This week, we are trying to absorb the news that a high school student in Hamilton was stabbed to death in front of his mother, by two students who clearly believed they could get away murder.
Where would young people get the idea they can get away with murder, on school grounds, in Canada?
From us. They got the idea from us adults; from our poisonously weak thinking, our recklessly irresponsible words, and our terminally ineffectual actions.
If it’s true that “the thought is ancestor to the deed” (and I believe it is), we need to drop everything and adjust our thinking immediately.
Our thoughts and words are a matter of life and death. Now, more than ever.
On January 20th, 2016, I delivered a deputation at the monthly meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board.
At the time, I was merely personally and professionally outraged that politicians and bureaucrats were not only abdicating their responsibility to regulate ground transportation to ensure the safety of riders, they were rolling out the red carpet for law-breakers.
Even I would not have predicted the explosion in gun crime and violence we have seen since then.
My name is Rita Smith, and I am the executive director of the Toronto Taxi Alliance. However, I am not speaking on behalf of the TTA; I am speaking as a communications professional with 30 years’ experience at all levels of government and business.
You may recall that about 12 years ago, Toronto was being subject to an annual event at the end of the CNE.
Young people who were often drunk or high would run through the Ex grabbing stuffed animals, knocking over signs and generally creating mayhem that then spilled outside the Ex.
I recall an interview with the police chief at the time, and the firm message he delivered when he committed to preventing another episode of chaos:
“The criminal element is not in control of this city. The police are in control of this city, and we will stop this.”
And they did.
Fast forward to 2016, and citizens of Toronto are hearing a completely different message, one that does not inspire confidence.
Instead of hearing that police have the power and the intention to enforce the law, both the Mayor and the Chief of Police have told media “We cannot enforce the law against Uber.”
This is an incredible occurrence, unlike anything I have ever seen in my lifetime.
I have lost track of the number of times people ask me, “How can the Mayor say he can’t enforce the law?” or “How can the Chief of Police say he is powerless to enforce the law?”
From a communications point of view, this message is devastating.
Because EVERYBODY hears you say it: not just taxi drivers and Uber drivers.
Drug dealers heard it. Thieves heard it. Gang members heard it…shooters heard it.
No doubt, they rejoiced in hearing it!
Parents and kids heard it too. It did not inspire confidence.
Toronto has just experienced several bad months in terms of violence, shootings and murders.
Chief Saunders has referred to this as a “spike,” some kind of anomaly.
I suggest you need to look to your language, and stop making public declarations of the fact that you are incapable of enforcing the law.
Find a different reason for why you are choosing not to enforce the law against Uber.
But for Toronto’s sake, please stop using this one.