Anglican Samizdat

November 9, 2008


Filed under: Christianity — David Jenkins @ 5:27 pm

When Justin was 7 his father left and his stepfather moved in. By the time he was 14 he was taking drugs, stealing and was desperately looking for a way to escape from his home where he felt unwanted and unloved. The plan he came up with was to spend the rest of his life in prison – apparently, a more attractive prospect than living at home – by murdering a fellow student, a crime that would mean the maximum sentence. He accomplished this by luring a classmate he found particularly annoying into the woods and strangling him with his belt. At one point the belt slipped over the victim’s chin allowing him to breathe; a lifetime of pain can hinge on the decision of a second. Justin considered not going ahead with the grisly task; but he did. How do I know this? Because I have just been at the Syl Apps Youth Detention Centre in Oakville listening to Justin talk about how he came to Christ.

There is also an article about his crime in the Toronto Sun.

Their son’s 14-year-old killer was the first in Canada charged with murder under the new Youth Criminal Justice Act that had come in force just that day. Replacing the much reviled Young Offenders’ Act, there had been high hopes that the new law would be tougher on teen murderers. The Levacks, though, would find that the system still bends backwards for Morton, while their son is hardly remembered at all.

Their boy’s killer pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced as an adult to the maximum under the new law — life imprisonment. But of course, it’s not really life at all. Instead of having to wait 25 years for his chance at parole, Morton can apply in just seven.

In the meantime, he has had his wish fulfilled — he has been in “juvey” ever since the murder. “Jail is just free room and board,” Morton told one friend at the time. “Killing,” he told another, “was better than going home.”

But now Morton is 20 and his time in a youth facility is finally up.

The only comment I really want to make about the Sun article, is that I wish the reporter had taken the time to speak to Justin now because what he would say – assuming the lawyers would let him – would be very different to the quotes of his in this article. I can understand Eric’s parents wanting justice – I would too in their position; at the same time, our justice is not God’s justice.

I know Justin because for about the last 18 years, St. Hilda’s has conducted a monthly chapel service in Syl Apps. Justin often played the guitar with me. Also, for the last 5 years and seven months, 2 volunteers from St. Hilda’s have visited Justin every week on Tuesday night to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with him. As a result, Justin became a Christian, was baptised and is now a witness to Jesus to the other inmates. Next week Justin will probably be moved to an adult prison. Today he gave his testimony.

During the time I have been part of the chapel service at Syl Apps, I have experienced Satanists in the front row chanting curses, a variety of unnatural noises, shouting, chair throwing and minor rioting. This afternoon while Justin spoke, everyone listened. He said many things. A few stand out: Life isn’t easy for him, but he has a peace that cannot be obtained any other way than through God. Life isn’t easy, but he knows God is always with him, even if it doesn’t always feel that he is. Life isn’t easy and not a day passes without Justin regretting what he did, but through Jesus, anyone can find forgiveness. Every night he prays; one of his prayers is that Eric’s parents might find the same peace that he has found.

Through Jesus Christ, there is redemption.

Incidentally, the Diocese of Niagara is hell bent – yes, that is the right word – on destroying St. Hilda’s and its ministries, including the ministry to Syl Apps.



  1. Hallelujah! God is great.

    Comment by Scott Gilbreath — November 9, 2008 @ 5:51 pm

  2. Tremendous story. God be praised and may he bless and protect your ministry.

    Comment by Sean Reid — November 9, 2008 @ 10:17 pm

  3. Are you allowed to talk about young detainees like this online? People who work in the system are not alloed to do this.

    Comment by chrylance — January 11, 2009 @ 4:06 pm

  4. chrylance [#3],
    A moot point, since it was in the newspapers both online and hardcopy.

    Comment by David — January 11, 2009 @ 4:09 pm

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