Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou has an extra passport that wasn’t listed in court records — and it’s only available to China’s elite

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VANCOUVER—The U.S. government’s hunch that Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou had passports beyond the seven it listed to oppose her release on bail appears to be true.

What it actually means is unclear, as no one would say whether she handed over the special Chinese passport over, let alone whether it could be used to leave the country.

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou talks to a member of her private security detail in Vancouver on Dec. 12, 2018.
Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou talks to a member of her private security detail in Vancouver on Dec. 12, 2018.  (DARRYL DYCK / The Canadian Press)

The Hong Kong Companies Registry has confirmed to StarMetro that Meng has a special public affairs passport issued by the Chinese government. It was not included in a December court submission by U.S. federal attorney Richard Donoghue, who warned that it was “entirely possible” she had more than the seven passports she had previously used to travel to the U.S.

When asked if the passport was still valid, Hong Kong’s Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau said companies are required by law to keep an index with identity information of its directors and that the information must be up to date.

“There are statutory requirements that if there is any change in the particulars mentioned, the company must, within 15 days of the change, deliver to the Registrar for registration a notice in the specified form to report such change,” the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau said in an email.

It’s unclear if Meng surrendered the public affairs passport — issued only to China’s elite business and government officials — as part of her bail conditions, because documents released to StarMetro have been heavily redacted. Government and court officials on both sides of the border have either not responded to or declined multiple requests for interviews related to Meng’s travel documents.

Read more:

U.S. Department of Justice says it will proceed with request to extradite Meng Wanzhou

China tells U.S. to back off Meng extradition demand and warns of ‘further response’

Former ambassadors and academics urge China’s president to release Canadian men

The Canadian Department of Justice said any passports held by Meng must be handed over to the RCMP, but declined to comment on whether this particular passport was among those surrendered. The RCMP also declined to comment, citing the case as an ongoing investigation.

“The bail order issued by the BC Supreme Court specifies that Ms. Meng must surrender any and all passports and travel documents to the RCMP. For privacy reasons, we cannot specify the numbers of the passports that were surrendered,” said Ian McLeod, a spokesman with the Canadian Department of Justice.

The public affairs passport has the letter P before its numbers — setting it apart from all passport numbers that have been linked to Meng and made public.

As part of her bail conditions, Meng Wanzhou is living in this Vancouver house and must be monitred 24/7 by an ankle bracelet and a private security detail.
As part of her bail conditions, Meng Wanzhou is living in this Vancouver house and must be monitred 24/7 by an ankle bracelet and a private security detail.  (Jesse Winter/StarMetro Vancouver)

Former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques said holding one of these passports is a sign of prestige in the country.

Among other things, “it means you can use special lanes at the airport,” Saint-Jacques said.

“When we received requests of Chinese delegations coming to Canada, I would ask how come they have such a passport and not a regular passport? I think it’s part of these shenanigans and the way the China government works and the connections one has,” he added.

Meng’s numerous passports played a key role in the lengthy bail hearing that followed her Dec. 1 arrest at the Vancouver airport.

Both the Attorney General of Canada and the U.S. government, in opposing her release while awaiting extradition, cited the risk she could use her wealth, resources and multiple passports to flee the country. Crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley had described her flight risk as “unmanageable.”

Judge William Ehrcke granted Meng’s bail release with multiple conditions, including that she surrender all of her passports.

He concluded, after verbal arguments in the courtroom, that only two of Meng’s passports were valid for travel at that time.

With files from Joanna Chiu

Michael Mui is a Vancouver-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @mui24hours

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She was grabbed, endured sexual taunts and followed into the washroom. The WSIB says this wasn’t workplace harassment

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The presence of “pin-up girls and scantily clad models” throughout a workplace is “unprofessional,” but is not bullying or harassment.

The use of “sexually explicit language” to and about “women and alternative lifestyles” on the job is “inappropriate,” but is not bullying or harassment.

