It has become apparent that our streets are in a state of emergency. Usually our initial reaction is to point fingers as to who is to blame for the dismay that lays hidden in the cracks of the concrete. The recent shooting at Toronto’s Eaton Centre, it is reminiscent of the year of the gun, 2005, juxtaposed with the recent tragic event at our city’s central tourist attraction, sheds light on the concrete that has been cracking for some time now. This also urges Torontonians to think of what it means for the city as we are ushered into the summer of 2012. It scares us to acknowledge our bleeding streets, which are screaming to be heard. Even though the pertinent question still remains: what is the solution and how can it be bottled fast enough, for a solution? Is there such a thing, when our streets are currently in a state of crisis?
There are multiple realities that coexist within Toronto. They often collide into contact with each other by way of inopportune moments. The tragic event that displayed itself on centre stage at the Eaton Centre on Saturday, June 2nd, has left scars that have marred the skin of Toronto’s fabric. But is it enough to truly call to attention the harsh realities and conversations that our city needs to start having?
Conversations in the past have started with love and ended with the budget cuts to the social sector. The conversations we need to have will shed light to the fact that this shooting was tragic but also that it was something that’s a direct result of the cries that have gone unanswered many times before. This event brought the issue out into the open, to call into attention the need for action and change within our communities that doesn’t start with the expansion of jails, but rather, with grassroots solutions that are not bandaid quick fix remedies to a deep-seated issue, and much larger discussions. The intervention needs to be drastic but authentic enough to encourage a shift of thinking, and urge for a new way of life.
From the cutbacks and the roll backs in social services and opportunities for marginalized youth, the road spirals into a slippery slope. The question of justice begins to display itself in multiple ways, which operate differently in the streets and in the court room. The spaces in which justice or just-us prevails operates on different strata, and occasionally intersect with each other on unfortunate moments such as that Saturday evening.
Imagine a world infused with love, instead of hate. A world where human problems were not met with malice and institutional solutions but rather human ones. How do we get to a place such as that, where the true pulse of the community matter and people respond accordingly? Only in those moments when the true heartbeat and pulse of the community come together can systemic differences occur and justice transcend spaces, regardless of whether it is in the streets or the courtroom. The bleeding hearts within impoverished communities have been broken hearted for some time now; it’s unfortunate that it’s had to come to this to get notice from the wider community. Would it have felt the same if the location had changed and it was tucked away in a corner of the city where families are forgotten and crisis intervention programs fail to exist? Would the lost lives have mattered then? The cracks in the concrete have been expanding for some time now, but have never garnered the call to action needed, because until now it wasn’t on our doorsteps.
The state (the government of Canada) continues to send a clear message that informs its constituents that denunciation and deterrence are its priorities: tougher laws, the expansion of jails and the omnibus crime bill (Bill C-10) that will now incarcerate individuals for longer periods of time. Rehabilitation and restorative justice are frameworks that need to be included and prioritized within the judicial system in order to reduce the rate of repeated negative behaviours within our communities. The continuum needs include those elements, not just on paper, but through adequate and sufficiently funded programs in which addresses denunciation but also looks at the way in which they can incorporate restorative frameworks into the communities.
Now more than ever it is paramount to address the deeper issues and not just throw money at an issue in hopes that it goes away, but really start a conversation of love in hopes that we work towards a solution that addresses the problem at its core – or at least commit to working towards a greater solution. It is an unfortunate situation that has garnered the attention of multiple different interest levels and it’s now more than ever that we need to start working together towards a unified goal, in order to start patching the holes within the concrete.
Shequita Thompson, graduate Hons. BA, Sociology & Women’s Studies graduate from the University of Toronto and now the Co-Coordinator for the SchoolED program at METRAC.
The SchoolED program was funded by the Status of Women Canada where they work towards providing ongoing long term workshops and supports to young people by providing training workshops in: Leadership, anti-oppression, civic engagement and healthy relationships throughout schools in the GTA.
As an African-Diasporic youth, Shequita’s passion for social justice and change has given her the ability to navigate through many community organization and youth advocacy bodies allowing her to support positive change in the lives of young women and youth within the GTA. She is committed to continuous learning and growth and imparting those transferable skills to others.