Hometown of Canadian Teenage Murder Suspects Grapples With Infamy

Port Alberni, the birthplace of the two teenagers who the police say went on a bloody rampage, says it is unfair for the town to be tarnished by the crimes.


Comments: 74

  1. Canada's "sensible" gun laws are greatly undermined by the not-so-sensible gun laws of its neighbour to the south. Given that 80% of Canadians live along the US border, stopping the vast supply American guns from flowing into Canada is nearly impossible. (Just look at the number of shootings this year in Toronto). The RCMP has not released information about the origins of the firearms used in this crime spree, but it would not surprise me if the weapon was American.

  2. @North You seem to believe there are no guns in Canada except the ones smuggled across the border. Would you be surprised to find out the weapon was bought legally in Canada but used illegally to murder 3 people?

  3. @North, apparently the citizens of Canada are so pristine that they would never think of doing any aggressive action unless they get a gun in their hands.

  4. It would be interesting to know what weapons they used My understanding is that small firearms and assault style weapons are harder to get than long rifles and shotguns that would be used for hunting. Hunting weapons are legal to own and use. It would never occur to me to blame Port Alberni, or the young men's parents for the behavior of their sons. Disaffected, potentially violent people exist everywhere. Indeed, I sympathize with the parents, lost their sons in a most horrible way imaginable. Condolences to those families.

  5. In order to legally possess a long rifle in Canada an 18 year old would require a PAL, or Possession and Acquisition License. This requires both successful completion of a firearms safety course (2 days if I recall, with assessment) and subsequent vetting by the RCMP. As it appears that these lads had one or more long rifles both to commit murder and their subsequent suicides how they came in possession of these weapons must be accounted for. If they were not licensed to possess them then the RCMP will most likely be inclined to press charges against the true owners of the weapons, assuming that they were not stollen or illicitly acquired after they left Port Alberni.

  6. @myfiero Your question illustrates why 'assault style weapons' is a useless term. Plenty of people in Canada legally own SKS rifles, which fire the exact same cartridge as the AK-47 rifle that is usually referred to as an Assault Weapon. However, in Canada, the SKS is Non-Restricted so available with the basic level PAL and can be transported and used legally through out Canada. It fires the same bullet as the AK, can use a 30 round magazine like the AK but is not called or classified as an 'assault style weapon'. Shotgun or SKS type rifle most likely to be the weapons used but could have been .22 rifle or bolt action, it has not been stated anywhere I have seen coverage.

  7. You should clarify that the 30 round magazine is prohibited. It is illegal in Canada to possess a magazine for a center fire rifle that holds more than 5 rounds. I agree with your main point though. The determination of which semi automatic rifles are restricted and which aren't is an arbitrary decision made by the RCMP. It would likely make more sense to classify all semi automatic firearms as restricted. That would however preclude using any of them for hunting.

  8. The motive ain’t that much of a mystery: one of the boys had Nazi stuff all over his room. The fact that his father says it was just because he thought it looked cool doesn’t wash. And his neighbors’ “wall of silence” doesn’t instill confidence either. The sad fact is that rural areas in the Pacific Northwest have long played home to white supremacists, as well as the meth industry that many white supremacist gangs rely on for money. And the communities themselves are too busy being mad at environmentalists and spotted owls to do anything about it.

  9. @Keef In cucamonga In Canada we don't refer to this region as the Pacific Northwest. It's Southwestern BC, or just Vancouver Island. I'm not sure if the meth industry is present here, or white supremacist gangs. Maybe they are (I don't actually know), but I just want to make sure you understand that Port Alberni is in Canada, not the US, and is not an extension of Washington State.

  10. @Keef In cucamonga exactly correct, especially in Idaho.

  11. @Evelyn not sure if your local is right, but I assume you did comment from Vancouver. Some Canadians and especially Vancouverites can often come across as rude, defensive and passive agressive because of comments like this. How do you expect Americans to know little nuances about neighbouring countries? Of course the commenter doesn't think Port Alberni is an extension of Washington. I doubt someone in Denmark would correct you if you used the wrong regional vocabulary when commenting about Greenland.

  12. This is all silly. Towns don't commit crimes. Port Alberni didn't kill anyone, any more than Dallas killed JFK. Just as silly is the denial fantasy that "our boys" could not have possibly been the killers.

  13. @Frank O "He was a very nice boy . . . he used to mow the lawn" -Frank Zappa, roughly.

