When criminals are treated like "family", we're all in trouble
We have to whisper.
It's what you have to do when you want to talk about the thing that nobody wants to talk about.
This past week we saw how a cold-blooded killer was hidden from police for almost three weeks, first in The Pas and then in Winnipeg, before being recaptured. His arrest came a week after two other violent prison escapees were caught hiding in Winnipeg with friends and relatives.
People might have been shocked at how easily it was for them to find support in the city. And how, in the case of Indian Posse co-founder Daniel Wolfe, the woman caught driving him around bragged of how proud she was to help him and how she would do it again for him and for any member of the street gang he started.
But nobody is talking about an even more frightening aspect of that street-level support for criminals--- how it has infected the aboriginal population at large, spreading into the so-called native leadership, the media, and filtering through right up into the inner cabinet of Manitoba's NDP government.
Unless this poison is addressed quickly and decisively, it will continue to corrode the body politic and determine just how violent the coming clash of cultures is going to be.
Captured fugitive 32-year-old Daniel Wolfe has not yet been convicted of murder. But the briefest glance at his rap sheet shows he's well capable of the kinds of actions described in the two counts he's facing.
What's important is not his status before the courts, but the fact his friends in Manitoba didn't care if he was guilty or not. They welcomed him as a double murderer. It only enhanced his status in the community.
(For an understanding of the gang lifestyle that's overwhelming Manitoba's criminal underworld see The Black Rod's exclusive, groundbreaking report Crips and Bloodz true cultural anchors of Winnipeg's aboriginal gangs http://blackrod.blogspot.com/2007/10/crips-and-bloodz-true-cultural-anchors.html
published last October.)
For all the ink and airtime spent on Danny Wolfe, little has been said locally about why he was in jail awaiting trial.
We'll rectify that now.
Last September, 10 people were socializing in a tiny home in Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan when two armed males stormed in and opened fire. By the time they left two men aged 51 and 24 were dead and three others seriously wounded.
61-year-old Christina Cook was one of the survivors. She was trying to phone the police when she heard someone yell "Shoot the old lady."
Her 51-year-old husband threw himself on top of her and took the gunblast meant to kill her.
Her daughter Joan Cook later confirmed that the killers yelled "that will teach you to mess with the IP.''
RCMP believe the home invasion was prompted by an exchange of insults at another location in Fort Qu'Appelle.
Four months later, in January, a 16-year-old boy surrendered to police in The Pas and was charged with the multiple shootings. It took longer for them to catch up to Daniel Wolfe, also from the Pas.
News reporters in Winnipeg have erroneously said that Wolfe was responsible for the manifesto-like article that ran in the Winnipeg Free Press 14 years ago in a series on youth gangs. The article glorified the Indian Posse, the gang started by four teenaged youths in Wolfe's mother's basement. But while Wolfe was in jail in Regina awaiting trial, his momma called the Regina Leader Post to set things straight.
Daniel Richard Wolfe didn't write the article; his brother Richard Daniel Wolfe did. Two brothers born 11 months apart to the same mother and carrying the same name but reversed. Go figure.
Richard Daniel Wolfe has asked his mom to call the news media so the credit for the article could go to the right brother.
Richard couldn't do it himself, because he's in prison doing 19 ½ years for another infamous crime, the 1995 shotgun shooting of a 44-year-old Winnipeg pizza delivery man, a crime which electrified the city in its day for setting a new low in criminal depravity.
Momma must be so proud of her babies.
Only a year before trying to commit murder, Richard Wolfe was swept up in the mood of the times---Indian Pride, including the empowerment of street gangs. He wrote:
"When you see Red, you see a proud Indian stand tall for what he or she believes in...We all have to remember we're all in it together & will die together & sometime down the road we will be remember[ed] as proud Indians" (30 September 1994 Winnipeg Free Press).
"If a brother or sister dies, it's not because he or she was in a gang, it's because they had pride for themself & wanted to prove to everyone else they were worriors (sic),"
Violence, he said, is a necessary part of life and nothing to apologize for.
"But if we have to kill (an)other brother or sister, then let it be, we will survive the war path in the future. We will join the great Spirit in the sky and we don't mean to disrespect are (sic, our) people but we all have something to prove for one other and it will be done if there is no other way to do it,"
Native leaders at the time embraced the spirit of the manifesto and the reality of street gangs, as we'll see in a minute, even as the Wolfe brothers fell by the wayside.
The day after the delivery man was shot, two witnesses were threatened at gunpoint by a pair of young men, one of which was Daniel Wolfe. According to National Parole Board Daniel was sentenced in September 1995 to three years in prison for use of a firearm and obstructing justice
He was out of jail two years later on automatic statutory release but back in within a month for breaching his release conditions by being in the company of gang members who had just fled from a home invasion. The parole board revoked his release; he got out again; and had his parole yanked a second time forcing him to serve his full sentence.
