Charlene Young Opens Up
I am going to open this editorial by saying, an editorial is usually short and addresses both pros and cons of a subject, it can also be used as a method to bring awareness to topics that are sometimes hard to discuss, but the conversation needs to happen.
On Thursday, Feb 10, I sat alongside Charlene Young of Vermilion for almost two hours listening to her talk about her son Mackenzie, his addiction to Meth and, the crimes he has committed. She talked about her other two children and what it has been like for them, her husband, and the mental anguish she and her family have been going through for the past eight years and continue to go through. During the conversation, Charlene also discussed her thoughts on the judicial systems, treatment systems for addicts, and her neighbours and community, who like them, have been affected so negatively by drugs and the crimes that too often go along with it.
Going into the conversation with Charlene I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if she would try and make excuses for her son’s behaviour and her actions or if she would be open with me regarding the incident. Throughout the conversation, Charlene never once tried to make excuses and she owned the responsibility of her actions and the consequences she could face. She also recognized the impact that her decision had on the community surrounding the time and cost of firefighters and RCMP having been on the scene, and says that it is her one regret surrounding the incident.
Charlene spent 21 hours sitting in a jail cell after being charged with arson under section 434.1 for burning down her family’s unlivable farmhouse.
Upon arriving, I viewed a woman who was calm but stressed at the same time, clear-minded, but also emotional because as she stated, “she has been living a mother’s worse nightmare.”
According to Charlene her son, Mackenzie has been addicted to Meth for the last eight years and is well known by the local RCMP for crimes he has committed to feed his drug addiction. He and his drug crew have threatened Charlene and her family on several occasions, and have squatted in their old family home making it a drug hub and a criminal network for stolen property.
Charlene tearfully said, “For the past eight years now my family and a lot of other families have been fighting the problem with Meth and family members that are addicted to it. My son Mackenzie has hurt, stolen, and robbed people all around here, and even the people he hasn’t robbed other known Meth heads have. I have called the RCMP, I have turned my own son in on numerous occasions, and I have given them all (RCMP) access to our farm, but the system doesn’t work! They (drug addicts) just go into jail and they come out, there’s no help for them when they come out, and there are waiting lists for the rehabs and there is no way for these Meth addicts to come back and even try to fix their lives because there isn’t enough help. It’s easier for them to go back in and do what they do because misery likes company, and there is an underground world of these people that crawl around while the rest of us are sleeping.”
Charlene went on to explain that her neighbours have been mad at her for years because of the criminal activity in and around their old farm and that her husband had suffered a massive stroke over it all. She said she made the decision to cut off the gas in the old farmhouse last August in an attempt to curb the activity, and that she told her son when he got out of jail he could not live in the house. According to Charlene, “the court system messed up and allowed him to live there.”
Charlene went on to say that on many occasions there have been police raids, multiple occasions of stolen vehicles, stolen tools, and everything you could imagine being placed in and around the farm.
“A lot of it is my sons doing and some of it is from other Meth heads who knew the house had become a hub, and I knew that as long as the house stood there, the neighbours, and anyone dealing with it was just getting hurt, vandalized and scared and it wasn’t ever going to stop! People are scared, people are fed up, and I don’t blame them. I’m scared my son is going to get shot and I was just trying to put an end to the nightmare, it’s a nightmare, the neighbours live a nightmare, the cops live a nightmare. There are guns out there, I’ve been threatened to be shot, I’m now being threatened that my kitchen is going to be burnt down and this is coming from known criminals and I want to tell my story. Families that are going through this live in shame and embarrassment, it affects everyone, and it makes you feel like you have failed and you are not a good mother.”
She also added that she had informed the County and the fire departments in the past of her intentions that one day she would burn the house and that she had planned on doing it last summer but due to the dry conditions it was not possible.
“I had spoken to the County before and they were aware that I had intentions of burning the house, the fire departments were aware that I had planned on burning the house, I explained my plan, I said I was going to walk through the house to make sure there was nobody in it.”
