Fallen Hero

On March 31, 1984 Steve Fonyo started his Journey For Lives cross country run for cancer. He finished the run on May 29, 1985 on a beach in Victoria, raising $14 million dollars for cancer research and becoming a national hero. He met Pope John Paul II, Lady Diana, George Harrison and other celebrities and politicians. He was living the high life. Things have changed since then for Steve Fonyo.

Steve Fonyo was on the front cover of The Province on Sunday May 16 and Michael Smyth wrote an interesting and revealing article about his life in 2010. All of Steve’s past indiscretions have come back to haunt him and life is not nearly as interesting for him as it once was.

In 1996, he pleaded guilty to 16 charges for offences in Edmonton, including assault with a weapon, aggravated assault, fraud for writing bad cheques totalling $10,000 to supermarkets and possession of a stolen vehicle. He has also been convicted at least five times of impaired driving and seven times of driving without a licence, most recently in the fall of 2008. On Aug.13, 2009, Fonyo, who was last known to have been working as a heavy-machinery mechanic, appeared in Surrey Provincial Court charged with one count of assault. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one day in jail. He was also subject to a one-year probation order. But just five days later, the 44-year-old was back in Surrey court, having breached his conditions. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 days in jail.

In December of 2009 Steve discovered he was losing Canada’s highest civilian honour, the Order of Canada, while lying on a bed in a Maple Ridge jail cell. One of the other inmates advised him that he was on TV and he heard the Order of Canada status was being terminated due to his “multiple criminal convictions, for which there are no outstanding appeals“.

Steve presently works as a landscaper and part-time mechanic and claims he is broke and owes I.C.B.C. $137,000 stemming from an accident in 1994 (I’m guessing he was drunk). He lives with his girlfriend, Lisa Greenwood from whom he once had a restraining order preventing him from contacting her. They had a loud argument in their rented Surrey home and his neighbours called the police. He couldn’t afford a lawyer and pleaded guilty and spent some time in jail where he says he was almost stabbed by another inmate. “It was a nightmare…But the worst part was I never should have been there. I didn’t do anything“. Yeah Steve, we’ve all been in jail for something we didn’t do.

I realize that everyone should have a second chance and all is not always how it appears on the surface but Mr. Fonyo had a chance that most of us never realize and didn’t realize his potential. He emulated Terry Fox and became a national hero but destroyed that advantage by his increasingly bad behaviour and significant run-ins with the law. Are we to feel sorry for him? Should we feel bad that his Order of Canada status was revoked and he’s been disgraced in the eyes of the public? I don’t think so and can only think of the many deserving Canadians that would have made much more his or her life if given the chances and advantages that Steve Fonyo enjoyed.

He has made his bed and now he lies in it, surrounded by a rental home in Surrey, mountains of debt and a heavily tarnished reputation. He made the decisions that have lead to his present situation and has no one to blame but himself. I sometimes wonder what Terry Fox would have made of it all.

UPDATE – June 30, 2014
The Province reports that Fonyo was back in court on assault charges. Here’s the story by Province reporter John Colebourn…

Cross-Canada runner Steve Fonyo is expected to appear Monday in provincial court in Surrey on a charge of assault. He was arrested on June 13, following an evening incident outside his Surrey residence.

According to Fonyo, he was trying to stop a knife attack on a female acquaintance. He claims his friend was chased down the street by a person with a butcher knife. “She runs after Lisa Marie with a knife and I call the cops and they arrest me for assault and take me to jail,” said Fonyo of the June 13 incident.

“I stop her from stabbing Lisa Marie and I go to jail.

“I’ve got witnesses who can’t believe I was charged with assault. It is stupid, I never touched her.

“I phone the police for their help and I get charged.”

Fonyo is currently out on bail on a possession of stolen property charge. In 2013, Fonyo was arrested on a stolen property charge and he was arrested for driving while his licence was suspended. He spent three months in jail recently on a domestic assault charge. “I am not pleading guilty to these charges,” he said. “The police don’t like me.”

“They want to get me on anything they can.”

Fonyo lost his left leg to cancer as a child. He ran across Canada to raise money for cancer research in 1984-85. He has struggled with alcohol and drug problems and has had a string of legal problems since the cross-Canada run. He has been convicted of fraud, theft, possession of stolen property and numerous driving offences. In November 2011 a judge found Fonyo in breach of a conditional sentence order and ordered that his previous 18-month conditional sentence stand.

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