By ANN HUI, MIKE HAGER, WENDY STUECK
Thursday, April 26, 2018
Renuka Amarasingha's usual routine was to get her seven-year-old son ready for school before the subway ride to work. From her basement apartment in Scarborough, on the eastern edge of the city, to her cafeteria job at a north Toronto high school, it took little over an hour each way.
It was a long commute, but Ms. Amarasingha was glad to have the job. She was a single mother. And, like many immigrants who built new lives in Canada, she carried with her the weight of what she'd left behind. In her case, it was an elderly mother she supported back in Sri Lanka.
On Monday afternoon, Ms. Amarasingha was heading toward the subway after her shift when the attacks began.
The white rental van struck them, one after the other. Office workers heading back to their desks after a long lunch. Grandmothers out for a stroll in the sun.
College students on their way to the subway. Dozens were hit. Ten were killed. One of them was Ms. Amarasingha.
It's not yet known what led a driver of a van to tear down a sidewalk in one of Toronto's busiest areas, plowing down dozens of people in its path. Alek Minassian, 25, is in custody facing a slew of charges for murder and attempted murder. Also not known is the full list of those who were hurt or killed. So far, six of the 10 killed have been identified by family and friends. Of those who were injured, few have spoken out.
But as new names and faces of the victims have emerged, one thread appears to tie many of them together: Like Ms. Amarasingha, many of them had come from other places.
Chul Min (Eddie) Kang, who was killed, had carved out a busy life working as a chef in a popular chain of Brazilian steakhouses after immigrating from South Korea.
Amaresh Tesfamariam, a nurse who remains in critical condition, moved to Canada from Eritrea in the late 1980s.
And Amir Kiumarsi, who was also injured, arrived in Toronto from Iran in 2010.
The north Toronto area where the attacks happened is a neighbourhood dense with newcomers - where Korean barbecue restaurants and ramen shops sit shoulder to shoulder with Iranian supermarkets.
Many in the area, just like Ms. Amarasingha and so many of the other victims, had built new lives in Toronto.
On Monday night, hours after the attacks, panicked phone calls began spreading among members of the Maha Vihara Buddhist Centre in Scarborough.
Ms. Amarasingha, an active member of the temple, hadn't picked up her son from school, they learned. Their calls to her cellphone weren't going through.
They were worried.
At some point, a few of them went to the hospital to try to track down information. Eventually, news spread of what had happened.
Their minds immediately turned to the seven-year-old boy she had doted over.
"She takes care of her son," said Gurge Dadmasir, a family friend.
"If a little thing happens, she'll panic. If he gets sick or anything, she'll take him to the doctor."
Ms. Amarasingha cared for those she'd left behind in Sri Lankan, and they want to do the same for her. So on Tuesday night, the members of the temple met to talk about ways to help.
Friends pitched in to care for the boy. And they've started an online fundraising campaign to support him. By Wednesday evening, they had raised more than $80,000.
"She was a very kind and generous lady," said Ahangama Rathanasiri, the abbot at the temple.
"That's why all these friends got together and wanted to do something for her."
Another person killed in the attack was Betty Forsyth, a Scottish woman in her 90s living in a Toronto community housing complex near Yonge Street and Finch Avenue, the busy intersection where the van's deadly route began. Maria Hacker, her friend and neighbour, said Ms. Forsyth was spry for her age, and relished her morning treks down Yonge to Mel Lastman Square, a public plaza, to run errands or to visit the library.
Ms. Forsyth was a cancer survivor and, after retiring from running her own small business, loved going with friends to the casino, she said.
"She could always laugh," Ms. Hacker said Wednesday. "She was not depressed or nothing. She was a strong one."
And at least one of those killed was just visiting the city.
Munir Najjar, a Jordanian citizen, was in Toronto on a trip to see family when he was killed, the Jordanian Canadian Society said Wednesday.
The death set into motion tangled global discussions over whether his body could be transported to his home country.
