Arson charges against former city employee dropped in River Road golf course fire
Michael Peter Belanger, 54, was previously charged with one count of arson
Arson charges laid against a former city of London employee for a fire at the site of a proposed Indigenous-led homeless shelter in November have been dropped, CBC London has learned.
Michael Peter Belanger, 54, was charged with one count of arson causing property damage for the Nov. 7 fire at the River Road golf course, which was supposed to be used as a winter shelter operated by Atlohsa Family Healing Services to support the city's unhoused.
Charges against Belanger were withdrawn unconditionally on July. 18, his Toronto-based lawyer, Michael Juskey said.
"The London Crown Attorney's office came to the conclusion, that there was no reasonable prospect of conviction," he said.
Belanger was a supervisor in the city's fleet services department. He was suspended with pay after the charges were laid. The city confirmed in February that Belanger was no longer an employee.
The fire caused about $1 million in damages, London Fire said. Although there were no reported injuries, plans for the site had to be changed last minute. The shelter was set up and operated behind the Parkwood Institute until the end of March.
Property tax records obtained by CBC London show that Belanger was the owner of a home located three doors down from the golf course, which was put up for sale for $1.6 million in September, but was later taken off the market.
Belanger is also a veteran with the Canadian Armed Forces. The Department of National Defence told CBC London in November that Belanger joined the regular forces in May 1987 and served until June 1990. He then transferred to the supplementary reserve, from which he was released in April 2004.
Juskey says these charges unfairly tarnished his client's reputation, adding that Belanger and his wife are relieved and grateful over this decision.
"They look forward to closing this traumatic and stressful chapter of their lives. Mr. Belanger is a fine gentleman who has served not only our country, but the city of London his entire career," Juskey said.
CBC London has reached out to the London Police Services to find out if the investigation will be reopened.
With files from Kate Dubinski