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23/07/2012 | Canada - Opinion: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s blunder in labelling immigrants criminals hurts the city

Editorial

Rob Ford’s unfitness to serve as mayor has never been more obvious than in the aftermath of the worst shooting spree in Toronto’s history.

 

His first response was to downplay the significance of gunfire that left two dead and 23 wounded on Monday night. Within hours he switched track, declared himself “furious,” vowed a war on gangs, and proposed that anyone convicted of a gun crime be run out of the city.

When banishment was resisted as impractical, Ford said he intended to sit down with Prime Minster Stephen Harper to see how “immigration laws” could be used to implement such exile. His approach garnered well-deserved criticism for unfairly labelling newcomers as criminals. So Ford shifted course again, saying he didn’t intend to single out immigrants at all. Banishment from Toronto would apply to Canadian citizens, too.

“I don’t care if you’re white, pink or purple,” the mayor told a NewsTalk 1010 radio show on Thursday. “All I’m saying is, if you’re caught with a gun and convicted of a gun crime, I want you out of this city.” But questions about how that might actually happen left the mayor in a muddle. At one point, he asked the show’s hosts if they could clarify the role of Citizenship and Immigration Canada with him. “Okay . . . maybe I’m not an expert on the ministries,” he concluded.

Behold, the mayor of Canada’s largest city!

Community leaders had gathered earlier that day to plead for government support, especially for prevention programs keeping young people from joining gangs. Ford answered that concern by describing the requested services as “hug-a-thug programs.” He wrongly declared that that they don’t work and reiterated his preferred approach: lower taxes for businesses so companies could create jobs.

This is the stuff of parody — fighting crime by giving breaks to business instead of kids in need — but that’s Ford’s actual view. And he has backed it up with action.

The mayor recently voted against every one of Toronto’s community development grants. He was the only member of council to do so. He also opposed accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from Ottawa for an anti-gang initiative that cost Toronto nothing. He lost that vote 33-1.

Yet Ford, of all people, will be Toronto’s main representative in a meeting with Premier Dalton McGuinty on Monday asking for help in reducing gun crime. Ford has already indicated he wants money for expanded policing while McGuinty, quite rightly, is much more open to exploring long-term ways of keeping youth from resorting to crime.

It’s interesting that Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair doesn’t echo Ford’s dismissal of preventive programs. On the contrary, he told a television interviewer last week that community organizations have been instrumental in giving at-risk young people mentorship and opportunities. “You can’t arrest your way out of some of these challenges,” Blair said. And he’s correct.

Ford’s failures especially hurt in a time of crisis, when residents look to their city leaders for guidance. It’s a matter of public confidence. When innocent people are dying, and even children are being shot, Toronto needs someone firmly in charge. It needs clear direction and a mayor with a sound understanding of what’s to be done. Instead, it has Ford — fumbling and flailing about — demonstrating only unrelieved ignorance and monumental insensitivity.

What’s truly sad is that those most likely to be hurt by Ford’s pathetic leadership are the very communities suffering now from the scourge of gangs and guns.

The Star (Canadá)

 


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