Charlene continued and explained that on the night of the incident, she received a phone call from one of the Constables around 4:15 p.m. inquiring if she knew where Mackenzie was, she said she didn’t know and that if she did know she would tell him.
According to Charlene, “he proceeded to give me heck and asked me why the house was still there and that the farm was going downhill fast!
After I got off the phone with the Constable and he had given me heck, I called one of my friends to drive me because my mind was full, but I was calm, and there was no drugs or alcohol involved. I got a jerry can of fuel, took two rags from the kitchen and three other cloths so I could pour gas on them. I went to the farm, and the RCMP were already on the road looking for my son, they said they couldn’t go in the gate that it was locked, the gate was not locked we opened it and went in, I did have a grinder with me so that if I had to grind the locks off I could. I called the police when I started the fire and I called the fire department, the only thing illegal was I didn’t have a burn permit. I went in with a clear mind, I checked the house, and the main thing on my mind was to make sure that I didn’t do damage to anybody, and that I didn’t hurt anybody. I checked the house, and I checked every bedroom and I yelled out. I went out and brought the jerry can in and put gas in the house and I lit the fire. I want to make it clear that Cory drove me there; he was in no way involved with lighting the fire! When I lit the fire I did not know there was a can of acetone in there, I believe that’s what blew me out of the house. I said I was going to stay until the fire was done so that again there was no liability. On the day of the fire, there was no wind, it wasn’t too cold for firefighters, and I had the fire contained to the best of my knowledge because I had never done anything like this before in my life. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, my kids grew up in that house, and pictures of my young children went through my head as I was watching this house burn.
The house was not habitable, I don’t know what kind of drugs were in there, so I didn’t want to just bulldoze it, I knew it just had to go, there are too many people in danger for high-speed chases, for guns, the constant traffic of Meth heads and criminal activity on a daily basis. It was our house to burn, there is no monetary value in it because there was no insurance on the house. I made the right phone calls, I did not lie, and a lawyer would probably tell me not to say anything, but people were going to get hurt there, so I did it, I made sure there was nobody in the house beforehand.”
In a very emotional statement, Charlene said that she doesn’t want a pat on the back for what she did, and that the RCMP is tired and that they are spending our tax dollars chasing them and that one day someone will get shot.
“My son is a Meth head and I can’t and won’t make excuses, but he is still my son and I still love him. It’s hard to hear your child say that there is no way out of this for him, that the only way out is to get shot because he feels hopeless.
They say I’m an arsonist now, but I did what I thought was the best thing to do, but for someone who has never lit a fire like that in my life, they (fire department) say it was a clean fire. It caused zero harm to anyone and that was important to me, I would have sooner died than to hear that I hurt anybody. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, other than my husband, who bought the farm when he was just 21 years old, I don’t regret doing it. I believe I did the right thing. You know my whole family is affected by this, my youngest son; they are trying to pull him into that world. My daughter feels the effects of it every day; my husband is suffering because of it. I did what everybody else said should be done, and said they would do but couldn’t do it, and if anybody thinks that I did that on impulse, I didn’t, this has played through my mind a hundred times since last year, I’m not a criminal.”
There are stories similar to Charlene’s that are not easy to hear or read about, but as Charlene said during our conversation, “COVID is not the pandemic, drugs and the world it entails is a much bigger pandemic that needs to be seriously addressed in society.
This world needs to change, it has to change before my son or someone else’s child gets killed next time. I know many people will judge me for what I did and our lives because our child has a drug problem and have committed crimes, I am not perfect, we all have imperfect lives and I wish as a community we could all open up and start talking seriously about the issues of drug abuse and crime as a community because that is the only way we can help fix this problem,” commented Charlene.
If anyone would like to write a letter explaining how drugs and crime have impacted them in the community, you can drop it off or email it to the Vermilion Voice at email@example.com.
The Vermilion Voice does not take sides in matters, we do our best to stay neutral in all stories we cover, this is not our story, it is her story and we try to provide everyone in the communities we serve the opportunity to have their voices heard, whether it is the good, the bad, and sometimes the ugly.