Needles in the Playground
The great Canadian dream of home ownership, productive, meaningful work, safe streets and playgrounds for our children and engaged communities is unravelling in cities across this country. One troubling display of this societal collapse is found in the residential community of Strathcona in Vancouver, BC; it is just one of many communities suffering from legislative, bureaucratic and judicial myopia, but it reveals how deep are the roots of decay and how resistant to remedy. It also demonstrates the absolute urgency of bold action by all levels of government.
“Tent cities” like the one in Strathcona Park are distressing to the long-time residents of the community. There have been murders, violent rapes, unsightly and unsanitary conditions, threats to the personal safety of children and the careless scattering of disease-infected used needles. Local citizens, like Katie Lewis of the Strathcona Residents Association, are doing their best to raise awareness and to get local governments to take action, but are finding politicians and judges reluctant to intervene.
Homelessness used to be seen as a temporary challenge, an obstacle to be dealt with as individuals and families found their own ways to work and build in this land of opportunity and freedom. Now, not so much. Disorganized armies of confused and dissolute tent-dwellers are shifting nomadically from park to park, from city to city, “just a-lookin’ for a home”. Many are on drugs; most are without stable employment. To some, the idea of performing any repetitious task on a regular basis in exchange for money—like the vast majority of Canadians—is ludicrous. Why work when you can just demand that all your needs and wants should be provided for by others? Like “the government” for instance. After all, “the government” is just a faceless, wealthy bureaucracy with a primary responsibility of looking after everyone, isn’t it?
The tragedy of this unrealistic grasp of reality and these narrow, selfish expectations is that—for the most part—government responses have done very little to correct them. Despite the justifiable frustration of the responsible citizens among whom they squat and by whom they are fed, very little is being done to clean up the tent cities or to set higher aspirations for the bedraggled nomads who now inhabit them.
If this phenomenon were merely the side-effect of the pandemic lockdown (in other words, if it could be seen as the temporary result of unprecedented circumstances), probably most homeowners and taxpayers would be much more sympathetic to the plight of unemployed people without the ways or means of buying or renting accommodation. In that regard, I think most of us would have a grudging respect for the willingness of so many to subsist in filthy conditions, without running water, heat or electricity . . . if it were an unavoidable hardship and not a self-inflicted environment. After all, we honour those who sacrifice comfort in the short term to make a better life for themselves and their families in the long term. Unfortunately, that is not what we see in the drug-laden tent cities plaguing so many Canadian municipalities.
This sounds like a harsh assessment but the solution to hopelessness and homelessness is not a misguided, soft approach to crime but a vigorous defence of the laws—written and unwritten—regarding respect for public and private property and for the privacy and dignity of one’s fellow citizens. We recognize that drug addiction and mental illness are not problems that are easily solved. However, current government policies are exacerbating these problems, not eliminating them.
From “no-fault divorce” to “safe injection sites” (two current oxymorons), from the encouraging of gender dysphoria among teens to the denial of human dignity to the pre-born and the elderly, our young people are effectively being led to misunderstand their world. If, after being taught that they are nothing more than random collections of atoms hurtling purposelessly through a meaningless universe, they act on those assumptions and discard the notion of responsibility without regard for others . . . who can blame them?
The problem comes when this simplistic view of life collides with the real world. Governments may try to shield people from the consequences of their own decisions, but they cannot succeed. These attempts cause law-abiding citizens—those who are making responsible decisions—to suffer for the deeds of the irresponsible. When one group of people violate public property and take over public spaces, it denies the rights of hardworking, taxpaying citizens to enjoy the parks and the streets that they paid for. It forces them to pay more for law enforcement, for needle exchange and recovery, for the court system, and for the health system.
What is the solution? Obviously, we cannot abandon those who have lost touch with reality. Neither ought we to accept as inevitable the invasion of public and private property. It is a maxim that we get more of what we subsidize and less of what we tax. We need to stop subsidizing drug addiction. We need to stop promoting secular atheism in our schools. We need to enforce the laws, even the “minor” laws like littering, defacing public property with graffiti, public decency laws (violated every year by the “pride” parades), etc. Former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, dramatically reduced the murder rate in that city during the 1990’s by enforcing the law for lesser offences. Today, the trend in New York and other big cities is reversing at an alarming rate. Murders, rapes and street violence are up because respect for the law, respect for life and respect for families is down.
Those with drug addictions and mental health issues need help but they also need boundaries. We have allowed an epidemic of mental illness to develop and we are now paying the price. Of course, drug addicts and those with mental illness need safe places to live. Random tent cities are not the answer. Many of these folks have turned down accommodation in clean, dry shelters because they are not willing to submit to minimal lifestyle restrictions. That does not create a right to violate the rights of others. We cannot continue to tolerate antisocial antics by those who flaunt their privilege and demand that society protect them from the consequences of their actions. Until politicians are willing to protect law-abiding citizens from the lawless behaviour of others, we will see an increase in crime and a decrease in the kind of secure and prosperous communities that all of us desire.
The Christian Heritage Party promotes policies that will foster sound mental health, strong stable families and the protection of innocent human life. Freedom comes with responsibilities. There is security in following biblical principles of respect for others. Join us and help us return Canada to policies and principles that work.
Other Commentary by Rod Taylor:
- Extraordinary Times, Extraordinary Measures
- Courts, Commons, and the Culture of Death
- Suppose There Were Only 10%?
- Conversion Therapy Ban Is Back on the Agenda
- No Free Lunch: Trudeau Buying Votes With Your Grandchildren’s Money
- COVID, Chaos and Coercion
- Erin O’Toole Supports Abortion-on-Demand and the LGBTQ Agenda
- Needles in the Playground
- No Agreements Are Safe From Judicial Activism
- WE Scandal Highlights the PM’s Ethical Incoherence
- What Matters Now
- 25,000 Wrongs Don’t Make a Right