By Megan Ogilvie
As Rosario Marchese vowed to get answers for a mother grieving the sudden death of her son, the crowd gathered to remember Charles McGillivary clapped, cheered and whooped their support.
“We need a full investigation,” said Marchese, MPP for Trinity Spadina, who wrote an open letter to Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair asking how officers are trained to detect and deal with people who have disabilities.
“His mother needs answers and the community that’s here needs answers,” Marchese said.
At the close of the evening vigil held in memory of her son, Ann McGillivary sat in front of a cluster of flickering candles, wiped away tears and gave
thanks to the more than one hundred people who came to share her grief.
“Thank you for coming,” she said. “Thank you for caring.”
The intersection of Christie St. and Bloor St. W. was crowded with people Monday night to mark the death, one week earlier, of Charles McGillivary.
The 45-year-old, who was mentally disabled, died Aug. 1 after an altercation with police. He was with his mother at the time.
There were moments of silence, and songs and memories shared of McGillivary. The crowd also chanted “justice for Charlie” over and over.
John Liss, 64, came early to show his support. The lawyer, who lives in the neighbourhood, was shocked to hear about the incident.
“It’s so hard to imagine, so incomprehensible that a mother and son would go out for this walk and all of a sudden her son is dead because he acts differently
than police are used to,” he said.
Liss said it was important for the community — the city — to show support for Ann McGillivary and to raise concerns about police conduct.
McGillivary was out for a walk with his mother around 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 1, intending to buy a piece of pizza. But before he had the chance, McGillivary
collapsed and died while being arrested by police at the corner of Christie and Bloor Sts.
According to eye witness accounts, police tackled McGillivary and held him down during the arrest.
The Special Investigations Unit, which is probing the incident, has said police officers were conducting an investigation in the neighbourhood before McGillivary’s
arrest. In that same news release, sent out Aug. 3, the SIU said a “physical interaction” took place during the arrest and that McGillivary collapsed.
He was taken to Toronto Western Hospital, where he later died.
On Monday, a SIU spokesperson confirmed an autopsy had been completed, but results would not be released because the investigation is ongoing.
McGillivary was walking several paces ahead of Ann with his arms flat against his body — the way he normally walked with his mother — when the incident
took place. Ann did not see the police approach her son, but shouted to the officers as they made the arrest. She told them McGillivary was “mentally retarded”
and couldn’t answer their questions.
Ann, who saw McGillivary’s face turn blue, believes he went into cardiac arrest.
Ann and McGillivary went for a walk together at least once a day, often heading to Wal-Mart to shop or to McDonald’s, where they would split a hamburger.
McGillivary, who was born in Toronto, was four years old when he suffered brain damage during a car accident. He used sign language to communicate, along
with a few words only his mother could understand.