in an effort to emasculate and assert dominance over their peers. Many gay students were not comfortable coming out at St. Mike’s. I do not think this has changed since I graduated in 2013. This is unacceptable.

I want to echo the call of my courageous friend and former class vice-president, Jonah Macan, for the school to found a gay-straight alliance to fight homophobia and promote inclusiveness.

The third problem is also related to hypermasculinity. It is an issue that I have been reflecting on since Dr. Christine Blasey Ford bravely went public with her sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh. I was troubled by the media’s portrayal of Kavanaugh’s high school, an all-boys Catholic private school where gross sexism was ingrained into the student body. It haunted me because Kavanaugh’s school reminded me of St. Mike’s.

When I was a student, many of my classmates had a hyper-sexualized view of women. This toxic attitude went mostly unchallenged by the school, except by a few teachers and staff. The school did not actively promote positive relationships with women. It did not rigorously teach feminism or consent. For the students who tried to resist sexist social currents, many still did not a develop a deep understanding of women’s health, social or political issues. Everyone has some personal responsibility for their attitudes and behaviours; I also call on my classmates to reflect on how they treat the women in their lives. But St. Mike’s should impart on its students a positive understanding of what it means to respect women. A new program, aimed at teaching Grade 11 and 12 students about consent, is a step in the right direction.

Some of you might still insist on disconnecting the assault from the school’s culture. To you, I say the following. Even if you think the assault is an outlier, society does not tolerate the male behaviours and attitudes that I have described. We can use recent events as an opportunity for critical self-reflection and growth. For the interests of the school as an institution — not to mention for the well-being of future students, women and everyone else — St. Mike’s needs to confront the negative parts of its culture.

The final point I would like to make concerns the response to the assault by the school and the broader community. First, the administration’s initial response was wrong. The administration should have reported the assault to the police immediately. After all, private institutions have powerful incentives (their reputation, money) to cover up sexual assaults.

Maybe we can give the previous administration the benefit of the doubt regarding its intentions. However, the optics are still damaging to all victims within the school, who might lose trust in the administration and authority figures more broadly. The response is especially unacceptable given the recent history of the Catholic Church covering up sexual assault. As members of a Catholic community, we must hold the school to a high standard.

Gregory Reeves, the St. Michael's College School principal when the scandal about alleged school sexual assaults broke. Reeves resigned just over a week ago.
Gregory Reeves, the St. Michael’s College School principal when the scandal about alleged school sexual assaults broke. Reeves resigned just over a week ago.  (Christopher Katsarov)

With the resignations of Principal Greg Reeves and President Father Jefferson Thompson, the incoming administration must undergo training on how to respond to sexual assault in a manner that is consistent with victims’ interests.

Second, I am disappointed that so many former students have blindly defended the school, without also acknowledging the suffering of the victim. One implication of some graduates’ nostalgic Facebook posts is that they stand in solidarity with the school as its reputation tanks, and not in solidarity with the victim. This is probably unintentional, but it is inexcusable. We should focus our energies on supporting the victim and asking hard questions about the school’s culture.

These posts have another negative implication. They might deter other victims in the St. Mike’s community from speaking out, because they will feel uneasy about further tarnishing the school’s reputation. There are almost certainly other victims of sexual assault or bullying in the community who have been suffering in silence. I urge alumni to express support for all victims of sexual assault and severe bullying. You might not have been a bully. You might have not been bullied. You might have enjoyed your time at the school, as I did. But evidently, it was not a safe place for every student. We must validate the experiences of victims, rather than stifle their voices.

I am also a little embarrassed by the parents and alumni who have criticized the media. Again, the school is not the victim. The victim is the victim. The assault was a brutal crime and is a matter of public interest. The media uncovered this story; they have been hawkish because the school was not immediately transparent; they have kept the story in the news cycle because more assaults came to light. The broader public is judging our community’s capacity to respond with empathy. If you pretend the school is the primary victim, you are not only being insensitive to real victims, you are actively reinforcing negative tropes about the community.

At the end of the culture review, the leadership of St. Michael’s must make a decision. It can pretend nothing is wrong. In doing so, it will edge out a new niche in the Toronto private school market as the bastion of male chauvinism. Maybe this version of the school can still win football championships. But I will not want anything to do with it.

Alternatively, after a long and difficult introspection, the school can make the difficult choice. It can build out progressive programming that confronts its cultural problems and prevents future assaults. There is going to be resistance to these changes, because our beloved school is old, and old places are bad at changing.

