No parole for 15 years for Haiart killer

The man who fired the shot that killed an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire of a gang turf war in Winnipeg's West End will spend 15 years behind bars before getting a shot at parole.
Jeffrey Cansanay was convicted of second-degree murder in April. ((Winnipeg police))
The man who fired the shot that killed an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire of a gang turf war in Winnipeg's West End will spend 15 years behind bars before getting a shot at parole.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Shawn Greenberg ruled Thursday morning on Jeff Cansanay's parole eligibility.

Greenberg said Cansanay has shown no interest in rehabilitation and that the public safety concerns presented by the case cried out for denunciation.

"Violence spilled onto the streets of the community, shattering the safety of the community," Greenberg said.

Cansanay, 24, was convicted of second-degree murder in late April for the death of teenager Phil Haiart in 2005.

Haiart was crossing the street near the corner of Sargent Avenue and Maryland Street when he was hit and killed by a single bullet meant for a gang member at war with Cansanay's own gang.

The Crown was seeking a 25-year period of prison without parole for Cansanay. In essence, it's the same sentence a person would receive for first-degree murder.

A second-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory life sentence, but usually an offender becomes eligible for release on parole after serving 10 years.

Possible appeal

Cansanay's lawyer, Greg Brodsky, previously argued that anything more than a decade in prison would be too harsh.

Family members in court shook their heads in apparent disbelief after hearing Greenberg's ruling on Thursday.

Brodsky said after the hearing that he would be speaking with Cansanay about a possible appeal.

Because he is a citizen of The Philippines who came to Canada as a boy, Cansanay faces immediate deportation when he's released from prison.

He is also currently battling a deportation order based on a prior drug conviction.

Victim shot while crossing street

Another person, Corey Spence, was with Cansanay at the time of the shooting.

Spence remains behind bars after he was also convicted of murder.

Bullet holes remain in the side of a now-closed restaurant's patio near where Phil Haiart, 17, was fatally shot in October 2005. ((James Turner/CBC))
The Crown's case against Cansanay and Spence was built on the theory that mounting tensions between the African Mafia and Mad Cowz street gangs led to the shooting.

Mad Cowz members were furious that Cansanay and Spence — both associates of the African Mafia gang — were selling crack cocaine out of a house located squarely in Mad Cowz turf in the city's West End.

When Mad Cowz members Cory Amyotte and Gharib Abdullah went to confront Cansanay and Spence outside a home at 606 McGee Street — just metres from where the shooting happened — Cansanay and Spence emerged from the home, with Cansanay brandishing a rifle.

Haiart was crossing the street when he was hit once in the stomach by a stray bullet. He died in hospital hours later.

The teen's killing prompted outrage in the city, and led police to crack down on crime in the area.

Operation Clean Sweep, as it was known, became a full-time policing detail now called the street crime unit.

1st trial collapsed

Cansanay's first trial in 2007 fell apart after Amyotte and Abdullah refused to testify against him and the judge hearing the case refused to let jurors see the videotaped statements they made to police that implicated him.

Brodsky asked for, and won a directed verdict of not guilty and Cansanay walked out of court a free man.

Manitoba's Court of Appeal ordered a new trial after Manitoba Justice appealed, saying the judge's decision was incorrect.

But the case languished as Cansanay attempted to have the Supreme Court of Canada hear an appeal of the retrial decision.

Canada's highest court refused, and Cansanay was rearrested.


James Turner is a former courts and crime reporter for various Manitoba media outlets, including CBC Manitoba. He now teaches journalism and photography at Red River College Polytechnic.