By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher/Senior Editor
Toronto Police Division 23 Supt. Ron Taverner called the murder of Candice Rochelle Bobb, the young pregnant woman who was shot to death while sitting in a car, “disgusting” and said of the shooters, “It’s like they don’t have any regard for life”.
That is putting it mildly.
Bobb, who was five months pregnant, was rushed to hospital where the baby was saved and is said, as of press time, to be stable. He, however, will never know his mother; she will never be able to see her son grow up if, God willing, he does make it. All because of some punk or punks who carry guns and have no qualms about firing them off regardless of the innocents who might be around.
“No regard for life” is indeed putting it mildly.
What’s going on? Why are so many of our young people carrying guns? Why are they so quick to use them – and so carelessly?
Where is all this hate – and self-hate – coming from?
There was a time when we prided ourselves – as Toronto the Good – on not being like some of those U.S. cities we hear or read about where daily (or frequent) gun crimes are par for the course. We always felt that would never be us.
There have been 19 deaths so far this year as a result of a firearm, three times the number at this time last year. Incidents of gunfire are also up, far exceeding those for the same period last year. And a lot of those crimes/incidents involved people, especially youth, from our community.
Now, with the murder of this pregnant young woman, we are again devastated. We are in pain. We are in mourning, not just for her but for us, for our youth, those who seem to have turned their backs on all that is good in our community, in our society.
We have always been puzzled by people outside of our community demanding that our leaders and elders speak up against crimes in our community, take a leadership role to help end the violence. We were puzzled because we didn’t know (and still don’t) what to do over and above what we were already doing.
Many among us have spoken up and continue to do so. Others have set about working with young people to help redirect them from a potential life of crime by providing them with resources and a vision for a brighter and better future. These have also included, for many years, police officers who have volunteered, on their own time, to work with and assist at-risk youth.
Just this past weekend a number of groups in our community joined together to acquire the services of mentors to work with at-risk youth in an attempt to steer them away from gangs.
There is so much going on in this city every day as efforts are being made to help our youth. And there are and have been a lot of successes. Unfortunately, it is not enough. It is never enough.
There are also those among us who suffer in silence because of the shame and sadness they feel and the sense of impotence. It is not that we don’t care. It is never that we don’t care. It is that we don’t know what more we can do.
We are as heart-broken as anyone else (and more so) because these are our children, our sisters and brothers, our people being murdered.
We are not the police and do not have the power or ability to investigate these crimes ourselves or to bring these criminals to justice.
Many of us are also afraid. While it is easy to call on people to speak to the police about what they know and saw, people are afraid for their own safety and the safety of their children. They know that they could be victimized if they are seen to be cooperating with the police or “ratting out” known criminals. And they believe that the police, despite their best intentions, may not be able to protect them.
A senior police officer once told me that one of his greatest regrets was the inability to stop the murder of a young man who came forward to testify against a known criminal.
This is a reality. People can speak to the police but in order for any charges to stick and cases go to court, witnesses are needed. People will have to decide if they are willing to put their life and those of their family members at risk. That is a lot to ask.
But we need to do more. We need to find ways to work with each other and with the police to put an end to this wanton violence; we need to save our future. We must find a way.
I once heard a story I believe to be true where a young man was killed and his mother and sister expressed their thanks to God. Such was the hell in which they lived with him in their lives.
We can’t know the reality of the lives of those who are most impacted by the criminals in their midst.
But we will seek ways to do more. We must. As a community and as part of this society which we love. But we can’t do it alone. We need the police, the media and the wider community if we must save this city from the affliction that has befallen so many cities to the south of us.