Leon Robert Blais’ hands shake as he pulls a .45-calibre semi-automatic handgun out of his backpack.
He fires into the air, a warning for everyone to stay back. The look on his face is hard, but his hands shake so much he has to put the gun on the ground, so he can rummage in his backpack for the key he’s taken.
At 15, the small, red-haired Hamilton teen known as Robbie already has a record for stealing cars, escaping custody and running from police. But this latest crime streak is a turning point; he has a gun.
It’s 1995 and Blais and his buddy are at Arrell Youth Centre to break out Blais’ girlfriend. They weren’t planning to bring a gun, but Blais stole one from a rural Flamborough property “just in case.” It was easy and it won’t be the last gun.
It was also the beginning of a public persona he would eventually embrace. He was called a “bad kid” and later the “devil.” He would go on to rack up hundreds of charges and become one of Hamilton’s most notorious criminals. But his crimes are only part of his story.
Back in 1995, Blais had already been detained at that youth detention centre several times himself. By that point he’d escaped at least twice, including a couple of months before when he broke a lock and replaced it with dollar-store variety so he could sneak out.
During his stays at Arrell, friends would often promise they’d come break him out, but they never showed. So, when he promised his girlfriend he would come for her, he was determined to keep his word, no matter the consequences.
The trio — Blais, his girlfriend, and the friend — fled in a stolen car and made their way to Woodstock, Ont., where they holed up in a place Blais liked to crash.
But police traced a phone call and Blais woke to the place surrounded. He ran through the building, opening a sliding-glass door on someone’s balcony and charging through their apartment. It was no use, Blais and his accomplices were arrested, and police seized the .45, a shotgun and stolen vehicles.
The Sept. 23, 1995, headline in The Spectator reads: “‘Bad kid’ behind breakout only 15.”
“This is a one-kid crime wave,” an unnamed Hamilton police officer was quoted as saying. “He’s not like other child criminals — not even close. He’s a bad kid.”
Blais did not have a typical childhood. He didn’t spend a single day in a regular high school because he was in and out of jail. He jokes that the stories of his crimes in The Spectator are “kinda like my high-school yearbook.” He says the way he was spoken and written about shaped how he thought of himself and his future.
He was later called “the devil himself” by another cop, a moniker Blais learned to believe and eventually embody with pride. He built himself up into a character, “kind of John Dillinger complex,” stealing cars, orchestrating sophisticated break-ins, stealing guns and running from the law.
“I think adrenalin is actually the worst addiction I had in my life,” he says. “Far more than any other drug I’ve ever done.”
Standing with police
Fast-forward nearly three decades and Blais, who goes more by Leon these days, stands outside St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church in downtown Hamilton. It’s Friday, barbecue day at the De Mazenod Door Outreach, where volunteers hand out more than 500 meals a day to Hamilton’s most needy.
“Hello, brother,” he says as he hands out food to a regular. Many in the line have known Blais for decades, both from his life of crime and his life of addiction that followed.
That the 43-year-old is well — and not in prison, which is likely a surprise to some; perhaps most of all to him.
On this recent Friday, instead of running from Hamilton police, he stands shoulder to shoulder with them and a paramedic team that makes up the social navigator unit, handing out burgers, sausages and drinks.
Among the officers is Sgt. Pete Wiesner, who leads the crisis response branch that includes social navigator, a team that works with vulnerable people to connect them with resources and divert them away from the criminal justice system. Wiesner was a fresh-faced, 21-year-old correctional officer at the Barton Street jail when he first met Blais, who was 18 and had just been transferred to adult detention.
A few years later, Wiesner became a police officer and, like every cop in Hamilton, he knew the name Robbie Blais. So it was surprising when several years ago Blais unexpectedly went looking for Wiesner. Word got around to Wiesner and the two reconnected.
Wiesner was the type of correctional officer — and later cop — who always spoke with everyone, and Blais was looking for a good listener. He was looking for a way out of addiction and his lifestyle.
Wiesner sees this often in his work. Guys who have lived through jail, addiction, homelessness and other struggles reach a certain age and realize all they’ve been missing. Wiesner has witnessed this transformation in Blais and now counts himself as an ally.
Blais first came to the church high on crystal meth and in need of a meal. Later he started volunteering. That turned into a full-time job, where today he can be found doing everything from picking up food deliveries, to mowing the lawn, to giving Narcan to someone who has overdosed. His dog Christina is always with him.