  14. PA has had more than its share of misfortune. As Bilefsky notes, the decline of logging has played havoc with the town's economy, while the dramatic fall off of Salmon has also hit hard. As a result,PA has endured high unemployment, drug problems and, above all, the struggle to retain its younger inhabitants. Despite all its problems, it has a strong sense of community and this unfortunate event will not cause long term damage .

  15. Thanks David, I agree that this is not the Port Alberni we know. Locals from this central island area go there to shop and to swim at Sprout Lake. They have the best donut shop on the island. Personally, I have never seen anyone shooting up drugs or even drunk on my visits. Needles can be found anywhere on the west coast, if you are looking. We are all feeling the sadness created by these events and don't need to be vilified by outside reporters.

  16. This is ridiculous. No one thinks the town is responsible. It's articles like these that look for an angle where there is none.

  17. I expect something like this to happen in a small, sleepy town- the Midwest of America in particular is one vast emptiness, and the people that live there are filled with nothingness. Same thing here in BC. I suppose that the conspiracy theorists will claim that these two men did nothing, that the three people they murdered committed suicide, or some such ridiculous nonsense, or that aliens from Mars killed them. The Canadian Mounted gets their man in the end, though, hmmm?

  18. @Robert M. Koretsky Instead this happened on the coast...near Portland. I'll be sure to tell all the inhabitants of Chicago and Milwaukee that they're "full of nothingness." It's better than being full of rage or geographic snobbishness like you coastal folks!

  19. @Disco the murders occurred in northern BC, 2300km from Portland. The third victim was 490km from the first location. Very isolated locations.

  20. Port Alberni is a beautiful place. I wouldn’t think of these two when I think of Port Alberni.

  21. “It has also brought a sense of dread to Port Alberni, where people fear that the town will now be forever remembered for one thing: murder.“ Come on. A little melodramatic, don’t you think? This is a good town and I’m proud to raise my children here. If we are a little tight lipped and defensive it’s probably because we’re concerned about hatchet pieces like this taking cheap shots at our community. Does the Son of Sam define New York? Donald Trump?

  22. @Adam Currey - I am sure that in less than a week, I will forget what Port Alberni is or even where it is at. I didn't even hear about the case of the two young men until after it was all over. I can't even tell you their names or the victims. When one compares them to Ted Bundy or the Green River Killer, they seem like just everyday run-of-the-mill murderers that fill the evening news night after night.

  23. Those young men could have come from any town or city in North America, Port Alberni bears no responsibility for their actions. Ridiculous to even advance the notion.

  24. Growing up in Vancouver and working in the paper industry for 25 years, your description of the paper mill bellowing smoke and thousands laid off due to automation and competition from China were certainly incorrect. Unfortunately, this will definitely question the accuracy of your reporting in the future.

  25. “Port Alberni, surrounded by imposing mountains, is dominated by a sprawling paper mill that billows thick smoke day and night.” What is that people don't get about the difference between smoke and steam? If it billows and dissipates in seconds like steam from a kettle, that's what it is — steam! (Coming from a pulp mill, it might be stinky steam, but still steam.) If it is grey, black or brown and is carried away by the wind, it is probably smoke. Is that so hard?

  26. @Ronald Lai The Canadian forestry industry has suffered more from protectionism in the US than anything China has done.

  27. Articles like this do nothing to quiet the gossip and rumors. Maybe if we all got over the belief that "it can't happen here" we'd all be better prepared, and less shocked, when something does happen. The truth is, anything can happen anywhere and when it does the cause of it (barring a natural disaster) is people, not the place.

  28. @CJ Spot on re: 'it can't happen here' "But that sweet man, Mr. Jones, has waved at me from his front porch every day for the past thirty years! He can't possibly be guilty of molesting his granddaughter." Um, yes he can. Wake up.

  29. One of the disadvantages of living in a small town in country in which belonging to a community is such a big part of one's identity. Somehow people feel responsible for what others do instead of just seeing bad actors as people who violated the social contract and set themselves against everyone else.

  30. @Casual Observer Show me an insular culture, and I'll show you a conceited culture.

  31. They keep classifying these murderers as 'teenage boys' when in fact they were young men. This is another example of the 'white washing' of white male mass murders.

  32. @Sasha Love, If you think 18 and 19 year olds are men, you havent been around many. They are not adults, except in height. Their brains are NOT mature.

  33. @caharper I think you're missing the point. Black 18 and 19 year old males are routinely called 'men' by the media. White males of the same age are labeled 'boys' - thus benefiting from the privilege (i.e. lower threshold of responsibility) this term entails.

