Fall from grace - Page 3
- Subtitle: Cover Story
Today, McCann says Shoniker ended up doing tremendous harm to the victims (of which 1,600 came forward). “I don’t have a lot of respect for him,” seethes McCann. “He abused a lot of people and caused a lot of pain.” McCann feels that Shoniker was responsible for delaying the abuse case from being settled for years, and when the Toronto order finally joined in, it was done in a way that violated the agreed-upon terms. “Peter got the Toronto brothers to ignore that agreement and say, ‘To hell with you,’” says McCann, “and so we sued them for breach of fiduciary duty and trust and we won. . . . And well over $1.3 million got distributed back to victims. And I basically considered that money had been stolen from the victims and that was orchestrated by Peter Shoniker.”
Shoniker’s intense dislike for McCann took a particularly dark turn on at least one occasion. In 1992, during the trial of one priest who had abused him, McCann testified against the man. But according to Darcy Henton, a journalist who covered the case for the Toronto Star (and wrote a book on the Christian Brothers’ scandal with McCann), Shoniker ensured that a former drug dealer by the name of Gary Provost was brought to court specifically to unnerve McCann by sitting in his line of sight while he was testifying. Four years earlier, in his capacity as an undercover agent for the police, McCann had helped put Provost behind bars. “[This tactic] went beyond what one would anticipate a defence lawyer would do in the course of his job, “ says Henton. “I was a little bit appalled at the way [Shoniker] was proceeding with his defence.”
According to Fred Fedorsen, the Christian Brothers case took a toll on Shoniker. He worked on it steadily until 1997, often putting in such long hours “that he became almost alienated from our firm,” wrote Fedorsen last year. “One day, without warning or consultation, Peter resigned his retainer with the Catholic Church.” Shoniker’s sudden decision to quit the case caused a rift between the two lawyers and their partnership quickly deteriorated. They parted ways that same year.
And then this stunner: during last year’s plea hearing, psychiatrist Dr. Paul Fedoroff testified that Shoniker himself was abused by Christian Brothers at the De La Salle school he attended as a teen. However, Shoniker never reported the abuse to any authorities and, given his proclivity for invention, it’s difficult to know what to make of it. McCann, for one, doesn’t believe
After breaking with Fedorsen, Shoniker went into the investment business with Brad Griffiths, a prominent Toronto corporate financier. “They were down in Vegas looking at things,” recalls retired major-general Lewis MacKenzie. Shoniker was also dabbling as a Tory and police backroom wheeler-dealer — in 1999, he helped engineer Julian Fantino getting the plum job of Toronto’s police chief, and later he raised money for Ernie Eves, who became Ontario’s premier in 2002.
But the cut-throat financial world didn’t suit Shoniker and he and Griffiths bitterly parted ways a few years ago. Apparently, this setback sent Shoniker into a nosedive. By 2003 his drinking and prescription drug use had spiraled out of control. His sleeping disorder grew worse. “He started lying constantly, to a point where I jokingly referred to a large part of his daily words/stories as ‘Pete’s World,’” said Fedoroff in a report read at Shoniker’s hearing last year. Shoniker’s marriage was in trouble as well and his descent was hastened when he received a call from an undercover RCMP officer in May of 2003.
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The origins of the RCMP sting began when the Toronto Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU), which investigates organized crime, discovered a relationship between Toronto bar owner Jonathan Vrozos and some underworld characters. But what really alarmed the unit, which is led by the RCMP, was when they discovered that Vrozos had a relationship with Calvin Barry, a senior and high-profile assistant Crown attorney. “Barry oversaw important files — everything about biker investigations and the gambling squad passed across his desk,” says former RCMP staff sergeant Larry Tronstad, who was a leader of the CFSEU, in explaining why this relationship with Vrozos was so disturbing. The unit decided to target Barry in a corruption probe, dubbed Project OJUST, which got underway in early 2003.
Which is how Cpl. Al Lewis, an undercover RCMP officer, met with Vrozos on the pretense that $250,000 that Lewis was responsible for had been seized at the Toronto airport and needed to be retrieved with the help of a lawyer. Vrozos suggested meeting with Barry. On May 2, 2003, the three men got together, where Lewis “stated that the money had been skimmed from union pension funds and that they were stolen,” according to the agreed statements of fact in the Shoniker case. “Barry did not make any comment or react in any way to Lewis’ admission regarding the funds and said he would contact Lewis with the name of someone to call.” The next day Barry phoned Lewis suggesting the names of three lawyers, one of whom was his old pal Peter Shoniker.
According to Tronstad, the investigation into Barry came to an end then and there due to resistance within the Crown’s office to press it further. Nevertheless, after Shoniker was arrested, Barry was immediately removed from prosecuting cases and soon left the Crown’s employ. He is now in private practice and did not return phone calls seeking comment.