In 1999, Wolfe was sentenced to eight years and two months for, guess what, an armed home invasion. The parole board said the crime involved threatening to kill victims with a sawed-off shotgun. A psychological report for the parole board suggested Wolfe's involvement showed evidence of "sadistic behaviour/torture."
Of course you didn't hear a word of any of this in the video love letter to Danny Wolfe on CBC television the day after his capture -- where aboriginal reporter Sheila North Wilson granted him air time to explain he was just a poor misunderstood victim of the residential school system.
North Wilson, by the way, is married to rapper Fresh I.E., who honours the gang lifestyle by dressing like them to show he's, like, down with it, homie.
The CBC even included a comment from Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs very own Phil Fontaine, who muttered something about the evil of residential schools.
Due to a lack of institutional memory, the CBC forgot to mention how enthusiastically Phil Fontaine embraced the Indian Posse and the other major street gang the Manitoba Warriors in 1997, just about the time Daniel Wolfe was breaching parole the first time.
It was in January, 1997 when Fontaine announced that the AMC had hired Brian Contois, a high-ranking member of the Manitoba Warriors, on a term position to be a special advisor on---wait for it---deterring aboriginal youths from joining gangs.
The bold plan to involve gangs to keep youths from joining gangs fell apart when it was revealed that the Manitoba Warriors had a plan of their own - to get the AMC to buy the YMHA building in downtown Winnipeg and turn it into a private club for street gang members.
A confidential report prepared for Stony Mountain penitentiary officials revealed that prison informants discosed a plan to "set up a government-funded organization to work with gang members to get them off the street. Weapons will be bought with funds secured as this organization will front for a proposed union of the Manitoba Warriors and the Indian Posse."
The ultimate goal of the plan's proponents was to have "up to 3000 gang members working together in Winnipeg unified against the white man" according to the report.
Fontaine seemed oblivious when speaking to the press about the YMHA deal. As reported in the Winnipeg Sun at the time:
"We're pleased to put a process in place to come to grips with a serious matter," Grand Chief Phil Fontaine said at a press conference…with Contois and an Indian Posse representative at his side.
"We're not legitimizing gangs or criminal activity. That's the last thing we want to do. You (the media) bitch about the gangs, and then you question our motives," he said."
Well, since the only thing gangs have to offer is unrestricted violence and illegitimate sources of large amounts of money, you have to wonder what the AMC had to gain from its alliance with the Indian Posse and the Manitoba Warriors.
But that was then, and now is worse.
Now, the AMC, with Fontaine at the helm again, and other aboriginal organizations still mouth the words about not legitimizing gangs or criminal activity, but their words ring hollow.
The leaders now embrace criminals as the poster boys of the aboriginal community, whether it's Matthew Dumas (car thief, in violation of his probation, physically attacking one police officer and prepared to stab another) or Michael Langan ( B&E artist, pot smoking panhandling drop-out, refused to drop a knife before being tasered by police) or Craig McDougall (convicted child/pregnant-woman beater, shot by police as they attended a call about a stabbing and attempted break-in on Simcoe).
There are dozens of young aboriginal youths living decent lives, going to school, getting good grades, working hard to build honest futures for themselves and their families.
But they have to watch themselves be tarred by their leaders who hold up criminals as the true representatives of the native community.
So why do they do it? Because it appears that we've passed a tipping point with the influx of natives off the reserve into Winnipeg.
There's now a critical mass in the city where a criminal record is nothing to be ashamed of, where everyone in the family has been convicted of a crime, is involved in crime or knows someone who is.
How often do we hear the family of some dead lowlife youth declare, in complete ignorance of what they're saying, that little Elvis was a good boy who broke into garages like all teenagers, a good boy who sold crack because that's what kids his age do, a good boy who carried a gun or a knife because that's so normal why would anyone think otherwise.
Why? Because it's not normal in the real world.
That perverse mindset is fueling a clash of cultures that's only just going to grow.
If the aboriginal "leaders" spent half as much money fighting street gangs as they do vilifying police and glorifying their criminal poster boys, their own communities would be safer and held in greater respect.
The support given to Daniel Wolfe and his fellow escapees is the tip of the iceberg. It's not an aberration. It's the natural outcome of a community that's decided that criminals are part of the family who should be supported and protected against "them."
"Them" will soon start to fight back in self-defence. And then it will get ugly.
It's not too late for true leaders to step forward to reverse the slow slide into degeneracy as normality. That is if there are any leaders?
The provincial NDP have been loudly trumpeting their gang-fighting credentials since 1999.
There are more street gangs today than ever before.
The NDP has ignored the growth of aboriginal gangs in Manitoba. The last major assault on native gangs was against the Manitoba Warriors almost a decade ago.
Among the almost three dozen men who went to prison for gang activities was Isadore Vermette sentenced to seven years, four months in July, 2000.
Izzy Vermette happens to be the half-brother of NDP cabinet minister Eric Robinson.