But hopefully, over time, the phrase “St. Michael’s Man” can acquire a new, robust meaning: a man that excels in the classroom, on the field, on the stage and in the debating hall. A man who treats women with respect. A man who has the space to explore alternative sexualities. A man who respects his peers. A man who will still win a Metro Bowl ring. I have faith that the good people at St. Michael’s will make this choice. The right choice.


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The double-edged sword of how social media spread the St. Mike’s scandal


Teenagers sharing, with little thought or effort, video clips of St. Michael’s College School students brutalizing each other makes Glen Canning think of his daughter.

“It’s inexcusable, it’s death by a thousand cuts, and it has terrible consequences,” Canning says of the viral spread, from teen’s phone to teen’s phone, of images of “absolute cruelty” involving clearly identifiable victims.

“I think about the kids who shared Rehtaeh’s photo and wonder what they think about that — it contributed to her death — and how that must feel. It’s awful.”

Rehtaeh Parsons, his 17-year-old daughter, killed herself in 2013 after prolonged bullying and shame fanned by the spread of a 2011 photo through her Nova Scotia hometown. It showed her at a party vomiting out a window while a teen had sex with her.

Rehtaeh said she was sexually assaulted. The boy said it was consensual. He was convicted only of distributing child pornography for sharing the photo with friends.

“I spend my time trying to get young people to speak up, to not be a bystander just taking out a phone and recording — that’s participating,” he says.

“What’s happening now speaks volumes to failures in the system — with the kids, with the school and with the parents, who have to become more involved in what their kids are up to.”

While many people are shocked at the digitally documented and shared abuse at the storied private school, emerging details are familiar to experts in teen bullying, hazing and social media use.

“There appears to be dominance, control over others and a lack of empathy in the kind of hypermasculine environment that can lead to bullying and violence,” says Roy Gillis, a University of Toronto associate professor of psychology.

The case shows the “kind of naive oversharing going on, particularly on social media, by young people. In cases like this it multiplies the humiliation of the target.”

The other side of the social media coin is that recording and sharing abuse has made student-on-student hazings and assaults, which have happened at different types of schools for many decades, discoverable and undeniable.

“The exposure does shine a light on the problem,” Gillis says, adding he hopes it leads to prevention programs; better supervision of locker rooms and other high-risk areas; teacher training on helping sexual assault victims; and knowledge such abuse must be immediately reported to police — something St. Mike’s failed to do.

“It’s a wake-up call to all of us to protect our students.”

St. Mike’s has announced it is launching an independent review of student culture in the wake of the incidents.

The school is also hiring a full-time social worker and four security guards to patrol the washrooms and locker room and has created an anonymous voicemail line for students to report inappropriate behaviour.

Toronto police Det. Sgt. Paul Krawczyk of the sex crimes unit has publicly warned anyone possessing the St. Mike’s videos to delete anything that qualifies as child pornography, hopefully stopping their viral spread.

In an interview he notes that today’s teens grew up with smartphones and are accustomed to pulling them out to record all manner of events.

“They can’t wait to show it to someone else, maybe be the first to share,” photos and videos rather than process the reality in front of them, he says. “The same goes for traffic accidents. Why is it the instinct for many people now to record the victim of an accident instead of helping?”

Krawczyk says he uses such scandals to talk to his own children “about what my expectations are and I ask if they have any questions. I think many parents let devices be their babysitter and don’t really talk to their kids about these things.

“The children have to know that they can speak to their parents without them freaking out or automatically taking their electronic devices away from them.

“Kids also need to know that what is right is right, and what is wrong is wrong. Plain and simple. If it is wrong, put a stop to it. Say something. You are part of the problem if you don’t say anything.”

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider


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Police investigate graphic video of alleged sexual assault filmed at St. Mike’s school


This article contains graphic content.

Toronto police said Thursday they were not aware of the extent of an alleged sexual assault, which was filmed at a prestigious all-boys private school and shared on social media, until they were contacted by media and began investigating.

Police spokesperson Meaghan Gray said the local police division was contacted by St. Michael’s College School on Monday about an “incident.” But it was not what is now the subject of an investigation: a 22-second video that police have described as “meeting the definition of child pornography.” Police provided the school with advice Monday and “no further information was received.”

“On Wednesday, we were made aware of a completely different incident from the media, and that is the incident we are now investigating,” said Gray, referring to the videotape of the alleged sexual assault, adding no charges have been laid.

That same day, the school released a statement to its community members about “two very serious incidents that recently occurred on our campus.” It acknowledged the administration was “informed about these incidents on Monday of this week and immediately began an internal investigation that included informing police and meeting individually with the students involved and their parents.”

