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‘A beautiful tribute’: Caroline Huebner Parkette officially unveiled in Toronto

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Dozens of people gathered at a newly-renamed park in Toronto’s east end Saturday morning to celebrate the life of its namesake, Caroline Huebner-Makurat, who was struck and killed by a stray bullet 11 months ago.

“This is where there’s a culmination of the adult and the child come together and I think that really speaks to who Caroline was. She was a very grown-up child,” Huebner-Makurat’s husband, Adrian Makurat, told family, friends, and elected officials at a renaming ceremony at Caroline Huebner Parkette, located near Logan Avenue and Dundas Street East.

On July 7, 2023, Huebner-Makurat was on her way to lunch in the area of Queen Street East and Carlaw Avenue when an altercation broke out between three men.

The altercation, which police have said was believed to be a robbery, escalated to violence and two of the men brandished handguns and exchanged gunfire.

The 44-year-old mother of two, an innocent bystander, was struck by a stray bullet and later died in hospital.

Karolina Huebner-Makurat was hit by a stray bullet in a daytime shooting on Friday, July 7. (Handout)

Damian Hudson was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the shooting in the days following Huebner-Makurat’s death. Ahmed Mustafa Ibrahim was arrested on Aug. 15 and charged with manslaughter, robbery, and failing to comply with probation. Investigators believe a third suspect, Ahmed Ali, likely fled the country. He’s wanted on a Canada-wide warrant on charges of manslaughter and robbery with a firearm.

A fourth suspect, Khalila Zara Mohammed, was charged with obstruction of justice and accessory after the fact to an indictable offence. Mohammed was an employee of the South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC), a safe injection site located near scene of the shooting, at the time.

Outrage and a debate over supervised injection sites came in the wake of Huebner-Makurat’s death, with some families in the area telling CTV News Toronto last year that the health centre had attracted unwanted criminal activity to the area.

In October, the Ontario government paused the approval of new supervised consumption and treatment sites while a review of all current sites got underway. Since then, a proposed class-action lawsuit blamed the SRCHC, the province and the city for what the claimants described as the neighbourhood’s “rapid” deterioration since the consumption site opened.

The South Riverdale Community Health Centre is seen in this photograph (Beth Macdonell)

While Caroline Huebner Parkette, formerly Tiverton Parkette, isn’t located far from the site of the July 2023 tragedy, Mayor Olivia Chow said the space will come to represent a place of “happiness and joy after a lot of sadness.”

“When we come together, we find the power to heal, the power to be stronger and the power to say that there’s always a sky beneath all of that dark clouds,” she said at the ceremony.

After the park sign was unveiled and flowers were laid at the site of a newly-planted maple tree in Huebner-Makurat’s honour, an emotional Makurat spoke to reporters at the parkette and called the display “a beautiful tribute” to his late wife.

“It’s special that we can remember someone who valued motherhood highly. Having kids that have a fun, active place to play is critical and it’s very special that I can remember and see my wife’s name forever ingrained into history.” 

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