Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 30/3/2016 (2007 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
She remembers the smiling, happy-go-lucky kid who used to enjoy riding his bicycle past her West End home and would often stop as she worked in the yard to talk about his day.
And she remembers the constant worry she had about his future — a father in jail, a mother out of the picture and a litany of Child and Family Services placements which would often leave him surrounded by negative influences.
Those fears have now come to fruition. That sweet little boy of a few years ago has now morphed into Winnipeg's biggest problem child — a 10-year-old with a shockingly lengthy criminal history who can't be touched by the law and seemingly can't be stopped by justice officials and social services.
"He's like this because of how he's been raised. He pretty much had no one around to tell him how to be a good kid," a long-time neighbour and family friend told the Free Press on Wednesday. She didn't want her name published because of safety concerns.
"It was heartbreaking how this kid was being raised. He didn't need to see that in his life. It's like he's been brainwashed to be a bad kid," she said. "The way he is going he won't have any future."
As the Free Press first reported Wednesday, the four-foot-nine, 60-pound boy has been implicated in more than 20 criminal offences in the past three years — including a near-fatal stabbing, arson, robbery, assaults, car theft, drugs, weapons and uttering threats. There have been no legal consequences because children must be at least 12 to be charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Both the boy and his older brother have been in CFS care for many years. This has included placements with their grandparents. The boy has been reported missing on several occasions, and there have been at least a half-dozen police calls to check on his well-being dating back to when he was five.
Most recently, he was detained under the Mental Health Act and taken for an assessment earlier this month.
Frank Cormier, a professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Manitoba, said it's clear whatever plan has been implemented to date has failed. He questioned whether he's been taken to the Crisis Stabilization Unit following his brushes with the law and told the Free Press a secured youth facility with intensive treatment, such as Marymound, Knowles or Macdonald Youth Services, might be the best option at this point.
Cormier said it's not too late to get the boy on the right path in life — but he fears much of society is already prepared to declare him a lost cause.
"At 10 years of age, humans are still very malleable. There is still an awful lot of development a child is doing," he said Wednesday. "I think it's a terrible thing for people to write this child off."
Cormier said the problem with giving someone a particular label is that it becomes a "self-fulfilling prophecy."
"If enough people decide all we can do is hide under our bed until he turns 12 and we can lock him up... once we label someone as something, we are setting the stage for them to become that thing," he said.
Officials with CFS, Winnipeg police and other social services agencies can't comment on the boy or his specific situation because of privacy issues. As a result, it's difficult to discover through any official channels what other steps have been taken or are being planned.
Cormier believes there are sufficient resources in place to handle dire situations such as this. Whether they have been utilized properly is the key question.
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"Are they overtaxed? Do they have a lineup? The fact that this child has got to this point says we could be doing something better," he said.
The Free Press visited the boy's most recent home address in the North End Wednesday. There was no answer at the house, which still had Christmas decorations on it. A call to the associated phone number received a "Not In Service" message.
"He would always come up to me when he used to live in the West End. I knew he had issues and just wanted help. I would always ask what was wrong. Sometimes he wouldn't be able to tell me," said the former neighbour. "To me he was a real sweetheart kid. It's not his fault. It's the people he is around. A lot of family members are criminals and have drug addictions."
She is holding out hope the boy can be saved from the terrible situation he's currently in — going so far as to suggest she'd be willing to step forward as a CFS-approved caregiver.
"I would keep him in my care and help him have a better future. That's all the kid ever wants. I'm just scared for him, how he is already and he is still only 10," she said.
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Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.