Former CBC journalist dies after random attack on Toronto street, new suspect photo released
A long-time CBC radio producer who was the victim of a random assault in Toronto last week has died, the public broadcaster confirms.
On Wednesday, CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson identified the victim of the assault, on Danforth and Jones avenues on Jan. 24, as former producer Michael Finlay.
Thompson said that Finlay died on Tuesday from “medical complications” following the attack.
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"Michael will be remembered as an exceptional story-teller, documentary-maker and editor,” Thompson said in the statement. “He travelled the world producing radio documentaries for several programs but most notably for Sunday Morning. If you worked on a documentary with Michael, you were experiencing the pinnacle of the craft."
Police have previously said that a suspect was walking along Danforth Avenue at around 3:35 p.m. on Jan. 24 when he encountered another man, now understood to be Finlay, and assaulted him. The victim fell to the ground and suffered serious injuries.
Toronto police released a new photo of the suspect in the Danforth assault on Feb. 1, 2023. (Supplied)
On Wednesday morning, police confirmed the victim had “tragically” died, but provided no further details.
Police have not designated the assault as a homicide at this point, and said an autopsy will have to be conducted prior to such a designation being made.
“Nobody seems to know anything other than he was waking down doing some shopping on the Danforth last week in the middle of the afternoon and somebody just came up behind him and knocked him to the ground and then disappeared. That is all I have heard,” Frank Koller, who worked with Finlay at the CBC, told CTV News Toronto on Wednesday.
In the statement, CBC said Finlay spent 31 years with the public broadcaster before retiring in 2010.
A suspect in an assault in Toronto's Greektown neighbourhood last month is shown. (Toronto Police Service)
The statement notes Finlay was the "driving force" behind the documentary program "Dispatches," and also worked as an editor at "The World at Six.”
Koller worked with Finlay for about 20 years but had lost touch with him since his retirement. He said while Finlay had a reputation as an “absolute stickler” he was ultimately somebody most reporters wanted to work with because he “made your journalism better.”
“When it came time to have your stories reviewed before they went out on the airways, you kind of hoped Michael was going to be the one that would do the vetting process. It often hurt when he was finished with you but you knew consistently that the story would be better for it,” he said. “He loved the English language and he helped you deliver the English language in a way that made your journalism better.”
Koller said he got to know Finlay while working as a correspondent for CBC in Asia, beginning in 1985.
He said that he remembers his former producer as someone who “seemed to know everything” and “everyone.”
“He was never starting fresh on a story and a little flag would go off and he would say this is something we have to watch,” he said. “I remember we were heading off to China in 1989 to do some stories on the economy and just a few hours before we were leaving Michael came over and said ‘There is an elderly Chinese politician who has died and students are turning updowntown by the hundreds.’ He said ‘as soon as you get there you should check this out’ and of course that was the very first start of what came to be the Tiananmen (Square) protests.”
Police released a surveillance image of a suspect in the assault investigation, who remains outstanding.
The suspect is described as male, about six-feet tall and in his 20s with a slim build. He was last seen wearing a red paper mask with flames on it, a black sweater, and black pants.The attack is just the latest incidence of apparent random violence in Toronto in recent weeks.
On Jan. 20 an 89-year-old woman was also shoved while walking on a sidewalk in downtown Toronto. She was later pronounced dead and a suspect has been charged with manslaughter in her death.
“It is a tragedy, there is just no other word to describe it and when you hear of these tragedies, I can just speak for myself, it underlines my own determination to try to do better when it comes to safe streets, to programs to address the root causes of these things and to do better when it comes to some of the other underlying contributing circumstances as well,” Mayor John Tory told reporters on Wednesday when asked about the Greektown incident.
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