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November 28, 2009 permalink
What becomes of a boy taken from his parents at age three and raised as a crown ward? On September 18, 2008 in Sudbury at age 12 he and a confederate lit a fire that destroyed the Steelworkers Hall at a cost of $8 million plus loss of irreplaceable records.
Enclosed is a newspaper article and a comment from Scipio who says he has dealt with the people involved with the arsonist. Given the extended family connections among aboriginals, the statement that the courts cannot find the boy's mother deserves no credibility. The facts cited in the article point to anger over lack of family as the source of his problems. Judge John Keast wrote: "They need more services, but receive less". In this case fewer services, leaving the boy with family, would have worked better.
Steel hall arsonist never had a chance: judge
Posted By MIKE WHITEHOUSE THE SUDBURY STAR, November 28, 2009
At the age of three, he was found by authorities early one morning wandering alone on the train tracks on Elgin Street.
He has been a ward of the Children's Aid Society ever since, moving between at least a dozen foster homes in 10 years.
Yesterday, that now-13-year-old boy was sentenced to two years probation for burning down the Steelworkers Hall just blocks from where he was found alone as a toddler.
The details of the boy's life, and that of his co-accused-- neither 13-year-old boy who pleaded guilty to setting the blaze can be identified -- are central to the sentence handed down by Justice John Keast.
Both boys are native and both have led traumatic and troubled lives that explains, but in no way excuses, the crime of destroying one of Sudbury's most beloved landmarks, Keast wrote.
"What happened to (the first boy) is a travesty for which we must all take collective responsibility, for the lack of societal and political will to implement effective public policy," Keast wrote.
In his 18-page judgment, Keast details the uphill battles these boys faced in their 13 years.
More importantly, he details the challenges they will face when their probationary period for this crime ends.
If history is a guide, it's likely the courts have not seen the last of these two boys. Keast's judgment is a passionate plea to rewrite that guide.
Late in the evening of Sept. 18, 2008, the two boys sneaked out of their homes and went rummaging for loose change and cigarettes in unlocked cars in the Donovan area.
As they neared the Steel Hall, they found what they thought was a case of beer. It turned out to be a small, half-filled gas can they carried to the union hall and poured out onto the parking lot. They set the puddle of gas ablaze. As the gas flowed downhill toward the building, flames licked a wooden basement window, setting it on fire. Because it was an old, wooden building, the flames raced between interior and exterior walls to the roof and soon engulfed the building.
When the window caught fire, the two boys went home.
A total of 22 firefighters worked for 18 hours battling the blaze using an estimated 6.8 million to 9 million litres of water.
Built in 1947 by the local Royal Canadian Legion, the building was officially opened Oct. 2, 1949, by Brig. Milton Gregg, the minister of Veterans' Affairs.
The hall was sold to the Steelworkers Union in 1964 and became the business and social home of Local 6500, Local 2020 (a huge, composite local made up of many different groups of workers) and the Steelworkers' district offices.
The Steelworkers estimated the cost of replacing the hall at $8 million, but the cost to the union and its members was much higher. Important historical documents and memorabilia have been destroyed. Other important papers detailing decades of occupational complaints, work injuries and fatalities were also lost in the fire, causing delays in legal proceedings and adding stress to workers and their families.
Keast heard testimony that the Steelworkers Hall was the venue for countless historical, memorial, social, cultural, political, sports, entertainment and charitable events. It was, as a Sudbury Star editorial pointed out, "the place where a major part of Sudbury's character was forged," Keast wrote.
CAN'T CONTROL IMPULSES
However damaging, clearly the fire was more reckless than intentional. Both boys have, before and since the fire, exhibited patterns of disruptive and anti-social behaviour, of failing to control their impulses.
One boy, sentenced yesterday, has a history of verbal and physical aggression, of setting fires and of stealing and destructive behaviour, driven mostly by social alienation. A ward of the state, the courts do not know where his mother is, though she is thought to be alive. He has five brothers and sisters, all wards of the state. A psychologist concluded he is haunted by enormous anger that his family of origin could not take care of him.
"It is my inference ... that he has a profound sense of loss," Keast writes. "He feels unloved, unwanted, very insecure, rejected and abandoned."
In sentencing the boy to a year or more at the Bayfield Treatment Centre near Trenton, Keast also instructed that he be tested for fetal alcohol syndrome.
The second boy, to be sentenced Dec. 30, came from a more stable home. Still, his grandparents suffered in residential schools in Spanish and Sault Ste. Marie that has had lasting effects. Alcoholism and domestic violence plagued the family and early exposure to it haunts the boy today.
Though the judge applauds his parents for overcoming many of these problems, the damage has been done.
"The devastation of the residential school system on his grandparents has had a generational impact now manifesting itself on ... his generation," Keast wrote.
His own parents describe the boy as an "angry child" with a "tough-guy attitude." But, they say he is a follower, not a leader, and pleaded with the court not to institutionalize him, where he would likely fall under the influence of older teens involved in more sophisticated patterns of crime.
He was to be sentenced to the Hinks-Dellcrest Treatment Centre in Toronto, but Keast ruled it was not equipped to deal with the aboriginal-specific problems this boy faces. He will be sentenced on Dec. 30.
