The late Marco Muzzo Senior was a self-made real estate tycoon, known for preferring discretion and avoiding public attention as much as possible. His grandson, Marco Muzzo Junior, has not been as successful at avoiding the limelight.
Muzzo Jr. first raised public ire in September 2015 when he was implicated in a drunk driving accident that took the lives of three children and their grandfather. When Muzzo Jr. was sentenced to 10 years in prison, public places like libraries and parks across Mississauga that had been named after the senior Muzzo rushed to tweak the dedications in order to avoid confusion with his now-infamous grandson.
“The potential for confusion with the duplication of names of these two individuals can be addressed by renaming the park,” read a resolution on the renaming of a Mississauga park to Marco Muzzo Senior Memorial Woods and Park.
Chris Koenig-Woodyard, a professor in the department of English and Drama at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM), brought The Medium’s attention to a similar dedication on our campus.
“The foyer of our library is named after Marco Muzzo because of a donation the family made to UTM. In the past, I have asked UTM to change the name so that we can avoid confusion,” said Koenig-Woodyard.
The donation, made by Muzzo’s organisation, the Erin Mills Development Corporation, was a “gift of $2 million in 2006 to support the construction costs of the Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Centre,” according to an email correspondence with executive director of Marketing and Communications Jane Stirling.
After a failed application for parole in November 2018, Muzzo Jr. is now receiving a second chance at a parole hearing later this year.
The parole hearing has brought up the matter of the dedication on campus once again.
In particular, it brings up the question of what the appropriate wording for the dedication should be, or whether the donation itself should simply be returned to the Muzzo family.
The dedication is located quite centrally in the atrium of the Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Centre (UTM library), along the Starbucks wall in the corridor. Following concerns after Muzzo Jr.’s sentencing, the dedication was in fact renamed in 2017 to distinguish Muzzo Sr. from his grandson.
The dedication reads:“The atrium, named in memory of Marco Muzzo (1932-2005), was made possible by a generous gift from Erin Mills Development Corporation. It is a tribute to founding partner Marco Muzzo, his leadership in the firm, and his contribution to the growth of the City of Mississauga.”
Despite the university’s response to concerns, some have pointed out that it may not be enough.
“We feel that it is controversial that the dedication is named after Marco Muzzo, and that the younger Marco Muzzo’s actions cast a bad light [on it],” stated the UTM Social Justice Club in a statement. “Changing the name to ‘the Muzzo family’ or something along those lines would help clear up this issue.”
Others have suggested that perhaps returning the money would be the best course of action.
“I wondered why this never became an issue. Who donates the money? How does it work?” said Koenig-Woodyard. “Do we want to keep money from a family [of which] a member of them killed four people?”
The ethics upheld by the UTM community have received heat from critics, but the university stands by its decision not to remove the dedication.
“The impact of [Muzzo’s] construction consortium in Mississauga and the province is significant; he provided support for the Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Centre as a way to give back to the community,” said the acting principal of UTM Ian Orchard. “His personal legacy should not be erased by matters in which he had no role and no responsibility.”
A visit to the library has also shown that not many within the community are aware of the controversy surrounding the dedication, or even the existence of the dedication itself.
“If you hadn’t given me the background, I never would have made the connection [between the dedication and the junior Muzzo],” a member of the library staff, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, shared. “I don’t think many have even noticed the dedication.”
Similar sentiments were shared by the Social Justice Club as well, who added that members in the club were not aware of the situation. However, they agreed that regardless of the wider UTM community’s knowledge of the situation, the university itself must uphold values in line with human rights as exhibited by the rest of Mississauga’s public spaces.
“We feel the UTM administration should address this issue with openness and take the necessary steps to remain aligned with the values set by the university,” said the Social Justice Club.
The victims of the drunk driving accident included nine-year-old Daniel Neville-Lake, five-year-old Harrison, two-year-old Milly, and their 65-year-old grandfather, Gary Neville.
“Here’s a family with a large amount of money, and here’s a family that’s lost three kids,” said Woodyard. “I think you do this when you become a parent, you become emotional. I was thinking of my own son’s life.”
Orchard holds different views regarding what constitutes the ethics of the community. He explained that the university strives to maintain a mutual respect with the Muzzo family.
“UTM remains committed to honouring the memory of Marco Muzzo Senior,” he said. “He supported UTM in good faith after we asked for assistance, and the university believes that this relationship is one to be respected, as good faith is a shared value.”
Muzzo Jr. had previously applied for day and full parole in 2018 but was denied both. He is now set to appear in court on April 28, along with the family of the victims.
Assigning collective guilt for the actions of one person is an awful human impulse and one I would have hoped wouldn’t be treated reverently by thoughtful Canadians.