Toronto oral surgeon Paul Morgan was running a fishing camp in Northern Ontario when he first met his killer, then no more than four years old, the young son of teen parents struggling with addiction.
Morgan was known as a champion of Ontario’s Indigenous communities. He employed young Makoons Meawasige-Moore’s father at the camp, near Elliot Lake, Ont., and he collected art and literature from Indigenous artists like his grandfather.
Many people who knew Morgan called him “Doc.”
Years later in 2016, when Meawasige-Moore was in his late teens and in serious trouble living in Toronto’s shelter system and on the streets, Morgan invited him to live in his split-level North York home, as he had done with other youth, many of them Indigenous artists and musicians.
And when Meawasige-Moore’s life spun increasingly out of control over the next four years, leading to charges of break and enter, arson and mischief, Morgan was there to bail him out.
On April 14, 2020, Morgan was discovered dead inside the home at 42 Howard Dr. Less than a week later, Meawasige-Moore was arrested in Sault Ste. Marie and charged with second-degree murder.
The killing shocked many in a community of Indigenous artists who remembered Morgan for his kindness, and for opening his door to them, as he had to Meawasige-Moore.
On Thursday, the now 25-year-old pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of manslaughter, admitting to striking Morgan’s face with a blunt object multiple times as the elderly man lay either asleep or unconscious, according to an agreed statement of facts read out in court by Crown attorney Patrick Clement.
The pair had fought hours earlier after a verbal argument; Meawasige-Moore, who developed a dependency on crystal meth and alcohol, had been feeling increasingly “trapped” in his role as housekeeper and “constant companion to his 79-year-old surety.”
Meawasige-Moore was “unable to think clearly, and consumed by feelings of fear, anger and an overwhelming desire to run away,” the prosecutor said.
On Thursday, singer-songwriter Evan James Redsky gave a victim-impact statement via cellphone video from Italy, tearfully recounting the pain of losing his “father figure” and “lifelong mentor,” a man who “encouraged me to embrace my background before I knew it was something worth fighting for.”
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The musician from Blind River, not far from Morgan’s fishing camp, added he had just finished playing gigs in England — “I just know Doc would be very proud, and very happy where I was able to take my passion.”
Regina Morgan addressed the court from behind a lectern. “I feel left behind … in the face of this enormous void, totally unprepared,” she said.
“Paul was my brother, first and foremost, but he was also my medical adviser, my recreation director, my sounding board, and one of my biggest supporters for as long as I can remember.”
Prosecutor Clement and defence lawyer Richard Stern presented the judge with a joint position that Meawasige-Moore should receive a sentence of seven years in prison.
Clement told Ontario Court Justice Timothy Breen that “despite the fact it was a crime of extreme violence,” court must also consider several Gladue factors relating to Meawasige-Moore’s Indigenous background.
A legacy of the landmark Supreme Court ruling in R. v. Gladue, courts are required to consider as mitigating factors the ways an Indigenous person’s life has been impacted by discrimination before sentencing them to prison.
Morgan’s family supported that Gladue factors should be taken into consideration, Clement said, adding: “I think it is, if nothing else, the legacy of Dr. Morgan.”
Stern told the judge his client “is taking responsibility for this horrible event.” While his “background history clearly played a role in this, it doesn’t excuse his conduct, and he will continue to be paying a price.”
The judge agreed seven years was an appropriate sentence in these circumstances and noted, “that’s something of the cruel irony of this case that he (Morgan) was someone who gave so much to the Indigenous community.”
Meawasige-Moore, who apologized to Morgan’s family and many friends, has slightly less than three years to serve behind bars.
In February 2012, Morgan received the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers for supporting breakfast programs, arts activities and sports events for First Nation communities, as well as youth at risk. He had also performed many free oral surgeries during his career, according to the website of the Gov. General of Canada.
Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy
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