“I miss him… I miss him… I miss him,” laments Charla Dopwell as she contemplates Christmas and the holidays without her son Jannai.
The 16-year-old was accosted by three other teenagers and stabbed to death on October 18, just outside his school, Programme Mile End, located at the campus of Coronation Elementary on Van Horne in Cote des Neiges.
Ms. Dopwell says it’s difficult for her to even think about putting up a Christmas tree or making any preparation for the festive season, knowing that her baby boy will not be part of it.
“He loved Christmas,” she pines. “And he especially enjoyed pastries with cinnamon and all the other delightful things his aunts made.”
The mother of two older children told the CONTACT that her sadness is compounded by the slow pace of getting justice for Jannai.
So far the police has arrested two of the teenage suspects and is seemingly stalled in their efforts to detain the other one.
“Truth is it adds to my depression, not hearing from the police that they have arrested the other person responsible for my son’s death.”
More than that, Ms. Dopwell says she wants to know that something is being done to prevent other families from going what hers is experiencing.
“Our community needs place where our kids can go when they are not in school. There was a time when we had (resources) in Cote des Neiges but now there’s nothing.”
She reiterated that point on December 4, at a march to remember Jannai that started at the location where he was killed and ended with a release of hundreds of balloons in Kent Park on Cote des Neiges Avenue.
She also told the CONTACT about a recent visit by Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante to came to her home accompanied by the borough mayor of Cote des Neiges/NDG, Gracia Kasoki Kahtawa and another city official.
“They came and I used the occasion to tell them about (the lack of resources in our community.) They listened but the mayor did not make any promises. I was really expecting that she would say something.”
She said her concerns about having a place for Black youth to go goes beyond the fact that her son was killed on the streets.
“For me it’s also to protect other children from the constant harassment from the police,” she says. “They were doing it to Jannai, always following him and harassing him. Eventually, you know they were going to arrest him for something. Our kids need protecting.”
She said that form of police harassment was one of the things she brought up with the mayor but is not optimistic that anything will be done to alleviate the situation.
In the meantime Ms. Dopwell remains consumed by the sadness of not having my youngest child in her arms for the holidays.
“He was so good with his sister’s children and was always there for them. We are all missing him.”