VanRaes: Accused in bus driver homicide another victim of failed system
It’s easy to feel contempt for an angry-looking young man in Facebook photographs.
Appearing to grip a handgun in one, in another he seems to be smoking something out of a miniature liquor bottle, flipping the camera the bird as he goes.
Last week Brian Kyle Thomas, 22, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Irvine Jubal Fraser, a 58-year-old transit driver who was fatally stabbed while on shift at the University of Manitoba.
The charges against Thomas have not been proven in court, and in Canada people are presumed innocent until found otherwise.
The crime is surely shocking.
But so is the story of the man who stands accused of it.
As previously reported, Thomas was born on Shamattawa First Nation with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and immediately taken into foster care. Over the next 18 years he would be placed in 73 different foster homes.
That means that as a baby, a toddler, a kid and teenager, Thomas packed up his meagre belongings an average of four times a year and moved to a different house, a different bedroom, a new routine, new rules, new foster parents and possibly a new school.
Many Indigenous children in government care are failed by the very system that is supposed to not just protect them, but lead them into a successful adulthood.
In 2001, 88 per cent of Indigenous inmates and 63 per cent of non-Indigenous in a Manitoba correctional facility did not live at home during their teens, mainly because they were in foster care, according to a study cited by the office of the Children’s Advocate in 2012.
That same report noted a prevalence of FASD among adult prisoners.
In what appear to be Thomas’ Facebook photos, there are no images of his family, no vacations, no friends, no school portraits.
He posts a picture of a cat he calls “MEW like on pokemon” and writes “miss my cat alote.” No one responds. No one seems to care.
Thomas has seven previous criminal convictions including convictions for assault, uttering threats and possession of a dangerous weapon.
I would not want to live next door to him or encounter him on the street, but I very much doubt that he was born the man who would later accumulate such a lengthy rap sheet.
A long series of failures and injustices — historical and modern — lead to tragedies like these for the families of the victims, for society, and for those who stand accused.
And unless we take a critical look at the road travelled to this point, there will be more heartbreak.