By Lincoln DePradine
Marrion Perry, who was on a Toronto school canoe outing when his younger brother died by drowning, has been scarred by loss, according to their mother Melissa Perry.
Since the incident on July 4, 2017, at Trout Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park, Marrion has four times tried to take his life by suicide, Melissa Perry told an Ontario court, where a trial is underway.
Educator Nicholas Mills, 57, is charged with criminal negligence in Jeremiah’s death. The boy was just 15.
Jeremiah and Marrion Perry, who left Barbados in April 2016 to live with their father in Toronto, enrolled as students at C. W. Jefferys Collegiate in North York on arrival in the country.
Mills, a physical education teacher, took the brothers and a group of more than 30 other students on the canoe excursion.
Neither of the brothers could swim, and outings on open water require the passing of a swim test as stipulated under the Ontario Physical Activity Safety Standards in Education and by the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (OPHEA).
The court, since the start of the trial, heard that Jeremiah was among 15 children that failed a swim test in the days prior to the canoe trip.
Prosecutors allege Mills neglected safety rules in planning and carrying out the multi-day excursion. Jeremiah Perry was not wearing a life jacket when he drowned.
In his testimony, Mills has defended the decision to embark on the canoe trip, saying he “wanted to run the program’’.
“I still believe it was a safe trip,’’ he said. “I knew I could run safe canoe trips and not pay attention to everything OPHEA said.’’
The court also has received testimony, via Zoom, from both of Perry’s parents.
Melissa Perry, choking back tears, said Jeremiah’s drowning has left Marrion unable to trust anyone. “His life, he believes, it’s nothing,’’ she said.
Mills has pleaded not guilty to the criminal negligence causing death charge against him.
He’s is out on bail and remains on home assignment from the Toronto District School Board.