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Police find George Smitherman’s husband with help of dog

George Smitherman, accompanied by close friend Barbara Hall, makes a statement to reporters outside Toronto Western Hospital Sept. 11, 2013.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

George Smitherman made a brief appearance Wednesday afternoon to thank police and the public for their help in finding his husband Christopher Peloso, who had been missing since Monday afternoon.

Mr. Peloso was found Wednesday at about 11 a.m. in the area near Lansdowne Avenue and Davenport Road by Toronto Police. He had been reported missing Monday, after he was last sighted at about 4 p.m. near the couple's home by Davenport Road and Bathurst Street.

"He's alive and he's safely in the hands of a hospital, Toronto Western, that we know and that we have so much confidence in," Mr. Smitherman said.

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Flanked by former mayor Barbara Hall, Mr. Smitherman stood outside of the hospital thanking police and friends who had reached out in the past few days. "They came in big numbers, and they were touching, " he said. "Every breath in conversation was so compassionate, so thorough, and so utterly excited to share the news that Christopher had been found. "

He did not comment on what led to Mr. Peloso's disappearance, only saying: "The path forward isn't firmly clear, except that we know that it's long and it will be hard and that he and me and our family, and our kids especially, will be surrounded by an outpouring by love that would restore anybody's faith and confidence."

Mr. Peloso has been a constant presence throughout the past decade of Mr. Smitherman's political career – first as a cabinet minister and deputy premier at Queen's Park, and then in an unsuccessful bid in the 2010 Toronto mayoralty race. The couple's 2007 wedding and decision three years later to adopt were both widely covered in the media, and even today, Mr. Smitherman's website features countless photos of Mr. Peloso and the family.

Police received a number of tips from the public about Mr. Peloso's whereabouts in the past few days, including one that he may have been spotted near Lansdowne Avenue and Dupont Road Monday evening. Constable Victor Kwong added that officers also tracked Mr. Peloso's cellphone signal for clues to his whereabouts.

Constable Kwong said that officers began searching the Lansdowne and Davenport area around 9 a.m. Wednesday. With the help of dozens of officers from several units and divisions, it was Ranger, a six-year-old dog trained to track live human scent, who eventually found Mr. Peloso in a bushy area near a set of train tracks.

"When we went in, the dog was barking about 10 or 15 times," Sgt. Scott Fowlds, a canine sergeant at Toronto Police, said.

"He was crawled up in a ball, lying next to what I believe was a fence line," Sgt. Fowlds said of Mr. Peloso, who he described as appearing "groggy."

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A spokesperson for EMS, said that just before 11 a.m., paramedics were called to Lansdowne and Davenport, where a man was taken to local hospital with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries.

Mr. Peloso was first reported missing Monday, after he was last seen at around 4 p.m. in the Davenport Road and Bathurst Street area where the couple lives with their two children. Toronto Police said at the time Mr. Peloso may suffer from a medical condition and fear for his safety, but did not elaborate.

During the decade that Mr. Smitherman spent in former premier Dalton McGuinty's cabinet and his unsuccessful run for Toronto mayor, Mr. Peloso was often a very visible member of his support team.

Mr. Smitherman was Ontario's first openly gay cabinet minister. He left provincial politics in 2009, resigning as deputy premier to run in Toronto's mayoralty race. He was defeated by Rob Ford.

Mr. Peloso worked as a director of retail operations for chocolatier Lindt Canada until "a few years ago," according to the company's human resources staff. A source close to the family said he left Lindt to stay home to care for Michael, 4, and Kayla, 3.

About a week ago, the couple placed their brick, semi-detached home near Bathurst Street and Davenport Road up for sale for $749,000. They had originally moved to the home about three years ago from a downtown condo so that their children would have more room to play in, realtor Richard Silver said. More recently, they were planning on selling the house and moving back to a smaller place in the city.

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Mr. Silver, who has known the couple for about 12 years, called Mr. Peloso a "very warm, very level, very good person," and described the disappearance as "totally out of character" for the man.

Mr. Smitherman and Mr. Peloso exchanged vows in 2007 at a wilderness retreat in the former mining community of Elliot Lake – an event attended by 200 family members and friends and widely covered by the media.

Days before their wedding, Mr. Smitherman told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Peloso had helped him find a healthier work-life balance, which included a standing date to watch The Amazing Race every week. In the early 1990s, before he was first elected as a Liberal MPP in the provincial riding of Toronto Centre, Mr. Smitherman said he was very involved in the nightlife scene in the Village in Toronto. He said he had a multiyear addiction to "gay party drugs," though he did not specify which ones.

Mr. Smitherman met Mr. Peloso in 1994, when he was "fresh off the bus from Sudbury." They dated on and off, with long breaks in between.

"I was just slow to mature," Mr. Smitherman told The Globe in 2009, saying Mr. Peloso's "enduring" love helped him get his act together.

In addition to their two children, Mr. Peloso has a 20-year-old daughter, Morgan, who lives in Sudbury.

With reports from Jill Mahoney and Darryn O'Malley

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About the Author
National Food Reporter

Ann Hui is the national food reporter at The Globe and Mail. Previously, she worked as a national reporter and homepage editor for and an online editor in News. More


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