Monday, August 08, 2005
POLITICS AS USUAL: THE WAR ON STREET TERROR
UPDATE: Imagine if a version of THIS was happening to gun runners, drug dealers and criminals.
Two issues of striking similarity continue to dominate the news, both of which at odds with our way of life here in Western society.
The first, CH readers are unfortunately all too familiar with: terrorist attacks and suicide bombers. We have all seen the images and aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Centre, the London subway system, Bali, and Spain. And the story is also the same: Islamic fundamentalists who have taken their bloody jihad as close to the heart of their "enemy" as possible, by blowing up innocent civilians in dense urban centres.
And all western societies are feeling the repercussions: how many of us have not wondered (or more likely openly debated) as to whether their city, town or country will be the next target? The difficultly in fighting this type of horrific act is to weed out the truly dangerous and hateful from a community as a whole. Any rational person recognizes that the vast majority of muslims in North America and Europe do not advocate the indescriminate killing of innocent people. These murderers are radical fundamentalists who represent a small yet violent part of the muslim community.
The problem lies in separating those muslims who are looking to destroy our way of life from those muslims who want to live in harmony with westerners. Many have advocated for swift and harsh action on anyone connected or even associated with radical islamic sects who openly advocate violence against others to advance their agenda.
The second has been dominating newscasts in the Toronto area. Over the last two weeks, some areas of the City have become something akin to the wild west. In 14 days, 17 people including a 4-year old boy, have been shot on Toronto streets in an escalating gang turf war.
These shootings have struck fear in the heart of residential neigbouroods across Toronto: bullets have been flying in parks, backyards, shopping malls and even in the middle of a crowded street festival with hundreds of witnesses and a signficant police presence. Innocent victims have been caught in the crossfire of armed thugs.
In this case, the neighbourhoods where these shootings have been predominately black, with the perpetrators also being of african origin. The Toronto police have vowed to bring the criminals to jail (with some success already) and have pledged to work with the black community to ensure the guilty are hunted down while ensuring the community as a whole doesn't become a suspect.
Both types of violence have similarities:
- Innocent people have been hurt or killed.
- The crimes or acts have been to advance an agenda.
- Both sets of crimes have a population in fear.
- A particular ethnic community has been linked to the crimes.
- Authorities in either case are hunting a violent section of that community while trying not to target the community overall.
- Authorities are (frankly) having some difficulty in distinguishing betwen the two.
- The violence in both cases continues.
In response to the attacks in London, PM Tony Blair has announced sweeping new plans to deals with extremists linked to terroist organizations. The measures include:
- Expanding ground for deporting foreigners, including fostering hatred or advocating violence;
- Creating a list of websites and organizations linked to terrorism;
- Expanding and streamlining government powers to quickly strip naturalized citizens of citizenship if they participate in terrorism;
- Refuse asylum for anyone with terrorism links; and
- Expanding powers to hold suspects for 3 months without charge.
The UK has taken very specific action to root out fundamentalists and rid the country of the terrorist element, even while risking strained relations with the muslim community in Britain. According to Blair, "the rules of the game are changing".
Why couldn't Toronto or Canada take the same route with street gangs? While not targeting a radical sect, the same principles could apply in Toronto's "war on street terror". Britain is saying that not only will there be harsh penalties for those who commit these acts, there will be strict action taken on anyone who is associated with those involved in these crimes.
Specifically, they'll be deported. Quickly. For many involved in street gangs, that would also be a potential penalty. Many gang members and associates are from the West Indies, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti, etc. Deportation would be a real consequence.
And the expanded powers would allow the Toronto police to conduct massive gang sweeps to pick up those suspected of being involved in drive-by shootings, murder, extortion and drug running. It would show those in the community that the Canadian public is taking gang violence as serious as terrorism.
That would be a strong statement.
And why wouldn't we? Like terrorists, these gangs are keeping the public in fear. They are using that fear to get their way. And like terrorism, random violence against innocent people deserves the harshest of responses. And it would give the vastly innocent, hard working people on Toronto's black community a strong incentive not to associate with gang members and to ensure they are caught quickly and brought to justice.
That change of approach would send a clear, unwaivering message to street thugs: If you mess around in a gang, one way or another, you will be routed out, punished, and in some cases deported.
UPDATE: I totally agree with Warren Kinsella's take on Mayor David Miller and his crime policies (or lack thereof).
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