On an unusually warm spring day in May 2007, inside the halls of C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute in northwest Toronto, a 15-year-old boy was shot. When police arrived, they found the teen lying in a stairwell with a gunshot wound to the chest. The Grade 9 student was rushed to hospital but would later die.
The story of that boy, who was identified as Jordan Manners, spurred a hunt for his killer, left a community in mourning and led to a review of school safety. Jordan’s death marked the first time a student had been killed inside a Toronto school.
It was the day after Jordan was shot to death that I first met his grieving mother, Loreen Small. She was numb. She told me her youngest child still had a baby face. He loved to draw and swim, and she could not understand why he was shot and killed.
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Five days later, two teenage boys were charged with first-degree murder. Police said the murder was not gang-related, and the motive was unclear.
As the families of the accused maintained the boys were innocent, the arrests temporarily calmed the fears of those in the community. Jordan’s death prompted people to speak out against the ongoing issue of gun violence on the streets of Toronto, which had now made its way into a school.
A school safety review, led by human rights lawyer Julian Falconer, discovered the existence of guns and numerous unreported violent incidents in Toronto schools. The Falconer report made more than 100 recommendations, such as employing gun-sniffing dogs at the schools.
The Toronto District School Board made some changes, including a controversial one: putting police officers, or so-called “school resources officers,” in some high-risk schools. This action was not recommended by Falconer but was supported by Jordan’s mother.
The two accused teens, whose identities were protected by youth laws, had two trials. The first ended in a mistrial, the second led to an acquittal.
To this day, Jordan’s murder remains unsolved. School resource officers have since been scrapped, and school safety continues to be a major issue.
For Loreen, the fact that justice was never served remains a difficult reality.