The Current

After surviving attack, Scott Jones chronicles the 'lifelong process' of forgiveness

An apparent homophobic attack paralyzed Scott Jones, he filmed his journey toward recovery — and acceptance — with his best friend. That film titled Love, Scott is premiering at Hot Docs, a film festival in Toronto.

He was paralyzed in a brutal stabbing he calls homophobic

Scott Jones is the subject of Love, Scott, a documentary about his journey following a knife attack he believes was motivated by homophobia. (Laura Marie Wayne/NFB)

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In the upcoming documentary Love, Scott, Joni Mitchell's 1969 song Both Sides, Now speaks volumes.

For Scott Jones, the film's subject, the lyrics are obvious. "There's the time she's been hurt by love and the times that she just was so excited by her love," he said.

But for director and friend Laura Marie Wayne, it has a deeper meaning.

Jones has seen both sides now, she said — his life before and after he was attacked.

Jones travels along a wooded path in this still from Love, Scott. (Laura Marie Wayne/NFB)

Almost five years ago, then 27-year-old Jones was stabbed in the back and had his throat slashed outside a bar in New Glasgow, N.S. The attack paralyzed him from the waist down.

Jones, who is openly gay, says the attack was motivated by his sexuality.

Revisiting the scene

Love, Scott explores how that attack affected Jones's life, his healing through music and the ability to forgive. It was a labour of love for the two close friends, who will mark the North American premiere of the film at Hot Docs in Toronto this weekend.

When Wayne heard that Jones had been attacked, she was studying film in Cuba, but immediately flew to be by his side. During that first week in hospital, Wayne already had her camera in tow.

"It wasn't clear that we were going to make this feature film but it was clear that the camera needed to come," she said.

Jones and Wayne speak during the filming of 'Love, Scott.' (Raúl Prado/NFB)

A year later, the pair agreed to turn her hospital footage into something more. On the one year anniversary, they would revisit the spot Jones was attacked.

"Every October for me is really difficult and I expected that to be a really hard one because it was the first year," he said. "Being there with my close friend was a much better option for me than being alone in my room and not being able to talk to anyone."

It's a heavy scene. Sitting in his car, Jones reminisces about the night: recounting the light he saw above him; describing the feeling of pavement beneath him and admitting that he checked out the man who would eventually put him in a wheelchair.

"It was important for me in a ritualistic way to go back and honour that place of great change," said Jones.

Scott Jones conducts VOX: A Choir for Social Change in Halifax, N.S. (National Film Board of Canada)

'Don't be afraid'

A musician from childhood, song is integral to Jones's healing process. "It's always been cathartic but even more so now," he said.

While in rehab, Jones formed a choir known as VOX: A Choir for Social Change.

The group's motto: "don't be afraid." It's a mantra Jones adopted in hospital.

"I knew before this attack that I lived a lot of my life in fear and that as a gay man, most of my life I'd been in the closet and I had to put on who I was in an acceptable way," he said.

"I was beginning to wake up to the fact that so many decisions were determined by fear."

Jones encourages people to acknowledge their fears because they "influence who we are and how we are with others."

Music became the tool to spread that message. In the film, VOX performs the Joni Mitchell classic Both Sides, Now, acting as somewhat of a call for compassion.

"As a gay person, you're always kind of activism-minded and hopefully you're wanting to make things better for queer individuals."

Forgiveness is a lifelong process

The documentary has a clear social message, according to Jones. Hate crime law and how well it does — or doesn't — serve vulnerable communities should be analyzed, he said.

Jones worries it doesn't. While Shane Matheson was charged with attempted murder, no hate charges were laid.

"Having gone through that as a gay individual and saying I believe this is a hate crime and not being heard ... that kind of erases that aspect of who I am," he said.

Jones speaks to a crowd of 1,100 people. (National Film Board of Canada)

But at Matheson's sentencing, Jones forgave the man who nearly killed him and he apologized.

Forgiveness, both for his attacker and arguably, himself, is a common theme throughout the film. Eventually, Jones shares a handwritten letter addressed to his attacker.

"I​t was all part of a process of forgiveness for me, which I've come to realize is a lifelong process," he said.

"Since day one I've wanted to reach out to Shane and so when I'm ready, it will be sent."

This segment was written by Jason Vermes and produced by The Current's Julie Crysler.