Canadians shocked by Jun Lin's murder as suspect awaits extradition
Residents and experts respond to Montreal case that has saddened and galvanized a society where such violence is rare.
There were no speeches, no hints of ceremony, just a trickle of visitors leaving flowers and candles and prayers at an improvised memorial in downtown Montreal. It stands as a modest but dignified farewell for Jun Lin, the victim of a man who has been dubbed Canada's first cannibal killer, and whose killing has continued to horrify and bewilder on Friday.
Visitors to the makeshift shrine at a plaza near Concordia University, where Lin studied engineering, echoed a nation struggling to come to terms with a grisly homicide's mix of sadism, social media, and celebrity.
"It makes me cry, it's terrible," a city worker who would identify herself only as Madame Boivin said at the memorial. She hoped the alleged killer, Luka Rocco Magnotta, would receive the ultimate punishment. "I'm for the death penalty for this. For that type of crime you have to die too."
Many Canadians take pride in the fact that the country has no capital punishment, but the videotaped stabbing, dismemberment and apparent eating of parts of Lin's body, followed by the posting of some of his remains to multiple destinations across the county, has upended stereotypes of a placid, liberal nation.
Lucia Gallardo, a vice-president at Concordia's student union, said Lin's death had shocked the community where the victim had also worked as a gay rights advocate. "I think it's really a long process. We were hearing about this case even before we knew that it was him, and everyone was horrified by the case as a whole – to make it so personal as someone from our own community, it's really shocked people."
Lin, 32, who was known as Justin, was described by friends as hardworking student. One reason he left China, it was speculated, was because it would be easier to be gay in Canada.
Friends of Lin have been wary of speaking out, partly because of the fear of sensationalism around the case, and partly because the Chinese community in Montreal – as elsewhere – is concerned about the information collected on them by the authorities back home.
In one of the rare insights into Lin's life, a fellow student at Concordia, who gave his name only as Matty, said in an interview with CBC radio in Montreal that he came to Quebec because he wanted to get to know the west and he liked French culture. "He told me he wanted to live here to change his life, because he was born in China and grew up in China, and for us it's kind of boring, so he wanted to try something new. He's this kind of person, who wants to try something new."
The Concordia Chinese Student Association and the student union has set up a fund to help Lin's family which has been distraught since coming from China to collect his remains. The Montreal mayor's office said a moment of silence to honour the student will be held on Monday before the monthly city council meeting.
The memorial to him was erected at the base of a statue of Norman Bethune, a Canadian physician famed for befriending Mao and treating casualties during the second Sino-Japanese War.
But even with Magnotta awaiting extradition in the custody of German authorities – he is expected back in Canada within weeks after fleeing the country in the aftermath of the crime – there remains dread that Lin's head, which remains missing, will turn up in the mail. Police told reporters they had no clue as to its whereabouts and that it was "a possibility" it would be delivered to an unsuspecting individual or institution.
The hunt for Magnotta, born Eric Clinton Newman, was launched after the discovery on 29 May of a torso in a suitcase behind his apartment building in Montreal. A severed foot was mailed to the Conservative party headquarters in Ottawa and a hand was found in a separate package – addressed to the Liberal party – at a postal facility. A school in Vancouver received a right hand, while another received what appeared to be a right foot. The fact that body parts were mailed across the nation has turned what would have been a story contained in Montreal into a tragedy felt nationwide.
A graphic 10-minute film apparently posted online by Magnotta showed a man stabbing a naked victim with an ice-pick as well as performing sexual acts and mutilating the corpse while the song True Faith by New Order played. Little is known about how the victim met his alleged killer; Magnotta's apartment was close to Lin's place of work, but Lin's friends said they had never heard of Magnotta before the murder.
'Canadians consider themselves peaceful'
Canadians were struggling to come to terms with the killing and its aftermath, said Stephen Porter, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia.
"Adding to the horrific murder itself, the grotesque fashion in which the perpetrator allegedly 'announced' his crime to the world by putting the murder video online and then sending body parts to political headquarters and and elementary school makes the crime particularly incomprehensible to Canadians."
Canadians generally considered themselves peaceful, egalitarian and even modest and self-effacing, he said. "This kind of gratuitous, narcissistic violent crime thrown into our faces by one of our own leaves the country confused, horrified and angry, which I assume was an intention of the perpetrator. I think the information Canadians will find out about this perpetrator in the coming months and years will allow them again to decide that this aberration should not and cannot challenge our self-identification as a peaceful place."
Robert Gordon, director of the school of criminology at Simon Fraser university in British Columbia, said the case's lurid details and worldwide media interest did not change the fact that Canada has a very low homicide rate compared to the US, and that crime has generally fallen in the western hemisphere.
"This case is an anomaly. It will be an anomaly anywhere. Fortunately there are very few of these gruesome and spectacular murders. When they do pop up, of course no country is immune from them, but this is an extremely unusual case particularly in the Canadian context."
Courtesy of http://www.guardian.co.uk/