Former CBC journalist dies after ‘random assault’ in Toronto’s Greektown

Former producer Michael Finlay was the target of the assault on January 24 near Jones and Danforth avenues, as per CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson on Wednesday

A long-time CBC radio producer who was the victim of a random attack in Toronto’s Greektown neighborhood last week has died, the public broadcaster confirms.

Former producer Michael Finlay was the target of the assault on January 24 near Jones and Danforth avenues, as per CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson on Wednesday.

According to Thompson, Finlay passed away on Tuesday as a result of “medical issues” that followed the attack, which the CBC verified with Finlay’s family.

“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.”

On Wednesday morning, police confirmed the victim had “tragically” died, but provided no further details. The Police have not formally identified Finlay as the victim at this point.

In the past, police have claimed that on January 24 at about 3:35 p.m., a suspect was assaulting a guy who has since been identified as Finlay while walking down Danforth Avenue. The victim was hurt badly when she fell to the ground.

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.

The suspect is described as a male in his 20s, standing at around six feet tall, with a thin body. He was last spotted wearing a flame-adorned red paper mask, a black sweatshirt, and black jeans.

“Nobody seems to know anything other than he was walking 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,” said Frank Koller, who worked with Finlay at the CBC.

In the statement, the CBC said Finlay spent 31 years with the public broadcaster before retiring in 2010. 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 that 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 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 up downtown 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.”

The attack is just the latest incidence of apparently random violence in Toronto in recent weeks.