Pubdate: Fri, 06 Jan 2006
Source: Arthur Enterprise News (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006 Arthur Enterprise News
Bookmark: (Racial Issues)
Bookmark: (Youth)
Bookmark: (Opinion)


A Boxing Day shopping trip came to a tragic end when gang violence
erupted - again - on a downtown Toronto street. Several bystanders
were shot, one fatally. The 15-year-old girl was not the city's first
murder victim, or the first innocent person shot to death in that city
in 2005. But she was the victim who finally got the nation's
attention. And the nation is saying a collective, "Enough is enough."

We listen to the politicians, each of whom has some sort of simple
solution to the situation, but most of us realize there will be no
quick fix. Gang violence has been growing and becoming more virulent
over the past decade and we fear it will get worse.

The reason is not difficult to understand - there are simply too many
young men marginalized by poverty, race and lack of education, with
few positive role models and limited opportunities.

Unlike the Great Depression when nobody had anything, these kids see
wealth all around them, on television, in the shops and in their own
communities. They want the designer clothes, cell phones, cars and CD
players - all the goodies bustling, wealthy Toronto has to offer. Like
the rest of us they also want to belong, they want respect and they do
not want to be poor.

Their immediate world has two types of prosperous people. One is the
teachers, doctors and social workers who could serve as examples of
what is possible except most of them are white, while most of the poor
kids are not.

How can a 16-year-old black kid who speaks with a Jamaican accent,
lives in a roach-infested apartment complex and is two years behind at
school, escape poverty?

He looks to the other role models, the black American rap artists who
sing about anger, drugs and guns; and the neighbourhood drug dealers.
The latter not only represent success, but a form of success that is
within easy grasp, no age, race or education requirements.

There are dangers, not from the legal system and its threats of
probation or community service, but from others trying to get their
cut of a very lucrative business. Carrying a gun makes a 16-year-old
kid - or even better, a group of them - something to be feared.

Those young, gun-toting gangsters need positive role models they can
identify with - black youth leaders, teachers, police officers, social
workers - who can prove mainstream Canadian society is not

They need extra help with education - not just tutoring and
counselling, but a safe place to do homework - a place with computer
access and someone to answer questions. The idea is not to keep them
in school, but for them to learn and achieve success while they are

If that means breakfast and lunch programs at school, plus help
finding the family decent housing and access to a good citizenship
lawyer, so be it.

And we have to make that neighbourhood drug dealer look like the loser
he is instead of a hero - stop him from thumbing his nose at police by
imposing realistic penalties for drug and weapons offences. We cannot
eliminate crime but we can make it a lot less attractive.

There is much to be done on many fronts. Solutions will not be easy or
cheap, but they are necessary. We can only pray the situation has not
deteriorated beyond the point of no return.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin