Jan. 24 2004

Editor, Toronto Star
RE: (Editorial) Bring on `gangbusters Jan. 23, 2004.
Approaching the "gang problem" in the US manner, through increased police presence and jail time, is not only wrong but, as is clearly indicated year after year by ever rising crime stats in that same US, ineffective. What part exactly is it of "Poverty causes crime" the authorities in Canada do not understand?

If you're serious about reducing crime in Toronto and Canada, the very first thing that needs to be done is to tackle the serious poverty in this country - you are aware, I presume, that a full (and counting) 14 years after the great House of Commons resolution in 1989 to seriously tackle the issue of child poverty in Canada, that rate has actually increased a couple of percentage points, and now stands at a completely disgraceful level of approximately 20% - not only disgraceful, but in more practical terms a serious impediment to the economic wellbeing of this country, as poor people contribute little economically and are also prone to be more of a drain on all government resources through such things as poorer health and the tendency to turn to crime, often in sheer desperation. I suppose making a serious dent in this poverty rate would require things the people who run this country are not prepared to accept - particularly requiring the wealthy and corporate sectors paying something like a fair rate of taxation. But going after these poor people with more police and jail time is simply not going to work, and until you all realise that, the problem will persist. One actually wonders just how serious the people who talk about reducing the crime rate really are, when they refuse to tackle the basic cause (and going into schools to tell the poor kids that gangs are bad and the big police officers will get 'em if they break laws isn't really addressing the issue).

A second cause almost as important of gang crime in Toronto and elsewhere is, as I am sure you are equally aware, the criminalisation of an activity that the great majority of people in Canada do not believe should be crinimalised, and thus tend to ignore the law - but are forced to turn to illegal channels to pursue that activity, thus creating a huge niche for organised crime, including gangs, to fill. This is, of course, the criminalisation of soft drugs such as marijuana - if marijuana at least was legalised, this would be a serious strike against all kinds of organised crime (not to mention spinoff benefits like providing a lot of people with a good economic opportunity, giving the government a lot of legal tax money and freeing up a very substantial amount of police time and resources to pursue real criminals).

It's rather disappointing, actually, to see the Star taking the stance of the "hardrightwingers" in fighting crime, focusing on increased police presence rather than tackling the true source of the problem.

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