WARMINGTON: Facts don’t seem to matter in North York hotel fire story

There are still more questions than answers when it comes to the investigation into a suspected arson at a North York hotel two weeks ago.

But one thing Toronto police want to make clear about the investigation into the Oct. 2 fire on the third floor at the Radisson Hotel Toronto East at Victoria Park Ave. and Hwy. 401 is there is no evidence it was an attack on refugees staying there — a notion some have irresponsibly been floating and reporting.

“I spoke with the detective earlier today and there is no indication at this time that the arson is an attack on the immigrants staying at the hotel,” a Toronto police spokesman wrote in an email.

This was sent after another police source told me the investigation into the fire that started at 10:34 p.m. does not involve the “hotel” or “hotel guests” being targeted.
It seemed like an important fact.

Yet every media report I have watched or read has ignored this and instead pushed the narrative the fire was fuelled by anti-refugee sentiment.

A group of women and children outside the Radisson Hotel at Hwy. 401 and Victoria Park Ave. in North York on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. (Jack Boland/Toronto Sun)

It’s a good angle that I would cover too if it were true. It may turn out to be true, but it is not yet clear that’s the case.

Still, many went ahead and reported the supposed connection as fact.
There are more problems in this story.

Police put out a news release Friday stating: “Woman wanted in arson investigation, 55 Hallcrown Place.”

Media are always glad to help police catch violent criminals and more than willing to run a story with a suspect’s photo. But there was real confusion over this one and things were not adding up.

Police sources told me the person in the picture may not be a woman after all and that he or she is not at this point officially considered a suspect — just a person police want to talk to. He or she may end up being a suspect, but they are not saying that at this point.

The police statement was later clarified that officially, this was not a “wanted” person but a “person of interest wanted in arson investigation.”

Investigators need help identifying this person of interest in the wake of a suspected arson fire at a Radisson Hotel in North York on Oct. 2, 2018. (supplied by Toronto Police )

The fog didn’t stop there.

Mario Calla, executive director of the immigrant services agency COSTI, which has been connecting refugee claimants with services in Toronto, said he watched surveillance video of the arson and saw a woman wearing a “white coat” carrying a white bag that appeared to show a “red” gas can inside.

The image put out by police showed a woman wearing darker colours carrying a white grocery-type bag that does appear to contain a red gas can.

Calla also told me while police have not verified the attack was directed at the refugees, his feeling is the attack was someone trying to light the gas can on fire and was motivated by hate.

While he admitted police won’t know that until they talk to the suspect, he said “it’s clear to me that someone came in from the outside within the context of trying to hurt the refugees. There is no other motivation that we can figure as to why they would want to this.”

Police sources tell me there are plenty of other motivations being looked at, including mental health or the possibility of it being a “fire bug.”

Calla also said people have “breached” the hotel’s security to make videos that espouse “white supremacy ideology” and are “spreading lies” about “feces” being on the walls.
He said people are “distorting” the truth about conditions there.

A number of online reviews have claimed the hotel was chaotic during their stay, and pointed fingers at refugees staying there.

Controversially, one online post on tripadvisor.ca claimed Toronto Animal Services was called to deal with a complaint about goats being slaughtered in the hotel, a claim Calla called it “way over the top” and “so absurd.”

“There are no goats in the hotel,” he said.

The hotel, however, wouldn’t comment either way on that claim, or any others, and has referred all questions to COSTI.

Meanwhile, for the refugees staying there, who came to our country looking for help, none of this good. Regardless of whatever twisted reason the fire was set, regardless of what police eventually find, it’s terrifying for them.

—With files from The Canadian Press

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Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies