It is not a history he is proud of but he wants to use his story of having lived the street and prison life as a deterrent to crime for others. For Canice Lionel, reading the stories recently published in the STAR about the justice system and more recently a detailed account about life at Bordelais by an inmate, are all issues he can relate to, having first faced jail when he was just 17. At 47 years old Canice Lionel, who sat with the STAR this week for a candid interview, said he was not ashamed of his past and unafraid to tell his story, even though he knows all too well that living in such a small and sometimes closed minded society, that there may be repercussions.
“To tell you the truth, I know that God is on my side, and though some may still judge me, there are others who have done worse and are still hiding, but I won’t judge them. All I want to do is someday have a normal life,” Canice says.
With a primary school education, Canice says he lived a pretty average life as a boy between the communities of George Charles Boulevard, Marchand and Lacou Dou, Water Works. But as the early teen years began to seep in, so too did the frustrations and demands which came with his warring testosterone. With no job
and no opportunities at the time to further his education, a life of petty crime became his chosen direction.
“It was difficult at that time, you know as a young boy you have a little girlfriend, you want nice things, you have no money, your parents cannot afford. So I started stealing,” he said. In 1982, when he was just 17 he was arrested, charged for robbing a visitor and sentenced to three months in prison by magistrate Velon John. Two years l
ater he was back before the courts, charged with robbery, served a short time then and
again in 1985. By that time he was exposed not only to the life of petty crime, but the underground drug world, which was elevating its status here in Saint Lucia with a number of local drug dons claiming turf on the island in places like Vieux Fort, Coco Dan, Marc, Grass Street, Wilton’s Yard and even Rodney Bay.
“It was at that point I was approached by different guys and decided to give it a try, with one in particular who became like a father to me,” Canice explains. “I started small, but my clients soon grew to include prominent lawyers, doctors, business men and women here,” he revealed. “They were the ones who could have afforded paying one hundred dollars a-piece at the time for cocaine,” he went on. “They had the money at the time to do what it took to look good, so no one would know they were on drugs and if they got addicted they would fly overseas for treatment or to get cleaned up,” he adds.
“How much money did he make at the time?” we asked. “On an average day I would make sufficient for myself, a good day would bring me three to four thousand dollars after the boss took what was his,” he told us.
“It was just amazing to see big business men, ordering you to stay in their area or homes where they would bring clients or friends around and have these parties, women, drugs, alcohol. But one thing I thanked God for is that I never tried drugs,” the reformed and former prison inmate says.
Asked why not, he said this: “I saw how people reacted after using. I like my women and most times when these people take drugs they can’t even have sexual intercourse. Plus some of them would claim to be seeing things, talking to themselves, it was just crazy. I preferred using my money to party with my friends, buy clothes, the latest shoes. I also paid school for girls and did some foolish things. Making that kind of money at the time made me foolish. Because if you know to yourself, if you make two thousand dollars here today where you will make another three tomorrow, so you just think of blasting it.”
At the time too, the pride and joy of the local dons and their boys was to go out to different block-o’s and street events and buy out the whole bar ahead of another gang. Something Canice recalls being a part of. He was living the life he says and was the envy of several of his peers and friends. But as quickly as his friends and money increased so too did his enemies.
In 1987, Canice says he was approached by a very good friend of his who loved carnival. “So he introduced me to one of the popular bands at
the time and I said okay I want to take part, I want to jump. So I started going to the mas camp every night leading up to carnival, liming with the girls, paying for costumes for a few of them and I was feeling good at the time, I was very enthusiastic about jumping up,” he said a smile coming to his face as he remembered his days of carnival revelry. “But at the time I had heard of these other guys from another gang saying things about me, like who am I to be wearing such a big gold chain and stuff like that. So I heard they had a plan to ambush me,” he alleges.
“But I did not take that for anything I went and jump up the first day. The second day after I jump up with my girlfriend we were sitting by the old saw mill near Conway where the mas camp was and a gang of boys just ambush us they beat my girlfriend, they beat me up and tried to snatch the chain, but it was so thick they could not get it away from me,” he continues to relates. The very next day, Canice says he went to the police station to file a report.
“I met a female police officer, I remember her very well and her words to me were that it is guys like you they should be doing those things too because you’ll just there selling drugs to people. So I was feeling upset and left for home. But it was that homeward journey which would begin to take Canice down a road which would later become the most testing chapter in his life yet. “I met this guy on my way home and he told me the same guys who ambushed me were looking for me again. So I went back to town, went to Valmont and I bought a cutlass, went to sharpen it on both sides and placed it in my waist for my own protection,” he tells the STAR as he breathed deeply.
Read what happened next in Next Weekend’s STAR Newspaper and How Canice Lionel is Today Trying To Turn His Life Around!