Mercredi's life a 'demonstration of unconditional true love'

·10 min read

The unexpected death of Tyson Mercredi is a loss that’s rippled across the Brandon community.

Mercredi walked a complicated life path and while the journey was not always easy, he did his best to find his footing. Mercredi was one of the easiest people to get along with, said his best friend Sam Jackson, because he was a man who loved fiercely.

“He was everything a human was. His life was a demonstration of unconditional true love,” Jackson said. “He was everything in a human that you would want. He was your protector, he was your brother.”

Jackson and Mercredi met while attending high school upgrading in Brandon and from the moment they connected, it was easy laughs and the feeling of found family.

“He was just this nice, chill dude, and he was one of the first actual connections I made that was the easiest to get along with,” Jackson said. “We went through everything together.”

Jackson said the two bonded quickly as they were both adapting to life in a new community. They learned the ropes of the Wheat City and figured out their place in town together.

Jackson described himself as shy and appreciated how Mercredi brought him into his life, introducing him to his family living in Brandon.

The two quickly formed an inseparable bond and packed a lifetime of memories into five years of friendship.

“We were that chainlink that never broke,” Jackson said.

Their brotherhood ended too soon with Mercredi’s untimely death on Oct. 7.

Mercredi was killed in a vehicle-cyclist collision on Highway 1 near the community of Austin. He was struck by a vehicle while biking from Brandon to Winnipeg. RCMP believe that the dark lighting conditions and Mercredi’s dark clothing were factors in the collision. In a press release, RCMP stated alcohol and speed were not involved.

Jackson said Mercredi’s trip to Winnipeg was not his first voyage to the city via bicycle. Mercredi would describe his trip as “riding the wind,” making the journey sound easy.

Mercredi, who celebrated his 24th birthday in January, lived a turbulent life, Jackson said, and experienced more than any young person should have to bear.

He was born and raised in Thompson. After he graduated high school he moved to Winnipeg and eventually found his way to Brandon.

“The dude came to town with a set of clothes and himself,” Jackson said.

Jackson lived in the East End of Brandon for three years, and often the space was shared with Mercredi. When adversity struck they felt like they could overcome anything because they built a home in Brandon as brothers.

While they at times drifted in and out of each other’s lives, Jackson knew they would always find their way back to each other.

One of their greatest connections was the time they spent with the Brandon Bear Clan.

“I brought him to Bear Clan. He would never tell you that though because his ego was so high,” Jackson said with a small chuckle.

Mercredi spent about a year walking with Bear Clan and found joy in making connections through the group. However, his struggles with addiction and a domestic violence charge eventually led to his suspension from the group, preventing him from formally walking with them on Thursdays and Fridays.

His connection to Bear Clan remained tight though, and he would often still meet up to show his support and visit with friends.

In 2020 Jackson bought Mercredi a Brandon Bear Clan supporter sweater and he took great pride in being able to represent a group he valued and loved.

“I presented it to him in front of Bear Clan. I put it on his shoulders and said, ‘Bro, you’ve been by my side this entire time. You earned this,’” Jackson said. “It almost made him cry … The dude never let anyone see his tears.”

Janis Irvine came to know Mercredi through Bear Clan, and he became like a little brother to her.

He was an exceptional young man, she said, but he lived on the cusp of society. This made the bonds he formed in Brandon all the more powerful.

“I think when we don’t have a base and we don’t have some of the supports we need, it’s pretty hard for him to have stayed on that good path,” Irvine said. “The thing I loved about him is even when he got to a point in his life where he wasn’t able to patrol with us … he never left us.”

When he walked with Bear Clan he brought contagious energy with each step, she said, while seeking out opportunities to learn and finding role models in other members.

The patrols were also important because they helped him feel empowered to give back to the community.

“For someone that’s marginalized, that feeling is amazing. That can change someone’s way of thinking,” Irvine said.

It was a challenging time when he was suspended from the group, but Bear Clan is required to be a good space for everybody and as patrollers, they need to reflect the beliefs of the organization. Mercredi knew he was sliding away from these values after he fell into unhealthy coping skills, she said.

He did his best and was a “Bear” in his heart, she said. Many members hoped he would find his way back to the good road.

Even in the darkest and most challenging moments of his struggles, he would still strive to connect and help those around him to the best of his ability.

“He didn’t want to not be a part of us,” Irvine said.

He was a risk-taker and often described as a “daredevil,” and this at times impacted the decisions he would make.

