'We want answers' say parents of young man gunned down in Montréal-Nord

Ronide Casseus, Jayson Colin's mother, and his stepfather, Roberson Berlus, left, spoke publicly for the first time about his death on Tuesday.   (Valeria-Micaela Bain/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Ronide Casseus, Jayson Colin's mother, and his stepfather, Roberson Berlus, left, spoke publicly for the first time about his death on Tuesday. (Valeria-Micaela Bain/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The parents of a young man who was fatally shot this month in the Montréal-Nord borough say they feel like the neighbourhood is still being neglected despite the big promises they're hearing from politicians.

Jayson Colin, 26, had dreams of founding his own community organization to make hockey more accessible for kids in the neighbourhood.

The sport was a struggle for his family to afford while he was growing up, his mother, Ronide Casseus, said on Tuesday, breaking her silence about his death for the first time.

"He was crazy about hockey, he could talk about it for hours, even if you didn't care," she said sitting alongside his stepfather, Roberson Berlus. Both work as intervention workers in the neighbourhood.

Colin was fatally shot outside Lester B. Pearson High School on the night of Aug. 10.

Police say he and three others were outside the school around 10:20 p.m. when two people approached and shot at them. Colin died and another man, 25, suffered non-life threatening injuries. The suspects are still at large.

CDEC de Montréal-Nord
CDEC de Montréal-Nord

"We had developed our way of working together. Yes, he was my child, but he was also my friend," said Casseus, a worker in the community for nearly 20 years now.

Casseus's pain was made worse by assumptions that because he was killed in a shooting her son was probably involved in a life of crime.

"Just because a young man is Black doesn't mean he has connections to gangs," she said.

Berlus said Colin had a good head on his shoulders and was always working to better himself.

"It hurts to see how his youth has been cut short," Berlus said.

Casseus thanked an official from Premier François Legault's office for coming to visit the neighbourhood just after his death but said the family has felt neglected by the city.

Since her son's death she's hearing from more young people who tell her they're scared to go out at night. There's a heightened sense of fear seeing how he — of all people — could die, she said.

"Violence creates more violence, that's what we tell the youth," Berlus said. "It's not one person that pays the price — it's the entire community around him."

Policing Montréal-Nord

Berlus said he is encouraged to see a higher police presence in the neighbourhood but that can only be part of the solution.

On Tuesday, Montreal police confirmed that, starting next month, there will be a new squad dedicated to combating gun violence. The team of 68 officers will focus on disrupting criminal groups, gathering intelligence and repression on the ground.

Montreal police are also temporarily increasing resources for the violent crime squad, Eclipse.

As for the investigation into Colin's death, his parents say they have been kept apprised by police, but there's information they need to keep confidential to protect the investigation.

Berlus pointed to recent funding commitments from the city and Ottawa for community organizations that work with young people in the hope of preventing gun violence, but says there needs to be more accountability on what the exact game plan is.

He said Montréal-Nord is a close knit community, so every death hits close to home. He wants young people to know community workers like himself haven't given up.

"We need to reach them and show them we understand," Berlus said, but said they also need more resources from the city to do the job.

"We want answers. We want to know what's going to be done for other young men like Jayson," Casseus said. "I know that JJ isn't coming back, but there's more JJs out there."