Thu, 04/27/2017 - 18:24

Posted by Chantal Braganza on June 16, 2015

Philip Marchand, “A Shrine to Emanuel,” Toronto Life, December 1977

By Lindsay Fitzgerald 

I was recently in search of a story in the closed stacks at the Toronto Public Library. “The last name’s Marchand,” I said to the librarian, as she typed into an electronic search database. “It was 1977, a piece about Emanuel Jaques, Toronto Life magazine.” “Oh, wait!” she said excitedly and stops clicking on her keyboard. “Was that the shoe shine boy?” 

This is the moment when I know my search is worthy. Almost 38 years later, one of the three men who raped and killed Emanuel Jaques on July 28, 1977 in an apartment above a body-rub parlour on Yonge Street in downtown Toronto is still incarcerated in Warkworth Institution, near Campbellford, Ontario. Saul David Betesh is serving more than 25 years; he’s serving his entire life. 

It’s not for lack of trying to get out, though. Betesh recently requested parole and pen pals from an online American website. But hashing over the details of the court case, or the first-degree murder, were not what Philip Marchand chose to write about in 1977.

And, all these years later, Yonge Street is not the street it once was. Back then, Marchand wrote, it was “home to an army of children scarcely less desperate than the orphans and beggar children.” Nearly four decades ago, the same year the first phase of the Eaton Centre was opened, it was a place where “violence was the most precious commodity, the sweetest offering that the Yonge Street strip could offer.” 

“It was a place for hookers,” Marchand told me over tea. “I can remember walking just past College on Yonge Street, hearing a tap on the glass and looking to see girls in the window, beckoning me into their glare.” It was immediately after the murder of Emanuel Jaques that Yonge Street changed, he said. The body-rub joints were shut down. “Right away, they were closed,” Marchand said. “It became more sanitized, with much more of a concern about street kids after this murder.”  

American economist Milton Friedman once famously said, “Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change.” Point illustrated, taking a stroll past Yonge-Dundas Square in 2014. The area today is mostly concerned with consumption: shoes, dresses, gourmet waffles, the Hard Rock Café and all manner of restaurants and stores. All the while religious preachers mill about.

But still, Marchand didn’t write about the crisis or the change. Instead, he wrote about where Jaques the shoe shine boy came from. As Marchand said, “This murder was the intersection of two cultures colliding.” 

Marchand’s story is a double image of the stark differences between the Portuguese immigrant community and the then-seedy Yonge Street scene. To understand this difference is to know that Jaques died far from home. Marchand wrote, “It is impossible that anyone can understand people like the parents of Emanuel Jaques, or the community of Portuguese immigrants of which they are a part, unless it is first understood that these people are among the last in the city for whom the concept of eternity means anything.” 

Emanuel was a boy who was killed by those who believed this world was all they had, “In the materialism and easy gratification of life in Toronto,” Marchand writes. Yet Emanuel came from a Catholic Portuguese home that believed differently, “whose way of life was antithetical to the Yonge Street culture.” 

“I didn’t want to just reconstruct it from newspaper clippings,” Marchard continued. He remembers standing at the front door of the Jaques residence, seeing if he could talk to Emanuel’s parents. He remembers exactly how it felt. A friend of the family, who was taking care of the house, answered the door. What Marchand found inside was a candle lit every night and a school photo of the boy, “flanked with pictures of Santo Cristo, his crown of thorns, his tears of sorrow,” he writes. And what he found, above everything else, was a strong belief in an “Immaculate Heart.” 

And yet, “What we know now is that Emanuel Jaques is dead and at the centre of this darkness his family lives on,” he writes. This story has few quotes and fewer gruesome details or sentences recounting the murder that changed Yonge Street. But Marchand brings us away from that tragic place, and into the place that was safe: Emanuel’s home. In this portrait of a culture, in the intimate space far away from the street, what this story leaves is an impression, a glimpse into a frame of world in which Emanuel lived. “Emanuel Jaques, October 7, 1964–August 1, 1977, was a fresh flower in the garden of the human family, our heavenly father is the gardener. May we all learn to love and respect each other,” read the letter from Father Charles, framed in the Jaques’s home. 

In writing about the eternity believers, against the eternity-less, about the places away from Yonge Street rather than the crime scene, Marchand proves a writer like G. K. Chesterson wrong when he said, “Journalism largely consists in saying, ‘Lord Jones is dead,’ to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.”

Later on I stood on Yonge Street, watching the four-way crosswalk flash on, while a man on the corner yelled, “Praise the Lord!” Sure enough, Emanuel was there. He was an imprint on my mind, at a very different place in time. Almost 38 years later, in the act of remembering this boy, I wondered if this story did perhaps make him closer to eternity than before. 

Lindsay Fitzgerald is a final-year bachelor of journalism student at Toronto’s Ryerson University, where she is currently research assistant to Ivor Shaprio, Chair of the Ryerson School of Journalism. 

Students and non-students alike may write a Great Canadian Literary Journalism story on a worthy piece of literary journalism/long form/feature writing/reportage. If interested, please contact Bill Reynolds, reynolds@ryerson.ca.

Illustration photo by Agatha Barc, via Flickr.

Related Articles: 

J-Source and ProjetJ are publications of the Canadian Journalism Project, a venture among post-secondary journalism schools and programs across Canada, led by Ryerson University, Université Laval and Carleton University and supported by a group of donors.