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a look back: apologies

Original article published Dec. 1, 2000.

Mel Lastman, Bad Boy entrepreneur turned Toronto Mayor, made a bombshell announcement Thursday about a scandal that leaves him accused of fathering two sons out of wedlock four decades ago.

The flamboyant mayor, who made millions in the Bad Boy discount appliance and furniture chain, is being sued for $6-million by two men who say they are his sons and the woman who bore them during a 14-year clandestine relationship.

Kim Nathan Louie and Todd Sheldon Louie, aged 42 and 38, and their mother Grace Marjorie Louie, 68, are suing the mayor for failing to provide for them, according to two statements of claim filed Wednesday.

"I am mortified and ashamed," Mr. Lastman said at a hastily called news conference at City Hall Thursday, with a stoic Marilyn by his side.

A little over two weeks ago, a jubilant Mr. Lastman was on top of the world, celebrating his landslide victory as mayor and thanking his wife for putting "up with more than any wife has a right to put up with." But he seemed a shaken man Thursday. Though he did not say he was the father, he stated he had reached a settlement in 1974 with the woman with whom he had had a relationship. He called that affair a "terrible mistake."

"Mr. Kim Louie and Mr. Todd Louie are essentially claiming child support," said 67-year-old Mr. Lastman, who has not yet filed his statement of defence. "My lawyers advise me that this is an unprecedented claim and I must vigorously defend it."

At his Etobicoke office where he works as a realtor at Remax West Realty Inc., Kim Louie, looking relaxed in a white shirt and suspenders, told a television reporter that he couldn't comment. His Toronto lawyer, James MacDonald, also refused to comment.

Todd Louie was not at his insurance company, located in a nondescript industrial park in Vaughan, Thursday. He was at his modest bungalow in Bond Head, a rural community near Newmarket, Ont., and refused to comment.

Grace Marjorie Louie, who drives a limousine-sized blue Lincoln Town and is described by neighbours as being a "very nice, very cheerful and bubbly" woman with a bad hip, could not be reached for comment Thursday. Her Toronto lawyer, Paul McInnis, refused comment.

The two statements of claim, which make allegations that have not been proven in court, charge that the multimillionaire entrepreneur was living the high life with his wife and two sons while his alleged children with Ms. Louie lived in virtual impoverishment with their disabled mother.

The men were told Mr. Lastman was their father when the November, 1997, election results broadcast on television prompted Kim Louie, who had always noticed an uncanny resemblance, to observe similar mannerisms. Ms. Louie, whose marriage ended in 1971, told the men that Mr. Lastman was their father and that they had made a legal agreement in which she was paid $27,500 so long as she made no further claims and withdrew allegations that he was their father. According to the release document, quoted in the statement of claim, the payment was made solely on "compassionate grounds."

After being told Mr. Lastman was their biological father, the Louie men tried to contact him, but were "harshly rejected."

However, it did appear in the early years that there was some fondness as Mr. Lastman had treated them to Popsicles, ice-cream and trips, the claim said.

The lawsuit paints a portrait of boys who led a disadvantaged life as they were unable to get braces, had to wear the same worn clothing day in and out and lived on welfare. Conversely, Mr. Lastman and his sons Blayne and Dale enjoyed a privileged lifestyle, which included a lavish bar mitzvah at the Royal York Hotel with 650 guests.

A land-registry search reveals that Todd Louie has a single-family detached home in Bond Head, near Barrie, for which he paid $174,000 when he bought it with a co-owner in 1996. However, it was heavily mortgaged, with $169,432 in financing.

Kim Louie owns a home in Peterborough for which he paid $42,000 in 1979, which is free of a mortgage. He currently lives in Schomberg.

While Mr. Lastman has always been a publicity hound, this was one piece of news he most certainly would not have wanted.

"As a public figure, I feel an obligation to make this statement today as all efforts to resolve this privately have failed and because this matter must now be resolved through the courts," he said Thursday. "As much as I regret the airing of this 43-year-old history, I have no choice but to defend against these claims."