Misogynistic comments about “having to work with women” are “upsetting,” but are not bullying or harassment.

Being physically swarmed by members of the public and called a dyke on the job are “unwelcome” behaviours, but are not bullying or harassment.

And none of it is grounds for a worker diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress to win a chronic mental stress claim, according to a recent decision by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

“They don’t try and pretend that it didn’t happen. They just dismissed it.”

While the decision seen by the Star does not dispute Wardle’s experiences on the job, it says her “stress appears to be in response to interpersonal conflict,” which is not covered by the board’s chronic mental stress policy.

“Interpersonal conflict is a typical feature of normal employment and is generally not considered to be a substantial work-related stressor,” the decision reads.

In a statement to the Star, board spokesperson Christine Arnott said the WSIB wanted “anyone dealing with work-related chronic mental stress (CMS) to get the help and support they need.”

The policy, which took effect last year, extends benefits coverage to cases where employees experience a “substantial work-related stressor” and abusive workplace behaviour that rises to the level of workplace harassment. Under the policy, workers are not entitled to chronic stress compensation for “typical features” of employment, including problems stemming from discipline, demotions, transfers or termination.

“When we look at these claims we have to consider all facts and circumstances surrounding the events and allegations, including any actions the employer has taken to address the issues,” Arnott said.

“The definition of harassment that guides our decisions, and is included in our CMS policy, is consistent with the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA) and guidance from the Ontario Human Rights Commission.”

Wardle’s lawyer, Laura Lunansky of the Toronto-based legal clinic Injured Worker Consultants, said she was “surprised” by the board’s decision.

“And not very much surprises me anymore about decisions,” she said.

“It was surprising because on its face, it doesn’t make sense in a way that I think shows a complete lack of understanding of the human rights code, and of what a toxic workplace might look like,” Lunansky added.

“You have comments that I think any reasonable person would recognize are evidence of discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation.”

Wardle’s claim dates back to the mid ’90s when she began working in public works for the City of Nepean. As one of the only women in the workplace, she was repeatedly subjected to sexually explicit comments, references to her sexuality, pornographic material in the workplace, and physical harassment and intimidation, including being grabbed and followed into the women’s washrooms, according to her claim.

The tipping point was being “swarmed and verbally attacked” by members of the public while working at a hockey arena in 2002, after which she went on sick leave and was subsequently diagnosed with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to the WSIB’s decision, Wardle’s concerns with her workplace were not reported to her employer until she was hired into a permanent position, and a subsequent investigation found a “healthy workplace free of harassment.”

Wardle said she repeatedly raised her concerns with management, who initially took some steps to address the problems. But when Nepean amalgamated with the City of Ottawa, she said that layer of management disappeared and some of her harassers received promotions.

“That’s when the retaliation started,” she said. “I did try and return to work, but that didn’t last long because the behaviour just intensified.”

The sexually explicit behaviour, misogynistic and derogatory comments she experienced did not constitute sexual or verbal harassment, the WSIB’s decision said. As for being repeatedly followed into the women’s washroom, the decision said her employer “noted that the women’s restrooms were used by the male staff out of convenience of location.”

“While Ms. Wardle reports recurrent physical harassment and intimidation by her co-workers, I find the incidents of blocking her path of travel and bumping her on the stairs do not provide evidence of abusive or harassing behaviour,” it adds.

Critics have already warned that the acceptance criteria for chronic mental stress claims are too narrow. Workers filing for chronic mental stress, for example, must prove their workplace was the “predominant cause” of their illness — while workers with physical injuries must simply show their workplace was a significant contributing factor.

As first reported by the Star, an internal WSIB audit shows that 94 per cent of chronic mental stress claims between January and May were denied.

