London worker fired over comment posted on memorial page to Amanda Todd
London Community News
By Tim Alamenciak and Petti Fong
Justin Hutchings did the unthinkable. He mocked a dead girl.
“Thank God this b---- is dead,” Hutchings wrote on a memorial page for Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old girl from Coquitlam, B.C., who killed herself last week after posting a haunting video on YouTube detailing the abuse she suffered physically and emotionally and online from cyberbullies.
In an exclusive interview with the Toronto Star, Hutchings said he was curious and wanted to “stir up the pot.”
“It was more or less a social experiment than anything. Just to see if I could put the most blasphemous thing on there,” he said Tuesday.
“I did this because if there was so much caring and so much emphasis on the fact that people actually care now that she’s dead, then how come society didn’t step in when she was alive?”
Hutchings, who worked at a men’s store in London, Ont., was fired after Calgary mother Christine Claveau saw his posting on Todd’s death and contacted his employer.
Claveau told the Toronto Star she didn’t want to get anyone fired. The company that employed Hutchings took a firm stance on this matter.
“Our company ethics are based on tolerance, respect and fair and honourable treatment of all individuals, internally, with our customers and the population as a whole,” said Kamy Scarlett, senior vice-president store operations and corporate human resources at Grafton-Fraser Inc., parent company of Mr. Big & Tall Menswear.
“What he wrote made my stomach turn literally,” said Claveau, who emailed Hutchings’ company after finding out through his Facebook site where he worked. “They were shocked and the person I spoke to said she was mortified by what she read.”
Claveau said she was so upset by what happened with Todd and the hate generated online afterwards with Facebook pages mocking the girl, describing her previous attempt by drinking bleach and reposting and photoshopping her photos that she and other moms have started their own Facebook page aimed at stopping bullying.
Todd’s death has sparked outrage around the world online. Sites have been set up for visitors from as far away as Russia and Korea to scrawl their messages of hope, encouraging people to stand up to bullies. The bullies Todd didn’t out in her video are also being named by “hactivist” groups such as Anonymous, which posted the name, address and criminal record of a man from a Vancouver suburb it claims was the girl’s tormenter.
Anonymous, which occasionally takes on vigilante investigations to “out” individuals, named the man — who is in his 30s — and posted his personal information, including his home address in New Westminster, B.C. That information was then widely distributed.
Within a day, nearly a dozen Facebook pages have been set up publicly announcing the alleged tormenter’s identity with some advocating he should be killed.
The mother of the man said Tuesday her family has been subjected to a “lynch mob” mentality and urged the public to let the police do their investigation.
“It’s really dangerous to throw out names when you don’t know,” she told Postmedia News. “This is doing more harm than good.”
She described her son as “simple, sweet and caring.”
“Yeah, he has issues, like we all do — but he’s not a creepy street hoodlum doing crime,” the mother said. “He’s still my son. I love him.”
The man, who lives as a renter along with three other men, was not at home Tuesday and had not returned home since Monday night when his name was first posted online, said neighbours.
“These guys have never done anything to us. They play street hockey, they have parties at their home but they’re older guys and it’s not like there are parties with teenagers,” said neighbour Liza Hagusa, who lives across the street.
“We don’t know what to believe. Are what they saying about this guy true or is it just someone out there with information that they’re posting and it could be all false??
Hutchings said he has been forced to deal with the consequences of expressing his opinion about Todd’s death by closing his Facebook account.
“Yes there is a little bit of regret and remorse,” he said, adding he feels badly for the girl’s family. “I’m sorry if I offended anybody and that it wasn’t portrayed in the way it was supposed to be.”
Hutching said he wanted people to question the values and beliefs that society held for themselves and he wonders why there is so much support for Todd now rather than support for her before she killed herself.
RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen said there have been thousands of tips coming in about the bullies who may have driven Todd to suicide.
Thiessen said the Internet and social media were central to Todd’s story and are central to the ongoing RCMP investigation.
But one of the biggest challenges for investigators is the false information being spread around and some seeking to profit from the girl’s death with fake fundraising efforts.
“Investigators spent considerable time yesterday responding to rumours spreading quickly through online and social media,” Thiessen said in a statement. “One unfounded allegation involved the release of information that spread quickly online identifying a man as Amanda’s tormenter.”
- Torstar News Service