Mayor Rob Ford says he will ask the prime minister to look at using “immigration laws” to banish convicted gang members from Toronto.
Ford first made the unusual banishment proposal in a CP24 interview on Wednesday afternoon. In that interview, he did not make it clear whether he was seeking legislative reform or merely asking convicts to voluntarily leave town.
In a second interview on Wednesday evening, he indicated that he wants changes in federal law. Asked by AM640’s Arlene Bynon how convicts could be kept from living here, he said: “I don’t know, and that’s what I’m going to sit down with the prime minister and find out, how our immigration laws work.”
The police have not publicly said that the shooting Monday in Scarborough was perpetrated by immigrants. Ford did not elaborate on the connection he sees between gang violence and immigration, and he did not explain how he believes immigration laws might factor into his proposal.
Ford appeared in Scarborough on Thursday to meet with residents whose basements were flooded this weekend. He ignored a reporter who twice asked him to clarify whether he wants gang members deported or sent to other Canadian municipalities.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government proposed legislation aimed at “foreign criminals” in June. The “Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act” would prevent non-citizen permanent residents who have served jail sentences of six months or more from appealing deportation orders. At present, they can appeal if they have served sentences of less than two years.
The suggestion of exiling Toronto gang members to other municipalities is nearly certain to be a non-starter.
“We don’t generally restrict people’s physical liberty once they’ve served their sentence. And restrictions on their freedom of movement have to be closely tailored to the objective of the law,” said Bruce Ryder, a constitutional law expert who teaches at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School.
Ryder twice broke into laughter when discussing Ford’s proposal. He said its objective is hard to ascertain — and that the proposal raises a “whole series of cascading questions” about who would be banished, for how long, for what offences, what cities they would be prohibited from, and what would be accomplished by sending them elsewhere.
“If there is a significant risk, aren’t we just shifting it to other places? Will gangs just decide to no longer engage in criminal activity if they can’t be in certain places, or will they just shift to smaller centres? I mean, is this a kind of urban NIMBYism on a grand scale?”
Ford was the lone member of council to vote against $16 million in community grants last week. He told Bynon that such social spending is not effective as a solution to youth violence.
“It’s a proven fact that when we had the most murders in the city, it was the same time that we had the most grants. I think we handed out over $50 million that year in grants. Throwing money at the problem, and having these, I call ‘hug-a-thug programs,’ they just do not work,” he said.
Ford’s stated “fact” is incorrect. Homicides peaked in 2007, with 86. The Community Partnership and Investment Program, which handles grants, had a budget of about $42 million that year. CPIP’s budget rose in future years as homicides dropped steadily; it gave out a high of $47 million in grants in 2011, when the city recorded 48 homicides, the fewest since amalgamation.