Thank you for having me.
Thank you for inviting me to appear today.
In 1995 my 17-year-old grandson, Sylvain Leduc, his two little female cousins, 16 years old, and Sylvain's friend were kidnapped from Sylvain's home by a street gang named Ace Crew. Of that gang, the five that I know of who were in court were young offenders. The others were 18 and over.
The youths were placed in the back compartment of a Jimmy van, beaten upon, threatened, and told they would be beaten so badly that people in Ottawa would be afraid to walk the streets, and they made good on their promise. They drove them a half-hour distance away. In that car, someone kept loading and unloading a shotgun over their heads, telling them they were going to die. “Today's Wednesday; today's a good day to die”, they told the victims. In that car was a 15-year-old who was the head of the gang. He was controlling the show. He was 15 years old.
When they arrived at the building, the victims were taken out one at a time. In that car was a 25-year-old, a 24-year-old, a 19-year-old; they were the bad guys who were going to show the young ones how you deal with people who have offended you. They were brought in one by one, but in that apartment, in all, there were 12 people.
When the victims were brought in one by one, it was the young offenders who opened the front door and immediately tied them hand, foot, and neck, gagged them, and blindfolded them. One of the children was placed in a closet where green garbage bags had been taped up and down the walls and on the floor, to put their dead bodies into. My grandson was dragged off into the master bedroom. Another boy was placed in the washroom, and another young girl was dragged into the master bedroom with my grandson.
They took turns, many of them--sometimes two, sometimes three at a time--beating Sylvain to death. While some were doing that, others were burning my niece with a curling iron set on high. They burned the back of her calves, the back of her knees, the back of her shoulders. Then they flipped her over and two of them removed her jeans, her panties, and two others held her legs open and a young lady held her head down while they violently raped her with this curling iron. The young girl passed out, and just as she came to, she heard Sylvain gasping for breath as he died.
A man who lived one floor down, thank God, had heard the children being taken in at gunpoint. He hid behind his curtain and waited until they were all brought in and he called 9-1-1. The police arrived, and when they did, all the accused ran--all 12 of them. The police managed, just through smart perception, to detain four or five of them in the lobby while the older ones ran.
It angers me so much to even think of this and to tell you this: the police would have arrived probably in time to resuscitate Sylvain, but those young people in the lobby refused to tell the police which apartment to go to, so it took 45 minutes for them to find Sylvain. By then, of course, it was too late.
The young lady was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where she remained for three months. The doctors did not know how to treat her, as they had never seen this before. A team of professionals was put together, and they managed to save her womb--her body, in other words. They saved her life.
The other young boy was in the hospital with a concussion and severe depression for a whole month. The other young lady went into psychiatric care, where she remains to this day.
These crimes were horrific, horrible, and shook up Ottawa for sure, most especially members of our families. Three families were affected. You can imagine the grief, the hate, and the rage.
I made it my business to attend court. I had to laugh when you mentioned that a judge had said that these people had never been in his courtroom. Well, I have been in a courtroom for the last 15 years. In our case it took two years to try everyone, or off and on, three years. After that I became a victims' resource person with the office of Victims of Violence. I've attended many court hearings, trials, preliminary hearings--you name it.
In our case, at the time the law said you could not...I am going to use the word “punish”, which was never used, as you don't punish anyone for committing crime: you deter them; you make an example of them, and so on. That's for adults. For the young people, I was told, the only thing the judge has to consider is their rehabilitation into society.
I remember the day my daughter went to the funeral home to make arrangements for her son's funeral. She could not afford a nice fancy funeral, of course. I remember her touching this beautiful urn. She wanted that urn for her son so badly. Of course, we could not afford that urn. I was so enraged in that funeral home, thinking that those people should be paying for the funeral. They should be made responsible at least for the funeral, but there was no such thing.
In court we were given a form, a victim impact statement on how this crime has affected you. On the reverse side it asked if you were claiming for damages and so on. I said, “Yes, by Jesus, yes. I am claiming for a funeral. I am claiming for an urn. I am claiming for a telephone answering service which the people used to make threats to us in our home. I am claiming for changing the locks on the door”. It was never, ever considered by the judge, because, I guess, young offenders are untouchable. They don't have to pay anybody. They don't have to apologize. They could not even apologize in the courtroom.
Before sentencing, the judge asked them whether they had anything to say. They laughed at us throughout the trial.
It was there that I found out how, at the time, the Young Offenders Act worked over the years. I was stunned that young people can commit crime after crime after crime. It does not matter. They always get probation, more probation, and more probation. Until they physically hurt someone, there is no time in jail. There is no time in jail unless they've committed a violent act.
During our trial the mother of the 17-year-old girl who held the girl down while she was being burned came to court. She was a responsible mother, a good mother, who had been begging the police for three years to put her daughter in jail. She was uncontrollable and violent. She hurt people. The police kept saying to her that there was nothing they could do until her daughter committed a violent crime. Out of desperation the mother said, “Yeah?” She pushed her daughter around until the daughter broke her mother's arm and kicked her in the stomach. Finally, the mother had grounds to have her put away. Even then it was only for one week.
I remember very well that young lady was told to not be in the company of another certain young lady because she had a criminal record. That young lady breached and breached and breached that condition. She would actually attend court on those breaches with the same young lady.
She was 17 years old and she had a history dating back to age 13: trafficking drugs, beating on police officers, smashing the window in a squad car, spitting on officers, resisting arrest, and having to be pepper-sprayed to calm her down long enough to arrest her many, many times--and still they would only put her on probation. There was no deterrence, no accountability.
I'll tell you right now that what really angered me was that these children were not poor or living difficult lifestyles and so on. Some of the parents were schoolteachers, some were doctors, and yet you and I, ladies and gentlemen, paid for their legal aid. I said, “How do you explain that to me, when you have parents with such nice jobs and high incomes, and we are paying for their legal aid?” Once the parent washes his hands of the child, we have no choice. How wonderful.
I also found out, which again enraged me, that during their stay in jail—it took a year and a half to get the trials over with—they're allowed to collect family benefits, the baby bonus. I questioned that. I wrote to the people in charge, and they said, “Oh, yeah, well, until they're found guilty, they're allowed to keep this money”. The criteria for this benefit are that you live at home and go to school. They're living in jail and refusing to go school, and yet still they were able to claim that money, and every week they'd get an allowance if they had been good that week.