If he was addicted to adrenalin in his youth and crystal meth in his 30s, in this third act he says he’s found God and the power of kindness.
“I never realized how personally fulfilling being kind is. Like, if only everyone could feel that and everyone would do it, you know?” Blais says. “And it’s not that I wasn’t kind before, but now every morning I was waking up with the intention: Who can I help today?”
Perhaps no one has more insight into that than Father Tony O’Dell, who calls Blais “my greatest success in many ways.”
That’s because Blais can reach the guests in a way O’Dell and others at the church cannot. Blais knows what life is like for many guests of the outreach ministry. He’s been where they are.
The church previously hired private security to help keep peace, but they were afraid of some the guests — many who are in active addiction or suffer from mental illness — and police were being called frequently. When Blais was hired, he was a natural. There are still disruptions at the church at times, but O’Dell says Blais is trusted by the guests.
“He brings the earthiness. He brings the sense of realness. He understands people,” O’Dell says.
That is not to say there haven’t been missteps, or that there won’t be struggles ahead. Blais’ work at the church is as much about helping others as it is about helping himself. That work is continuous.
How does a boy become a notorious criminal before reaching adulthood?
Why would a man, having already been through so much trouble, turn to drugs in his 30s?
And is it possible for someone to ever fully recover from that? To redeem himself?
Addicts and Mob hitmen
Blais was maybe age six or seven when he poked himself on a needle at home.
His eyes turned yellow and he ended up at McMaster Children’s Hospital with hepatitis C. The little red-haired boy got better and returned home. It didn’t occur to him to question where the needle came from.
Blais was born in May 1980, the second of four boys, to Kathryn and Leon Blais. He didn’t notice the drugs in his house until he was older.
“I have lots of good memories from when I was a kid, and I have lots of bad memories,” Blais says.
Police raided his home on Tindale Court, near Quigley Road, when his mom was pregnant with a younger brother. He didn’t question why police were there. All he saw were officers being mean to his pregnant mom.
When he was nine years old, Blais’ dad died from a heroin overdose. To protect them, his mom told her boys he died in a car crash. Blais grew up abhorring drunk drivers before his world was turned upside down when he learned the truth as a young man.
After his dad died, his mom’s drug use skyrocketed. The family had been living with her mom and stepdad on the Mountain, but things fell apart.
“It wasn’t long after my dad passed that the fight erupted between my mom and my grandparents,” Blais says.
She packed her boys into the van and brought them down the Mountain, where they crashed on people’s couches for about a month before she found her own place on Lottridge Street.
The irony, as Blais realized when he got older, was that his grandmother was an addict too. But she hid it well. She was an amputee, and her drug use was hidden as medicine. His grandmother Mary’s second husband worked, so there was always food on the table. That stability shielded the kids from noticing the drugs.
Blais didn’t know much about his biological grandfather, George Joseph Hasler, who died before he was born. It was only as an adult that he came to understand that he was essentially a hitman for the Mob.
After one of Blais’ many arrests, he happened to find himself on the same Barton jail range as the now dead Hamilton mobster Pat Musitano. Hamilton’s criminal underworld can be a small community, especially behind bars, and Blais knew everybody.
When he got to the range Musitano approached and handed Blais a book. They shook hands.
“I didn’t know your grandfather was George Hassler?” Musitano said, handing over a copy of “The Enforcer” by Adrian Humphreys, about the life and death of crime boss Johnny “Pops” Papalia.
On Page 77, the book talks of Papalia expanding his organization. This included moving “the much-feared Joe Hasler” to “designated enforcer.”
It was through this book and later conversations that Blais learned who his grandfather was. His mom later told him stories about her dad, who spent much of her life in prison.
He would come to understand his grandmother more, including her own struggles and time in prison, as well as his mom, who was surrounded by crime and death from an early age.
“It explains a lot because the one thing that my mom always instilled in me was that I didn’t have a right to take another person’s life,” he says. “Like, my mom always discouraged doing drugs, stealing, all of that stuff; even though she did it, she still discouraged it.”
After moving to the lower city, drug use became more obvious in the home and life became less stable. His mother had bank-robbing boyfriends whose crews would stay at the house.
“So there was lots of money around, lots of drugs and lots of craziness,” Blais says.
At times there were bags of money in the house, other times police would kick in the doors and drag guys off to jail. One time Blais asked for money to go to the store and his mom’s boyfriend threw a Ziploc bag of cash at him. Blais’ mom was “freaking out” but the boyfriend wanted to see what he would do.
“I splurged in the variety store,” he says. He bought lots of candy and magazines.
“Like, as a poor kid, that was kind of cool to get to go to the store and just splurge like that.”
Blais went to Prince of Wales Elementary School, where he was bullied. One kid stole his shoes. But Blais says he had nowhere to turn. He couldn’t tell anyone at home — his mom’s boyfriend would just tell him to confront his bully who would no doubt pummel him. He didn’t want to tell anyone at school out of fear he’d be a bigger target.
So Blais started to skip class. He met kids downtown, where they’d hang out. One day, while standing with his friends, his bully walked by. The boy didn’t dare look at Blais, who in that moment understood the protection of having a crew.
He would run with a gang for the next 20 years.
“Kids don’t start bad though, they are developed,” Blais says. “Of course I wasn’t born a bad kid.”
Nor was his mom a bad mom, he says. She was broken, over the death of her husband and other traumas.
A scared kid will “do anything.” And that’s dangerous.
The first arrest
Around age 12 or 13, Blais decided it would be a good idea to break into the home of a classmate. He knew the boy’s father was a cop. It would be cool to get a badge and a gun, he thought. He could show it off to his friends.
But it didn’t go to plan.
“I didn’t get the badge or gun,” he says. “And I got arrested.”
Blais broke in through the “smallest window ever.” He didn’t find what he was looking for and ran home.
Police already knew Blais well — he had been causing problems for a few years — and the size of the window narrowed the suspect pool. It was so small, only a child could fit through.
Police came to his house immediately. He confessed instantly, hoping to avoid stiff punishment.
This was his first criminal charge. He got bail initially, but didn’t show in court. And so began his cycle of incarceration.
Blais started stealing cars — at first he’d grab ones stashed by his older brother — and go for joyrides. Around 14, he drove with friends to Ottawa and back.
“I was five-foot-nothin’ and I’ve looked so young all my life,” he says, adding you’d think it would have been obvious a kid was behind the wheel.
But more often, as long as he stayed between the lines and didn’t speed, he wouldn’t be pulled over.
“I’m amazed that I made it that far because I just jumped in a car and started driving for the first time … you know, bump into a tree here,” he says.
With practice he became a skilled driver and would lead police on chases. Blais was never arrested quietly. That was part of his notoriety. Police knew he was volatile, unpredictable — and that was dangerous.
“Every time I’d get out, I’d just go steal more cars or they’d put me in open custody (halfway house),” he says. “And I ran.”
Blais thinks he escaped from custody 11 times over the years.
It was while he was in Arrell that Blais and friends started his gang the Little Devils — initially for protection inside.
On the outside, the gang worked together to steal stuff. They cut holes in rooftops, disabled alarms and made off with stolen cars chock full of stolen goods. Blais insists they were never as organized as police and media reports made them out to be.
As a teen, Blais could not be named because he was a young offender. As his notoriety grew, The Spectator gave him the nickname Rudy.
An August 1997 story recounts how police arrested the 17-year-old after a month on the run. The teen — angry and dishevelled from a police chase and a struggle with a homeowner on Fullerton Avenue — suddenly perks up and sticks his tongue out when he spots a Spectator photographer.
“Rudy, the punk prince of Hamilton’s young criminals, has done it again. Stuck his tongue out at the whole darn world, something he’s been doing with astounding regularity since he was 12 years old,” the story reads.
While he was in custody that year, Blais recalls a correctional officer finding poems of his that referenced killing cops. He insists he was just venting and had no intention of hurting anyone, but the poems were alarming and led to a high-risk threat assessment that would stay on his file.
In November 1999, when Blais was 19, he was wanted for breaching probation. The Spectator published his entire record, including his juvenile record, with the intention of showing the community how dangerous he was. The move lead to four Spectator employees to be charged with violating the Young Offenders Act. Eventually the former editor-in-chief pleaded guilty and was granted an absolute discharge. The charges against three other employees were dropped. In court the judge noted the “honourable intentions” of the editor but, “unfortunately … you ran afoul of the law.”
This saga only further entrenched Blais in his beliefs about a world set against him.
Today, The Spectator is writing about Blais and his youth record with his permission. He agreed to share his story and not to downplay his criminal past in an effort to show he has learned from those mistakes. Over recent years, he’s also made amends with some of the victims of his crimes.
