When Prince Rupert’s Myles Moreau stopped a gunman from slaying a terrified young woman, it triggered a desire within him: to prevent incidents like this from happening again.
The 67-year-old went from being a troubled youth turned heroin-junkie to an outspoken advocate and social worker in Prince Rupert.
By reflecting on his experiences, Myles was able to prevent countless young people on the North Coast from heading down the same dark path he had.
Myles spent his childhood in his hometown of Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, but after being kicked out of his parents’ house at 14 he wound up on the streets of Montreal.
“I got into the street scene pretty bad. I was on my own from the age of 15; I turned 15 on the streets,” he said.
Within a few years, Myles began using heroin and became a full-blown addict by the time he turned 20.
In search of better days, Myles hitchhiked across Canada to Vancouver before jumping on a bus destined for Los Angeles.
But it wasn’t all sunny days in California. Myles was in the City of Angels when the Watts Riots broke out in 1965 after racial tension had reached a breaking point in the Watts neighbourhood of the city, predominantly occupied by black people.
There may have been a lot of tension in L.A. at the time, but Myles still managed to have a good time. In Los Angeles Myles starting working as a roadie for a successful American rock group.
“I travelled and did a lot of road trips with them, from L.A., along the coast to Seattle and into Vancouver,” he said, adding he spent a few years as a roadie for a number of bands.
“It was a lot of partying,” he said.
Eventually Myles ended up in eastern Canada again, where he would accomplish one of his proudest achievements: beating his heroin addiction. Myles has been clean of the drug since the mid-’70s and hasn’t ever looked back.
“I got tired of people turning their backs on me and losing friends. In the drug world, you don’t have friends,” he said.
After returning to B.C., Myles ended up moving to Prince Rupert where he got a job as a childcare worker at Booth Memorial School.
For years Myles worked with children with special needs and kids who had behavioural problems, but an event in Vancouver would change Myles’ desired method of helping youth.
In the summer of 1985, Myles noticed a young woman in distress while driving down Marine Drive.
“There was this guy standing behind her in total army fatigue,” he recalled.
“I rolled down my window and told the guy to back off. I thought it was a girlfriend and boyfriend [fighting]. He didn’t and she continued screaming.”
When Myles got out of the car he saw that the man had a nine-millimetre handgun.
“He tried to pull her away to his car,” he said.
“He ended up blowing her shoulder off … he put a hole in a bus.”
When the young gunman tried to flee the scene, Myles followed him and wrote down his licence plate number. Because of this, the Vancouver Police were able to bust the man later that night, finding a number of guns and piano wire in the man’s vehicle.
The assailant got nine years in jail for the attack, with Myles being recognized with a Certificate of Merit from the Vancouver Police for helping save the 15-year-old girl’s life.
The incident provoked Myles to dedicate his life to preventing youth from taking the wrong path in life, as he had when he was a teenager.
In the late-’80s, Myles approached the superintendent of the school district about initiating an outreach program for street youth, which led to the creation of Prince Rupert’s Reconnect Program.
Once Reconnect got going, Myles left his school district job and initiated the Kids on the Street Society, working as an outreach worker.
“When I started my street program, what I had in my head is what I saw on the street that day in Vancouver … that made me want to do work on the streets [to prevent incidents like that],” he said.
Assisting street-involved youth and youth at risk of being on the street, the program addressed issues facing teens including drug use, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS and teen pregnancy, with outreach workers being on-call 24/7. It went on to prompt the creation of an AIDS and meal ticket program in Prince Rupert, as well as a clean needle exchange.
Myles also travelled to Hartley Bay, Lax Kw’alaams and Kitkatla to host workshops and counselling sessions.
“We could only provide, they had to make the choices,” Myles said.
“The rewards are now starting to come because a lot of the kids I dealt with years and years ago are now coming to me and showing me [who they became].”
To ensure effectiveness, the group networked with a variety of community partners, including then-mayor Peter Lester.
Myles said working with Lester was a highlight in his life, so it was only natural that Myles turned to Lester for advice when he decided to run for city council.
“I said to him, ‘I want to run for council, can you give me any words of advice?’. And he said, ‘Don’t piss them all off at the same time’,” Myles laughed.
Myles sat on city council for one term starting in 1993 and later became chair of Prince Rupert’s RCMP Community Consultative board. Myles was also recognized with the Paul Harris Fellow by the Prince Rupert Rotary Club a number of years ago.
After 22 years, the province cut funding for Prince Rupert’s street program. Although years have passed, Myles hasn’t lost any of his passion.
“If the city is ever ready to do anything to deal with social issues, 67 or not, I’m willing to help,” he said.
Now retired, Myles spends much of his free time with Wendy, his partner for the past 11 years.
While photography has always been an interest of his (Myles studied photography at the School of Modern Photography in Montreal, did work in Sweden and even had photos published in a coffee table book), he found a fellow enthusiast in Wendy.
“We both go together but end up coming home with different shots,” Myles said.
Having more free time on his hands in recent years has allowed Myles to discover his roots, experiencing another high point in his life by tracking down members of the “Shea Clan” from Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island – relatives from his mother’s side.
But despite most of his family living far away, Myles has no plans of disembarking from the North Coast any time soon.
“Rupert has been good to me,” he explained.