The City of Toronto's parks department has changed its hiring policies after discovering that a man charged in connection with the fatal shooting in the Eaton Centre food court last weekend was recently employed in a city-run after-school program.
Christopher Husbands was a part-time employee at the Stan Wadlow Clubhouse in East York, a spokesperson for the city confirmed on Wednesday.
"Mr. Husbands commenced his employment with the City at the end of November 2011 and his last day worked was May 18, 2012. He is no longer employed by the City of Toronto," said a statement emailed to the media on Wednesday.
"This situation is deeply troubling to us all. We are offering staff, participants and their families access to counselling and support services," said city manager Joe Pennachetti. "We are conducting a thorough investigation and a comprehensive policy review to improve hiring procedures in Parks, Forestry and Recreation."
Husbands is charged with first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder in Saturday's shooting in the food court of the downtown shopping centre. The 23-year-old is also facing a sexual assault charge and was convicted of a drug charge in 2008.
City employs 10,000 part-time recreation workers
The city says it employs roughly 10,000 part-time recreation workers, many of them youth looking for work experience. Husbands worked for the after-school program at the centre, located near Woodbine Avenue and O'Connor Drive.
Ken Medwid's three sons and daughter were among those in Husbands' care, playing sports with him. Medwid said he was shocked at the news of the shooting because he and his children all liked Husbands.
"He was a great guy with the kids, but I guess looks are deceiving," Medwid said.
He said he was particularly upset about the sexual assault charge.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said Husbands had slipped through the cracks — an oversight he called "disturbing."
Police checks can take 3 months
The parks department said earlier in the day that all those who work with children are required to undergo a police reference check, but until Wednesday that process was left to the initiative of employees and could take up to three months for the results to arrive. The department's policy stated that employees who don't turn over their reference check will be fired.
Husband was hired last November and — according to the city — was repeatedly asked for his background check.
After not providing one, he was finally fired last month, just a couple of weeks before the shooting.
Parents received a letter from city staff saying Husbands was never left alone with children and was not a safety concern.
The news release from the city said it is "cooperating fully with Toronto Police Services to support their investigation. Due to the ongoing investigation and confidentiality issues, further information is unavailable and cannot be provided at this time."