The attempted assassination of the mayor of Nickel Centre was national headlines in the fall of 1978.
An angry property owner carrying a 45-calibre automatic military pistol critically wounded Mike Solski as he chaired his last meeting as mayor.
The man entered the Nickel Centre council meeting room on the evening of Nov. 15 with a letter addressed to council.
“I have something else for you,” the shooter, a former Inco employee, told Solski as he fired three shots.
Mayor-elect Garry Lacey was nearby and knelt by the bleeding Solski whom he had defeated in the municipal election just three days before.
Councillor John Fera grabbed the man's arm and shook the gun loose from Romeo Kerim, who was charged with attempted murder.”
“I only want to kill him, not you," Kerim told councillors Gary Foley and Stan Hayduk, recreation director Ed Boland and public works superintendent Don Henderson as they pinned him down until the police arrived.
The 59-year-old Solski was hit twice and taken to hospital in critical condition with wounds to his stomach and shoulder. He recovered, but his right hand was partially paralyzed.
Before his trial, Kerim, 63, fired his lawyer and chose to defend himself — as he said he could not trust anybody — despite concerns expressed to the jury by the judge.
Kerim testified he shot the politician, but only wanted to break his hand.
During the three-day trial held in Toronto in June 1979, a psychiatrist testified Kerim had been suffering from paranoia for some time. He was obsessed with the idea that Solski was the person responsible for a “conspiracy" with the Nickel District Conservation Authority and Inco to expropriate his property.
Kerim was found not guilty of attempted murder by reason of insanity and sent to Penetanguishene Mental Health Centre.
Solski, who was born in Coniston and lived in his family home his entire life, was elected mayor of the small community east of Sudbury in 1962 and served until 1972. He became the first mayor of the new municipality of Nickel Centre and was the first vice-chair of the Regional Municipality of Sudbury.
After the shooting, he received $13,493 from Nickel Centre and $30,000 from the regional government on compassionate grounds. He also collected $200 a week from a municipal insurance policy.
At the time of his death in 1999 at the age of 80, Solski was a member of the Sudbury Municipal Restructuring Association, which called for the amalgamation of the municipalities in the Regional Government of Sudbury into a one-tier government.
Once called a communist, Solski ran unsuccessfully as the Liberal candidate in Sudbury East against Elie Martel of the Ontario New Democrat Party in 1967.
After retiring from politics in 1978, he wrote a history of Coniston. He was also the co-author of “Mine Mill: The History of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers in Canada since 1895”.
The Coniston branch of the Greater Sudbury Public Library is named the Mike Solski Library in his honour.
Solski had an eventful career as a union leader prior to entering municipal politics which will be explored in the next edition of Then and Now.
Vicki Gilhula is a writer in Greater Sudbury. Then & Now is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.
The Globe and Mail, Accused called insane at time mayor was shot, June 6, 1979
The Globe and Mail, ‘I have something for you,' man who shot mayor said, by Tony Van Alphen, Nov. 17, 1978