People have often assumed that given all his time in custody, from such a young age, that he would have received counselling and other support, but Blais says that wasn’t the case. The only time he had psychological testing was when he spent some time in jail in Quebec after being arrested at a bar there in his 20s. He was diagnosed with mild depression and anxiety.
Blais said every time he went to court it “built me up.” Judges would tell him he’s smart and should be doing something else with his life. Instead of using this as fuel to turn his life around, it motivated him to become a smarter criminal.
As a kid, he hung around bank robbers and learned skills.
“I was exposed to older people doing things that the kids aren’t exposed to,” he says. “So I was absorbing that stuff and just kind of moving more like a like a career criminal instead of a kid.”
As a teen, he used those skills to survive. Although, he also recognizes that he is responsible for his actions; that he didn’t become a criminal by accident.
“It definitely was a choice, though,” he adds.
A police shooting
Blais and a friend are standing on the on train tracks near Congress Crescent, off Mount Albion Road in Hamilton.
It’s September 2009 and the 29-year-old was once again on the run. He had long ago seamlessly transferred from the youth to adult prison system, continuing his pattern of crime and running from the law. His buddy had a shotgun stashed in some bushes.
As the two spoke, Blais spotted two guys walking up to the tracks. They weren’t in uniform, but Blais could tell by the distinct bulge in their clothes from their guns that they were police.
“That’s cops,” Blais whispered to his friend.
Without hesitating, his friend reached into the bushes and grabbed the shotgun. He pointed it at the cops.
“I knew I wanted no part of it,” he says.
One of the officers chased him and Blais threw his backpack when the officer nearly caught him. As he climbed up the hill to the Red Hill Valley Parkway, he heard four shots ring out. The cop who was chasing him ran toward the gunfire.
Blais didn’t know if his friend had just shot police or if police shot his friend. It turned out to be the latter. The friend survived, only to die many years later in prison.
Inside the backpack, police found Blais’ parole identity card. He was soon named the “No. 1 priority” for the repeat offender parole enforcement squad — a provincial team led by the OPP who chase down wanted federal offenders.
He was arrested in Ottawa three months later.
Despite his history with the paper, Blais would call The Spectator newsroom unsolicited from jail. He once wrote a letter to the editor musing about the conditions in jail and the lack of programming to help prisoners.
“A person gets 10 years for an armed robbery and is put in a facility that offers no education or self-help programs,” he wrote. “He is locked in an eight-by-12 cell (for) 23 hours a day until he is released. What kind of behaviour does the public expect when he is released? He’s likely a very angry, bitter person with no knowledge on how to act or how to live a normal life.”
Blais still stands by those words. He also recalls that there isn’t a lot to do in jail, but there are always newspapers to read. Blais guesses he read the paper every day from the age 14 to 22. He would call the newsroom because he was bored.
Life changing toke
Blais is at a New Year’s Eve party at a mansion in Dundas.
He’s about 30 and had a falling out with friends just before Christmas. Alone, he found himself talking to a woman who offered him “a toke.” In the past he had always said no to hard drugs, but angry at his friends, he agreed.
He blew out that first taste of crystal meth and turned to the woman.
“My life will never be the same,” he says.
He tried it only a few more times that first year, he claims. But “the horrible drug” had a hold on him. By the second year he was an addict.
Where the crimes of his youth were organized, in this new phase of his life they were desperate. Breaking into cars, stealing out of sheds. His mind was never clear enough to organize the types of crimes he had in the past.
The drug made him act erratically. He spent hundreds of hours collecting rocks and other items, and going through garbage. He would spend hours in parks and fields and forests looking for treasure. During his treasure hunts he found two arrowheads and a rock that appears to have amethyst. The discoveries fuelled conspiratorial thoughts about what the treasures meant.
“This is what crystal meth does to your brain,” he says. “I really believed I was hunting hidden Templar, hidden Nazi treasure.”
There was a time he stopped believing his mom was his biological mom.
In August 2018, high on crystal meth, Blais was riding a motorcycle along Lakeshore in the west end of Burlington looking for cars to break into. It was daylight and he had no regard for cameras or witnesses when he happened upon a home with a “fancy” Rolls-Royce and Tesla in the garage.
He could tell by the look of the home that there was no one there at the time. He had no idea it was the home of billionaire and entrepreneur Ron Joyce.
“Brazen and totally stupid” he stole the cars in broad daylight. He took the Tesla first and then went back for the Rolls-Royce, which he drove to Dundurn Castle.