  34. Well, I never heard of the place until this article. So that's on you, NY Times.

  35. Port Alberni isn't going to recover its reputation if people keep putting forward ridiculous conspiracy theories that suggest that one of these "boys" victims was the actual murderer. These young men killed three people. They fit a very recognizable pattern, common to lots of young (usually white) men in North America. It's unfortunate, but I think this only becomes a mark against Port Alberni if its people become denialists and if some of them insist on besmirching the memory of a murdered man.

  36. @Shaun Narine Port Alberni is probably fine. They will get over this. I was on Vancouver Island a couple years ago. We marveled at how we could walk the street at night.

  37. @Shaun Narine Accuracy needed - they are ONLY charged with 2nd degree murder for Professor Dyck. 2nd-degree murder Definition: Generally, a deliberate killing that occurs without planning and does not fall under any of the categories of first degree murder. Sentence: The minimum sentence is life in prison with no parole for 10 years, but sentences can be as long as life in prison without parole for 25 years. With that in mind it it had come to trial it could have been found to be - Manslaughter Definition: A homicide committed without intent, although there may have been an intention to cause harm. either Unlawful act — when a person commits a crime that unintentionally results in the death of another person. or Criminal negligence — when the homicide was the result of an act or a failure to act that showed wanton or reckless disregard for the lives of others. In some instances, a murder charge may be reduced to manslaughter if the mental faculties of the perpetrator were impaired or if the homicide was committed in the heat of passion. Sentence: Manslaughter carries no minimum sentence, except when it is committed with a firearm, in which case the minimum sentence is four years in prison. However, they're ONLY SUSPECTS for the murder of the couple. Why it was so important to bring them in alive. ALSO these are small town sheltered teenagers not proven killers. entirely possibly a manslaughter, or not. However if they didn't kill the couple someone else did.

  38. The father of one of the teens who has been accused of these crimes has been quoted as praising the teens for not getting caught while during their murder spree. ”Kudos, boys, kudos.” It seems to me that some civic soul-searching might be in order.

  39. @Laura Friess If it's the father I think you're referring to, there's obvious, deep-seated mental illness there. Very unfortunate.

  40. @Laura Friess The father has mental health issues and was spring boarding his sons' notariety for attention, although he is sincerely grieving, he does have health issues. Unfortunately these health issues may also have spurred the media into making the teens into desparados when they likely got caught up in a path of self destruction, maybe accidental, maybe one lost it and they both felt they had to carry on with it. Why would anyone want to run away to a hostile environment, get eaten alive by voracious biting insects, drink bad water and get giardiasis - stomach cramps, dehydration diarrhea, starve, suffer hypothermic exposure, and supposedly die by shooting themselves, alone and scared. I cannot demonize these teens. Killing a human being is horrific but I want to know whether it was deliberate. I also want to know if it is fair to say whether they killed the couple. There is too much supposition and condemnation by public opinion. As it stands, there is not enough to even put a conviction on them for the couple. They might be from a small town, one of them might not be in a wealthy socioeconomic class but we do deserve justice. It is said the kids were killed by gunshot but they don't know when but it was quite some time before they "found" them. Curiously the only gunshots heard were by RCMP in York about a week previously. Some thought the kids died then - but they said the RCMP were just letting each other know where they were. too many open spots.

  41. Why can't this paper add a map. To any article. Like the nuc accident and this one. I have a HUGH map of Vancouver Island from Space on the wall next to me. Also I am relatively familiar with the area. Why are maps considered obsolete?

  42. Everyone in port alberni has been affected by this issue, this town is going down hill enough as it is. Such a tragic story :(

  43. @Pauline Port Alberni is going up hill! New businesses, new housing developments and people retiring from the mainland. Now the premier needs to stop the rampant clear cutting that is destroying all the hiking trails. And other communities need to stop sending their vagrants to town.

  44. Steam. The clouds of STEAM can be seen from anywhere in town. Granted there are some exhaust gasses in said STEAM but there are no clouds of smoke. Unlike the United States, Canada has a fairly robust environmental protection program. Clouds of smoke is inaccurate and would also be illegal. If you are trying to besmirch Port Alberni at least educate yourself on what you think you are looking at. I recognize that this has little to do with the headline, but a reporter should attempt to state facts. If you cannot get the basics down it reflects poorly on your ability to relate the facts of your main story.

  45. @Bruce You hit the nail on the head. An ill-informed stringer trying to create an after-the-fact story using gossip and token townspeople.

