Victoria mom says 14-year-old son was groomed by gang members


A Victoria mom, whose identity CHEK News is protecting for safety reasons, says her 14-year-old son was recruited and groomed by gang members.

“I can’t even explain it. It’s the worst thing that I ever thought could happen, and it’s happening still,” said the woman, who will be referred to as Nicole.

“He was artistic, vivacious, very free-spirited…charismatic, just happy, so happy. Until in middle school, that really started to turn.”

As a parent, she thought she was doing everything right.

Though struggling socially, she kept her young son in sports. They encouraged him to change schools in September 2023 for a sports program, looking for a new start. Instead, he found himself isolated once again.

Then, his behaviour started to change as Nicole’s son sought refuge with the wrong group and substances.

“It made him feel important,” said Nicole. “And all his other interests, relationships with family, it just didn’t matter anymore.”

At first, it started slowly. Nicole says he got into some small trouble at school and was caught dabbling with cannabis. Nicole shrugged it off. Her son had always been “spicy,” as she puts it. Then, all of a sudden, things quickly ramped up.

“It just got worse. It just got worse,” said Nicole.

From vapes to pressed pills, cocaine and even meth, Nicole’s son was groomed into using, then recruited to run drugs and weapons for a gang.

“He was working almost as a runner. His job was to, he was a sidekick to an older teen,” said Nicole.

Her son has never told her which gang they were affiliated with.

Punishment didn’t work. Her son would just run back into the arms of the gang. She tried detox. He stayed five days then was back at it.

When Nicole found his stash of ‘serious’ drugs, she saw an out.

“I knew that a) he was going to use them and I was going to lose him, and b) he was going to sell it and someone else would lose their child,” said Nicole. “It took me to call the police on my child. Which was the worst decision, hardest decision to ever make.”

Police charged Nicole’s 14-year-old son charged with trafficking, a federal crime. Now under a weapons ban and a curfew, she’s starting to get her son back.

“I just wanted to make it stop!” said Nicole.

“It felt like doing this would put a mark on him, and these people would leave him alone because he’s been fingerprinted. He’s had his photos taken, he is known, and now finally, the relationship with these people downtown, it felt like it just cracked.”

But the threats still very much linger. And this experience is by no means isolated.

“We’ve seen an aggressive shift in gang recruitment,” Mia Golden, a youth counsellor with Pacific Centre Family Services Association with Mobile Youth Services Team (MYST) told CHEK News in February.

Golden, also a counsellor with the Crime Exploitation and Exploitation Diversion co-ordinator (CRED), says she’s never seen gang recruitment tactics this bold and widespread in her 10-year career.

Since May 2023, police are no longer in Greater Victoria schools. Victoria Police and now Saanich Police say that’s causing damage, like this.

“Let’s sit down together. Let’s bring collaborative parties to find a solution that’s going to work, and part of that solution has to be bringing police back in schools,” said Saanich Police Chief Dean Duthie.

Nicole’s son attends an SD61 school. She thinks if the police had been in schools, it would have helped her son.

“I wish I would have listened to my gut that this doesn’t feel right,” said Nicole.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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