Previously, workers could only seek compensation for mental health injuries caused by a traumatic incident, not those triggered by ongoing harassment or trauma in their workplace — which labour advocates and legal experts described in a 2016 ombudsman complaint as unconstitutional and discriminatory. Following legislative reforms, the board subsequently changed its policy to allow chronic mental stress claims.

Initially, the new policy only covered claims from January 2018. It was amended to allow retroactive claims following a lawsuit involving Wardle’s case, launched by prominent Toronto-based labour law firm Goldblatt Partners.

Wardle and Lunansky plan to appeal the recently denied claim.

“The (chronic mental stress) policy is flawed, we know that and we will challenge that,” said Lunansky.

“But even within the policy, this should have been allowed because it’s just patently a case of harassment and a poisonous work environment and incidents that go way beyond interpersonal conflict.”

Ontario’s human rights code prohibits harassment — or unwelcome comments and conduct that are offensive, embarrassing, humiliating, demeaning or sexualized — as well as the creation of a “poisonous environment,” which is considered a form of discrimination.

Wardle said she contacted the Ontario Human Rights Commission while she was still working and was told the incidents she described were “sexual harassment and it should not be happening in my workplace.”

“My career is gone now, a career I loved. I was really proud of what I did for a living. Losing that has been a tremendous loss,” Wardle said.

“So I figure at this point I might as well keep on fighting. This is what I’m left with.”

Sara Mojtehedzadeh is a Toronto-based reporter covering labour issues. Follow her on Twitter: @saramojtehedz

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Mother sensed ‘something wasn’t right’ in hours before TSN staffer was found shot dead

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Grace Gayle was starting dinner in anticipation of her son’s arrival home on Dec. 12, but he never made it.

“I wanted to make him something special that he likes because I knew he was coming home,” she said.

The meal of barbecue chicken wings and homemade potato wedges was left incomplete. So too was Jonathan Gayle-West’s routine drive home — cut short by bullets.

It was customary for the mother, who raised both her sons — Jonathan and his older brother Justin — in Richmond Hill before relocating to Oshawa a few years ago, to make everything from scratch, peeling the potatoes before briefly boiling and then frying them.

What was unusual this time around was that she waited for hours without even hearing word from her son about his whereabouts.

As relatives of the deceased TSN staffer prepare for his funeral Saturday, his mother and brother lament that they had no inkling anything had gone awry leading up to him being shot and killed behind the wheel of his Honda Civic while driving along Islington Ave.

By all accounts, Gayle-West was having a routine day before he became Toronto’s 93rd homicide victim in a brazen shooting along the busy city street.

Amplifying his relatives’ bewilderment is the revelation that he was returning from a private prayer session when he was killed.

His mother expected him to be home before 8 p.m.

“When he finished the session of prayer, the minister text me to say that your handsome son just left,” she said. That was shortly before 6 p.m., she estimates.

“He was a man of faith,” she said. “The Sunday before his death he went to church.”

Grace Gayle found it strange he didn’t respond when she inquired about his whereabouts, shortly after 7 p.m.

She proceeded on to bed and awoke from her sleep at 1 a.m., to find police at her doorstep.

“They said they had reason to believe he was shot,” she said. “I started screaming and hollering. I was shattered.”

The surreal experience has left a gaping hole filled with unanswered questions.

She had no suspicion of anything amiss that would have triggered the egregious act.

“Nothing that would have made someone take his life,” she said.

Gayle-West, of Oshawa, was pronounced dead at the scene, near Islington Ave. and St. Andrews Blvd. Police rushed to the scene at around 6 p.m., when gunshots rang out. He was found in the driver’s seat of his car, which had struck a tree.

Gayle-West was remembered by his former colleagues at Rogers Sportsnet and TSN, many of whom expressed their grief via social media, while others took time during regular broadcast of their shows to memorialize the endearing and beloved 29-year-old.

Gayle-West was a member of the production team at TSN where he worked with Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, BarDown, TSN 1050 and in the newsroom.

