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The Globe and Mail

Cyclist to receive traditional native rites

Darcy Allan Sheppard, 33, died in a fatal accident involving former Ontario attorney-general Michael Bryant.

As the dust begins to settle after this week's fatal event on Bloor Street, Darcy Allan Sheppard's family is quietly making preparations to bury him and say goodbye.

Allan Sheppard Sr. flew to Toronto on Wednesday to bring his son's body back to Edmonton, where the 33-year-old bike messenger grew up. The family is also planning a traditional ceremony at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto on Monday.

A First Nations elder will lead the service, open to close friends and family only. There will be prayers, drumming, feasting and a sacred fire burning on the front lawn, said Kimberly Murray, executive director of Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto, which is helping the Sheppard family make burial arrangements.

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"We have sacred medicines and everyone will be provided with tobacco to place in the sacred fire," Ms. Murray said. "It's all to assist Darcy's spirit to return to the spirit world."

The senior Mr. Sheppard also spoke out for the first time Friday, addressing his son's death in a statement released by Aboriginal Legal Services.

The letter said the Sheppard family is "deeply saddened by the loss of their loved one, and believe that no person deserves to die in the circumstances that occurred."

It goes on to say that Mr. Sheppard will not be speaking directly with the media.

"This matter is before the courts now and we are relying on the justice system to sort out what occurred on the fatal night," the press release quoted him as saying.

Mr. Sheppard also expressed his gratitude for the help of his son's friends and supporters over the last few days.

Among them is the Toronto Bike Messenger Association, which is organizing a fundraiser on Sept. 19.

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Mark Hayward, one of the organizers, said a venue hasn't been chosen yet but there will be tributes to Mr. Sheppard, raffle prizes and beer donated by Great Lakes Brewery.

All proceeds will be given to the Sheppard family, possibly to cover the cost of burial arrangements.

Misty Bailey, Mr. Sheppard's girlfriend, said she is also heartened by the outpouring of support from supporters.

But she is also dismayed by some of the hurtful comments that have surfaced, especially on the Facebook memorial page established for Mr. Sheppard. Using her Facebook account, a friend of Ms. Bailey's penned a response to criticisms over Mr. Sheppard's character and history.

"It further shows the ignorance that people display, when there's some 'debunking' going on," the comment reads. "Didn't you know that at one time he was once homeless himself? ... He climbed out of that scene, and tried to become someone."

Ms. Bailey, who plans on attending Monday's ceremony, told The Globe and Mail that venues such as the Facebook tribute page should be reserved for people who want to express their condolences, "not to be insulting of the situation."

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She also added that Mr. Sheppard's past is irrelevant to whatever transpired on Bloor Street that fateful Monday night.

Her boyfriend's tragic end "has nothing to do with his past," she said in an e-mail.

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