Grandmother begs Edmonton judge to keep grandson locked up

Family members have repeatedly warned that failing to place the youth in a secure treatment centre will result in tragedy.

The 16-year-old gang member is charged with possessing firearm, obstructing peace officer

Aiden's defence lawyer told court the teen doesn't need to stay in custody. (CBC)

A grandmother begged an Edmonton judge this week not to grant bail to her 16-year-old grandson who is involved in a lifestyle of gangs, guns and drugs.

Family members have repeatedly warned the Alberta government that failure to place the boy in a secure facility to address his addiction and mental health issues will result in tragedy.

"I am begging of you that he goes to Alberta Hospital for treatment for as long as it takes," his grandmother told provincial court Judge Geoffrey Ho.

The boy can't be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. CBC is calling him Aiden.

Aiden was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. He is homeless and dealing with various psychological disorders. His family says he has refused to participate in programs and other assistance offered to him by Children's Services.

He has been expelled from school for carrying a firearm. 

Guns and drugs

On Jan. 9, police arrested Aiden at the Coliseum LRT station. He had a plastic firearm in the waistband of his pants and six rounds of ammunition, court heard Tuesday. He was released on recognizance later that night.

More than a week later, he was arrested again at the same spot, this time allegedly with a replica handgun and numerous small bags of drugs.

The teen, who appeared in court via closed circuit television from Edmonton's young offender centre, frequently stretched and yawned, until his grandmother's emotional plea.

I do not want [Aiden] to be like that young lad who stabbed that bus driver.- Aiden's grandmother

"You don't know shit," Aiden interrupted, but his grandmother continued.

She told Aiden she loved him but warned court he was a "big manipulator."

"He needs Alberta Hospital and he deserves that. Because nothing that has been said here today is going to help," she insisted. 

"I do not want [Aiden] to be like that young lad who stabbed that bus driver."

When Ho denied Aiden bail, a gasp of relief rose from the gallery where his grandmother and her supporters sat.

Aiden thrust both middle fingers into the air, swung around and left.
A 15-year-old boy pleaded guilty this week to stabbing an Edmonton bus driver in September. (David Bajer/CBC)

Bus driver stabbing case also in court

The stabbing case that Aiden's grandmother referred to was in the courtroom next door one day earlier.

The 15-year-old pleaded guilty to the September attack on a 65-year-old Edmonton bus driver. The youth also pleaded guilty to charges stemming from five separate incidents over a two-year period, including threatening to kill a girl, and an unprovoked attack with a hammer.

Days after the stabbing, the grandfather spoke to CBC about the boy's history of violence, crime, drugs, foster care, intergenerational residential school trauma and mental health problems.

The man said that as in Aiden's case, he had long warned Children's Services that without stronger intervention, his grandson was a danger to himself and others. Then he stabbed a bus driver. 

They're offering intense treatment for him now. Where was the intense treatment for him before?- Grandfather of 15-year-old boy who stabbed bus driver

"They're offering intense treatment for him now," the grandfather said. "Where was the intense treatment for him before?"

15 prior convictions

In Aiden's case, Crown and defence lawyers made their arguments about whether he should be released.

Crown prosecutor Chad Olsen outlined a series of allegations which he described as escalating in nature.

Court documents show Aiden is facing a dozen charges for offences including possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon, obstructing a peace officer and failure to appear in court.

Olsen highlighted Aiden's 15 previous convictions that included assaulting a police officer while carrying a weapon and failing to comply with sentencing conditions.

Defence lawyer Susan Haas said Aiden's release would not pose a "substantial risk to public safety.' and the charges weren't "terribly serious."

"We are dealing with a record that has gone from assault to property offences," said Haas. "It is an air pistol, it's not a firearm."

She said if Aiden was released he would stay overnight at the Hope Mission shelter and be referred to Nova House, a voluntary, supportive living facility for homeless youth.

"What he does not need is to stay in custody," said Haas. "That is not going to serve the community in any form."

Outside the courtroom, the grandmother welcomed the judge's decision but expressed frustration about all the other times her grandson had been released.

She said the government needs to make changes to allow kids like her grandson get the help they need.

"If he does something wrong to hurt somebody or hurt himself, it's not because I did not try to get help for this kid," she said.

If he does something wrong to hurt somebody or hurt himself, it's not because I did not try to get help for this kid- Aiden's grandmother

"These kids need help. They need to have a secured building where they can get that help, where they can't go anywhere but where they can get the treatment that they need."

In an emailed statement, the Alberta government cited four laws that allow a child to be detained.

"Detaining a child in a secure setting is a rare step requiring extensive medical and professional assessments and legal interventions," wrote government spokesperson Benjamin Lof.

"In each case, immediate risks and dangers need to be balanced with the child's charter rights."



Andrea Huncar


Andrea Huncar reports on human rights and justice. Contact her in confidence at andrea.huncar@cbc.ca