"If there was any silver lining in this it could be that maybe white middle-class people would care more about the risks that are out there for other members of our community." U of T criminologist, Mariana Valverde in today's Toronto Sun."Yesterday's shootings in Toronto serve as a painful reminder that we cannot take our peace or our understanding for granted. I think more than anything else, they demonstrate what are in fact the consequences of exclusion. I was in Toronto not long ago and met with a number of members of communities in the Jane and Finch area . . . and the young people talked to me about the void in their lives, and what hopelessness and exclusion can bring." Paul Martin, Liberal leader
First -- there is no silver lining. There can be no silver lining in the death of young girl at the hands of vicious, souless thugs. Sentencing reform could have come without her death . . . should have come without her death -- things never should have been allowed to get this far. The only deterrent to this kind of crime is to lock them up and throw away the key. Maybe if criminals knew they'd never get out, EVER again -- maybe they'd think twice. Prison time must be punitive. We know all that without the death of an innocent child.
Unlike Ms Valverde and our Prime Minister, I thought the violence downtown on boxing day was the act of criminals who realised that because of their age, or who through experience with a lack of serious penalties (should they ever be caught), had no compunction about choosing murder as the answer to their grievances. It never occurred to me that it was our fault because we don't care and we have created a dark void into which excluded people fall, helpless to prevent themselves from pulling guns on crowded streets and killing innocent people.
Forgive me if I don't care when young men with guns, shoot other young men with guns. My only concern has ever been the innocents who might be caught in the cross-fire.
Ms Valverde suggests we (white, middle-class suburbanites) will 'care more' now that this has come to one of our own. Like this is something new.
Remember these names? In 1983 Barbara Turnbull was shot and paralysed in a convenience store robbery in Mississauga; 23 year old Vivi Leimonis was murdered 1994 in a botched robbery at Just Desserts in Toronto; in 2004, Louise Russo was paralysed in a drive-by shooting at a sandwich shop in North York, and now Jane Creba. There are others, but I remember these few names because they are women whose ages were similar to mine at the times of the events, and now with the last one, I have a fifteen year old daughter.
People already care -- but don't expect us to shed tears for the thugs who become 'victims' of a street life they have a part in shaping and maintaining.
Unlike the elites, it didn't take this murder for us to know things are out of hand. We see the violence as already affecting us -- even when they aren't killing our kids. It's just that unlike those who comment from ivory towers, we have no warm and fuzzy illusions about after school programmes being more than just another place for a drug deal. We have no grand visions of violent criminals flushing their drugs, handing over their guns and getting jobs at the Zellers or Canadian Tire.
I don't believe in warm and snuggly social programs -- I believe in punitive justice as a deterrent to violent crime.
I don't believe a kid who knows he can make $3,000 a week selling crack or meth, is going to become a model citizen because of a work co-op programme.
I don't believe that 'children' who are 15, 16 or 17 should be shielded by their age, from the real consequences for the violent crimes they commit because of a law designed to protect kids who swipe a pack of gum.
I don't believe violent criminals will grow a soul if they go to anger management or other useless therapy programs.
I don't believe in rehabilitation -- I believe in retribution.
I don't believe in collective guilt -- I believe in personal responsibility.
Ms Valverde and Mr. Martin are laying the blame for violent crime at the feet of the average person. I'm not biting.
People who behave in a violent, anti-social manner should be excluded from society. But they should be excluded through incarceration in jail where they belong. Maybe then they wouldn't have a chance to influence the little ones in their communities for whom there is still hope. Maybe if they were kept in jail where they belong, those who come up behind them might realise that crime doesn't pay, that there are consequences for every action. And even if locking them up and throwing away the key does nothing to deter even one other criminal -- at least the criminal who is locked up will be out of our midst and unable to cause harm to society again.
Mr. Martin can blame poverty, hopelessness etc. He can give all the root-causes he wants -- but that is a major insult to all those who live in low-income, high-crime areas and who manage to instill values in their children. It is an insult to all the poor people who realise that poverty is just the state of your bank account, and that the measure of your character is where you create your riches. These people need the government to back them up. They need to be able to say to their kids 'no excuses'. Instead we have staged sympathy, wrong-headed solutions (hand-gun ban), collective guilt and governmental inertia when it comes to violent crime.
The criminal sucks the hope and potential from children in tough neighbourhoods -- and the government ensures the hope remains extinguished by doing nothing to remove the criminal element from their midst. What good will it do to get tough on handguns, if they don't get tough on the people who use them? Good people in poor communities want the criminal element locked away. Only when these gangster role models are gone, can the kids within these communities see past the gang culture to a positive future. At-risk youth are most at risk from the influence and the crimes of the criminals in their own neighbourhoods.
Update: I was thinking about other people -- innocent people -- who've been victims of gun crime and gang violence recently -- 11 year old Tamara Carter, riding a TTC bus with her mother in November 2004 -- shot in the face. In October of this year a TTC bus driver was shot and critically injured.
There are still more. How quickly we forget -- and that's the problem. They go out of the newspapers, out of our thoughts until the next time. And that's why it's so easy for the government to ramp up the rhetoric when something like this happens and to drop it down and ignore it when the current tempest has passed.
People are suggesting that the reaction to this was because this was a young white girl. We didn't know who she was until last night. What we did know, was that she was shopping with her family, not carrying a gun, not a part of the gang culture -- not a part of the problem. That's what caused the reaction. It isn't racism that makes us sit up and take notice now -- we've taken notice every time -- but this time, there is an election campaign on and maybe our outrage will be heard.