On July 11, 2020, the body of 19-year-old Hailey Belanger-Weeseekase was found in a vehicle parked in an alley behind a Saskatoon apartment complex.
The following day Saskatoon Police Service issued the following news release:
On July 11, 2020 at 3:34 p.m., the Saskatoon Police Service attended to an apartment complex in the 3700 block of Diefenbaker Drive for the report of a deceased female located in a vehicle. On arrival Patrol officers confirmed that a 19-year-old female was deceased.
On July 14, based on autopsy results and further investigation, Hailey Belanger-Weeseekase’s death was classified as a homicide while police continued digging for answers.
Just three days later their diligence led them to the Kilburn Hall Youth Center, a Saskatoon remand facility, where they arrested a 15-year-old girl and charged her with second-degree murder. The alleged murderer was in the Saskatoon remand facility because she already faced other charges.
The 15-year-old killer’s identity is also protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Hailey’s older sister, Tamara Weeseekase, says her sister ran with a bad crowd and it was just a matter of time before something bad happened. Hailey grew up in Saskatoon where she came into contact with gangs and eventually became involved in one.
“With the crew she hung out with, we always kind of suspected something to happen. We just didn’t expect it to happen soon,” Tamara said.
“I would describe her as kind of stuck, she couldn’t get anywhere that she wanted to get. She was held back by wanting to be in the gang, and being in the gang. She had friends outside the gang, but wasn’t really close to them anymore,” she said.
“The gang life wasn’t all she was, she wanted to move on, she wished she could have done better with her life,” said Tamara. “It’s just that was the easiest thing and that’s what she knew. She grew up knowing that just being in Saskatoon, that was the easiest thing to fall into, but that’s not who she was.”
That’s what we know so far.
So, you’re probably wondering, why does this case bother me so much?
The wasted potential of both these kids is one reason; that teenagers find a welcoming home in gangs is another; that our society is far more concerned with band-aid solutions than solving the issues that cause inner city kids to see joining a street gang as a solution to their problems is yet another.
But the more distressing issue is why does a 15-year-old kid think killing another human being is okay?
And why will most of us cast a momentary glance on these two destroyed lives and move on?
The World is Run by Those Who Show Up
Two men who aren’t standing idly by and watching their city destroy itself are Chief Mark Arcand of the Saskatoon Tribal Council, and Robert Freberg, board member of the Saskatoon Wildlife Federation.
Two days before Hailey Belanger-Weeseekase was found dead in a Saskatoon alley, the Saskatoon Tribal Council and the Saskatoon Wildlife Federation signed seven memorandums of understanding with different Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan.
Their partnership hopes to bring firearm safety education, hunting ethics, and a host of outdoor programs to the community through a series of youth programs designed to help keep kids out of gangs.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is one of the first times that an organization such as ours has formed such a strong partnership with First Nations,” said Robert Freberg.
From CTV Saskatoon:
“Firearm safety, whether it’s hunting ethics, whether it’s understanding each other’s rights, that’s just huge,” said Freberg.
“We’ve been involved for many, many decades in providing archery programs, air rifle programs, Olympic programs, we have junior Olympic programs. Many of our athletes, in fact we’ve been very successful with having two of our athletes go to the Olympic games.”
“This could be significant to get all of their kids certified properly,” said STC Tribal Chief Mark Arcand. “If somebody wants to be a hunter, how do they store a gun properly.”
Both parties agree that the union will go beyond simply sharing ideas and teaching.
“When you talk about what’s going on in the world, I look at this right now and say, ‘We have First Nations and non-First Nations people working together,’” said Arcand.
“I want to work with people, I want a positive story. There’s too much negative hurt out there, there’s too much pain out there. Let’s start doing this positive for kids, so that they don’t have to go through that negative stuff.”
“We’ve had elders out here teaching us some values, we’ve had our young kids actually sit out and listen to some stories, we’ve had indigenous dancers, and we just love it,” said Freberg.
“We want to knock down those walls and understand each other’s perspective better, and I can’t think of a better way to do that.”
Neither can I, Chief Arcand and Mr. Freberg. I’m thrilled to see you both expand on the partnership you started with the food banks earlier this year and take your community-building efforts to a whole new level.
Yes, it’s too late for Hailey Belanger-Weeseekase, but the the foundation you are building here will save the lives of more young people than either of you will ever know.
Both of you are also excellent role models for the rest of us. You proved it can be done.
The only question that remains is this: Will the rest of us sit back and do nothing, or will we follow your fine example and make a difference in our home towns?