The last time they had a problem that they seemingly couldn't handle, The City of Toronto called out the Army.
That was of course the infamous Blizzard of 99, when Mayor Mel Lastman, apparently overwhelmed by the snowstorm that had settled over his burg, called on the Canadian Army to come to the rescue of the centre of the universe.
Fast forward seven years or so, an it's the out of control gang and gun violence that has a current councillor ready to call out the troops.
The National Post is reporting on the percolating gun issue in Toronto which has one Toronto Councillor, Giorgio Mammoliti, outraged at a gunfight near a city elementary school and making a call for troops to descend on the city and clean up Dodge.
It was considered by many as a bit of grandstanding and quite unfair to the City's sworn officers of the Toronto Police who have been waging a war against the criminal element for years in the city.
Lost in the hyperbole of the councillors bring out the troops screed is the obvious need for the justice system to be more proactive in the issue. Instead of blaming the cops for the ongoing gun problem, maybe the councillor should have contacted a few of his provincial and federal political compatriots.
A stronger course of action from the Federal Government and one which directs the courts to increase sentences for gun offences and criminal affiliation will probably do a lot more to address the issue, than the grandstanding efforts of some city councillor.
Clearly the thought of gunfire taking place within earshot of school children walking to school is something that should concern all, but turning the largest city in the nation into an occupied territory seems a tad off the scale of handling the issue.
Better to improve the resources of the Metro Toronto Police Department and changing the nature of the justice system to relieve the streets of Toronto of the scourge of thugs with guns.
Update: Miller, Blair dismiss councillor's army idea
Thursday, December 6
Toronto’s Mayor and Police Chief have dismissed out-of-hand a councillor’s idea to call in the army to round up gun-toting gangsters and throw them in jail “indefinitely.”
The Post's Kelly Grant updates this developing story: In a rare written statement slamming an elected official, Chief Bill Blair called Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti’s plea for military aid an insult to the rank-and-file cops working to stamp out gang crime.
“Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti’s comments do a disservice to the men and women of the Toronto Police Service and to the citizens of Toronto,” the chief said. “The anti-violence strategies of the Toronto Police Service, together with the cooperation and commitment of the residents of communities affected by violence, have in fact led to an increase in the number of arrests in such incidents. It is unfortunate that Mr. Mammoliti chose to make the remarks he did without knowing the facts.”
Mr. Mammoliti, infuriated by a gunfight that erupted near an elementary school in his ward, said yesterday that Toronto should summon troops to combat gang violence, as it did in 1999 after a snowstorm.
“If we can call in the army to remove snow as a crisis, we need to be dealing with other crises that exist in the city,” Mr. Mammoliti, a member of the Mayor’s powerful executive committee, said in an interview. “This, in my opinion, is a crisis and we should be asking for some help.” Gang members deserve to be treated like terrorists, he added.
“I want [the federal government and the military] to consider these individuals as terrorists, because that’s what they are. Why does a terrorist have to be someone who doesn’t live in this country? Why does it have to be someone who’s planning to plant a bomb somewhere?”
The shootout that sparked Mr. Mammoliti’s call for drastic action happened as children from the Jane Street and Sheppard Avenue West area walked to St. Martha Catholic elementary school Wednesday morning. Nobody was injured, but students were close enough to hear the bullets crack.
One of two men involved in the gun fight was out on bail for other offences, Toronto police said yesterday. Richardo Shakleford, 27, faces 13 charges, including attempted murder, in the shootout, which happened in the same public housing complex where 11-year-old Ephraim Brown was shot and killed in another gun battle over the summer.
“This community, they would like to see these gang members taken off the streets and held indefinitely, if possible,” Mr. Mammoliti said. “The only people that have that authority are the federal government and the army, quite frankly.”
Skeptics, however, dismissed the councillor’s idea as implausible. The Canadian military is not empowered to meddle in local police matters and alleged gangsters cannot be left to languish in prisons without due process.
“I don’t think anybody particularly takes Councillor Mammoliti’s call for the army seriously. I hope not,” Mayor David Miller said.
In the community where the shootout took place, local pastor Bill Sunberg, who presided over young Ephraim’s funeral, acknowledged there is a rising sense of desperation about gang violence. But troops are not the answer, he said.
“I agree with [Mr. Mammoliti’s] sentiment that something needs to be done. I don’t agree with what his plan is,” Pastor Sunberg said. “I don’t think someone with an army uniform and a gun is going to make that much of a difference.”
Even former mayor Mel Lastman, the man who summoned the army for the 1999 snowstorm, rejected the idea.
“We’re not an army state. What the hell is he talking about?” Mr. Lastman said in a phone interview from Florida. “[Calling in the army for the snowstorm] was about help in moving people, getting people out so they could eat, so they could get a bottle of milk, so they could get to the hospital … this is insane what he’s saying.”
Mr. Mammoliti, a former NDP MPP, has been on city council for more than a decade. In that time, he has developed a reputation for pitching off-beat ideas. This year, he suggested the sleepy Toronto Islands be transformed into a red light district and launched a probe into two rival councillors for underspending.
Still, the Mayor said Mr. Mammoliti deserves to keep his seat on the executive committee because of his strong work as chair of the affordable housing committee.
“You have to accept people for what they are,” the Mayor said. “I mean, Councillor Mammoliti’s been elected a very long time and this is him.”
Also yesterday, the Toronto police guns and gangs unit arrested seven men and two women in an operation dubbed ‘‘Project Cheddar.’’ Six guns and seven kilograms of cocaine and other illicit drugs were reportedly seized in locations around the city. Investigators will hold a press conference today to detail the scope of the operation.
With files from Natalie Alcoba and Jenny Wagler