Yves Côté is a hard-working, compassionate, friendly 60-year-old man.
If you were to meet a resident of Chilliwack, you would not see the terrible experiences he has endured, nor the terrible things he has done.
The second youngest of eight children, Yves’ mother died when he was young, putting him in the foster care system where he suffered severe abuse throughout his childhood.
Between the ages of five and 17, he lived in several foster homes, juvenile detention facilities, and multiple psychiatric hospitals in Quebec.
As Yves emerged from an unenviable childhood, he did the unthinkable shortly after turning 20. He was treated very badly by his elder brother Beuss, torturing him physically and mentally for many years.
“He was a bully and he was extremely cruel,” said Yves in an interview Progress.
With the help of his three brothers, Yves convinces Beavis to meet him at their father’s house. There, the four held Beus hostage for three days, repeatedly beating him, torturing him and threatening to kill him.
“On the third day, I grabbed his head, bent him back, put his own gun under his chin, and shot him.”
Thus began 40 years of violent criminal adulthood spent mostly in Quebec’s maximum security prisons.
How can a person who spent 32 years in prison recover and become a contributing member of society?
Yves outlines this in a book co-authored with criminologist Alana Abramson, titled Metamorphosis: My Path to Transformation.
Beuys did not die the day Yves shot him, and Yves was sentenced to 42 months for attempted murder and other crimes.
From his conviction in January 1982 to his release on day parole on December 6, 2013, under the age of 32, Yves was out of prison for just 11 months.
“My punishment is not the years I got,” he says. “My punishment is to live with what I’ve done for the rest of my life.”
Life behind bars
Going to prison meant learning how to survive. Violence is ubiquitous in maximum security institutions such as Donacona in Quebec City, where Yves spent many years.
But for Yves, coming from an abusive household was not unfamiliar. He did well in prison, becoming the type the inmates feared because being afraid was a way to survive.
“Fast forward 10 to 15 years: I’m serving two life sentences in prison, one for first-degree murder and one for second-degree murder,” he writes. “I’m five feet seven inches and 225 pounds and my body is covered in tattoos. I’ve been working for 20 years and I’ve been known as the strongest man in the establishments I’ve spent time at. I have used violence as a tool while in prison to get what I want. I became like the men I feared when I first entered prison.
I met Yves Progress Office, sitting down with him for an interview, finds this patient, dignified, self-aware man no match for the violent killer he explains he was in the past.
What is interesting about Metamorphosis The point is that people can change, however rare, and according to Yves, they change in spite of Canada’s correctional system, not because of it.
Ask him about the death penalty and for a man who has committed the most serious crime in the Criminal Code, his answer is surprising.
“If I could, I would choose the death penalty,” he says.
Canada’s maximum sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years is a waste of life for Yves.
He believes the worst should be life with parole being considered after 10 years because at least it gives the offender a light at the end of the tunnel.
Life prisoners lose all hope so they become hardened, committed to prison life, in stark contrast to rehabilitation by the Canadian system.
“It’s very hard to imagine a 25-life sentence when you’re young,” he says. “Where is the hope? Losing hope is a terrible thing.”
If a person is given 10 years to change, it is a positive result for the system. And if he can not change? He remains imprisoned.
“If you have to spend a couple of decades in prison, that’s a long time,” he says. “The time I spent there, they could have made a brain surgeon out of me.”
Despite being a man now out of prison, with a second – if too late – chance at life, he doesn’t blame his upbringing for the crimes he committed and is mad to see it. Other criminals are known to do the same.
“A lot of boys (in the prison system) were abused when they were kids, a lot of boys were sexually abused,” he says. “I remember sitting in restorative justice circles and hearing sex predators complain because they’re saying, ‘I’ve been sexually assaulted so I’m a pedophile.’ I say, ‘Wait a minute, I was sexually abused when I was a child and that’s the last thing I’d ever want to do to someone else. You’re a sexual predator because you’re a (expletive) creep. “
He applies the same principle to bullies.
“I ask the guy who says he was bullied, ‘Well why would you want to do that to other people?'”
“Blaming others is always easier than taking responsibility for one’s own actions,” he writes in the book. “Nobody made me kill somebody, pull the trigger six times, stab a man multiple times.”
Yves’ book is an eye-opener for the layman who knows nothing of the torture, abuse, and harsh conditions of federal prisons.
It also highlights what some say is impossible, or at least very rare, namely that convicted felons can serve time and lead productive lives.
“My goal with the book is to show that there is a reason we become who we are but we can change.”
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BookschilliwackCops and CourtsHomicideQuebec