2 min

Just answer the questions

By now you’ve heard about the tragic and early death of Jim Hearst.

On Jul 22 I listened to the telephone and radio communications recorded on the night he died by Intelliguard, the security company contracted to patrol the building in which he died. As you might imagine the recordings are chilling. They document — albeit incompletely — increasing desperation among a small group of ordinary heroes thrown together unexpectedly by random circumstance. As I listened I saw them in my mind’s eye working selflessly and without the benefit of experience or hindsight to help an injured man, who became a seriously injured man, then a dying man and finally a man who appeared clearly to all present beyond help.

You can hear in the voices of the security guard on the scene and the Intelliguard dispatcher the dawning realization that Hearst was in mortal peril and growing bewilderment that emergency medical help seemed to be dawdling.

The recordings illustrate how easily urgency, as in the proverbial fog of war, can foul a chain of communication. Miscommunication, unlikely the fault of any single individual, is likely at least partly to blame for the delay in assisting Hearst.

Aside from the tragedy — that a man died far too young on the floor of a bleak hallway just minutes from the best medical care in the world — there are some alarming elements and obvious questions connected to this case.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) chair Bruce Farr told reporters subsequent to Hearst’s death that paramedics were on the scene as early as nine minutes after the initial 911 call. But the Intelliguard recordings and eyewitness accounts suggest otherwise, that Farr’s explanation is merely a too vague and thinly veiled excuse for what really happened.

One eyewitness says he stepped out onto Alexander St several times and even contemplated hailing a taxi to go fetch help. At no time did he see EMS standing by waiting for police, nor did he see police. Farr’s explanation is simply incredible and insufficient.

No matter how you cut it, no matter the rationalization, paramedics were not on the scene for more than 37 minutes after the first 911 call. Were they occupied with another rescue? Were they somehow led to believe Hearst was violent or that he was the victim of an assailant who was still lurking the shadows? Were they just being lazy? Were they attempting to work to rule? Were they uneasy about tending to a bleeding man in the gay village?

What else are we to take, what other sinister conclusions are we to draw, from Farr’s explanation that help sat idle in Hearst’s dying moments because of concern for “health and safety issues”?

Whatever the reason, they were not there and Farr ought to have simply been forthright about their absence. It would have been the just and right thing to do, it is the least he could have done.

It is terribly condescending to stand before the people of Toronto — before they gay people of Toronto — who want a simple but credible explanation of what transpired, and say in effect, “We’re not going to tell you exactly what happened but you should assume that we acted appropriately and you should trust us unquestioningly.”

It is a sad comment on the relationship between government authority and the people of this city that we can count on a private security firm to openly share their records of such an important and tragic event while civic officials, like Farr, deflect straightforward questions with the bafflegab of officialdom and contrived nonsense about how speaking truthfully on the matter could corrupt the results of EMS’ investigation of itself.

We deserve, and demand, more.