A great responsibility comes with wearing the Bear Clan patch on one’s chest, and Mercredi understood this obligation and that his decisions wouldn’t let him patrol with the organization anymore.

Regardless of his life choices, he remained a beloved member of the community and members strived to hold him accountable and help him continue toward bettering his life.

“He still would show up and walk beside us and have his supporter jacket on,” Irvine said. “You can have relationships with people that are struggling, you don’t have to push them away. We as Bear Clan could see he was on a hard path and we interacted with him lots in the end. He was trying to find his way back and we were there ready and waiting.”

Cody Wood knew Mercredi while they both lived in Thompson and later reconnected with him when they both found their way to Brandon.

It is a different kind of life in the North, he said, one that is a bit rougher and more reserved in comparison to southern Manitoba.

They were raised to fight until the bitter end, he said.

“We had to chill out, us northern boys,” Wood said with a laugh. “We always had a silent agreement that we could flex on each other but never throw shots.”

He described Mercredi as a “good man” because he sought to take care of the people who mattered to him. Wood said he felt comfortable leaving the city because he knew he could rely on Mercredi to look after his people.

“He was one of my comforts leaving this place,” Wood said.

Mercredi found a second home living on the streets in downtown Brandon. Wood said they would spend their nights wandering the streets of the Wheat City, talking about life, the future, or visiting small parties.

Mercredi had a gift for making a home wherever he went because he found comfort in the people around him and in being outside. He would grow restless when he was stuck standing still.

“His home was not under a roof,” Jackson said. “He spent a lot of time outside.”

Mercredi was known to those living on the streets of Brandon, ready to hang out or go for a walk, Wood said. Though he tried to create a gangster persona, he was instead known for his kind heart and fiery personality.

His passions in life were his family and his friends, Jackson added, and any threats to them were the only things that ignited his ire.

Whenever Mercredi felt like he was alone, his mental health would languish.

“His family was his strength. If he had a kryptonite, it was losing his family and friends and being alone,” Wood said. “Without someone to take care of he was adrift.”

The pride of his life was his two children Sophia, 2, and Atticus, 1, who live in Waywayseecappo First Nation with their mother Latifa Tenor. Mercredi would visit often and spend as much time as possible with his young family, but internal struggles in the relationship would often push him back to Brandon.

His self-described “street mom,” Kitty Kat, met Mercredi while he was living on the streets of Brandon. He was sitting in Princess Park and the two became fast friends. He quickly christened her his “street mom.”

“He joined himself in wherever he [thought] he belonged,” Kitty Kat said.

He would never just smile and wave from across the street; he would always race over to see what was new. She added his friends could always tell when he was telling a fib because he would bite his top lip.

He gained a reputation in downtown Brandon as being caring, helpful and loving, and was known for how much he loved his children.

“The one person that he was most protective of and missed was his baby girl. From the day that Latifa became pregnant … He had a big grin. That smile is always something that I’ll remember” Kitty Kat said. “He always did anything for that little girl.”

It didn’t matter what time of day or night it was — if Latifa needed anything, he would take off like a shot to ensure she had what she needed while pregnant.

Once Sophia entered the world, he was a protective dad and only those he trusted were allowed to hold her.

“His main pride and joy was that little girl,” Kitty Kat said.

There was a constant worry in Mercredi’s mind that he would lose those close to him, Jackson said, and this added to his struggle, along with trying to find his place in the world.

His journey was further complicated because he spent eight months in jail for a charge related to domestic abuse.

When he was released, he first went to see his sister Faith Genailoe and Jackson and resumed his relationships in the city.

In the months leading up to his death, Mercredi struggled with meth addiction, and many were worried the drug would kill him.

However, his friends hoped he was on a path to find his life’s purpose.

“Every struggle he went through — he always bounced back,” Jackson said.

Many are feeling the hole created by his loss, Kitty Kat said.

“At every street corner, I see him standing there waiting for me,” Jackson said.

One of the greatest challenges now is creating a community where it is possible to grieve the death of Mercredi healthily, Irvine said.

The community is seeing grief expressed in different ways, including a memorial service held Thursday night at Princess Park. She appreciates how the community came together, and they saw familiar faces who all shared a love and affection for Mercredi.

Irvine hopes the community is inspired to find ways to make young people’s lives easier to help them stay on the good path.

“We need to give a space for young people to grieve — it is so simple to love him,” Irvine said. “The impact that it has had has been hard. It makes me think of all the other young men in this community. We could use this as an opportunity to get well and support each other.”

» ckemp@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp

Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun

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