While those who have kept up with the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba know of its dark history stained by violent crime. However, just within the last calendar year the city saw 41 homicides, a record high that ties only with the city’s 2011 statistics-and 2019 is not quite over yet. The province of Manitoba overall has the highest rates of homicide in all of Canada, and has held the less-than-desirable title for the past two years straight. The most recent homicide? A young 21-year-old boy by the name of Dustin Cree Baker who was shot dead inside of a home. Victims of the homicides have ranged in age to include the now infamous and disturbing tale of 3-year-old Hunter Haze Smith-Straight who was stabbed to death in his sleep. Statistics Canada has noted that an alarming 33% of homicides are perpetrated by an acquaintance of the victim, while 34% are perpetrated by a family member of the victim. accounting for the entire province of Manitoba, in both rural and urban settings, a total of 60 homicides have taken place in 2019.
Many residents of Winnipeg are well aware that the spike in homicides can be attributed to the city’s widespread meth and illicit drug issues. While a special task force has been created to deal with these issues through providing addiction and mental health services, the progress thus far has been receiving mixed reviews from residents.
Ryan Beardy, who is of Cree/Salteaux heritage (of the Lake St. Martin First Nation), is also the founder of Healing Together, and a former gang member himself provides residents with the opportunity to gain true perspective as to the root causes of such issues, so that they may be permanently prevented. Beardy notes that poverty, addictions, and First Nations intergenerational trauma are some of the root causes that need to be addressed in order to come up with the real, lasting solutions to epidemics such as homicide that come as the result of these ever-present root causes. At 35 years old, Beardy has spent the better part of 20 years moving in and out of the justice system. Systemic poverty is what led him to commit his first crimes of stealing food, a need that would eventually grow into criminal activity such as gang activity, and drug-related crimes. Following his last run through prison, Beardy changed the course of his life, and moved on to a more positive path. Some of his greatest milestones towards change have included attending University, joining the John Howard Society of Manitoba’s board of directors, and becoming an outreach worker at Gang Action Interagency Network. Today, he is the best person to provide the space for Healing Together, where men can openly discuss their previous lives involved in gang, and drug-related activities. These men also discuss their present-day activities and goals for the future such as bettering themselves as members of the community, fathers, and brothers to each other.