Hundreds take part in candlelight walk to honour teen fatally stabbed at Toronto subway station

Andrea Magalhaes leads a procession to Keele subway station in Toronto on March 30, 2023. Her son, Gabriel Magalhaes, 16, was fatally stabbed at the station on the weekend. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Andrea Magalhaes leads a procession to Keele subway station in Toronto on March 30, 2023. Her son, Gabriel Magalhaes, 16, was fatally stabbed at the station on the weekend. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

Hundreds of people took part in a candlelight walk on Thursday evening to honour a teen boy fatally stabbed at a Toronto subway station.

Mourners held candles, flowers and photos of Gabriel Magalhaes, 16, as they walked on Bloor Street West from High Park to Keele station.

Andrea and Antonio Magalhaes, parents of Gabriel, and their younger son Lucas, led the crowd to the TTC station.

Andrea collapsed and burst into tears as she entered the station. After recovering, she made her way to the bench where her son sat when he was attacked. There, she sat down, rubbed the seat and sobbed. A friend who was with Gabriel that night sat beside her.

On March 25, Gabriel was sitting at that very location when a man approached him and stabbed him. Police say the attack was unprovoked. Paramedics took Gabriel to hospital, where he died of his injuries. Jordan O'Brien-Tobin, 22, of no fixed address, has been charged with first degree murder.

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

At the vigil, mourners left burning candles and cut flowers at a makeshift memorial outside the station near the entrance.

Daniel Bezerra, who went to school with Gabriel, said he set up the memorial at Keele station after he heard that Gabriel died. He said Gabriel was important to many people. He added that the memorial has grown in the past five days.

"It was very little and then two days later it was huge. And there's so many people here. I'm so thankful for everyone. And I'm glad that people are coming together. I think it's important," he said.

Sheryl Cheema, a friend of Gabriel from Grade 7, said Gabriel was "always there for everyone" and it was very hard for her to hear he had died. She said he was friends with everyone and involved in all kinds of sports.

"He was just nice. He was nice to people without needing anything back from them. And that's why we all loved Gabriel," she said.

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

Melissa Blow, a friend and co-worker of Andrea Magalhaes at Mount Sinai's neonatal intensive care unit, said she is trying to support her friend and has set up an online fundraiser for the family. It has raised more than $80,000.

"No mother should have to bury her child and have to fork out the expense for that either," she said.

"It is not supposed to be like this. He is a 16-year-old kid just trying to go out and spend time with his friends on a Saturday night."

Blow said she is fed up with what she sees as a lack of action from elected officials on the issue of safety on the TTC and supports for vulnerable people.

"We do normally take it to go to Blue Jays games. My kids love it. They want to go on it because they think it's fun. I will not take it anymore. I'm done. I'm done."

Gabriel's classmates at Keele Street Public School organized the candlelight walk.

Hours earlier, Toronto city council granted a request by the TTC to withdraw up to $15 million from its reserve fund for emergency spending. The money will be spent to increase security on the transit system, according to TTC CEO Rick Leary.

A 'beautiful, sweet, sweet boy'

The teen's death has shocked the city. Gabriel is the city's 12th homicide victim of the year.

In an emotional interview with CBC Radio's As It Happens earlier in the week, Andrea said Gabriel was a "beautiful, sweet, sweet boy" — a hard-working student who had dreams of attending university.

"He was very family oriented. He was not like your typical teenager with attitude. He would hug me in front of his friends," Andrea said on Monday. "I just cannot believe that his life was cut short."

Submitted by Andrea Magalhaes
Submitted by Andrea Magalhaes

In the interview, Gabriel's mother called for more supports for people in crisis. She had said she felt it was important to speak out about the senseless violence on the TTC, saying she hopes officials could hear the pain in her voice.

Andrea had said she wants them to imagine "it is your child that could be murdered on the subway" when they are making decisions about whether public services deserve funding.

According to a report released by the TTC last month, there were 1,068 violent incidents against customers in 2022 and violent incidents against customers rose 46 per cent last year, compared to 2021.

3rd death in and around TTC since last summer

Magalhaes is the third person to be die in and around the TTC since last summer.

Vanessa Kurpiewska, 31, was fatally stabbed at High Park station in an unprovoked attack on Dec. 8.  A 37-year-old woman was also injured in that attack. Neng Jia Jin, 52, has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder.

Nyima Dolma, 28, of Toronto, was set on fire on a TTC bus at Kiping station on June 17. She died in hospital days later. Tenzin Norbu, 33, was arrested nearby and has been charged with first-degree murder, among other charges.