Montreal teen murder victim tearfully remembered as 'beautiful soul'

·4 min read
Montreal teen murder victim tearfully remembered as 'beautiful soul'
Charla Dopwell is comforted as she speaks about her son on Friday. (Matt D'Amours/CBC - image credit)
Charla Dopwell is comforted as she speaks about her son on Friday. (Matt D'Amours/CBC - image credit)

Jannai Dopwell-Bailey was a "young beautiful soul" who loved his mother and whose mother loved him.

That's what Charla Dopwell said after her 16-year-old son's funeral on Friday in Montreal's west end, a light flurry of snow swirling down around her and her loved ones as they clutched each other with tears in their eyes outside St. Paul's Anglican Church.

"Stick to your dreams, keep out of trouble. Stick to your dreams. Do that for Jannai," said Charla Dopwell.

"I need justice for my son. He didn't deserve it. He's just 16 years old. It's very hard, hard, hard."

Members of Jannai's family invited media to attend the somber funeral, where family and friends shared memories of the young boy — his humour, his love and his passion.

Many wore sweatshirts with Jannai's smiling face printed on them, and several seized the opportunity to speak to reporters about his life and his untimely death.

Killed outside of school

Jannai was a student at the Mile End high school program in Côte-des-Neiges, located in the basement of another school, Coronation Elementary.

According to police, there was a fight outside involving a group of teens on Oct. 18.

Police say Jannai was stabbed in the upper body, went into the school for help and was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries, where he later died.

Matt D'Amours/CBC
Matt D'Amours/CBC

Soon after the murder, videos posted to Instagram and Snapchat showed people mocking Jannai's death. In one, there are three people in ski masks holding a knife.

Police arrested a minor in connection with the death about four days after the stabbing. His identity is not being released due to his age.

Brother says politicians creating double standard

About a month later, Thomas Trudel, also 16, was shot and killed in the Saint-Michel neighbourhood, sparking outcry from municipal and provincial politicians who have since been working to reassure Montrealers while pushing federal authorities to tighten gun laws.

Jannai's older brother, Tyrese Dopwell-Bailey, said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante has been engaged in the death of Trudel, who was white, while Jannai's family is feeling ignored.

CBC
CBC

On Tuesday, Plante, accompanied by Montreal police Chief Sylvain Caron and elected officials from the Villeray—Saint-Michel—Parc-Extension borough, held a news conference outside of a school near where Trudel was killed.

"We're going to do everything to find who did that," said Plante.

"We're here to show our support. We will work day and night to find out what happened, and to ensure we have safe communities."

Yet no such news conference was held after Jannai was stabbed to death.

Tyrese said the outpouring of support for Trudel creates a double standard. His family even invited Plante to the candlelight vigil held soon after Jannai's death, but she didn't show up, Tyrese said.

"Jannai got a lot of support from the community, but not from officials and people in power and that's what we need," he said.

He said Trudel and Jannai are equal.

"We're suffering and his family is suffering. It's the same pain, but we are not being treated equally," he said.

CBC Montreal requested comment from the Plante administration, but did not hear back.

'We're still looking for you,' sister says to suspect

Rashida John, Jannai's sister, says she wants justice for her brother. There's still a suspect who has not been arrested, she said, and "we're still looking for you."

Oneka John said it's still hard to believe her young cousin is dead.

CBC
CBC

Right from day one, she said people were assassinating Jannai's character on social media "instead of getting to know this child" — a boy who loved rap music and dancing.

John said Trudel's family now has to go through the same pain — a pain that will not go away any time soon.

"This is just the beginning of their pain. We are already in it. And I pray to God, this violence among youngsters, it needs to stop," she said.

"This is real life, not a video game. You can't press and rewind the things that you do. Let Jannai and Thomas be the last of this."

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