From Law Breaker to Law MakerOur choices affect people. Eight-year-old Serge LeClerc chose to skip school and was arrested for truancy. That choice determined pain and damage to thousands of others.
Every choice has a consequence. For eight-year-old Serge LeClerc, his choice to skip school with a few buddies resulted in an arrest for truancy. It would not be his last arrest. And that choice would determine the pain and damage to untold thousands of others.
Serge's mother's choice was to run away. Marie Amanda is Cree. Her grandmother raised her on the reserves of New Brunswick and Northern Quebec while Amanda's parents were living elsewhere, already embroiled in the devastating life of alcoholism. When her grandmother died, Amanda was sent back to live with her parents. But she wanted a better life; a different life. So, she ran away.
Serge's life began in an abandoned building. He was born to Amanda with the help of another young girl who was also pregnant. There were no baby showers or ceremonies to mark the occasion. After all, Amanda was only 14, unwed and Serge was the product of rape.
Despite her age, Amanda did her best raising Serge. They eventually found their way to Toronto where she found work and Serge found kinship among the other immigrants who also lived in Cabbagetown, the projects of Regent Park.
After his arrest, Amanda went to court but never spoke. Perhaps she felt she didn't have the right to defend her son. The judicial system in the 1950s was unkind, especially toward a young boy of mixed race who had no father. The judge called him an "Indian bastard son" and deemed Amanda unfit to parent. Serge was sentenced to time at St. John's Training School for Boys.
The school was well known for administering harsh corporal punishment. Sexual abuse was rampant. Despite his young age Serge carried with him street smarts and an attitude of attack or be attacked. On his first day at the school, Serge was confronted by a 17-year old boy who demanded Serge meet him in the showers that evening so he could have his way with him. Serge would have none of it and lunged across the table, stabbing the boy in the cheek with a fork. Serge's penalty: solitary confinement. It would not be his last visit to the hole.
Over the next couple of years, Serge found ways to escape the school but was always caught and returned only to receive double the torture for his disobedience. While on the streets, he learned to live off the land, stealing food and money, passing time at art museums or the library reading books.
Having never learned to live life away from crime, Serge was just 15 when he began living with a hooker and her daughter. He developed a fearsome reputation as a street fighter and quickly became a leader in various gangs. With his crimes escalating in severity, his pocket book benefited. Still just 15, Serge bought his first home with $63,000 cash.
Serge's decline into hard core drugs and bigger crime sprees was fast and furious. His back-and-forth time in prison served as no deterrent. Instead he developed a following there too and continued his wasted ways behind bars by dealing drugs and running scams. But his claim to prominence was his $40 million meth lab operation, which had worldwide distribution. Already one of Canada's most wanted and considered the most dangerous criminal in the country, Serge was able to plea-bargain following his arrest: Eight years in prison but he had to give up everything he owned. He went to jail penniless and lost his power base. For the first time in his life, he recognized that life as he knew it was over. He was never going to beat the system.
Perhaps that is what made Serge open to change. A constant visitor to the prison gave Serge some magazines from Prison Fellowship. Having an insatiable appetite for reading, he was desperate enough to read the magazines and learned of a former convict and buddy who had turned his life over to God. Eventually Serge befriended a young man in the next cell. While they were both in solitary confinement, they could still communicate. Serge learned the young man was in prison for a crime he committed while high on the drugs Serge manufactured and supplied. Before long, the young man hung himself; Serge was left helpless and sinking into deeper depression.
At that time another prisoner invited Serge to chapel. He began to sense that there was something more to life than he suspected. On the cold, cement floor of his prison cell, Serge accepted Christ on December 25, 1985.
Just as he did with his life of crime, Serge put his all into being a Christian. Knowing he needed to make a better way for himself when he was released from prison, Serge enrolled in school. Despite having only a fifth grade education, he was successful and ultimately received an Honors BA with a major in Sociology and a minor in Social Work. Serge was released from prison for the last time in 1988.
After his release he encountered numerous challenges in living a life free of crime. But many in the Christian community stepped up to help him overcome. Despite the obstacles, Serge went on to develop and assist many social organizations and ministries, most notably as the founder and regional director of Teen Challenge Saskatchewan. He received a full National Pardon from the Government of Canada and in 2007 won a seat in the Saskatchewan Provincial Parliament. Serge was ultimately appointed as Saskatchewan's Legislative Secretary to the Minister of Corrections.
Serge admits the reason for his successful transition is "Because I accepted responsibility for who I was. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was the author of every one of my evil actions. I believe God opens doors of opportunity, but you have to be in the hallway to see them. You have to examine circumstances, pinpoint the need, and determine how you can best serve humanity.”
Serge LeClerc’s autobiography Untwisted is available on his website.
Theresia Whitfield is a freelance journalist and member of the Christian Writers Guild. She lives with her husband in Indianapolis, IN, where she also reports on racing news including the Indy 500.
Originally published in Indian Life, May/June 2009.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2009 Christianity.ca