Calgary Herald

Friday 6 July 2001

Death of baby boy propels strangers to mourn together

Mother undergoing psychiatric testing, dad did not attend

Jason van Rassel
Calgary Herald; Southam Newspapers

People with little in common, other than sadness over the tragic death of a 15-month-old boy, came together Thursday to pay their respects to his memory.

A white plush bunny, teddy bears and flowers ringed a picture of a smiling Domenic Brown at the front of a chapel where 60 Calgarians gathered for a memorial service. His body was found June 5 in a Victoria Park apartment rented by his mother.

"This memorial service for Domenic will help the community get past this tragic and sad situation," said Ashid Bahl, president of the For the Love of Children Society.

Domenic's mother, Rie Fujii, 23, is charged with neglecting a dead body and may face more charges in connection with Domenic's death and the disappearance of her three-month-old daughter, Gemini, who is presumed dead.

Fujii is being held at the Peter Lougheed Centre, where she is undergoing a psychiatric assessment. Domenic's father, Peter Brown, did not attend the service.

Clutching Buddhist passion beads, Rev. Leslie Kawamura bowed at the front of the hushed chapel and recited a traditional chant, occasionally ringing a small prayer bell.

"It is a very unusual and almost beautiful and awesome situation that we, who hardly know each other, are brought together in communion to pay our last respects to Domenic," he told the gathering.

"Loving kindness begins when we come together in communion."

In the days leading up to Domenic's discovery, neighbours heard a child crying in the second-floor suite where he was found, but did nothing.

Calgary MLA Wayne Cao, who is a board member of the For the Love of Children Society, said Domenic's death should be a lesson that people need to get involved with their neighbours.

"Domenic's life was short and that is a tragedy. It would be a greater tragedy if this child's life was to end in vain," Cao said.

Cao said he'll lobby the legislature to declare an annual "Meet Your Neighbour Day" dedicated to Domenic's memory.

"If our world has become too dangerous, it's not only because of misguided individuals, but because of us, who stand by and let it happen," he said.

Domenic's final resting place hasn't been decided. Fujii's parents have requested through her lawyer to have their grandson's ashes sent to Japan to be spread on the family's cemetery plot, but Brown has said he wants possession of the tot's remains.

"Domenic will remain in our care until things are sorted out," said Brad Baker of the Heritage Funeral Home, which hosted the memorial.

Jesse Risdon, a friend of Brown, attended the service and said he was grateful for the outpouring of kindness from the public.

"It's nice all these people came forward to do this," he said.

Fujii came to Canada four years ago and briefly attended Mount Royal College as an English-as-a-second-language student. It was during her first stay in Canada that she met Brown, who fathered both children.

Fujii returned to Japan briefly in 1999 and later re-entered Canada on a six-month visitor's visa. When she turned herself in to police June 6, Fujii had been in Canada illegally for more than a year.

She now faces deportation once the criminal case against her is resolved.

Fujii's three-year relationship with Brown ended about a month before Gemini's birth three months ago.

2001 CanWest Interactive