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Sandie Martins-Toner Advocate for Social Justice


By David G. Williams

“I always knew that I would be a rider. I’d ride on the back of my Dad’s bike when I was young, and he taught me how to drive heavy equipment. I just always knew. And back when I was 17, things weren’t quite so strict…”

But in 2005, something horrific happened to this wife and mother. Something that made her re-evaluate her life and purpose, causing her to put riding on hold and dedicate her life to helping others, and social justice. On July 2, 2005, her 16-year-old son Matthew was brutally murdered outside a Surrey Sky Train station in British Columbia, because he wouldn’t give up the chain around his neck. He stood his ground against two attackers several years older than him, but his bravery cost him his life.

The initial trial took two years, resulting in the conviction of both accused, but a later appeal let one accused go free. The murder of a young son, years of trials, an overturned conviction: these things could cause many of us to turn to substance abuse, divorce, even suicide. But not Sandie or her husband David. In honour of Matthew’s memory, they put all their energy into trying to make the world a better place for people who need a helping hand.

First they created a justice reform group called Families Against Crime and Trauma (FACT) in 2006 to provide a voice for those who have lost a loved one to a violent crime, or have been affected by a criminal act. The non-profit gained national attention and effected changes to legislation. The fact that Sky Train officers can now carry guns to protect citizens is thanks to FACT.

In the mean-time, Sandie was working on her first book The Last Six Minutes – A Mothers Loss and Quest for Justice, so named because a security camera captured the last six minutes of young Matthew’s life. And then a second, Cry for Justice – A Murdered Child’s Legacy in which she shares her family’s struggles. Both books received excellent reviews for their searing honesty and exposing the inadequacies of our justice system, and are even on some schools reading lists.

But Sandie and David weren’t done. Sandie found that every September 20th, Matthew’s birthday, she would spend the day in bed, crying. She’s not the type of person to let this go on however, so she once again picked herself up, and she and David declared September 20th Random Acts of Kindness Day – Matthew Martins Legacy. It started with a Facebook page, and Sandie and David performing random acts of kindness, like buying groceries for a struggling single mom, providing necessities of life for people in Cuba, or giving an amount equal to two-years income to a random labourer in China when they visited there. “It was a way to celebrate Matthew’s life, and make us feel better. We had no-one to buy gifts for on that day anymore, so why not buy them for someone else?” says Sandie. The idea took off, and people from around the world started participating, in Matthew’s name. Through donations and their own giving, Sandie and David now help support 5 local families every month.

With all of her extraordinary work and service to her community and people around the world, Sandie now feels that she can make room again for her love of riding. In fact, David got his license as well, so that they could ride together. It’s one more thing that they can do as a couple. Both on Kawasaki Vulcan’s, but Sandie has her eye on a new Indian. David tries not to cringe when she mentions that!

But this lead them to yet another service to the community. While looking for riding groups, they came across the Facebook page for Bikers Against Bullying Canada (BAB), part of StopBully.com who provide bullying awareness programs. Sandie and David checked into it, and liked what they saw, but there was no chapter in the Lower Mainland Vancouver area. So they met with Canadian BAB founder Corey Ripley, and applied to start Chapter 9 to service the Vancouver area. Their official kick-off event will be on July 27th at Trev Deeley Motorcycles. These two can’t do enough for others. And now riding has provided them with another opportunity to make the world a better place.

Sandie lights up when talking about riding. “You know, riding has changed so much. Twenty years ago when I took my course there were only three women in the class, and I was the only one who passed. Now I can’t get over the number of women who ride and the great community of women riders who want to help each other and build each other up. Women educate and empower each other. And nobody cares what you ride. It’s inspiring.” That says a lot coming from such an extraordinary woman. “I’m hoping to inspire my daughter to ride someday. It’ll be one more thing we can do together.”

And if there is one woman who can inspire others, it’s Sandie.

 

 Written by David Williams. 

Photos by Alberto Vergara (this article is written to honor International Female Ride Day 2019).