By Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
Police don’t expect foul play in the death of a First Nations woman in Toronto who was struck and killed by a train Tuesday evening and expected to testify at a murder trial later this year.
Toronto police wouldn’t identify the woman but APTN reported Wednesday that Terra Gardner was the victim.
Gardner was hit by a freight train in the area Young Street and Summerhill Avenue at about 10:25 p.m. Two other people are believed to have been with her at the time of her death.
Gardner was homeless and a witness in a murder investigation and had allegedly been receiving death threats about testifying in the Toronto homicide of First Nations man Leo Buswa in 2010.
Buswa was beaten Aug. 29 that year and died a month later in hospital.
Last month Gardner testified at the preliminary trial of Blake Paul, of Moose Factory, Ont., who is accused of second-degree murder. Paul was arrested in 2012 in Cape Breton, N.S.
Gardner apparently was reluctant to testify and she was warned by officials that if she didn’t testify she would be held in custody until the trial, scheduled for later this year.
Originally from Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation, located 40 km east of Fort Frances, Ont., Gardner was living in Toronto. She often went to Sanctuary, an organization that helps homeless people in Toronto.
In 2011, she was interviewed by Mark Horvath of Invisible People, a program that speaks to homeless people and shares their stories online.
At that time she had been homeless for five months.
“It kinda sucks because it feels like people don’t really care about you. I don’t know. You’re going to make me cry,” she says in the video when asked about being homeless.
Gardner said she’d rather sleep on the streets or in a park than go to a shelter because one time she was beat up in one.
“It’s getting tiring but at the same time like I’m just used to it now. I’ve been homeless for five months now and sadly I am used to it,” she said then takes a drag from a cigarette.
Outreach nurse Anne Marie Batten was there with Horvath when he interviewed Gardner Aug. 19, 2011. She was 25-years-old at the time.
Batten said on that day, they visited Good Shepherd Ministries, a homeless shelter and also did street outreach in the downtown area.
Late in the afternoon, they visited Sanctuary.
“Terra was visiting that day. Despite the intense summer heat, we found her sitting outside on the lawn. Mark met Terra as you will see from the interview. Terra touched our hearts,” said Batten.
After the interview they took Gardner to McDonald’s.
Batten said she learned of Gardner’s death online.
“I immediately shared this very sad news with Mark. It is fair to say that there are always some people you meet that hold a special place in your heart. For me, Terra was one of those people,” she said.