Pubdate: Thu, 15 Sep 2005
Source: Recorder & Times, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2005 Recorder and Times
Author: Alexander Panetta, CP


OTTAWA - Canadians shouldn't blame their southern neighbour for the spike 
in gun-related violence in Toronto, says the U.S. ambassador in Ottawa. Any 
urge to point the finger at the U.S. for weapons smuggled across the border 
is simply misguided, U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins diplomat said Thursday.

"I don't think it's fair," he told The Canadian Press in an interview. 
Canadians seeking a scapegoat should look in the mirror, he suggested. "The 
majority of guns coming from the United States are purchased by Canadian 
citizens," Wilkins said. "(This is) in violation of our state laws - and 
(they're) smuggled back across the border in violation of your laws."

Canada's largest city has seen a startling jump in gun-related deaths - 37 
so far this year, 10 more than for all of 2004.

The killings prompted a series of raids that resulted in 40 arrests 
Thursday and more than 1,000 gun and drug charges in Toronto.

The raids were aimed at bringing down a street gang known as the Ardwick 
Blood Crew and covered a range of alleged crimes, including attempted 
murder and firearms trafficking.

Ontario politicians, fearing a public backlash over the increased gunplay 
on Toronto's streets, have attempted to shift the blame south of the border.

Premier Dalton McGuinty repeatedly decries "American guns on Canadian 
streets" and Toronto police chief Bill Blair says half the weapons used by 
criminals are smuggled from the U.S.

It's an understandable reaction, says Wilkins.

"I've been in politics a long time," said the former speaker of the South 
Carolina state senate. "I understand it's easier to point the finger at 
somebody else when times are tough."

He said law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border are working 
together to crack down on gun violence.

U.S. agents are helping with Canadian investigations, are using their 
technology to trace guns and track bullets, and have offered high-tech 
tools to the RCMP.

The U.S. is also opening a small office of its Alcohol, Tobacco and 
Firearms Agency in Toronto.

"We are working hard with Canadian officials," Wilkins said.

"And the Canadian officials I talk to - the law-enforcement folks - tell 
me, 'We appreciate your help,' " he said.

In a lengthy interview, Wilkins repeatedly stressed what he called a solid 
friendship between the two countries and said he was deeply moved by 
Canadians' prompt response to the hurricane Katrina disaster.
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