“I was a dirty, grubby, drug-addicted guy,” he says, adding that he stood out and everyone stared. He was caught later that day with the Tesla going to pick up his welfare cheque.
Given his extensive record, Blais feared a lengthy sentence, but for the first time in a very long time he got a break. The charges were withdrawn over low probability of conviction.
While he was out bail for those car thefts in April 2019, he was found sleeping a stolen Ford Taurus in Stoney Creek. He spent five months in jail before pleading guilty.
“Your honour, clearly my record is horrendous … but you can see there has been a serious decrease in my criminal behaviour,” he told the judge. During his addiction, his crimes had decreased both in frequency and severity.
He was sentenced to three years probation.
“The only one that can help you is yourself,” Ontario Court Justice Tony Leitch told Blais, according to a story on CHCH.
“I was very well aware of how lucky I was … not lucky, blessed,” he says now, particularly about the Burlington charges being withdrawn.
When he left the Barton jail that last time he just started walking. By the time he got to Cannon Street East, somebody was offering him a crystal meth pipe.
“I don’t know why I said no,” he says, adding he felt “disgusted.”
A few months later — and clean — he decided to search for a daughter he’d learned about a few years earlier. No longer deep in his addiction, he was able to make contact with the mother.
For a short time, he had contact with the girl he believes is his daughter, but the relationship with the family dissolved. For the girl’s sake and for the sake of his own mental health, he says he walked away. But Blais says the little girl inspired him to change his life.
It was his hope of getting someone at the church to put in a good word for him that first led him to want to volunteer there. But he soon realized that wasn’t going to happen.
Turns out, occupying his time “in a positive way” was a good way to keep busy.
“I don’t have the time to screw up,” he says, adding that it didn’t take long before he realized how fulfilling it could be.
It started when O’Dell asked him to pick up some trash.
Then he asked him to help at the doors during church service, greeting people and making sure there weren’t disruptions.
Blais wouldn’t go in the church at first. But about 15 minutes into the service most people had already arrived, so he’d step just inside the doorway and listen to the music.
O’Dell would notice him singing along.
To Blais, the music “would be like taking an antidepressant pill.” Then the music pulled him right into the church.
For the first several months he volunteered, a staff member worked with him, keeping an eye out. Eventually O’Dell, impressed by his work ethic, offered him a job.
Blais had been working maybe six months when O’Dell handed him the full set of keys to the church.
“Like, these people trust me more than I trust myself at that point in time,” he thought.
“Are you sure you’re doing the right thing?” Blais asked.
“Yeah, I work with a lot of people Leon and I am a pretty good judge of character … I know you’re going to make this something that’s going to give you the next step to get up on your feet again and start believing in yourself,” O’Dell replied.
It was both uplifting and scary to have that responsibility.
“I’ll never forget that,” Blais says.
Over time, Blais saw the responsibility in a new light. Now he sees himself as a “strong protector of this block,” he says about the area around the church bound by King and Main streets, Victoria and East avenues.
If the alarm goes off in the middle of the night, he’s the one responding. He’s found bodies, responded to overdoses and stopped fights. He’s confiscated weapons, including a dirty machete and bats, and administered Narcan to at least seven people to prevent them from dying of an opioid overdose.
At the same time that the church gave him keys, O’Dell also found him an apartment. It was painted and furnished. The fridge was stocked.
O’Dell and Blais walked over together and O’Dell handed over the key.
“I just stayed inside door and let him go in and look,” O’Dell says.
After a few minutes, he walked in and found Blais crying. No one had ever done such a kind thing for him before.
While Blais was initially resistant to becoming a parishioner, that changed too. After being drawn in by the music, he found faith.
After becoming a staff member, Blais went though the Catholic initiation program, which runs from September to Easter.
O’Dell was worried about whether Blais was prepared for the commitment. But he ended up having the best attendance of anyone taking the class. He would even stop by after to speak with O’Dell and ask questions.
Blais was baptized Holy Saturday night in 2022. He got a standing ovation.
The De Mazenod Door Outreach keeps its doors open 365 days a year — they didn’t close one day during pandemic lockdowns and stay open every holiday. Last year, they served 122,000 meals and now they’re serving 500-plus meals a day.
They have a farm and have helped house a small group of men and women, including Blais.
Sherri Ramirez, director of community and guest relations, says it is hard work. She’s been punched and had coffee thrown in her face. But she knows the work is important and sees it as a mix of charity and social justice.