  46. @Bruce From Gary's (correct) comment above: "well it's a lot more than steam as they burn 760,000 lbs of wood chips mixed with 80,000 lbs of TDF (tire derived fuel) per day as well as all their waste sludge that is dried first before incinerating, and I have the full 15 page burning license. This place stinks horribly as we have a weather inversion that traps it all in."

  47. The rural areas of Southwest British Columbia, especially Vancouver Island, bear little resemblance to Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Different countries, cultures and values. To anyone trying to draw comparisons, please keep your urban/rural, flyover state vs coastal elite projections in the US...they have little relevance in Southwest BC.

  48. Perhaps one or both had an organic psychosis. Maybe neither had an identity, other than the male animal. For whatever reason, there was not enough societal infrastructure embedded in the superego to preclude grossly inappropriate and illegal behavior. I would look at how much grounding they had from the cornerstones of society. What was their relationship to education, the school? What was their relationship to the church? Atheists make scoff at that as irrelevant. And church parables are irrelevant if taken literally. But what a church does is help to inculcate things that legal scholars call "malum en se," an act that is wrong or evil in itself. Moses did not go up a mountain per se. He went deep inside human consciousness to deliver a list of things unconscionable to humankind. If these young man came from churchy families would this tragedy have been avoided? No. However, the probability of it occurring would be lower because they would have had more exposure to the idea that killing is verboten.

  49. These men grew up in this town of 18,000 and in all those years, did anyone interven?

  50. @Urban Warrior: Intervene in what? The article states that, by and large, the young men were unmemorable. Certainly they had done nothing previously to bring themselves undue attention for suspicious behaviour. Why would people intervene in what, for all intents and purposes, seems to have been ordinary childhoods?

  51. @Urban.Warrior First of all, no one can intervene if no one knows. These boys were 'unremarkable' as NYT so tactlessly states, and if no one sees the issue and the individuals don't reach out for the help themselves, then there's nothing to intervene on. Second, I grew up in this town, and I can kind of see why you'd think there is easy help for these boys being in a small town... but there's a single high school which employs maybe ~5 counselors at a time to attend to the needs of 200ish students per grade, so that's about 800-900 students per school year. Better yet, there's only ONE pediatrician in the entirety of the town that specializes in mental health, and as someone that used to live there, I can attest to the fact that waiting times for mental health resources (ie psychologists, non-school counselors, psychiatrists, rehabilitation programs) can be up to three months. Not to mention that these boys' families were middle class at most, and probably couldn't afford these services even if they tried! Think about this in light with Western society's pervasive stigma against mental health and I think you could resolve your own confusion. Living in a small town =/= more opportunities for help, it's probably actually the opposite.

  52. @Arlene Right on Arlene. Although I would doubt the presence of a paediatrician , the nearest one would probably be in Nanaimo a few 100 k away, ditto clinical, psychiatric help.

  53. How can anyone blame the community when it doesn't seem like there were any warning signs from these teenagers? I don't blame or think badly about Port Alberni anymore then I blame or think badly of Green County Ohio where the Dayton Ohio shooter came from. Perhaps it's time to ask the experts what to look for and start educating parents and teachers of the warning signs.

  54. @Pat Yes the whole issue of anyone “blaming” Port Alberni seems contrived.

  55. @Pat There were warning signs. One of his former peers spoke about how he used to threaten to kill his classmates and would go into detail about how he was going to torture them. The girl has since been chased out of town for talking to the media. There are always warning signs. We just don't want people to know we neglect to pay attention to them. There's a denial problem here. Boys will be boys.

  56. This article is not worthy of the NYT: generic melodrama, it reads like trash gossip. When I read articles like this I wonder how the reporter could get such a distorted view of Port Alberni. The people of Port Alberni are polite & hard-working country folk, who like many working class communities who provide the raw materials that end up making city slickers rich, got the short end of the stick when it came to internationalization of capital. The drive through the wilds of Vancouver Island to get there is enthralling. anyone who wants to know the real Port Alberni should just go there and enjoy the hospitality of a wilderness and ocean experience.

  57. @Svirchev - totally agree with your evaluation. Would expect this from USA Today.

  58. These types of pieces require a necessary suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader...that a reporter or broadcaster can flit in, interview the usual suspects (mayor, local booster, immediate neighbors, diners at a breakfast joint or two) and emerge with anything approaching the "heart of town X" after a few hours or days on the ground. These formulaic set pieces are taught in J School. Even the year-later pieces are all but self-writing. A slow journalism approach might be to embed a writer in the area for a year* and see what emerges. Thanks FB, Twitter, et al for destroying newspapers revenue streams and hence resources. We click-bait addled "readers" share in the blame, *Saw a fascinating piece on PBS about healthcare services in rural New Mexico. The doctors who stay on though they could make more elsewhere; a clinic operator, himself the son of a dying alcoholic father, who worked with school kids to encourage them to pursue health care and stay local; the struggle to secure funding to offer rehab clinics, home visits by doctors. As I recall there was a good bit of corporate funding to produce this wonderful piece.

