Sue the Bastards

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Black community leaders in Toronto have voiced their desperate plea to government officials to call an inquiry into the recent deaths of young black men to gun violence. Even police acknowledge the "crisis" though they strongly deny the problem or their inability to solve the murders has anything to do with racism.

Police Chief Julian Fantino called a news conference to express his concern at the "spade of killings," an unfortunate faux pas, to provide assurances to the community the police are doing everything possible to analyze the "common elements and trends" in the "hot spots." He then used the tragedies to make a shameless plug for more funding for his rank and file. He blames the black community for the failure of his officers to solve the recent murders. Fantino has a history of being an advocate of collecting race-based crime statistics.

Even Mayor Mel Lastman placated the community with his bullshit "I hate guns" rhetoric, which once again put the blame on everyone else's shoulders.

The community doesn't need yet another expensive inquiry or government commission to examine the causes of the violence, which will result in yet another useless report and ignored recommendations. It is understandable that black leaders are struggling to get someone to listen. They must feel like powerless bystanders in a war against their community, and they rightfully demand accountability.

Research proved long ago that economics - which is largely influenced by racism - is directly connected to crime and violence. The have-nots, the disenfranchised, will try to take that which is rightfully theirs. And anyone doubtful that black communities are disproportionately affected by poverty need only take a walk around Toronto.

Other forms of oppression, such as sexism, also influence economics. That's why black women face dual discrimination and are doubly impacted.

The root causes of economic disparity - and therefore violence - lie within government policies. Reversing the resulting mayhem will not be achieved by spending money on another toothless inquiry or hiring more police. Reparation and change will only come when the government is compelled to compensate the black community for the consequences of its failure to recognize and uphold Constitutional rights.

Black leaders should immediately file class-action lawsuits against the federal, provincial and municipal governments on behalf of all the families who have lost loved ones, asking for billions of dollars for the loss of affection and economic security, citing the following evidence:

  • destruction of employment and pay-equity laws, removing access to jobs and lowering wages while increasing working hours;
  • failure to promote affirmative-action measures, which would encourage redistribution of the wealth, power and income;
  • the slashing of welfare rates and toughening qualifying criteria, causing escalating poverty;
  • the elimination of rent controls and abandonment of affordable housing plans, resulting in the homelessness crisis;
  • an increase in police powers while accountability declines, making accused persons more vulnerable to abusive officers and more likely to be wrongfully convicted;
  • the reduction of legal-aid budgets, minimizing citizens' access to justice;
  • the racist law-and-order agenda, which targets the poor and black communities;
  • an education crisis created through under-funding, which is resulting in the elimination of programs directly aimed at empowering disenfranchised communities;
  • the promotion of xenophobia through discriminatory immigration policies;
  • a failure to support child-care programs, making it impossible to gain employment for many poor families;
  • the building of more jails, which has criminalized youth instead of treating the reasons for criminal behaviours;
  • privatizing the health-care system, making programs and services less accessible to vulnerable people;
  • institutionalizing our social services, such as anti-violence programs, making them less accountable to users and unable to provide meaningful advocacy services;
  • the closure of community centres, libraries, swimming pools and other services directly aimed at supporting young people.

These are only some of the reasons that government is culpable for the violence recently affecting the black community. The increase in murders is only a reflection of years of conservative "common sense" policies that are increasing economic disparity and making a mockery of our Constitution.

During the civil trial, jury members should be taken on a tour to view the evidence of racism and how it is linked to economics shaped by government policies. They could visit schools in Rosedale and Regent Park to see the racial distribution of students. They could attend a Raptor game and see the colour divide between the expensive and cheaper seats. They could sit in on a meeting at Queens Park, the Metro Toronto Police Board and Toronto City Council to witness the predominately white male faces that hold decision-making powers.

And finally, they could visit the gravesites of all the young black men who have succumbed to racism. Any responsible and compassionate jury will have no choice but to compensate the grieving families.

Anne Marie Aikins is a freelance writer and community activist living in Toronto. "everyone's a critic" is a rabble news feature providing commentary by various writers on, well, anything.

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