Man wanted, debate cancelled after Toronto mayoral candidates threatened

Click to play video: 'Threats to mayoral candidates spark debate cancellations'
Threats to mayoral candidates spark debate cancellations
WATCH: Threats to mayoral candidates spark debate cancellations – Jun 1, 2023

Police are searching for a suspect and a debate has been cancelled, after a threat was made towards Toronto mayoral candidates.

Toronto police said on Thursday at around 10:45 a.m., officers were called to the Mortimer Avenue and Memorial Park Avenue area.

Officers said a man entered the location and made threatening remarks about “shooting Toronto mayoral candidates.”

Police said the man then brandished what appeared to be a firearm.

Officers are now searching for 29-year-old Junior Francois Lavagesse from Toronto.

He is wanted for threatening bodily harm, carrying a concealed weapon and weapons dangerous.

Officers said Lavagesse is six feet one inch tall, weighs 180 pounds and wears his hair in locks.

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Officers are now searching for 29-year-old Junior Francois Lavagesse from Toronto.
Officers are now searching for 29-year-old Junior Francois Lavagesse from Toronto. Toronto police / handout

“He should be considered armed and dangerous,” police said in a news release. “If located, do not approach. Call 9-1-1 immediately.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact police or Crime Stoppers.

Later on Thursday, OCAD University confirmed a mayoral candidate debate scheduled for the evening had been cancelled.

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Several of Toronto’s mayoral candidates had also confirmed they would not attend the debate, due to the threat.

In a tweet Thursday, candidate Brad Bradford said he had been made aware of the threat.

“My family and campaign team are safe,” Bradford wrote. “Thank you to the security team at City Hall and Toronto Police who are keeping everyone safe.”

Bradford said his campaign would pause public events until the suspect was apprehended.

Candidate Mark Saunders’ team also confirmed to Global News he would not be attending the debate due to the threat.

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Ana Bailao, who is also running for mayor, was not scheduled to attend the debate.

In a statement, Bailao’s team said it was aware of the thread and have “full confidence in the Toronto Police Service as they look into this.”

In a series of Tweets Thursday, candidate Josh Matlow said his team had closed its campaign office “until the police advise that the suspect has been apprehended.”

“I have also told the organizers of tonight’s debate that we will not be attending given the risk to public safety,” he wrote.

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A spokesperson for candidate Mitzie Hunter said the campaign was cancelling public appearances, saying it cannot jeopardize the safety of the team or public who may be attending the events.

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In a statement emailed to Global News, candidate Olivia Chow said her team was made aware of a verbal threat made against the mayoral candidates.

“Moments like these can be unsettling for people involved in the election,” she wrote. “Like you, we are still learning more and I want to assure you that my family, my campaign team and volunteers are safe.”

Thursday’s debate was co-organized by the North Toronto Residents’ Association and the Federation of South Toronto Residents’ Association.

“It is a gut punch to the 14 to 18 individuals who have been planning this since the beginning of April,” said Don Young, co-chair of the event steering committee.

-with a file from The Canadian Press

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