Society president Ziad Malawi, a friend of Mr. Najjar's son, told The Globe and Mail that the group was working with both the Jordanian and Canadian governments to facilitate a move - "If not, he will have to be buried in Canada."
(Global Affairs did not respond to a request for confirmation before publication.)
Mr. Najjar had been here less than two weeks when the attack happened, Mr. Malawi said. He said he was unsure whether Lillian, Mr. Najjar's wife, was injured in the rampage Monday. But he said she was not killed.
Their son, Omar, is in the choir of the Canadian Arab Orchestra; Mr. Malawi said the family is observing three days of mourning.
The Jordanian-Canadian community is raising funds to help Mr. Najjar's family with any costs of transporting his body home.
"This is the time to show true Canadian strength," Mr. Malawi said. "Our perseverance, tolerance - Arabs, Canadians, Italians, Christians, Muslims, Jews, united, everybody - we stand together in the face of tragedies."
Ms. Amarasingha, Ms. Forsyth and Mr. Najjar join Mr. Kang, Anne Marie D'Amico and Dorothy Sewell on the list of deceased victims who have been identified.
Two of the people killed in the attack are South Korean citizens, the Foreign Ministry of that country has confirmed.
New details also emerged Wednesday about those who were injured.
Amir Kiumarsi, who was born in Iran and came to Canada in 2010, is a chemistry lecturer at Ryerson University. His expertise is in studying organic compounds and developing new chemicals for therapeutic purposes.
His friend and collaborator, Saeid Ghavami, first met Dr. Kiumarsi at Mashad University in Iran about 30 years ago, and called him a "fantastic mentor." It was Dr. Kiumarsi, then a junior faculty member, who inspired the young student to pursue graduate studies.
He said his friend has continued this tradition in Toronto, lending support to many students - especially those who are new to Canada. "He's a great supporter, and I know he's done a lot to help them."
A 90-year-old Russian citizen living in Canada was also injured.
The Russian embassy in Canada confirmed Wednesday that Aleksandra Kozhevnikova was being treated in hospital.
Another woman injured in the attack was Sammantha Samson, an employee of Invesco - the same investment firm where Ms. D'Amico worked.
In Scarborough, friends of Ms. Amarasingha have also spent the past two days speaking with the woman's family in Sri Lanka.
They were initially upset that the woman's body wouldn't be sent back to Sri Lanka, as is customary in their culture, Mr. Rathanasiri said. "But they understood it is difficult," he said.
The members at the temple have also discussed what could have caused someone to attack the city so many of them have adopted as home.
"I don't know what kind of purpose this man has," Mr. Rathanasiri said. "This is a peaceful country. Canada is a peaceful country."
With reports from Hannah Daley, Jana G. Pruden and Josh O'Kane
A photo of Betty Forsyth sits among flowers at a vigil in Toronto on Tuesday. Ms. Forsyth was a Scottish woman who was spry for her age, and enjoyed morning treks down Yonge Street to Mel Lastman Square, a public plaza, to run errands or to visit the library. Ms. Forsyth was a cancer survivor and, after retiring, loved going to casinos. 'She was a strong one,' one of her friends said.
GALIT RODAN/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Munir Najjar, a Jordanian citizen, was visiting Toronto to see family when he was killed. His death set into motion tangled global discussions over whether his body could be transported to his home country.
Chul Min (Eddie) Kang came to Canada a few years ago from South Korea, and carved out a busy life working as a chef in a popular chain of Brazilian steakhouses. He is one of two South Korean victims in this week's van attack.
Dorothy Sewell, 80, was an avid sports fan and never missed a Blue Jays game, her grandson said.
Anne Marie D'Amico was a long-time tennis fan, described by friends as an altruist who always had a smile on her face.
TENNIS CANADA VIA AP
An immigrant from Sri Lanka, Renuka Amarasingha was the single mother of a seven-year-old boy. She is described as a 'very kind and generous lady.'
THE CANADIAN PRESS