He was convenient target, emotional lawyers say

"He was a product of Canada,"" she said. ""If you are cynical, you can't help but look at the fact that it (the deportation) was an end run around a jury verdict."

The Toronto Star
November 5, 2007

He was convenient target, emotional lawyers say
Allege Ottawa made ‘end run’ around verdict
Philip Mascoll

The April 5, 1994, murder of Georgina "Vivi" Leimonis as she enjoyed a late-night snack with her friend at upscale Just Desserts Café in Yorkville crossed racial lines – the victim was white while the perpetrators were black and born in another country.

Even though he was ultimately the only one of three accused found not guilty of the murder charge, O'Neil Grant – who was himself shot dead last week – was caught up in the backlash almost from the moment 23-year-old Leimonis was killed.

Grant was the only one of the three accused who was not a Canadian citizen, either by birth or naturalization, and he was targeted immediately – he'd already been the subject of one deportation order.

Tensions further increased two months later when, in June 1994, Metro police Const.Todd Bayliss was shot to death by Clinton Gayle, who was scheduled for deportation but never removed.

A public demand for action on guns and crime resulted in then-Justice Minister Allan Rock introducing Bill C-68, which created a nationwide gun registry, banned semi-automatic military weapons and some handguns, and imposed a mandatory four-year sentence for anyone convicted of using a gun while committing a serious crime.

The following year, Ottawa introduced legislation making it easier to deport immigrants with serious criminal records by denying them appeal rights. The law was further toughened in 2002. Ottawa also created an immigration task force to track down serious offenders who were not citizens. It is still operating.

The attorneys who had won Grant an acquittal in the Leimonis slaying nearly eight years ago still feel he was a convenient target because he was not a Canadian citizen.

"I find so much of this to be so tragic," said lawyer Heather McArthur, who with Peter Zaduk defended Grant on the murder charge.

"He spent 5 1/2 years under disgusting conditions in the Don jail and is found not guilty by a jury. Then he is deported for no good reason. He did not do anything.

"The whole saga of O'Neil Grant is one of cruelty and unfairness.

"First you have the minister of immigration jumping up and down saying that if O'Neil Grant had been deported, the young woman would not have died."

McArthur called it "absolutely cruel that they deport him to a country where he knows no one.

"He was a product of Canada," she said. "If you are cynical, you can't help but look at the fact that it (the deportation) was an end run around a jury verdict."

McArthur pointed out that Grant had never tried to sneak back into Canada. "He was filled with hope. He was excited that he was going to try to get back here legally, to be with his children."

Said an emotional Zaduk yesterday:

"I am not surprised he came to a bad end – not because of criminality, but because he was deported into a foreign country that he knew nothing about."

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