His older brother, Justin Gayle, 34, remains puzzled about what triggered the callous act of violence that snuffed out his brother’s life and his promising prospects along with it.

Justin doesn’t want to speculate as to what might have transpired.

“We know it’s going to come to the forefront soon,” Justin said.

“Nothing happened that made me feel his life was at risk,” he said. “We’re perplexed. He was literally coming from a Bible study.”

Gayle had moved into his mother’s home in the summer after splitting with his girlfriend.

In an attempt to “pickup the pieces” from the breakup, Gayle-West started scribbling in a journal, where he wrote Bible verses, later found by his brother, Justin said.

“I found all this stuff of a man picking himself back up,” he said. “He had a vision board looking towards the future.”

“With the kind of person he was and how he affected people, it’s just an unanswerable question right now,” he said.

Justin recalls his brother being enthralled by all things professional wrestling.

“He was big into that scene,” Justin said.

Above all, Gayle-West’s ambition was to be a sports journalist.

While completing a degree in communications at York University, he honed his skills volunteering at the local Rogers TV station.

“He started as an assistant setting up the mobile television production for Rogers TV and then he eventually appeared as a reporter for a magazine show,” Justin said.

It wasn’t long before sports network television came calling.

“He spent at few years at Rogers Sportsnet before making the move to TSN,” Justin noted.

Gayle-West was gearing up to take another shot at making the big jump from behind the scenes to being a sports anchor.

“He had tried a few years ago,” Justin said. “He was being groomed on how to be an on-air personality. It was his next step.”

A celebration of life service is slated for Calvary Baptist Church, 300 Rossland Rd. E., Oshawa on Saturday. Visitation will go from 10 a.m. until the funeral service at 11 a.m., with interment to follow at Mount Lawn Cemetery.

Jason Miller is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Reach him on email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca

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Darren McKim died after a fire in Rosedale. Police ruled it an accident. His family says it wasn’t

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The fire roared amid the long shadows beneath the Mt. Pleasant Rd. bridge.

A jogger changed his path and ran toward the blaze. A woman driving on Rosedale Valley Rd. pulled over; her female passenger jumped out and sprinted towards an engulfed green tent.

In the heart of one of Canada’s wealthiest neighbourhoods, around dinner-time on the last Friday in April, Darren McKim — a well-loved father, son, brother, cousin, friend — was burning inside.

The jogger pulled McKim from the tent. The frantic rescuers, soon joined by an off-duty paramedic, saw horrific damage. McKim’s trousers had been seared off. He was charred from the waist down. His upper body had no apparent burns but there was a fresh-looking gash on his forehead; blood covered his hands, face and pooled in his mouth.

The woman from the car, Anna Cooper, tried to comfort him, gently stroking his arm as sirens grew louder. McKim looked at her and whispered: “Can I go home now?”

Four days later, on May 1, McKim, 50, died at Sunnybrook Hospital. Alone.

The coroner on duty that day called the death “suspicious.” Hospital staff referenced an assault in several entries in McKim’s medical records. The police taped off the area as a crime scene and treated McKim as a victim of aggravated assault — a witness told police he had heard a woman shouting at McKim in his tent shortly before the fire.

Police would later change their minds. They ruled his death an accident and closed the case, saying there was no evidence to support another conclusion.

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The decision devastated McKim’s family who say his name should be on Toronto’s homicide list. His family believes he was attacked, then set ablaze after an altercation with a woman with whom he shared the tent — a woman police never located.

Dr. Kumar Gupta, the coroner, hasn’t released his final report but McKim’s 80-year-old mother Carroll McKim Castle, said Gupta told her during a recent phone call that her son’s cause of death was “undetermined.” He did not describe it as accidental, she said.

“The more you learn about it, the less you think it was an accident,” said McKim’s sister, Lori McKim-Lang.

