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Violence in Canada

Earlier this week Canadians received news of the 78th murder of the year in Toronto, our nation’s biggest city. Of these 78 victims, 52 have been killed by gunfire, a rather tragic record for the city. The victim of this murder was a 15-year old tenth grade student who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jane Creba was with her mother and older sister on Yonge Street, within a busy shopping district lined with stores, and was enjoying Boxing Day sales when gunfire erupted. Two rival gangs shot at each other despite the crowds. Creba was killed and six other bystanders were injured.

For some reason this crime has impacted Canadians in a way others have not. I have often lamented that pretty, white (and usually blonde) girls receive the most media attention following killings or abductions and this may or may not have led to more significant media coverage for this shooting. It may also be the meaninglessness of a crime in which a girl was killed who had nothing to do with the dispute. Or maybe it is simply that any one of us could have been the victim of that crime as most Torontonians find themselves wandering Yonge Street at some point in the year. This type of crime is largely foreign to Canada, though it seems violence of this type is becoming increasingly common.

Canadian politicians are outraged by this crime. Strangely, many of them have pointed the blame at the United States of America. Toronto’s mayor, David Miller, says this crime is “a sign that the lack of gun laws in the United States is allowing guns to flood across the border that are literally being used to kill people in the streets of Toronto.” He also said that “The U.S. is exporting its problem of violence to the streets of Toronto.”

It is interesting that this violence happens during a federal election campaign. Paul Martin, Canada’s Prime Minister, whose government has just been ousted in a non-confidence vote, recently declared that, if re-elected, his party will ban handguns. “What we saw yesterday is a stark reminder of the challenge that governments, police forces and communities face to ensure that Canadian cities do not descend into the kind of rampant gun violence we have seen elsewhere.” Of course the Liberal Party’s move is really meaningless. The verbiage of the proposal is as follows: “Banning handguns through an amendment to the criminal code that would invite provinces and territories to participate to make the ban national… Legitimate target shooters who meet requirements would be eligible for an exemption to the handgun ban.” Canada already has a ban on guns except for legitimate target shooters, security guards and ‘collectors’. In other words, this is empty, political verbiage and there would be no real change.

CNN, in an article about the Canadian reaction to this shooting quotes John Thompson, a security analyst with the Toronto-based Mackenzie Institute. He says “the number of guns smuggled from the United States is a problem, but that Canada has a gang problem — not a gun problem — and that Canada should stop pointing the finger at the United States. ‘It’s a cop out. It’s an easy way of looking at one symptom rather than addressing a whole disease.’” And that is exactly the case. Canadians have long felt a sense of superiority when contemplating violence south of the border. I think, though, that we have lost our innocence.

I find it interesting that Canadian politicians are blaming America for allowing guns to enter Canada. Yet ultimately it is a nation’s responsibility to keep out what it deems to be forbidden. Two days ago I crossed the border from the United States into Canada after spending a week in Atlanta. As I approached the Canada Customs kiosk at the border I am quite sure I saw the border guard put down a newspaper. She looked bored and more than a little grumpy. She said, “How long were you gone?” I replied, “One week.” She then said, “How much are you bringing back with you.” I told her “six hundred dollars.” She said, “You’re okay,” indicating that we were free to go. And we drove off. We answered two questions, showed no identification and did not undergo any type of inspection. Now don’t get me wrong: I know that the border guards cannot take the time to search every vehicle that passes from the United States in Canada. I also know that as a white male with two children and a pregnant wife I am probably considered fairly low risk for whatever it is they might try to intercept at the border. But two questions?

Following a previous visit to America we approached a border crossing late one night. The border guard was sitting with his feet propped up on a desk, leaning well back in a chair and reading a novel. As we approached the kiosk he slid the window open without putting down his book and said, “How long were you out.” I said, “Four days.” He said, “Value of the stuff” (by which I assume he meant “stuff” we had purchased or received as gifts). I said, “two hundred dollars.” He nodded and slid the window closed. I could have had my car stuffed from floor to ceiling with handguns!

Just yesterday my wife remarked that it seems the primary responsibility of a Canadian border guard has more to do with collecting revenue for goods purchased abroad than it is with stopping forbidden goods from entering the country. I wonder if that might just be the case.

Hal Lindsey (yes, that Hal Lindsey) wrote an article for WorldNetDaily where he imagines what Paul Martin might have said when he met with Condi Rice in October and brought his concern to her attention. “Madame Secretary, Canadians are breaking Canadian smuggling laws and we are powerless to prevent it. What does the United States propose to do to solve our border inspection problems?” And indeed, why should Canada blame the United States for something that is clearly our problem?

Lindsey hits the mark when he says, “The problem isn’t guns. It is people who are unwilling to admit responsibility for a problem. So instead of fixing the problem, they attack the symptom. Canada chose to assign responsibility for its social ills to an inanimate object. Failing in that effort, they are now trying to assign responsibility for their social ills to the United States.”

Guns are not the problem. It is the people that cause the problems. Casting blame is as old as evil itself. We need only look to the first book of the Bible to see evidence of this. “The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” He blames her and she blames the snake. All the while they deny their own responsibility. And that is exactly what Canada’s politicians are doing. Rather than facing the true issues, issues of the heart of man, they consign the blame to something, anything else.

As a Canadian I am ashamed of the reaction of these politicians and even more ashamed that they would seek to leverage the tragic, senseless death of a young girl for political gain. Paul Martin and David Miller do not speak for me on this issue.