Toronto oral surgeon Paul Morgan was running a fishing camp in Northern Ontario when he first met his killer, then just four years old, the young son of teenage parents struggling with addiction.
Morgan was known as a champion of Ontario’s indigenous communities. He employed the young Makoons father Meawasige-Moore at the camp, near Elliot Lake, Ontario, and collected art and literature from native artists such as his grandfather.
Many people who knew Morgan called him “Doc.”
Years later, in 2016, when Meawasige-Moore was in his late teens and having serious difficulties living in Toronto’s shelter system and on the streets, Morgan invited him to come and live in his split-level house in North York, as he had done with other young people, many of them native artists and musicians.
And as Meawasige-Moore’s life spiraled out of control over the next four years, leading to charges of burglary, arson, and mischief, Morgan was there to save him.
On April 14, 2020, Morgan was found dead in the home at Howard Dr. 42. Less than a week later, Meawasige-Moore was arrested in Sault Ste. Marie and charged with first degree murder.
The murder shocked many in a community of Native 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 punching Morgan’s face multiple times with a blunt object while the older man was either asleep or lying unconscious, according to an agreed statement of fact read in court by Crown attorney Patrick Clement.
The pair had fought hours before after a verbal altercation; Meawasige-Moore, who became dependent on crystal meth and alcohol, felt increasingly “trapped” in his role as a housekeeper and “constant companion of his 79-year-old bailiff.”
Meawasige-Moore was “unable to think clearly and was consumed with feelings of fear, anger and an overwhelming desire to run,” the prosecutor said.
On Thursday, singer-songwriter Evan James Redsky issued a victim-impact statement via a cell phone video from Italy, in which he tearfully shared 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.”
The musician from Blind River, not far from Morgan’s fishing camp, added that he had just finished performing in England – “I just know Doc would be very proud and very happy where I could take my passion.”
Regina Morgan addressed the court from behind a lectern. “I feel left behind… in the face of this vast emptiness, totally unprepared,” she said.
“Paul was first and foremost my brother, but he was also my medical advisor, my recreation director, my sounding board and one of my biggest supporters for as long as I can remember.”
Prosecutor Clement and attorney Richard Stern jointly presented to the judge the position that Meawasige-Moore should receive a seven-year prison sentence.
Clement told Ontario Court Justice Timothy Breen that “despite it being a crime of extreme violence,” the court must also consider several Gladue factors related to Meawasige-Moore’s Indigenous background.
Legacy of the landmark Supreme Court ruling in R. v. Gladue, courts must consider the way an Indigenous person’s life has been affected by discrimination as mitigating factors before being sentenced to prison.
Morgan’s family supported that Gladue factors should be considered, Clement said, adding, “I think, if nothing else, it’s Dr. Morgan’s legacy.”
Stern told the judge that his client “takes responsibility for this terrible event”. While his “background history clearly played a part in this, this does not excuse his behavior and he will continue to pay a price.”
The judge agreed that seven years was an appropriate sentence in these circumstances, noting, “that’s part of the cruel irony of this case that he (Morgan) was someone who gave so much to the Indigenous community.”
Meawasige-Moore, who has apologized to Morgan’s family and many friends, has just under three years to serve behind bars.
In February 2012, Morgan was awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers for supporting breakfast programs, arts activities, and sporting events for First Nation communities, as well as at-risk youth. According to the website of the Governor General of Canada, he had also performed many free jaw surgeries during his career.
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