Carroll laid out her concerns in a blunt letter to police, copied to Chief Mark Saunders, in which she requested her son’s personal items six weeks after he died. She wrote that she was disappointed that there seemed to be “no effort” to find his next of kin and that his few belongings weren’t promptly given to her.

“I have a feeling that had Darren not been ‘just an Indian living under a bridge’ that things would have been handled differently. I hope that I am wrong about that.”

The police dispute the allegation.

Carroll McKim Castle says Toronto Police should have done a more thorough job in investigating the death of her son, Darren McKim.
Carroll McKim Castle says Toronto Police should have done a more thorough job in investigating the death of her son, Darren McKim.

“The case was conducted as thoroughly as possible and the only time the victim’s race was considered during the investigation was when officers requested the assistance of others in identifying and locating next of kin,” said spokesperson Meaghan Gray. She said police closed the case after receiving information from first responders, the Centre of Forensic Sciences and the coroner’s office. Det. Stephane St. George, the lead investigator, did not return a call and emails from the Star.

The Star obtained McKim’s hospital records, investigation reports by police and the Office of the Fire Marshal; examined personal effects recovered from the fire scene, including McKim’s cell phone that held phone numbers, texts and photos; interviewed his family, friends and witnesses; and found gaps in the police investigation.

It was a probe that seemed to lack urgency; McKim’s family wasn’t notified that he was injured in a fire until the day after he died.

Even then, police did not positively identify the charred man until they fingerprinted his corpse.

Darren McKim was rushed to Sunnybrook Hospital with 42 per cent of his body’s surface area burned. There were fourth-degree burns to his legs; second-degree burns to his thighs, buttocks, and scrotum.

He had been intubated, soot was found in his mouth, and doctors noted a forehead laceration. Police tried to interview McKim over the weekend but were told by hospital staff that it wasn’t possible because of his condition, according to police records.

The first entry in McKim’s hospital records notes that he had been “assaulted, pushed into tent, tent set on fire. Pulled from tent by bystanders.” The hospital told the Star it got this information from paramedics. The police report also notes he had consumed alcohol.

Sunnybrook surgeons tried to mitigate the burn damage, amputating one of McKim’s legs above the knee, then the other below it. But it was not enough. His organs began to fail. By Monday, a hospital social worker contacted police, advised them McKim was in critical condition and that locating next of kin was urgent, according to the police records.

Det. St. George requested assistance from the Toronto police Aboriginal liaison officer, who reached out to a local Indigenous cultural centre.

Police found a bank card with McKim’s name on it under the bridge. It was one of two potential names for the victim. Cooper, a Vancouver lawyer visiting Toronto who rushed to McKim’s side during the fire, had asked McKim his name. Cooper, who specializes in defending the rights of the homeless, thought she heard “Garrett” and passed that detail to firefighters at the scene.

That information may have initially slowed the search to identify McKim, because “Garrett” was not a name on the bank card.

McKim had been identified in Sunnybrook hospital with help from a social worker who also provided a phone number for Carroll, but it was out of service, and she wasn’t reached.

McKim’s cell phone, which was not password protected, had also been collected but it’s not known who found it — paramedics and firefighters also raced to the fire scene — or what happened to the phone before it ended up in a police evidence locker along with McKim’s keys and earbuds.

What is known is that his family was not contacted the night of the fire or the day after that. Or the day after that. Or the day after that.


During the adoption process, the McKim family received this 1971 photograph of Darren, then about 3 years old, from Bruce County Children's Aid. "We loved him before we met him," said his mother, Carroll McKim Castle.
During the adoption process, the McKim family received this 1971 photograph of Darren, then about 3 years old, from Bruce County Children’s Aid. « We loved him before we met him, » said his mother, Carroll McKim Castle.

Darren John McKim was born Darren Earl Petawayash into the Long Lake #58 Band in Kenora District on Jan. 13,1968. His mother, Shirley Skead, was Ojibwe, as was his father, Richard Petawayash, later known as Richard Bedwash — an acclaimed artist who studied under legendary Ojibwe painter Norval Morrisseau.

