Recent shootings reinforce need for Play It Safe Halloween

After a weekend of violence that saw three homicides in Winnipeg's North End, organizers of Play It Safe Halloween say the event is more important than ever.

Groups offer safer alternative for children trick-or-treating in North End

Organizers of Play it Safe Halloween are holding Halloweek events leading up to their major trick-or-treat event for families in the North End. (Jon Einarson/CBC News)

Nine years ago, a triple shooting in late October left a North End Winnipeg neighbourhood reeling — but led to a Halloween tradition that resonates with families to this day.

Now, after a weekend of violence that saw three homicides in the North End, and another shooting that sent three adults and a baby to hospital, organizers of Play It Safe Halloween say the event is more important than ever.

"All the events over the weekend are really tragic and it really does make a big impact on the community, which is exactly why we have events like this," says Britanny Murdock, who is a co-ordinator with Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre and Turtle Island Neighbourhood Centre and one of the organizers of Play it Safe Halloween.

Across the city, Winnipeg has seen 36 homicides so far in 2019, including a teen who was stabbed and killed at a Halloween party in the Tyndall Park neighbourhood on Saturday.

In 2010, the Indian & Metis Friendship Centre started the first iteration of the event, called Safe Halloween, after two men were killed and a 13-year old girl injured in shootings that all happened within 35 minutes and blocks apart on Stella Walk, Dufferin Avenue and Boyd Avenue. 

Murdock says Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, the YMCA and other North End organizations stepped in last year to host the event that has drawn thousands in the past.

It was meant to continue to give a safe option for families who may be concerned about taking their children out in the neighbourhood.

"It's really a safe spot for youth to come trick or treat inside and have that safe space to get some hot chocolate, play some games and get some candy as well," Murdock said.

Aisha Mustafa, one of the volunteers at Turtle Island Neighbourhood Centre in 2018, helped hand out hundreds of candies last year as part of Play It Safe Halloween. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

30,000 pieces of candy needed

All week they will host "Halloweek" events, including pumpkin carvings, a party at Wheelies and Zombie Walk. 

Halloween night, area families can go to Turtle Island Neighbourhood Centre at 510 King St. to trick or treat from 4-8 p.m. or to the North End YMCA-YWCA at 363 McGregor St. from 6-8 p.m.

Keanna Genaille,19, is part of the Sacred Seven Youth Council at the centre, which is meant to be the voice of youth in the community. She appreciates that events like this help the community move forward.

"I always think what more can I do for this community, what more can I do for these kids so they know they are safe and let them know they have people like us."

People are being asked to donate extra candy for the Play it Safe Halloween event. It can be dropped off at any YMCA-YWCA location or at Turtle Island Community Centre at 510 King St. (Jon Einarson/CBC News)

Over at the Y on McGregor Street, Ken Mason, the manager of children and youth, said every year he gets a positive feedback about the event.

"Parents are very thankful for it, especially parents with younger kids. Without an event like this, many say they wouldn't be able to go out because a lot of them don't have transportation to go to other neighbourhoods," says Mason, who is expecting about 1,000 kids to show up at the Halloween Night event.

There will be stations set up carnival-style where kids can do a "trick" for a "treat," playing games like hockey slapshot or a bean bag toss.

Both groups are still looking for donations of candy, and businesses are welcome to set up tables to hand out candies at Turtle Island Community Centre.

"I did some rough math with the amount of kids we're having, with each site having 15 stations. That comes to about 30,000 pieces of candy. Those number add up quickly," said Mason.

People can drop off candy donations at Turtle Island Neighbourhood Centre or any YMCA-YWCA  location in Winnipeg. The only request is that the candy comes in by Wednesday so that it can be checked and counted before Halloween.


  • We initially reported that the North End YMCA-YWCA is at 563 McGregor St. In fact, the North End YMCA-YWCA is at 363 McGregor St.
    Oct 29, 2019 11:26 AM CT