EDITORIALS, PEOPLE

D/Sgt Thane Alexander Chartrand – A True Aboriginal Success Story

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Detective Thane Chartrand – Firearms Training (FB)

I haven’t done the research on this one but I’m confident Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan hasn’t produced many top-notch Indigenous Homicide Investigators.

Detective Sergeant Thane Chartrand happens to be one of them.

Born on April 16th, 1969 to a Metis father and a Scottish mother, Thane would be one of a total of seven (7) children, five (5) boys and two (2) girls born to this diverse couple.  Although Thane’s mother maintained consistent employment waiting tables at a local restaurant, his father had a difficult time putting food on the table with his sporadic work and all to frequent trips to the beer parlour.

A low-income family with nine (9) mouths to feed would mean trips to the food bank and hand me down clothes for Thane and his siblings.  Despite the astronomical odds against a happy ending for children raised in such an environment, Thane and his siblings all achieved success as adults. His brothers enjoy diverse employment in construction, natural resources and education.  One of his brothers services his community as Church Pastor while both of his sisters pursued careers in nursing.

In 1989 Thane started his career in Law Enforcement with the Winnipeg Police Service as a member of recruit class #113.  Our career paths first intersected in the mid 1990’s when Thane was selected to join the Major Crimes Unit in Division #20.  I was fully aware of Thanes reputation as a hard-working street wise cop, but it was his reputation as a prankster that concerned me most.  Road kill in your locker, racy photo’s spliced into the odd power point presentation, bites out of sandwiches in your lunch box and missing news papers were all pranks attributed to Thane.

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Thane Chartrand – Beyond Thunderdome (FB)

He was the worst and the best all at the same time.

He could dish it out and he could take it, anything to keep the high stress office atmosphere light.  Despite his propensity to victimize his coworkers, Thane proved his worth with his work ethic, tenacity and determination to tackle our heavy case loads.  These were highly productive, successful years collaring hard-core bank robbers, gangsters and thugs…many of whom caught double-digit jail sentences.

In 1998, my tenure in the Major Crimes Unit was up and I moved on.

Our career paths crossed again in January of 2003 when Thane was drafted into the Homicide Unit.  As partners, we were ready for anything.  As different as we were, we had many things in common.  We both had extremely strong work ethics, dogged determination and an unwavering commitment to solve homicide cases.

It wouldn’t take long for our first test.

On January 5th, 2003, a young middle class kid from St Vital by the name of TJ Wiebe was senselessly murdered by several “tweekers” who initially targeted him for a drug rip.  That evil plan would evolve into a surreal murder plot that would be executed with deadly results.

TJ Wiebe Cross - Body Recovery Site (Photo JGJ)
TJ Wiebe Cross – Body Recovery Site (Photo JGJ)

When the dust settled, we interviewed the primary suspect and two (2) of his conspirators. Thane played an integral role in the interrogation that saw the primary killer take us on a roller coaster ride that started with outright denials, to vague recollections, to self-defence, to blackouts and finally to a confession to first degree murder.

It was a beautiful thing.

Our success continued into 2004, a record year for Homicides for the City of Winnipeg, with a total of thirty-four (34) killings being recorded.  It was an incredibly taxing and rewarding year, a year that our team scored a one hundred (100%) solvency rate.  A feat that has not been achieved since.

Thane was a huge part of our team success that year with his razor-sharp street smarts and ability to extract confessions from murder suspects.  Our partnership ended in 2005 after my allotted time in the Homicide Unit expired.  Thane remained in the high stakes Unit until his term expired in 2007.

It wouldn’t take Thane long to have an impact on the streets of Winnipeg after he left the Homicide Unit.

While patrolling in North End Winnipeg, Thane and his partner spotted two scumbags throwing a molotov cocktail into a residence that housed eleven (11) innocent sleeping victims ranging in age from nine (9) months to sixty-six (66) years.

Thane Chartrand (Winnipeg Sun)
Thane Chartrand (Winnipeg Sun)

Their quick and heroic actions resulted in the rescue of ten (10) of the eleven (11) people who would have otherwise undoubtedly perished in the inferno. Sadly, one resident was found deceased by fire fighters as they completed mop up operations.

Both Thane and his partner’s life saving efforts were described as “heroic” by the Police Service and media.

In 2011, Thane was successful in the WPS promotion competition and secured the rank of Detective Sergeant. His efforts paved the way for his return to the Homicide Unit where he continues to work as one of the Unit’s few returning members with previous Homicide experience.

That experience was a critical asset Thane utilized during the interrogation of alleged serial killer Shawn Lamb. The results, an impressive confession and charges laid in the senseless killings of three (3) Indigenous women.  Another great achievement in a remarkable career in Law Enforcement.

Working with Thane does have at least one minor drawback.

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Thane Chartrand – Off the Grid (FB)

If he happens to invite you to Starbucks be sure he has his wallet with him before he orders one of his famous Hi Fi Chai Lattes.  If you don’t, your wallet’s going to be about $15 lighter by the time he gets done with you.  It took around three (3) months before I caught on to his little trick. 

I’ve never met a better scammer.

It’s unfortunate, but the truth is great street cops are seldom recognized and rarely receive awards for their contributions to the Police Service and / or public safety.

It’s also unfortunate that Indigenous people’s achievements and success in our Province are often overshadowed by negative news or stereotypes related to gangs, crime and violence.  I’ve had the great pleasure of working with several talented, hard-working, successful Indigenous Police Officers during my career with the WPS.

None of them better than Detective Sergeant Thane Alexander Chartrand.

Detective Sergeant Thane Chartrand officially retires from the Winnipeg Police Service next week on March 19, 2016.

When he walks out that door he’s going to leave one big pair of police boots to fill.

When I asked Thane to sum up his career in Law Enforcement he paused for a moment, pondered the question and replied with a philosophical retort…

“I don’t know, it’s kind of like finishing a race, I have my hands on my hips walking towards the finish line that’s just ahead.  A short time before, I was running with a bunch of people who are still in the race.  Everyone runs their own race and has to set their own pace.  It feels like I’m crossing the finish line alone….something we all eventually experience I guess.  Now that I’ve completed my race I have to admit I’m personally exhausted and glad its done because I’ve got another life and a world of experiences ahead of me.”

 

Thats how the story ends.

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