By the age of 3, the boy had been in two French-speaking foster homes, with the local children’s aid society offering him for adoption.

A picture of McKim — in a short-sleeved yellow shirt and striped trousers, his dark hair is brushed neatly to one side and his eyes wide as he looked at the camera — was mailed to a white couple in Lucknow, Ont., a town about 125 kilometres north of London.

“We loved him before we met him,” said Carroll, smiling at the old photograph cradled in her hands. She and her husband, Jack, had three small children of their own and wanted to adopt a son.

It wasn’t until decades later that McKim, his older brother and countless other Indigenous children, would become defined as part the “Sixties Scoop” in Canada. The term refers to the removal of Indigenous children from their homes, birth parents or communities by child welfare agencies and adopted out or placed in foster care between the 1960s and the 1980s. Last year, the federal government agreed to pay a $750-million class-action settlement to survivors.

In 1971, such adoptions carried no stigma, said Carroll, who was a nurse. Jack, now deceased, was a doctor and coroner. When asked by Bruce County Children’s Aid if they’d accept a “mixed race” child, the McKims said yes.

The couple flew to Winnipeg, then Kenora to meet McKim at the children’s aid office. Carroll says she and her husband were taken aback when the social worker suggested they take him to their motel room for the night. They agreed, took a cardboard box with the boy’s belongings, ate, bathed him and tucked him in. The next morning, the social worker brought adoption paperwork, and said “You can take him,” Carroll recalled.

They returned to Lucknow with their new son. There, his English skills improved quickly while surrounded by attentive siblings Kathryn, Lori and Scott.

“Of all my children, he was the most expressive of his love,” said Carroll, standing at her daughter Lori’s kitchen counter in Waterloo, looking at photos of her son.

“I don’t remember us ever thinking that as kids, he wasn’t one of us,” said Lori, a teacher in Waterloo.

The McKims were Christians but Caroll said they encouraged McKim to explore his Indigenous heritage. Carroll was friends with the wife of the Cape Croker chief, who selected the name Gahwenobin — the Chosen One — for the young boy.

As a youth, Darren McKim ran, skied, played tennis and hockey. At right, he's pictured in his Lucknow Lions uniform.
As a youth, Darren McKim ran, skied, played tennis and hockey. At right, he’s pictured in his Lucknow Lions uniform.

As a youth, McKim ran, skied, played hockey and tennis, played in the school band and attended local powwows. Carroll said “it only started to go wrong” when he was about 15 and like many teenagers, started experimenting with alcohol. His rebellious streak coincided with Jack’s death in 1984.

McKim would leave home for periods of time. He dropped out of school after Grade 9 (he earned his high school diploma in 2011) and worked as a waiter, then a chef. His drinking became a source of tension in the family, though McKim always kept in close touch with his mother — living with her on and off, even after she moved to Port Colborne when she married her second husband, Roy Castle.

At 21, McKim married and had a daughter (who lives in Vancouver). The marriage was short-lived and he began to roam afar — a lifestyle that connected him with blood relatives across Canada but periodically led to him living on the streets.

McKim often travelled to Vancouver, where his older brother lives. For a large part of his life, he called Toronto home. “He loved to go to the theatre; he saw Les Mis every time it played,” his mother said.

In the city, McKim discovered distant cousins on his birth mother’s side and found his birth father: Richard Bedwash, now deceased. Father and son reconnected, even spending time with Carroll and Roy Castle.

Darren McKim stands between his mother, Carroll McKim Castle, and his biological father, artist Richard Bedwash, in November of 2002.
Darren McKim stands between his mother, Carroll McKim Castle, and his biological father, artist Richard Bedwash, in November of 2002.

McKim was an industrious, well-liked worker. In Toronto, he was employed as a chef, a bicycle courier, shovelled snow and cleaned yards. He also collected bottles.