The news hit the megacity like a bomb, with people split on just what to think about their colourful mayor.

York Humber Councillor Frances Nunziata said when she first heard the news she thought it was a joke, but after seeing the statement circulated to all city councillors Thursday, she now believes "most of the public will be concerned he had the children, not the affair." She said if Mr. Lastman is the father, he should, "like any other man, take responsibility for it. I'm sure he's not the first politician to have an affair."

Yanita Chen, 21, at Nathan Phillips Square, said she's seen the "other side of Mel and I'm not impressed. I think there are a lot of things we don't know about this man."

But in front of Blayne Lastman's Bad Boy store on Finch Avenue West, Lesley Atkins said it's for no one to judge, adding that "it's nobody's business. It doesn't affect how he does his job, so why should we care?"

Restaurant owner Tom Bunda said it's hard to blame the mayor when both sides aren't known, adding "it's unfortunate we have to have dirty laundry aired in public. He's a great promoter of our city."

Mr. Lastman is known around the world, particularly to those who pick up the Guinness Book of World Records. He holds the world record for 10 straight terms as mayor of suburban North York, a span lasting more than 25 years.

But he's been the brunt of jokes as well, particularly when he wrote to British pop star Ginger Spice, pleading that she not break up with the Spice Girls musical group. And few can forget when he called in the Canadian army to help Toronto dig out from a particularly heavy winter storm in January of 1999.

But he's also a serious man with ambitious plans to revitalize Toronto's waterfront, after recently securing $1-billion in grants from the federal and provincial governments.

He may face his biggest challenge yet with this lawsuit, what Mr. Lastman labelled "an intensely embarrassing and personal matter."

With reports from Andrew Mitrovica, Wallace Immen, Martin Mittelstaedt, Katherine Harding and Marissa Nelson

Statement by Mayor Mel Lastman at Toronto City Hall yesterday:

In 1957, I was 24 years old. I made a terrible mistake. I began a relationship with a married woman. That relationship ended more than 30 years ago. Mrs. Grace Louie was her name. Years after the relationship ended she decided to retain a lawyer and a complete financial settlement was agreed to. Since we were both married at the time we both wanted to keep this matter private. She wanted to protect her family and I wanted to protect mine. We both realized we had to put this behind us and move on with our lives.

Two of Mrs. Louie's four children, Mr. Kim Louie and Mr. Todd Louie, who are 41 and 38 years old respectively, approached me years ago through lawyers and made it clear that unless I paid them many millions of dollars they would commence a law suit and make this public.

Very regrettably, they have carried through on these threats and yesterday Mrs. Louie, Mr. Kim Louie and Mr. Todd Louie have commenced two separate actions in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice seeking a total of $6-million.

I am mortified and ashamed. I had hoped that the 1974 financial settlement that Mrs. Louie and I made twenty-six years ago would have been honoured and the pain that will now ensue for everyone involved would have been avoided. Marilyn, Dale and Blayne were told about these events many years ago. I asked for and I received their unqualified forgiveness.

As a public figure, I feel an obligation to make this statement today as all efforts to resolve this privately have failed and because this matter must now be resolved through the courts. As much as I regret the airing of this forty-three-year-old history, I have no choice but to defend against these claims.

The civil claims that have been issued purport that I am the father of two of Mrs. Louie's four children and that their lifestyle over the past forty years contrasted adversely with mine. Mr. Kim Louie and Mr. Todd Louie are now 41 and 38 years of age. They are parents and carry on business in Ontario. Although Mrs. Louie and I settled our issues in an agreement twenty-six years ago, during a process in which Mrs. Louie had the benefit of a senior lawyer of her choosing and although no claim has arisen for more than 26 years, Mr. Kim Louie and Mr. Todd Louie are essentially claiming child support.

My lawyers advise me that this is an unprecedented claim and I must vigorously defend it.

On the advice of counsel, I will not be able to answer any questions. . . .

[This case]will have no impact on my ability to fully carry out my elected duties and my ability to lead our city. Thank-you.