SASKATOON – Less than a week ago in a Saskatoon courtroom, a young offender was sentenced to three years for fatally shooting another teen on Sept. 7, 2015. The now 15-year-old will serve a little over a year-and-half in custody followed by nine months supervision for criminal negligence causing death.
He pulled the trigger killing 15-year-old Dustin Ahenakew, who died instantly of gunshot wound to the head. The teen then fled the home on Avenue Q South, ditched the weapon and his mom falsified a story to 911 about the death of his friend.
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The weapon reportedly used had been stolen from a vehicle just two days prior and the young offender, who can’t be named, belonged a gang.
“It’s clear that one of the reasons that they had these firearms was what they felt was to go on the offensive or on the defensive as part their gang,” said Crown prosecutor Cory Bliss.
“Gangs played a strong role in this incident and that need to be pointed out and denounced.”
The undercurrent of the sentencing would be just how problematic gangs have become on the streets of Saskatoon and even within the walls of institutions. On Wednesday, court head that the young offender continued to exhibit gang behaviours while in custody, was deceptive and manipulative.
“I think they’re getting worse because they’re starting to recruit more and more younger people into the gangs,” said Chris.
A 28-year-old former gang member says he would know; before Chris could even drive he joined a gang at just 14 years of age.
“The whole thing to me about being in a gang was it seemed cool.”
After years of being in and out of custody, Chris then did something that can get you killed.
He left his gang.
“I just told them I wanted a different life, I got sick of being in jail,” he said.
“I just got tired of hurting people.”
That was just the first step of ten thousand in a long journey towards a better life for Chris. He is now one of 300 former gang members to make the transformation with the support of STR8 UP.
“We ask for four years of their lives, one of the conditions to join STR8 UP is that you have to give four years. That’s how long it takes for someone to change their lives from being an active gang member to being a responsible citizen,” said Father André Polièvre, founder of the organization.
Which is why he wasn’t surprised to hear of the young offender’s behaviour while at Kilburn Hall.
“That kid’s not going to change his life style in a week, it’s a false expectation. It’s impossible.”
With gangs on the rise and the violence that comes with them, Father André said we need to attack at the very root of the problem: poverty, abuse, racism and addiction.
“Rather than always knocking on the gangs as being evil and criminal and bad, these are just ordinary people who never had a chance.”
People who, if nurtured much earlier in life, said Father André, may not have ended up on the wrong side of the law.