“He was very humble,” said Melanie Montour, an Indigenous artist who in the early 2000s volunteered with McKim to cook for community gatherings.

McKim tried to control his drinking as an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous. There were minor scrapes with police. Some jail time, the result of fights. Probation periods — in Toronto and elsewhere. He was chronically underhoused; often couch surfing or living outside. When he slept on Toronto park benches, Carroll said mother and son would spend time on those benches when she visited “because he had no place else to take me.”

In the summer of 2017, McKim celebrated. He had been matched by a city social service to an apartment at 550 Kingston Rd. in the Upper Beaches neighbourhood. Carroll took a photo of her son in his new place last December. He held that apartment for eight months, until the day of his death.


Roger St. Louis sits where Darren McKim's tent was found burning. He says he heard a woman yelling at McKim shortly before the fire.
Roger St. Louis sits where Darren McKim’s tent was found burning. He says he heard a woman yelling at McKim shortly before the fire.

Around 5:30 p.m. on April 27, Roger St. Louis, who sleeps rough in the Mt. Pleasant Rd. bridge area, told police he was walking past McKim’s green tent and heard a woman shouting. St. Louis told the Star that McKim and the woman were “in love” and seemed to be arguing about another woman.

“Don’t you ever touch my friend again,” St. Louis says the woman yelled twice before opening the tent flap and looking at him, according to the heavily redacted police report obtained by the Star. He also told police a woman had “moved in” with McKim earlier in the week but on that Friday, the pair “were arguing all day.”

Within about an hour of the argument, McKim was on fire.

St. Louis described the woman to police: “Aboriginal, mid-20s, small build, with light brown/dark blonde shoulder-length hair, and wearing a blue/grey baseball cap.”

He gave the Star the same information, plus a nugget more: Since the day of the fire, she hasn’t returned to the valley under the bridge.

Police spokesperson Gray told the Star that officers went to the fire scene to look for her on April 30, the Monday after the fire, “and again for several days after that.”

McKim’s family says that delay would give any potential witness plenty of time to disappear.

“They’ll be long gone,” said McKim’s sister, Lori. “Because they didn’t investigate right away.”

Two of McKim’s cousins, Ronald Momogeeshick Peters and Stephen McGillis, who were close to McKim and spent time with him in Toronto say there was little word in the Indigenous community about a police investigation.

Ronald Momogeeshick Peters, left, and Stephen McGillis, right, are cousins of Darren McKim. Both say they believe Toronto police have not done enough to investigate McKim's death.
Ronald Momogeeshick Peters, left, and Stephen McGillis, right, are cousins of Darren McKim. Both say they believe Toronto police have not done enough to investigate McKim’s death.

McGillis said he was storing his belongings at McKim’s apartment when McKim died. McGillis questions the scope of the investigation.

“I really feel that there was really not very much done because I wasn’t even interviewed,” said McGillis, whose phone number and photograph were in McKim’s cell phone.

The police report does not indicate officers visited McKim’s apartment.

Carroll and Lori said they were surprised that McKim was living in a tent during the last week of his life but understood that sometimes he liked to drink with friends who lived downtown. Still, they wrestle with how their son and brother came to suffer such horrific burns.

An investigator for the Ontario fire marshal’s office, James Gillespie, conducted his own probe and came up with two scenarios that “could not be eliminated”: careless smoking — cigarette butts were found near the tent — and “combustibles being placed too close to an open flame.”

Gillespie’s investigation focused on the cause of the fire, not on any injuries McKim may have suffered.

Gillespie’s report speculates that clothing could have acted as an insulator for a lit cigarette resulting in a “smoldering fire” that allowed the tent’s cardboard lining to ignite. Or, McKim may have lit a fire inside or near the tent and flames spread to his clothing or the cardboard. No volatile ignitable liquids were identified in tests.

