A Time of Loss and Reflection
The 519’s message to the community
The 519 joins the community in grief today. The news of Alloura Wells’ disappearance and the recent confirmation of her death has left our community and neighbourhood terribly shaken.
There has been some discussion as well as some misinformation circulating on social media around the role and responsibility of The 519 in the aftermath of Alloura’s disappearance. In the interest of transparency, I would like to take this opportunity to provide additional clarity.
I can confirm that we received information from a community member about the discovery of a body in early August 2017 sent through our general email box. This message was received and shared with a small group of staff within the organization who followed up directly with the community member to get additional information and made some effort to verify the information with the police. Unfortunately, this information was not elevated to a senior leadership level which is expected in any situation where a death has been reported.
I was not aware of this information until November 8, 2017 (when the news of Alloura Wells’ disappearance was made public) and then I immediately took the following actions:
- Launched an internal investigation related to the matter, including a review of all documents and interviewed all staff who had knowledge of the original email sent in early August.
- Documented and informed The 519 Board of Management.
- Reached out to Toronto Police Services to seek further information both about the body that was reported to be found in early-August by a community member and about the disappearance of Alloura Wells.
- Followed-up with front-line staff about their knowledge of Alloura’s disappearance and any information they thought might be relevant to the investigation.
- Contacted the community member who originally sent the email.
- Took immediate steps to clarify the organization’s expectations of staff related to reporting and elevating issues that involve the safety and well-being of members of our community who are vulnerable.
The 519 has clear policies about how we share information publically as we want to ensure we protect an individual’s right to privacy. While it would not have been responsible for The 519 to share the information we received in August without some verification from the police, we absolutely could have done more to stress the need for confirmation from the police that a body had been found and worked sensitively with the community to proactively offer support.
We understand the profound vulnerabilities of trans communities and recognize the systemic barriers they continue to face. We will continue to work at various levels to impact the kind of change that is much needed and long overdue. We have initiated a conversation with a number of community partner agencies to develop a more effective missing person’s protocol to respond to incidents of this nature in future.
I offer my heartfelt condolences to all who knew and loved Alloura and to those impacted by this loss.
Sincerely,Maura Lawless Executive Director, The 519
As the community copes with the confirmation of Alloura’s passing, The 519 has opened walk-in grief counselling hours on the following days:
Friday, December 1: 9:30pm-12:00pm / 2:00pm-5:30pm
Saturday, December 2: 1:00 – 3:00pm
Sunday, December 3: 11:00am – 5:00pm
Monday, December 4: 6:00 – 9:00pm
Please come to our Front Desk and request for drop-in grief counselling during the hours above.
For any additional support needs, please contact :Lisa Gore Duplessis LGDuplessis@The519.org