After a tragedy like the one on Danzig Street, politicians tend to measure their response by dividing themselves into two predictable camps. On one side, you’ve got the tough-on-crime crowd. They want more prisons and tougher laws. Opposing them are people that go to bat for more social programs. And so the debate goes.
But then you have Mayor Rob Ford, throwing a giant wrench in the gears with bizarre ideas that make no sense.
This week, the mayor doubled down on the idea of a weird banishment program that would somehow remove criminals from Toronto. Ostensibly, he’s working the tough-on-crime side of the fence, but his vague idea is so poorly presented and outside-the-bounds of reason that it plays like something out of a comedy sketch.
Let’s see if we can follow his logic. As first articulated to the Talk 640 radio station on Wednesday, the mayor told host Arlene Bynon that he wanted to “meet with the Prime Minister to see if they can toughen our gun laws. Once they’re charged and they go to jail, the most important thing is I don’t want them living in the city. They can go anywhere else, but I don’t want them in the city.”
Okay. A little weird, but I like the passion. Gun laws and sentencing guidelines are an important part of this debate. But, honestly: banning people who have been convicted and completed their sentence? That’s the idea?
Ford assured us that it was. “I’m going to sit down with the Prime Minister and figure out how our immigration laws work. Obviously I have an idea, but whatever I can do to get them out of the city I’m going, regardless if they have family or friends [here], I don’t want people convicted of a gun crime to have anything to do with the city of Toronto.”
Given that Toronto sees a lot of immigration, I guess it’s a good thing that Ford is finally looking to figure out how our immigrations laws work. But wait, how does immigration factor in to this discussion? Is Ford suggesting that the people firing the guns on Monday weren’t born in Canada? Does he know something we don’t?
And, really, this banishment policy would only impact people already convicted of gun crimes, right? How does that prevent new gun crimes?
A lot of people had questions. So Ford called in to a different talk radio station on Thursday, attempting to clarify his position to Newstalk 1010′s John Downs. In a brief interview, he only made things more confusing.
“I have called the Prime Minister to find out if there’s any laws with respect to immigration and citizenship status in the city,” Ford told Downs. He went on: “People are caught. I don’t care if you’re white, pink or purple, I don’t care if you’re a Canadian citizen or not, all I’m saying is if you’re caught with a gun and convicted of a gun crime, I want you out of this city.”
Downs kept asking Ford exactly what this suggested policy had to do with the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, which prompted the mayor to eventually admit “maybe I’m not an expert on the ministries.”
On air, Ford conceded that banning people from Toronto might not be entirely legal. He hopes that the Prime Minister’s Office can help him straighten out the policy.
Spoiler alert: it’s probably not legal to full-out ban people who have served their debt to society from urban areas. And even if it is, it’s entirely unclear how this is a rational legislative response to a tragic shooting at a Toronto block party.
When Councillor Adam Vaughan suggesting banning bullets last month, after the killings at the Eaton Centre, he was laughed at and vilified. People pointed to the notion as knee-jerk and unnecessary. But at least Vaughan’s idea, even if you did disagree with it, fit the common bounds of sense, logic and clarity. Ford, now floating a ban all his own and speaking almost entirely through talk radio, has gone completely off the rails.
I’ll say it again: this city needs a rational and measured response to youth violence. It needs calm and effective leadership on this issue. It doesn’t have it.
Hat-tip to David Hains at the new TorontoCitizens.ca for the talk radio transcriptions. TorontoCitizens.ca is a new group blog staffed by a bunch of very smart people writing very smart things. Bookmark it.