Personally, while walking downtown through Michael Phair Park last February, a young man came at me with a hunting knife duct taped to a ski pole and demanded my bag. I was able to quickly scurry past and duck into a shop for safety and as I did, I heard him laugh and call me a “pussy.“ I have seen the same guy a few times since — hanging out in that same park.
Those us who have worked in social agencies learn first-hand that people can come from a lot of pain and trauma — a lot of brokenness and illness. Some of these people don’t have family and community support or can’t find the right support. These are the people who end up on the streets for long periods of time.
The tyranny of residential schools was obvious to me then as someone who worked in the inner city serving Indigenous community members. It is increasingly obvious to just about everybody today. We can no longer hide from this brutal and tragic part of our nation’s history.
I’m also aware that a significant percentage of youth homelessness is caused by parents and households unaccepting of their children’s 2S+LGBTQ realities.
As our community continues to grapple with these issues, we cannot let go of the reality that public safety still matters a great deal. The safety of transit riders, shop keepers, everyday pedestrians, post-secondary students and front-line workers is important.
We can’t as a society succumb to the fear of holding people to a reasonable standard for their actions, no matter how much pain or trauma they carry with them. If we do succumb, we need to ask ourselves who we are really helping or what we are really achieving as a community. We have become too delicate. We can’t or don’t have to arrest everyone, but we also don’t have to turn a blind eye and simply hope people aren’t harmed.