The Star reached out to the school’s administration repeatedly for comment on Thursday, but was unsuccessful. Multiple sources have told the Star at least 10 students were expelled.

The police’s comments come as members of the school community are still reeling over the chilling allegations. Current and former students say the disturbing incident is not representative of the school, but at least one has described a toxic culture of bullying at the elite all-boys school.

Police were at the school on Thursday investigating an unspecified threat. They say anyone who has a copy of the video should immediately delete it.

The Star has seen two cellphone videos that were circulated online late last week. In the chaotic 22-second video, a young teenager is squirming as he’s held down by several boys in what appears to be a locker room and is sexually assaulted by two boys with what looks like a broomstick. Someone is heard yelling, “Get it in there,” and “Put it in” and, “Chill, chill, chill.”

In another video, 49 seconds long, a different boy in his underwear is thrown into a sink and slapped by a group of young teens. The victim is seen emerging from the sink wet but doesn’t seem hurt.

“It’s horrifying,” said a student, as he walked into school Thursday morning, adding he’d never heard of anything like that happening at St. Mike’s before.

The boy, who the Star is not identifying because he is a minor, said staff haven’t given students many details about what transpired.

Former student Kyle Fraser, who’s now studying at Bowling Green University in Ohio, wasn’t shocked by the allegations — just that the videos were posted on social media.

“For kids to be there recording it and not doing anything even though they know it’s not right, it blows my mind,” he said.

Fraser, now 21, attended the school from 2009-2013, for Grades 7 to 10, but left because he was verbally bullied.

He described a culture of “privilege’” and “toxic masculinity,” where “everybody wants to be the best.”

“There are very high egos, especially with it being an all-boys school,” he said.

Michael Nituda, who attended the school between 1994 and 1999 was “aghast” at hearing about the allegations.

“For me (St. Mike’s) was fantastic,” said Nituda, who played basketball and volleyball. “My son is 8 and I was thinking of going the St. Mike’s tradition … Now, I have mixed emotions. I love the school, but (the allegations) are pretty egregious. I’m a little sickened.”

This isn’t the first time the school has made headlines. In 1999 the Star reported on a hazing incident in which five members of the school’s senior football team tied a naked player to a goalpost after a team practice and pelted him with raw eggs. The players apologized to the victim and his family and the team wrote a charter emphasizing the importance of respecting and supporting teammates, coaches and the rules of the game, and denounced any form of initiation.

The Grades 7 through 12 school, run by the Basilian Fathers, a Roman Catholic religious order, is famous for its sports programs and prominent alumni including Dave Keon and Tim Horton. Annual tuition costs are about $21,000.

Cardinal Thomas Collins, who does not oversee the school but is the spiritual leader of Toronto’s two million Catholics, learned of the incidents through recent media reports.

“He is deeply disturbed by the allegations and encourages anyone with information on this situation to work with both the police and school officials as they investigate this further,” said Neil MacCarthy, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Toronto.

D’Arcy McKeown, who attended St. Mike’s for Grades 11 and 12 and graduated in 2005, was shocked to hear what happened, saying the school was always “a very welcoming place.”

“Nothing like this ever happened when I was there,” says McKeown, 31, who played senior football and was on the track team there.

In August 2005, he went to McGill University’s football training camp and found himself, as an incoming freshman, subjected to constant threats by other players.

“Dr. Broom is going to give you a proctology exam,” the older players would say, warning if he didn’t do well, “That’s another inch with Dr. Broom.”

“The fact that they threw it around so freely is what made me truly believe that it was nothing more than a threat, that they were just messing around with us.”

But one night in a squash court, away from coaches and staff, his teammates sodomized him with a broom handle as 30 to 60 players watched and cheered.

McKeown was stunned to learn that what happened to him at McGill, where he successfully pushed for a campus-wide ban on hazing, could happen at St. Mike’s.

“The long-lasting mental impact that these things can have is extremely dangerous, especially at a place where the whole goal is to mold young minds …. It’s utterly shocking that this went on.”

After the McGill incident, McKeown returned to Toronto, and for a few months helped coach football at St. Mike’s. He credits the staff there with helping him get through that difficult period and feeling comfortable enough to play football again, which he eventually did at the University of Toronto.

Given his experience with St. Mike’s, McKeown is hopeful staff there will do its best to help the young victim.

“If he ever needs someone to talk to, I know what he’s going through,” says McKeown. “The most important thing right now is getting that kid to feel safe again.”


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