Yonge-Dundas Shootings: Back to the 1970s

TheStar.com - Seven shot on Yonge St.:
"Seven shot on Yonge St.
Rival gunmen open fire on busy downtown street
Woman, 19, killed; police seeking 4 other suspects
Dec. 27, 2005. 10:44 AM


Crowds of Boxing Day shoppers fled for their lives — some still wearing the clothing they were trying on — after gunmen fought it out on a Yonge St. still aglitter with Christmas lights just north of the Eaton Centre last night."

1970s Yonge Street at Dundas was a seething mass of desperate drug addicts, child prostitutes, perverts, seedy stores, bawdy houses, hustlers, murderous pimps, pickpockets that politicians talked constantly about cleaning up and did nothing until the horrific day of Emmanuel Jack's murder. Yonge-Dundas was the one area of town my parents strongly discouraged me to go to by myself, especially after the murder in 1977 of this slight 14-year-old shoeshine boy; boy or girl, children and even teens were only safe down there in the company of an adult, and even then I don't think my parents were too thrilled with our forays into this foreign territory of danger on Boxing Day.

This boy's murder was so long ago, as perceived by North Americans who live only in the here and now, that even Google shows all of 5 results, only 3 of which (2 from Canada's Parliament) are correct. But back then Jack's murder shocked Torontonians and galvanized politicians to finally ACT. Will this carnage be our 21st century "Jack"?

It took years, actually decades, culminating just 3 years ago in the new Yonge-Dundas Square, to revitalize this area and make it once again a vibrant and safe shopping destination for children, teens, and adults. And except for the permanent hoardings across from the Square and the small area near Yonge and Elm, which seems to have a perpetual group of bored teens outside the couple of run-down stores left, it seemed that Yonge-Dundas was back to its former glory. Now this shooting by stupid thugs (are thugs anything but stupid?) on top of the last one in the summer, has in one moment slid this area back 30 years and made it once again an unsafe place to be on Boxing Day or any day of the week.

Since the idiotic powers-that-be closed the only decent Chapters and Indigo store on Bloor, the last good Toronto bookstore with a large selection is near Yonge and Elm. The Eaton Centre with its decent selection of affordable clothing stores -- as well as not-so-affordable -- is near Yonge and Dundas. Sam's -- the best record store, despite its seedy appearance -- is near Yonge and Elm. There are a variety of restaurants in that area too. As you can imagine, I know the area well. Whenever I head down there, I rarely see police foot patrols or horse patrols. I may see police cars, but the police are tucked up safely inside; they're not outside monitoring the bored youth that populate that area or ensuring arguments don't get out of control. It took police so long to get down there last night that one shot man was able to get away and passing firefighters were the first on the scene. Why was only one off-duty cop anywhere near Yonge and Dundas? This is an area that the police ought to have a permanent presence in, especially on Boxing Day, given the numbers of people out and therefore the numbers of cranky teenagers.

I don't know what the solution is, but I know what it's not. It's not a bunch of platitudes as mouthed by Mayor David Miller and our Police Chief. It's not a police union hostile to our city, with most of the police force living outside Toronto. It's not the bullshit spouted by Prime Minister Paul Martin that changes nothing. Nor the ignorance of the Opposition. It's not Queen's Park taking away funds for infrastructure and transit growth -- leading to a squeezed people growing grumpier -- and dumping down more responsibility for social housing and welfare. It's not bigoted employers and the shrinking number of jobs available for teens. It's not political correctness that prevents us from pointing out that fatherlessness is a massive problem. It's not the justice that frees these thugs quickly from our jails to go back to terrorizing their neighbourhoods and now the rest of the city as well. It starts with all of our politicians paying attention to Toronto and stopping the cantankerous criticism from the rest of the country. It starts with a permanent police presence at Yonge and Dundas with foot patrols going out from a substation (wasn't there one there at one time?). It starts with asking ourselves what can we do as Torontonians, as employers, to make Toronto the good and the clean again.


Update: Who knew that the Toronto Argonauts have taken the initiative to stop the violence? I did; I'd forgotten until I saw it on pulse24.com. They have a good list of community resources, not including United Mothers Opposing Violence Everywhere (UMOVE) which unfortunately doesn't have a website, just a phone number: 416-747-8237 or 416-779-MOVE.

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Anonymous said…
I would vehemently disagree with your take on this 'problem'. The problem is with today's parents. Young people want all the advantages of having children, but they don't want any of the work involved in raising them. Each of the 'parents' wants to have their own careers and leave the kids in the hands of government employed daycare workers. What we need are more 'responsible' parents where one of them will stay at home and raise the child properly. Our government has no business or experience in raising children. And to those who complain that modern wages won't allow enough to bring up children, I have one thing to say to them: DON'T HAVE CHILDREN THEN, IF YOU CAN'T AFFORD THEM.

And on the same token, our society regulates and licenses almost everything you can think of, except the one most import function: parenthood. Any two kids can go out and make babies without the faintest idea of what they are doing or the consequences. Let’s start getting our priorities straight.
talk talk talk said…
This is an old argument -- about licensing parents -- around for at least the decades I've been here. That's never going to happen; at least we have parenting classes today and perhaps they should become mandatory for all high school students. And as for parents only birthing as long as they can afford them, that's an old chestnut too, albeit with a twist today. Whereas people in the past used to just make do without, today we're inundated with the material things we "need" and people have a much harder time getting the idea that making do without can be a good thing. In Canada, yes, it's true one income is worth much less than a generation ago (we are in fact going backwards in that regard) but the material things we want (as opposed to truly need) aren't all that necessary for a good life. My parents went into shock when they had me cause they couldn't afford me, but I ain't no thug and even at our poorest I never felt deprived.

I agree the government has no business bringing up our children, which is why I prefer Harper's "child care" policy (see post of December 7th), but your analysis is far too simplistic. The shootings yesterday did not happen strictly because the thugs' parents both work, and they grew up in daycare. I bet you dollars to doughnuts, most of them are fatherless for one thing. Other factors contribute too: lack of employment, lack of good mentors in the community, the way children are raised in the Caribbean by relatives (or is it only Jamaica?) and then suddenly shipped off to a cold climate to live with a parent they barely know who works most of the time. Then there's the whole policing issue, which has gotten ridiculous, and it's time both the Police Chief and Police Board put a stop to it and get the officers back living in the city for one thing. They can afford it on their salaries. And then there's the politicians who've changed the conditions of living in the city, from the economics of their policies to transit underfunding to the zero tolerance of the education system, which even the best of us are getting fed up with, and the worst off are hit the hardest.

This is a multi-faceted problem, requiring thoughtful analysis, not glib speeches and simplistic answers.