“I have watched Leon grow into his role and struggle with things because life has struggles for all of us,” she says.
But she believes he shows humility in learning from any missteps. And he doesn’t hide his faith in God.
She says she has seen so many people over the years, broken and in darkness; some make it out and others don’t.
She believes that Blais shows others that there is hope.
“It’s empowering them, that there’s hope for them, that they can get out of their addiction too,” she says.
A couple years ago, after Blais last got out of jail and had gone searching for Pete Wiesner, he unexpectedly showed up at the central police station on King William Street.
Another cop who spotted the notorious criminal couldn’t believe what he saw. Robbie Blais was colouring with chalk outside. He went to fetch Wiesner.
He’s just chalking? He’s drawing a butterfly? Wiesner asked.
Wiesner headed down to meet Blais. The other cop asked him if he needed backup. Wiesner didn’t but the other cop tagged along out of sheer curiosity.
What’s going on? Wiesner asked.
Blais told him about his daughter. The chalk drawings were for her. Wiesner said his heart broke for Blais.
Since then the two have grown close. If there is a problem at St. Patrick, it’s Wiesner who Blais calls. The social navigator team works closely with the outreach ministry, including working at the Friday barbecues and organizing a coat drive.
Wiesner believes people need a purpose to stay on a good path.
“This is what keeps him going now. It gives him purpose,” Wiesner says.
Blais turned that chalk art into an entire program, including a chalk-art festival and art classes once a month at the ministry’s gift-shop, humankind: Gifts That Matter, at 398 Main St. E. The art classes for kids have included everything from cookie decorating, to Easter crafts, to printing shirts and woodwork.
On Blais’ 43rd birthday on May 22, for the second year, he held a chalk-art festival in front of city hall, attracting more than 100 people. Hamilton police — his former enemies — were there helping, including an officer who did face-painting.
A pivotal moment
By November 2022, Blais was an employee of the church for nearly a year and doing well when he suffered a tremendous loss.
He hadn’t heard from his mom for a few days and went to check on her in her apartment.
He found her body. Like his father decades before, she died of an overdose.
All around her were writings, some nonsensical, others musings about the perils of drugs in our society.
In the months before her death, Blais saw her often. She was proud of his transformation. But Blais struggled to reconcile the fact that she was gone.
Most mornings, O’Dell and Blais meet for a coffee to start their day. After his mom’s death, O’Dell saw him withdraw. Blais wasn’t talking to him the same way.
“And I knew we were at a moment that was going to go one way or the other,” O’Dell says.
O’Dell made the difficult decision to take the church keys away from him. He recalls Blais saying it was the worst thing that had happened to him.
It was hard for O’Dell too, but he knew Blais needed some tough love in that moment. It worked. Two weeks later Blais got the keys back.
“He’s had this history with drugs and he’s had this history with brokenness in his family right from the very beginning on upwards,” O’Dell says.
Theirs is a relationship about trust. Blais sometimes takes things the wrong way, gets frustrated and needs space to figure things out.
“The first person he comes back to … is me,” O’Dell says. “I just give him the space to let it all out … and then he eventually comes around and self-corrects himself.”
Many of the men and women who come to the outreach ministry for food have stories like that of Blais. One of his mom’s old bank-robbing boyfriends comes regularly and Blais makes jokes about him not jumping the counter — his signature move — at the church.
The reminders are everywhere and Blais thinks about his mom often. How she struggled, but also her openness.
“When I think about how my mom treated everybody in our community, it didn’t matter who it was,” Blais says. “Even if my mom didn’t even like (the person), my mom would open the door and give them a safe place to go and something to eat.”
That also meant opening the door to bank robbers and drug dealers. But Blais says she did her best.
His parents are buried in the same plot at Woodland Cemetery. It’s a place he finds peaceful.
He believes in some way his mom was waiting for all of her sons to be OK before she died. He was the last of her four boys to “stabilize.”
People ask Blais if he’s going to leave the church, find a better-paying job. But he says that’s never going to happen. He sees himself as a bridge between his two worlds: the church and Hamilton’s marginalized communities.
“This is the community I’ve been around my whole life,” he says. He won’t leave them.
But the work is also what keeps him steady.
Those same questions return: Is it possible for someone to ever fully recover from such a past? To redeem himself?
That is a work in progress. It’s impossible to predict the future, what hardships and joys, Blais may face. That’s life. But for the first time Blais has a purpose, a support system and a reason to keep fighting.