Help the youth now to ensure a better future


A recording by the late Gregory Isaacs began playing over the speaker system just as a shopper in a Caribbean food market was about to check out her purchases. To the cashier she said: “Well, if the ‘Cool Ruler’ can go, then anybody can go.”

The cashier’s response: “How yu mean. After none a wi noh come fi stay.”

This reality, so dryly presented, would be of no comfort to the parents, family and friends of the two youngsters, Devonte Gondwe-Prosper, who lived on Eglinton near Keele, and Andrew Naidoo who lived in the Finch and Martingrove area, who died from gunfire in recent weeks.

Two 15-year-old boys, two separate tragedies, but no doubt similar feelings of shock and grief among those who knew and cared about these youngsters. A picture of Naidoo in a graduation robe shows a boy who still had the soft, round cheeks of a child.

Most of us will never know the full details of the path and the thinking that led to these particular tragedies, yet that will not hinder people who are concerned about youth and the patterns of such killings from projecting all manner of theories onto them.

The lack of humane consideration by armchair commentators, however, is what can be so disheartening. There is no shortage of unkind comments that trail reports of these kinds of tragedies. Fascinating among them are the responses from the people who like to relate how well they, themselves, were brought up and how much better times past were when youth did not kill each other but instead grew up to be perfectly law-abiding citizens whose only flaws evidently are a crushing lack of compassion and a willingness to condemn rather than understand.

On their list of who is to be condemned first and foremost are the parents of such murder victims. There must be some deeply felt satisfaction that comes from standing far outside these tragedies and throwing contempt at the wretchedness of the circumstances.

Perhaps these know-it-all social commentators could shed some light on why so many ‘bad’ parents seem to live so closely to each other. So many of these tragedies occur in neighbourhoods that are largely populated by low-income families. The vicinities where these two lost their lives were among those which Toronto Police Service’s TAVIS (Toronto Anti-Violence Strategy Initiative) made high priorities. Coincidentally, many are located in or near publicly subsidized housing; housing that is by many accounts crying out because of their state of disrepair.

Public housing in Toronto under the Toronto Community Housing Corporation faces a $650-million backlog in repairs. Then there is the ongoing bedbug problem. There is also the safety issue. There is the disadvantaged neighbourhood malaise issue. There is the lack of recreational programs and facilities issue. There is the area-schools lack of funding issue. The low expectations in school issue. The gang members issue.

Imagine you are a kid and this is your whole world, yet all you get from outside spectators is a hard look and an unfeeling attitude.

How do we value humanity? Recently the Dalai Lama called on world leaders to give more focus to peace and caring rather than continue to be overly focused on money and the economy. Youth unemployment is higher than any other demographic, higher still in depressed neighbourhoods, and their future security is relatively uncertain. The kids will not have missed the message that those in charge care more about money and the economy than about them. Yet to hear some people tell it, it is the youth that are the problem.

A note on freedom for women…

For many Torontonians driving a car is not an absolute necessity so the decision to operate a vehicle is a personal choice. But how would it be if there was a law preventing half the adult population from driving like in Saudi Arabia where women are prohibited by law from operating a motor vehicle, ostensibly out of consideration for their safety, since male Saudi drivers are said to be generally reckless. Logic would suggest that would be a motivation to disallow males from driving.  In any case, doesn’t the generally more careful driving style of women drivers temper the risk-taking and more aggressive driving that is more common among male drivers?

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