Community comes together to take action on violence against youth following rise in incidents
A vigil was held for Straight-Smith earlier on Friday outside of the Children’s Hospital. (Source: Jeff Keele/CTV News)
WINNIPEG -- Community members gathered together Friday evening to address the recent rash of violence, specifically against children.
The event ‘Meet Me at the Bell Tower’ takes place every Friday, but this week it had a specific goal in mind: supporting the family of three-year-old boy Hunter Haze Smith-Straight who has been in grave condition since Wednesday after he was stabbed several times in the neck. His family said he will be taken off life support.
“Tonight is a special night because we feel it’s important for Winnipeg as a community to have the opportunity to show support to this family and so that’s our main attention here tonight,” said community organizer Michael Redhead Champagne.
“Not only to identify ways, we as residents of Winnipeg can support this family but also how we can work at a system level to prevent people from being in such desperation that these situations continue to happen.”
Champagne said the attack should serve as a wake-up call that there are children and families that need help. He said this means bettering the systems that keep communities safe.
“We have to improve the systems that exist out there to make sure that people have safety, to make sure that people have good health,” Champagne said.
“So we have to make sure that our hospitals, our police, these systems are working well and so they need changes in those areas to make sure things go good for our community.
Champagne said it breaks his heart that it took this kind of tragedy to get people’s attention and energy.
“I implore citizens of our city to not wait anymore. We cannot afford to wait for another child or family to experience a tragedy or loss like this.
“We have to do what we can, not just to post messages on Facebook, not just express our grief, but we have to actually show up for families that are in need and help address the systems that are hurting them,” Champagne said.
The ‘Stop the Violence’ event comes after a violent week in Winnipeg: the city reached its 37th homicide of the year, which included the fatal stabbing of a 14-year-old girl at a Halloween party on Oct. 26. An infant was also injured in a shotgun attack on Oct. 27.
A vigil was held for Straight-Smith earlier on Friday outside of The Children’s Hospital.
- With files from CTV’s Jeff Keele.