POLITICS

Ontario roof collapse victim remembered as a good neighbour and devout Christian

07/04/2012 04:00 EDT | Updated 09/02/2012 05:12 EDT
ELLIOT LAKE, Ont. - A capacity crowd packed a church in a bereaved northern Ontario community Wednesday to pay their respects to one of the victims of a deadly roof collapse at a local shopping mall.

Rev. Paul Conway said more than 320 people came to Our Lady of Fatima parish to pay tribute to Doloris Perizzolo, who was remembered as a good neighbour and devout Christian.

The 74-year-old was one of two women killed when a section of roof came crashing through the Algo Centre Mall on June 23.

The accident crippled local commerce in the small community, touched off a criminal investigation led by the provincial police force and sparked a public inquiry ordered by the province's premier.

As police officers and firefighters lined the back of the church, mourners came forward to share their memories of the woman described as an "all-around good person."

Family members praised Perizzolo as a loving mother and grandmother, while a childhood friend eulogized her with stories of her kindness and consideration as a longtime neighbour.

Mourners also celebrated Perizzolo's faith, Conway said.

"They said she was a good lady, a faithful lady who believed in God," he said.

Conway said he did not know Perizzolo personally, but urged the community to maintain hope in the face of a senseless tragedy.

Outrage over the collapse prompted Premier Dalton McGuinty to order a public inquiry late last week, a move that drew support from his usual political foes.

The community deserves answers about both the condition of the mall before the collapse as well as the search and recovery efforts that were temporarily suspended due to safety concerns, the opposition said.

NDP MPP Gilles Bisson said the inquiry will help the public understand why community concerns about the state of the mall allegedly went unheeded.

"People in that community have been ringing the alarm bell about what was going on in that mall for a number of years," he said. "People felt it was unsafe, there were pipes falling off the roof, there was water leaking through."

Conservative deputy leader Christine Elliott said the scope of the inquiry should also include the rescue operation, which was temporarily aborted only to be revived hours later after public outrage and intervention from McGuinty.

"Clearly there are some serious concerns here that need to be addressed and we need to have a full inquiry to make sure we understand what happened and to make sure this doesn't happen again," she said.

Police have also launched their own investigation into the accident, though Ontario Provincial Police spokesman Sgt. Pierre Chamberland wouldn't comment on a report that the probe stems from information about the building's record of unaddressed maintenance problems.

"The information we have received has made it prudent for us to launch a criminal investigation," Chamberland told a news conference Wednesday.

The Ministry of Labour paid six visits to the mall over the last three years, the latest one being in January when it received a complaint about a leak in the rooftop parking garage.

The inspector went to the site and found it covered in snow, making it difficult to determine the origin of any leaks, a spokesman for Labour Minister Linda Jeffrey has said. The inspector found no health and safety violations and no orders were issued.

The ministry is also conducting its own probe, but has said its investigation will not look into the cause of the collapse.

A lawyer representing the mall owners has said the company pumped more than $1 million into renovating the building, adding the building was inspected regularly. The province has released several of its inspection reports of the mall, but the city has not followed suit.

-By Michelle McQuigge in Toronto, With Files from Maria Babbage.