“In a time of scarce resources,” said Serge LeClerc, “concentrate on saving your youth!” The warning to a closed meeting of B.C. Fraser Valley leaders came from a former Ontario gang leader and drug kingpin, now a Christian and a Saskatchewan MLA.
He met in September with 100 civic office holders, case workers, and a cross-section of spiritual leaders, including Aboriginal and Sikh elders. A committee of Christian leaders chaired by John Redekop, board chair for Stillwood Camp and Conference Centre, organized the discussion on gangs and drugs. Abbotsford, like other communities in and near Metro Vancouver, has recently seen many gang-related shootings.
The place to concentrate, said LeClerc, is on middle-class high school youth. They have the money for drugs and are the most vulnerable group to become caught up in the drug life and crime. High school youth of today, he said, need faith-based values and moral certainty – and it’s not there in popular culture.
LeClerc found Christ at 38, while in prison. He has since become a speaker and writer well-known for his outspoken advocacy against accommodation to the drug trade.
“If you want to make a dent in the drug world,” said LeClerc, “understand two premises. One, sending a drug addict to prison is a waste of money. They are not your problem: kids in high school selling drugs are your problem. Your problem is the retail market, people like I was, with no conscience.”
Second, he said, look realistically at gangs, and make certain offenders lose everything they own from crime. “We need to take the profit out of crime.”
Redekop says many MB church people served, with other Christians, on the organizing committee for the meeting with LeClerc. “We see this as an enlargement of our camping and youth ministries,” he said. “Our contemporary young folk are challenged all over with the drug scene.”
Many MB churches have thriving youth ministries, and MB camping is a major ministry for outreach to young people. Redekop says we cannot lose sight of the need, and LeClerc spoke to that point.
“The drug marketplace is our schools,” LeClerc said. “The peak hours of crime are between 3:30 p.m.–6:30p.m.”
Proactive church care for youth must be part of the solution, he urged. “We need to bring after-school activities. We need to mentor people. We need to help kids develop a social, moral, and ethical certainty. We need to focus on their identity as loved by God.”