Trevor in a yellow timberland hoodie.

Picture of Trevor Colin Graham in a yellow Timberland sweater

Raising my son Trevor was not easy. I knew before he could walk that he was “different” even though he was my first child I just knew his crying was a kind of need I couldn’t identify. Out of concern, I sought out experts, doctors, and counsellors from age 7 to 15.  No clear diagnosis was determined.

I started tracking his moods and researching what I suspected was manic depression or bipolar disorder. He cycled every 3 to 4 weeks into a manic phase which got him into trouble because he was feeling invincible.

Trevor was very popular with his peers and girls as they called him “cool” and “fun”. At age 16 we put him in a boot camp called Robert Land Academy in Wellandport, Ontario. His Dad, Colin Graham, felt it would break a cycle of behaviour, but I did not agree with this opinion and struggled with it. Trevor did very well there and was tasked with being in charge of 60 boys but I felt he needed a better form of help.

Trevor met Lisa Swinden from Liverpool and married her in 2002. They lived in Hamilton and Trevor worked as much as he could for his dad in the commercial construction business. His manic episodes continued along with risk taking behaviour and he landed in jail.

At one point he asked to be admitted to St. Joe’s Psychiatric Hospital and was there for 12 days before police arrested him for “failure to appear” in court on charges he was facing. I was angry. He was getting the help he needed, and the system shut it down.

His wife went back to England as he was using oxycodone and was back in jail again. He got out on a Sunday in November and came to live with me. He was out one night, I waited on the couch all night for him to return home.

But instead, I got a knock on the front door by a cop asking me if the brown Nissan in the driveway belonged to this house. I was confused and the cop said nothing more except someone would be along to explain. That was at 5 am. A white van pulled up and people in suits got out. My heart sank. It was the Special Investigations Unit Investigator John Line and Affected Persons Coordinator. He said, “Ms. Graham I am so sorry to have to tell you that your son was involved in a robbery last night and was shot trying to leave”. I don’t recall my initial reaction, but I did get up and punch a hole in the wall as I screamed and sobbed. No, NO, NO!!!  He is not dead. Where is he? I want to see him. John Line said it was not possible, I told him I needed to see him.

My boyfriend Alex joined us, and he made a call to ask that we see Trevor. John Line made it happen about a week later at the Hamilton General Hospital Morgue and it was horrific. There was my son lying on a steel table cut from stem to stern, I just had to hug him. It was then that I felt the back of his head which had been cut off and stapled back on. I crumpled to the floor, he was so cold, and he was dead. The baby I carried for 9 months, birthed, nursed, and cuddled had only lived 26 years. How could I live with the deep guilt I felt for failing Trevor? I describe it as having my right leg whacked off and bleeding out. It healed, and I was reminded of my loss every day when I woke. I had to adapt and if anyone asked about closure, I wanted to slap them.

The way I had no support and was floundering in complex grief was shocking. After calling the SIU’s Affected Persons Coordinator I found there was no help for families from the government with loved ones killed by the police and I got angry again. It prompted me to want to talk to other mothers like me and so I did. I investigated groups like Police Accountability Coalition/ John Sewell and The Centre for Police Accountability with Davin Charney Law.

I started a support group called the Affected Families of Police Homicide (AFPH), Ontario. I wanted to help other people navigate the cruel process of police homicide and ultimately keep a calm credibility so we could sit at the table with policymakers in Ontario to make the necessary changes to provide community care and support to individuals instead of lethal police violence. Police should not be using guns and force to respond to situations involving people with mental health challenges and addiction issues. There should be a civilian-led alternative mental health team to de-escalate situations and support people in crisis. Moreover, there needs to be more proactive community-based solutions so people get the support they need and don’t encounter the police.

So much has happened since I started AFPH, but the best part was following our annual meeting at the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL). Sid Ryan of the OFL supported us and offered their boardroom.  We invited NDP Justice critic Jagmeet Singh to ask him for help with a petition to ask that all police be drug tested. Jagmeet agreed to help present the petition to the Ontario Legislature on the same day we held a Memorial for Ontarians Killed by Law Enforcement, but he lied, took our petition signed by many union members and never showed up.

Next was to meet with the top decision maker in Ontario, our Attorney General who is responsible for policing and the SIU, so I requested a meeting with Ontario’s Attorney General, Yasir Naqvi.  We asked to discuss the gaps in support, the lack of transparency, and the SIU and yet we brought solutions to the problems too. One of the solutions included the establishment of a truly civilian-led oversight of police to hold them accountable, not a special investigation unit that hires mostly male ex-police officers as investigators who are entrenched in the police culture. This established AFPH as a solutions based credible group to listen to and I was thrilled about this achievement. My son’s memory lives on through this work and the goal of ending police violence and supporting others in their fight for justice.

Trevor wearing a black raiders hat and blue sweater.

Picture of Trevor Colin Graham smiling wearing a black Raiders hat and blue shirt

Moving beyond the numbers: Trevor Colin Graham was killed by Waterloo Regional Police Service on November 20th, 2007, and is #166 in our database. His mother Karyn Graham is a member of the Tracking (In)Justice family council.