LACK OF SERVICES
The tragedy of these boys is the tragedy of Canada. Aboriginals are significantly over-represented in prison systems because: they live in social and economic conditions that give rise to crime; of demonstrated institutional bias against aboriginals and; insufficient resources before, during and after prison sentences, Keast wrote.
The result is a cycle of poverty and criminal behaviour that never ends. Attempts to stem the cycle by keeping aboriginal youth out of jail have had mixed results. What is needed is improved aboriginal child welfare services, but evidence is clear aboriginal children receive 22% less funding than non-aboriginal children.
"They need more services, but receive less," Keast writes.
"The failure of public policy is pronounced and troubling in the treatment of aboriginals and aboriginal offenders. The condition of these boys by the age of 12 ... is the result of systemic failure."
The maximum sentence for these boys is six months of secure custody and 18 months of probation, but it's too easy to just sentence boys like these to jail and get them out of sight. Examples the world over demonstrate punitive measures burden the taxpayer and perpetuate the behaviour that leads to crime.
"Much damage has already been done to these youths -- primarily caused by societal forces that have not been adequately shaped by sound social and economic policy. A judge, in these circumstances, has limited tools to stem such a tide.
"These boys are in a fragile condition," Keast concludes. "It will be an enormous challenge to rehabilitate (the first boy), given his diagnosis of a conduct disorder.
"As for (the second boy), he is literally on the edge of a cliff; he will either fall off into a life of crime with many victims along the way or he will be pulled from the precipice and saved."
Steel Hall Arson
Some facts on the case:
One of the two boys who pleaded guilty to setting the fire that destroyed the Steelworkers Hall last year was sentenced to two years probation in a Sudbury youth court Friday.
The sentence, handed down by Justice John Keast,will require the boy, now 13, to reside at the Bayfield Treatment Centre near Trenton for an "indefinite period, which could be as long as a year or more." The boy has been at the facility for the past three months.
A second boy, also 13,was to be given a similar sentence for the same incident. However, concerns arose over the choice of facility, the Hinks- Dellcrest Treatment Centre in Toronto, he was to be assigned to.
Keast will convene the Crownand defence attorneys and other interested parties in private to discuss the matter next month and deliver a sentencing order on Dec. 30.
The details of the boy's life, and that of his co-accused-- neither 13-year-old boy who pleaded guilty to setting the blaze can be identified -- are central to the sentence handed down by Justice John Keast. There were no reasons given by Mr. Keast why critical details that could benefit society were not released. They could have been the ground work for accountable policy. There were also no recomendations for new funding policy for natives.
Then he says...
"What happened to (the first boy) is a travesty for which we must all take collective responsibility, for the lack of societal and political will to implement effective public policy, moving between at least a dozen foster homes in 10 years".
I think the should know and take heed. Who was the incompeetant CAS staff responsible? Where are the foster homes? Is CAS still giving them more kids? amend decision
Difficult to place? BS! kiddy porn, money, drugs, a cycle the govt knows about and some protect it thats why it exists in large part.
Its clear these boys have felt NO compassion from society...Angry...Cant control impluses? Is that another way of saying they are rebellious? I am certain they were all heaviliy medicated with a cocktail of drugs. Probaly some foster parents using the kids as meal/drug tickets. Kiddy porn? You bet! Wake up man! Or the system will fail again.
"The failure of public policy is pronounced and troubling in the treatment of aboriginals and aboriginal offenders. The condition of these boys by the age of 12 ... is the result of systemic failure." Looks these te system failed these boys again.
These kids need to be intereviewed to see what they experienced at the hands of our local CAS...they have failed this child...10 foster homnes??? There were alot of people made money. They need to be investigated for incompetentecy...The former president of Sudbury CAS David Rivard a few years back was promoted to run Toronto CAS because as McGuinty said "he does such a fine job in Sudbury". Ive been dealing with the CAS since 2004...I am certain that some of the CAS employees and management workers, judges, etc that I dealt with were involved in the care of this boy. They need to be investigated for their motives for such incompetenacy. They need more services, but receive less," Keast writes. And the public has NO info regarding CAS's obvious abusive treatment of this boy.
Keast "What is needed is improved aboriginal child welfare services, but evidence is clear aboriginal children receive 22% less funding than non-aboriginal children". What we need is a change in public policy which includes a reveiew of funding and more importantly how these children were affected by the CAS and the foter homes.
Your ruling is keeping the details of CAS secret...thats not a good thing...How can we as society take responsibiliy for an agency that conducts business in secrecy and is responsible for the majority of troubled kids? By the way...its our courts that effect public policy through their interpretation of law and their decisions Natives get your kids back! White man's system is no good...they wont fix it (policy).
If we are to take responsiblility.... we need more details about the care CAS and the foster homes provided this kid and openess for CAS's. Of couirse CAS won't devulge any information voluntarily...therefore you can amend this your decision or when sentencing, in the interest of the public you can require or at the very least reccomend CAS to do this. "Much damage has already been done to these youths -- primarily caused by societal forces that have not been adequately shaped by sound social and economic policy. A judge, in these circumstances, has limited tools to stem such a tide. I must say that if a member of the Ontario Judiciary was sincere in wanting to improve childrens lives and take responsibilty, that he could get creative and invent a tool. Or does creativity elude the judiciary?
Post #5 By Scipio, November 28, 2009
Source: Sudbury Star