Police treating death of 23-year-old man in St. John’s, N.L., as homicide

Police tape is shown at the scene of a hydro vault fire in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Graeme Roy / The Canadian Press

Police in St. John’s, N.L., are investigating the death of a 23-year-old man as a homicide.

A spokesman for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary says police responded to the incident Tuesday evening on a busy residential street in the city’s downtown.

Const. James Cadigan says a young man was found with serious injuries and died shortly afterwards.

Cadigan says the medical examiner’s office has concluded the death was a homicide, but he would not release details from the autopsy report including exact cause of death.

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Police believe the attack was not a random act, and are asking anyone with dashboard camera or security footage in the area of Bond Street to contact them.

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Photos from the scene posted online and in media reports showed blood on the sidewalk in front of the colourful homes characteristic of the city’s downtown.

The death, which occurred just outside a for-profit emergency housing shelter, sparked debate in the provincial legislature on Wednesday about the province’s response to poverty and homelessness.

Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie led question period with the topic, saying the death “highlights the connection between our broken system for dealing with homelessness and crime in the city.”

“What plan does the government have to address the root causes?” Crosbie asked.

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Lisa Dempster, the province’s minister of children, seniors and social development, said the victim was not a client of provincial government housing services.

She addressed a change in June 2018 that saw emergency shelters and transition houses become the responsibility of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, with the intent to help people make the transition into long-term housing.

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“It’s only been 16 months but we’re showing signs of success with that program,” Dempster said.

She said her department is focused on working with non-profits that provide supports for clients struggling with complex issues, but added private shelters are the only option for some individuals.

Crosbie argued that the transition away from private shelters has been too slow, citing statistics that 40 per cent of all housing in emergency situations is still under the for-profit sector.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 7, 2019.

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