When Cheyenne Fox fell to her death from a 24th-floor Willowdale condo balcony in April 2013, it took just a few hours for Toronto police to call it suicide.
Her father, John Fox Sr., always refused to believe that pronouncement, and has fought ever since to determine exactly what happened to his 20-year-old daughter. Convinced it was murder, he wants to know why Toronto police never responded, as he charges, to three 911 calls that might have saved her life.
On behalf of Cheyenne’s estate, the Peterborough-based Anishnawbe activist has filed a $14-million statement of claim against the Police Services Board, the Attorney General of Canada and two people who, records indicate, are co-owners of the condo, which is now on the market for $394,900.
“The police should look at that file again,” Fox told the Star. “We also need to know what’s going on with our women right now. We need to bring attention to our murdered and missing indigenous women and girls, and also our boys and men.”
Allegations made in the statement of claim have not been tested or proven in court.
Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee said in an emailed statement that he was unable to comment on a matter that is before the courts, and that, in any event, it is premature to comment on a statement of claim.
That was echoed by Meaghan Gray, information and issues management section head for Toronto police, who would only confirm that a statement of claim has been received by the Toronto Police Service and that a statement of defence has yet to be filed.
The Fox family claims in the documents that Cheyenne, who was a mother of a boy now 5 years old, as well as a member of the Wikwemikong First Nation of Manitoulin Island, “was an extremely vulnerable young Indian woman in the immediate days prior to the date of her death.” Problems with alcohol abuse, the family alleges, made her “a victim of human traffickers” who preyed on her fragile state.
On the night she died, the statement of claim continues, Cheyenne was dispatched via taxi by an alleged human trafficker known only as “Ahmed” to a sex work assignment at 80 Harrison Garden Blvd.
Along the way, it’s alleged, she was assaulted by the cab driver, prompting her to jump out of the moving car onto Highway 401 at about 6 p.m. That’s when the first 911 call was apparently made, by two unnamed individuals in a vehicle behind the taxi who picked her up and gave her a ride to the condo.
The statement of claim alleges that police did not respond to that 911 call.
After Cheyenne arrived at the 24th floor suite, a second 911 call was made at or around 8 p.m. by an individual who complained that Cheyenne was “excessively intoxicated,” “was trespassing” and “refused to leave.”
Again, the statement of claim alleges, police did not respond.
Two 911 calls made by “third parties” — reportedly alarmed neighbours — also received no police action, the statement says.
One other 911 call would finally come around 11 p.m. This one, the court document alleges, was made by Cheyenne or the condo resident “in relation to a fight” that had broken out between the two. That call concluded with the individual telling the 911 operator that Cheyenne had jumped from the balcony. Police arrived afterwards, according to the claim.
The Fox family alleges in the statement of claim that the police board “refused or neglected to adequately or effectively police the circumstances leading to the death of Cheyenne” and “had breached the applicable standard of care.”
The statement outlines how the Toronto police and the Attorney General of Ontario “know that Indian women in the survival sex trade are particularly vulnerable to violence.”
“Keep in mind that these are all serious allegations,” said family lawyer John Annen, who represents the estate of Cheyenne Fox. “We look forward to receiving their respective statements of defence.”
The two other defendants named in the statement of claim are Linda Gheshe Shamoon and Bahram Sheibani, who according to land registry documents Annen searched, are the co-owners of the condo. Shamoon is one of the listed real estate agents for the sale.
“My clients own the land and premises at 80 Harrison Garden Blvd. but they do not reside there,” said attorney David Rovan, who represents Shamoon and Sheibani in this case.
“Other people reside there. Neither of my clients was present at the property when the incident with Cheyenne Fox occurred. Neither had any knowledge or contact with her. There is a police report which I am attempting to obtain which will confirm all this.
“My client Bahram Sheibani was erroneously named as the person in contact with the deceased and who was present with her when she committed suicide.”
John Fox Sr. has been advocating for action in his daughter’s death, refusing to believe she would have jumped. He has held vigils and protests at Toronto police headquarters and has repeatedly made appeals to media to keep the case, which was so quickly closed, open.