Gillespie’s report says the cause cannot be determined because both ignition sequences — which he called hypotheses in an interview with the Star — are possible. Nevertheless, the fire was classified as accidental.

McKim’s sister, Lori, is skeptical.

“Don’t you think that if someone is beaten up badly, and then within hours of being beaten up badly they accidentally catch themselves on fire, does that not sound suspicious to you?” she said.

A photo taken the day after the fire beneath the Mount Pleasant Rd. bridge shows the scene where Darren McKim was critically injured.
A photo taken the day after the fire beneath the Mount Pleasant Rd. bridge shows the scene where Darren McKim was critically injured.

Police spokesperson Gray said “the decision was made that he died as a complication of the burns and that he had no other injuries or indications of injuries that would impact the cause of death.”

When asked specifically whether police concluded McKim’s head wound did not play a role in the cause of his death, Gray wrote in an email that “we didn’t (and can’t) make that determination, only the coroner can.”

By all accounts, McKim was happy. He had left his job as a chef because of anxiety and was on medication. He received provincial disability payments and emotional support from his family. McKim had lots of friends and was planning a trip to see his daughter.

The night before the fire, Carroll said her son phoned and they discussed her plan to rent a private box at the Rogers Centre for a family party at a May 12 Jays’ game: Carroll was turning 80 later that month. “Darren loved the Blue Jays,” she said.

Carroll said her son didn’t call from his own cell phone — she noticed it came from a different number. He explained to her that his phone battery had died. Carroll doesn’t know whose phone he used.

The next evening — the night of the fire — she texted him:

“Hope you have had a good day. Love you. Mom.”


Carroll McKim Castle took this photo of Darren at his Kingston Rd. apartment last December. It was her last in-person visit with her son.
Carroll McKim Castle took this photo of Darren at his Kingston Rd. apartment last December. It was her last in-person visit with her son.

Dr. Kumar Gupta, the coroner who came to Sunnybrook on May 1 — the day McKim died — deemed the death “suspicious” and ordered a post-mortem, according to police records. The records also noted “a large cut to his right forehead and swelling in his face was observed.”

Gupta would not comment when reached by the Star.

The police report states it’s unknown if McKim was “recently assaulted.”

The Star spoke to Henry Kataquapit, a soapstone carver and McKim’s friend. Kataquapit recalled seeing him either the day of the fire or the day before, when the two smoked some marijuana at Paul Martel Park near Bloor and Spadina in the early afternoon. Kataquapit says McKim had no head wound.

If Kataquapit is correct, this means the laceration that Anna Cooper and others saw on McKim’s forehead the night of the fire was a new injury.

Cooper told the Star it appeared to her that McKim had been assaulted. “It looked like he had been attacked because he was bleeding from his forehead and he had blood in his mouth,” she said.

At the hospital, photos were taken by a forensics officer, and McKim’s body was driven to the Ontario Coroner’s Office near Wilson and Keele.

Carroll didn’t find out until the next day that her son was dead. The police never contacted her directly; she phoned them wondering if McKim was in some sort of trouble after she received a Facebook message from an Indigenous community member urging her to get in touch.

That’s when St. George told her a man had died but his identity needed to be confirmed through fingerprinting. Carroll said St. George called her back about an hour later. It was her son.

“My biggest heartache is that he went alone,” said Carroll, whose contact information was in her son’s cell phone. “If we had known, we would have been there … That’s the part of the whole story that hurts the most.”

When police ruled the death accidental three months later, Carroll had doubts.

Carroll, who awaits the coroner’s final report, hopes that by speaking publicly about her son and her concerns about how his death investigation was handled, that no other family will experience the anguish hers did.

“It won’t help Darren now but it might help the next street person who’s found,” she said.

Mary Ormsby is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Reach her via email: mormsby@thestar.ca

Kenyon Wallace is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @KenyonWallace or reach him via email: kwallace@thestar.ca

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