  59. Indeed, it is unfair to define Port Alberni with the crime of two of its residents. But the profile from Mr Bilefsky does point to the neglect of civic infrastructure during an era of general wealth inequality seen across localities in the US and evidently in Canada. That mental health access is not available to Port Alberni students in spite of the 2 alleged murderers being from "middle class" families strikes me as a significant symptom of despair and neglect of our domestic infrastructure and economic health. This symptom of deteriorating middle class life is not limited to Port Alberni but is endemic in towns and cities large and small on both sides of the Canadian/US border.

  60. @Rosemary Galette healthcare is free in Canada as is access to mental health treatment. There is no indication that either young man sought treatment which is readily available in Port Alberni.

  61. Blaming Port Alberni for two tragically sick kids is like blaming New York City for the tragic Donald Trump. In "real life" there are always aberrations.

  62. This story brings out the essential case in fact that every story has its own particular circumstances. Rigid rules and buzzwords overlook this truism and the fact that every person is seeking happiness and trying to avoid pain. The reference to video gaming, an outgrowth of the media obsession with violence and murder, is a pointer to the poison constantly being thrown at the public.

  63. They thought they would he "going out in a blaze of glory"? That's so pathetically false.

  64. @Sook That was what the father said, not their words.

  65. I am sick and tired of people saying: "I never thought it could happened here. Evil is everywhere.

  66. I refuse to judge a town by the actions of two young men who happened to grow up there. My heart goes out to the citizens who are grappling with the news that these men killed several people and then themselves. The men obviously had some issues with mental health. Please allow the families and locals to grieve and get on with their lives.

  67. People from Port Alberni are in denial. This is a town that promotes ignorance, racism, violence. It's the Appalachia of BC: evil outnumbes any shred of goodness.

  68. @Asger Says someone whose community’s main claim to fame is a few goats on the roof of the local store

  69. @Asger how ridiculous! The people in Port Alberni are decent kind people. It definitely is NOT a place that promotes racism, ignorance and violence. When I lived in Vancouver I was appalled by the treatment and attitude towards First Nations people. Twice in one week in May I attended events in Port Alberni that opened with words welcoming people to the territory of FN. I have gone to Port Alberni 4x a year for 4 years and it is much friendlier than other places I have lived including my present home of Ottawa.

  70. @Sumaal As someone that lived there for many years, racism towards the First Nations peoples still exists. It's just not as obvious. There is also a lot of ignorant people... but there's also a lot of kids that turn out just fine.

  71. @Alison Cartwright PA- well it's a lot more than steam as they burn 760,000 lbs of wood chips mixed with 80,000 lbs of TDF (tire derived fuel) per day as well as all their waste sludge that is dried first before incinerating, and I have the full 15 page burning license. This place stinks horribly as we have a weather inversion that traps it all in.

  72. @Gary Lajeunesse - Any chance I could get a copy of your copy? I've been referencing an old greenwashing article that referenced the 2000 tires a day thing, would be helpful to have the actual document. Thank you for doing the research and digging

  73. There needs to be an inquiry into this. There was no disclosure of what Prof. Leonard Dyck's cause of death was. The teens were only charged with that. How does anyone know (if it wasn't gunshot for Dyck) that the teens didn't have a scuffle with him and inadervertantly kill him stealing his car. We don't know if one just did it and the other followed along because at that point he was terrified. Next thing you know the RCMP is telling the media that they are dangerous. They could have said these teens may be dangerous so please report them to us. Then the RCMP should have made media, paper, TV, radio public plea for them to turn themselves in. Instead the go roaring out in paramilitary outfits, AR15 firearms looking like they are trying to take down a drug lord cartel. This was plastered all over the media. What chance did anyone at that point have to find out what actually happened? The teens would definitely be terrified by then. Then there is the couple that is shot - how did these boys get firearms? If they were taken in alive we would know if they did or didn't and if both or just one shot them or if this couple was murderer by someone else. It isn't as if there hasn't been a lot of murders in remote areas in the wilderness in Canada. These teens were likely eaten to death by sandflies, exposure and dysentry from bad water. Justice would have been served by bringing them in alive. Now there are no sure answers. this cries for an inquiry for better ways.