2012 Villain: Michael Bryant
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2012 Villain: Michael Bryant

Nominated for: an astonishingly tone-deaf response to a tragic death.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. From December 10 to 19, we’ll unveil the nominees, grouped by category. Vote for your favourites from each batch, every single day! On December 19 and 20 the winners from each category go head-to-head in the final round of voting, and on December 21, we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

Whether we agree with the final court ruling or not, all charges against former Attorney General Michael Bryant in the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard have been dropped. An investigation into the fateful 2009 encounter between the two men found Sheppard, a 33-year-old bike courier with a history of violent outbursts, to have been the instigator in the incident. The reported facts of the altercation: after being struck by Bryant’s Saab, an enraged Sheppard clung to the side of the car, sending Bryant into a blind panic. Bryant eventually drove Sheppard into a Yorkville fire hydrant; Sheppard fell, hit his head, and died. Arguing the right and wrong of the decision to dismiss the case is of little consequence now. But anger still lingers among those who feel that the wrong side won.

Bryant knew this when he published his memoir, 28 Seconds: A True Story of Addiction, Tragedy and Hope. The book chronicles his former alcoholism, his marriage’s breakdown, his brother’s death, faults in the judicial system, and, of course, Darcy Allan Sheppard. He knew there would be critics, he knew there would be protests, he knew many would see it as a flashy, high-profile attempt to resuscitate his public profile.

Throughout the media coverage that Bryant received because of the book, he had plenty of opportunity to address these concerns. He didn’t. He even portrayed himself as the victim.

“I can’t control what people think about the book. I explained before why I wrote it. It’s an offering and an effort to try to help other people,” he said to the Grid. When pressed about why he had yet to reach out to Sheppard’s father, he said he didn’t know. When asked if he was sorry for killing Sheppard, he said he was sorry for “what happened.” He skirted protests by leaving through back doors at book launches.

The book is his memoir, and he’s obviously entitled to his own perspective. In fact, a memoir is a fine way of discussing a particular event from a first-hand point of view, especially one of so much interest to the public. And Bryant is not the first former politician to hire a PR agency to help promote a book, or to manage his image.

But as the debate continues over whether Bryant’s reprieve was right or wrong, there is one indisputable fact: a man met an untimely and painful death. And the man on the surviving end wrote a book about it, without paying the deceased, his family, his friends, and his supporters, due respect.

See the other nominees in the Dividers category:

Sue-Ann Levy

Using her position to deride instead of reason.
  James Pasternak and QuAIA Alarmism

Undermining Pride Toronto, and Toronto’s commitment to diversity.
  Frances Nunziata

Treating her colleagues like wayward schoolchildren.

Unsubstantiated “Safety Concerns”

Using race as an indicator of crime.
  Yunel Escobar

Homophobic slurs and frustrating non-apologies.
  Doug Holyday

Trying to turn an already divided house even more against itself.

Cast Your Ballot