Three recent attacks involving construction figures raises concerns about a new turf war breaking out in Toronto’s competitive construction industry.
By: Robert Cribb and Tony Van Alphen Staff Reporters, Published on Tue Feb 03 2015
The brazen daylight beating of a construction union leader while he shovelled snow in his driveway has raised concerns of renewed violence in Toronto’s construction industry, a Star investigation has found.
Durval Terceira, a union representative and an elected trustee with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, suffered serious injuries in the attack by two men brandishing aluminum baseball bats in his driveway in Vaughan on Dec. 11.
Terceira, former business manager for the Labourers’ International Union of North America Local 183, told the Star he has been in and out of hospital since the men jumped and beat him repeatedly.
“They started to swing at me. I tried to hold them off with my shovel but I couldn’t. The only thing they said was, ‘You’re a motherf****,’ ” says Terceira, who was rushed to the hospital after the attack.
“I don’t know who did it and I don’t know who sent them.”
Thomas Kin, an officer with York Regional Police, said the force is continuing its investigation into the attack.
John Moszynski, senior general counsel for the Carpenters, said the union and its members are “very upset and frustrated by what’s occurred.”
“We support Durval 110 per cent,’’ he said. “We’re anxiously awaiting the results of the police investigation.”
A Star investigation has discovered other examples of violent attacks tied to the construction industry since the summer. While no one interviewed, including victims and police, knows who was behind them, the incidents have triggered intense debate and concerns about a return to violent attacks the industry hasn’t seen in 15 years.
York police are investigating an assault of a man in a parking lot near the offices of a major residential construction company last August. The victim is an executive with a Markham construction firm.
His lawyer, Stephen Brunswick, confirmed his client reported the incident to police, who are investigating.
“It is currently under investigation and our concern is that speaking about it or writing about it could be unhelpful to that investigation.”
Police said they haven’t determined if there is a connection between that attack and the Terceira incident.
Sources have also told the Star that a key executive in a Vaughan construction company allegedly sustained injuries in a morning assault outside his offices late last year.
The sources identified the victim as Dino Drigo, a top official with Hardwall Construction, adding that some employees witnessed the attack from inside the offices.
Police were not called, they said. York police said they have no records of the alleged incident. Drigo would not comment.
“I’d rather not say anything,” he said in a brief interview.
While Moszynski, lawyer for the Carpenters, said there is no evidence of the assailants’ identities, “we have no real reason to believe that this is not a coincidence.’’
Terceira is currently engaged in several lawsuits involving LIUNA. And LIUNA currently has three lawsuits before the courts naming the Carpenters, its leaders and members as defendants. Together, they claim more $50 million in damages alleging libel and unfair recruitment of their members.
John Evans, the lawyer representing LIUNA Local 183, the largest construction union local in Canada, called any connection to his union in the Terceira attack “pure fiction and nonsense.”
“Any troubles which have befallen Mr. Terceira of the nature you suggest were not at the direction or behest of Local 183. While he is a litigation distraction to our cause and movement, we do not wish him physical harm. Local 183 does not condone, support or encourage the use of violence.”
During the driveway assault, Terceira said he tried to flee from the two men but quickly decided he couldn’t run inside his house because his wife and two teenage daughters were inside. He ran to his truck to escape. On the way there, he slipped and fell. The two men then started hitting him again, he says.
“I was beaten badly on my back and head. It was really bad. From the start of the attack to the finish, it was about 30 seconds and, (in) that period of time, your life can change.”
He says the men were in their late 20s or early 30s, clean-shaven, about six-feet tall and slim.
He played dead and they eventually left, he says.
“I managed to walk to the house where my wife, my 15-year-old and 17-year-old daughters were in complete shock at the way I looked.”
Terceira was hospitalized with injuries that included a muscle tear above his left knee and released later. A week after that, he was rushed back to hospital in pain with a swollen calf. An ultrasound test revealed a blood clot just below his knee. Since that occasion, he has been rushed by ambulance back to hospital three times.
“I thought I was going to die,” Terceira says. “I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was having a heart attack. The blood clot had travelled to my left lung now, with more serious issues. I have to be on medication blood thinners.”
He has been seeking regular medical attention since and was back in the hospital Friday for further testing.
Terceira lost his post as Local 183 business manager in 2011 in a close election. He subsequently joined the Carpenters where he is a vocal critic of his old union. Terceira currently has a lawsuit against his former union over severance pay and is named in several other lawsuits involving the two groups.
“We think the legal actions they’ve brought against us are without merit,” said Moszynski. “They are an attempt to intimidate the Carpenters and we will defend them vigorously in court.”
Calling the Carpenters “arch rivals,” LIUNA’s Evans said litigation between the two organizations is long-standing and “our respective lawyers and law firms are the real beneficiaries of the animosity that exits between our two organizations. That, regrettably, is the world we operate in.”
That animosity has fuelled an adversarial relationship that has featured heated conflicts over “raiding” of members and competition for work in Toronto’s red-hot construction market.
In a National Post story published shortly after Terceira’s attack in December, Joe Mancinelli, LIUNA’s regional manager for central and eastern Canada, called the Carpenters union “our nemesis.”
Mancinelli was also quoted as saying, “The violence is gone, thank God, from the old days … But the tension and conflicts exist and they exist for a number of reasons.”
A veteran construction industry executive, who requested anonymity, described the Terceira incident as “perplexing.”
“Whether someone is definitely sending a message, we don’t know,’’ said the executive, recalling one other incident about 15 years ago that also involved a former Local 183 business manager.
John Stefanini, who had retired as business manager in 1992 and subsequently ran an alliance of construction unions, suffered a broken arm and a serious head gash when attackers used metal bars to beat him up outside the association’s offices near Steeles Ave. and Weston Rd. in early 1999. The attackers only yelled the word “rat” at him.
The case was never solved.