Sudbury

Much still 'unresolved' 10 years after the Elliot Lake mall collapse

A decade since a deadly mall collapse made international headlines, a small northern Ontario city is still seeking closure.

Class action lawsuit against former mall owners and others is still before the courts

A worker walks through the remains of the Algo Centre mall in Elliot Lake, which collapsed on June 23, 2012.
A worker walks through the remains of the Algo Centre mall in Elliot Lake, which collapsed on June 23, 2012. (Nathan Denette / Reuters)

Most in Elliot Lake will never forget June 23, 2012.

"I remember it like I was yesterday," said Luc Cyr, who managed the grocery store in the Algo Centre mall in the small northern Ontario city. 

He had worked in the morning and went back that afternoon as he often did to get his daughter, who lives with a disability, some exercise.

For some reason, they parked in a different part of the lot. Their usual spot on the rooftop parkade would end up two stories down when the roof collapsed a few minutes later. 

"All I see is a giant puffy cloud of smoke coming up from the store I worked at," said Cyr, who at first thought it was an explosion. 

"People were running out of the mall screaming."

Elliot Lake city councillor Luc Cyr worked in the Algo Centre mall for years and was just walking in on the afternoon when the roof caved in.
Elliot Lake city councillor Luc Cyr worked in the Algo Centre mall for years and was just walking in that afternoon when the roof caved in. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

After getting his wife and daughter back to the car, he ran toward the grocery store, was "stunned" for a few minutes by the sight of "boulders the size of cars" and "water gushing from pipes" inside the mall, before helping to evacuate employees and shoppers.

About 20 people were injured and two women— 37-year-old Lucie Aylwin and 74-year-old Doloris Perizzolo— were killed. 

Ten years later, there is a large empty lot in the midst of downtown Elliot Lake where the mall once stood.

"It's a constant reminder that it's unresolved. There's a healing that needs to happen," said Cyr.

There was a multi-million dollar public inquiry held into how the building fell into such disrepair and the rescue efforts in the days following the collapse.

A class action lawsuit against the former mall owners and others, remains before the courts.

Cyr says he was so "disgusted" to see the mall owners, government officials and others "shrug their responsibilities" and not be held accountable, that he ran for Elliot Lake city council. 

A hole in the rooftop parkade at the Algo Centre mall shows where the roof caved in on June 23, 2012.
Cyr says while it doesn't come up in conversation very often, Elliot Lake has not really healed in the 10 years since the mall collapse. (CBC)

"Myself and a lot of people in the community lost a lot of faith and respect for the people at the time. I think the community is healing together somewhat, but until there's proper resolution and proper accountability, I don't think it'll be complete," said the two-term councillor, who is not seeking re-election this fall. 

"We won't have real closure until that happens."

Cyr and the rest of city council have spent years trying to get a new sports complex built on the former mall site, which the city purchased in 2019.

But after a long wait for provincial funding, he says he wonders if those plans and the proposed arts hub are "in danger" and may need a "look at revising and scaling down."

A ceremony will be held in Elliot Lake Thursday morning at 11 a.m. at the mall collapse memorial built  on the shore of Horne Lake.

Cyr says some of the survivors will be gathering at the exact time of the collapse, 2:23 p.m. 

The site where the Algo Centre Mall used to stand remains empty.
The site where the Algo Centre Mall used to stand remains empty, despite years of planning by Elliot Lake city council to build a new sports complex on the downtown lot. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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