By Ian Francis
Within recent weeks, the loud cries of criminality, gun violence and other forms of lawlessness have emanated from many local neighbourhoods around the Greater Toronto Area, where there are noticeable Afro Canadian Caribbean residents, especially in many of the low income housing complexes owned by the City of Toronto.
Ian Francis resides in Toronto and is a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Criminality and lawlessness within these neighbourhoods is not new, will not subside but is likely to escalate. It is important to stress in this article that similar behaviour and activities are quite prevalent in many other communities in North America and Europe. Afro Canadian and Caribbean neighbourhoods in the Greater Toronto Area are not exempt from such conduct although economic disparity could be a contributing factor.
However, the binding and motivated factor is the commitment to hard core criminality and growing tech savvy skills that are utilized in criminal activities such as lottery scams, extortion, credit frauds, prostitution and indiscriminate use of firearms.
With fairness to the situation in the Greater Toronto Area, many Afro Canadian-Caribbean residents who reside in and out of the housing complexes have expressed opposition and disgust at the criminality and violence because such conduct impacts on the overall community, which is law abiding. During the recent shooting incidents in the GTA, many residents rose to the occasion and were quite critical of what had occurred and called for intensive police investigations and swift justice. The police have responded and these painstaking investigations are yielding slow results but the criminality continues in different forms.
These unjustified acts of criminality in Toronto by young people within the Afro Canadian Caribbean community have led to speculation and suspicion about connectivity, deportation of criminals and, of course, family breakdown. Many commentators have linked the criminal conduct as a result of poverty and other social ills.
As a result, the McGuinty administration, through a hopeless Minister of Children and Youth Services, has re-entered the fray by providing $20 million for youth initiatives to focus on crime prevention and poverty reduction. This initiative, like many others, is another recipe for disaster and will only fill the coffers of the many financially strapped neighbourhood non-profit organizations. Many mainstream and Canadian-Caribbean groups, including the “faith-communities”, will soon cash in on Queen’s Park generosity. Criminality in these neighbourhoods will continue.
Canadians of Caribbean heritage have long been engaged in conversations pertaining to the deportation of persons from Canada. Many individuals in the Caribbean region have joined in the debate and described Canada’s action as inhumane and unwarranted. However, to those who persist to pushing this position, it is incorrect and stems from a total lack of understanding about Canada’s immigration policy.
There is no doubt that immigration through family union and other means has resulted in many youth arrivals from different corners of the Caribbean. Many of the young immigrant arrivals immediately join with accomplices who arrived earlier and understand the system. Our young newcomers become so entrenched in the corrupt lifestyle that they fail to remember that becoming a Canadian citizen will afford them greater shielding, especially when they face the justice system. In essence, they remain landed immigrants and when caught and convicted in the act of criminality, the deportation wrath usually steps in.
However, it must be reminded that it is not only young recent landed immigrants who engage themselves in criminality. There are many visitors who have overstayed their time, become engaged in criminal acts, caught and convicted. Under existing legislation, there are no alternatives but deportation. We understand the dilemma faced by regional governments when these persons are deported because their criminal conduct continues and, given the weakness of the region’s national security structure, their wrongdoings often go undetected.
In defence of the Canadian judicial system, it is reasonably fair and Caribbean landed immigrants caught and convicted for criminal acts are not arbitrarily held and deported. These individuals have the right to appeal their deportations and often exercise such rights. Therefore, in many instances, they are successful with their appeals and are allowed to stay on certain conditions.
Caribbean governments that continue to whine and make false allegations against the Canadian judicial and immigration system should pause for a moment and give deep thoughts about public safety. While Canada has and will continue to show its generosity to the Caribbean Commonwealth states, it should not be used as an enclave for criminality by immigrants and non-immigrants from the region. Public safety is important to all and it is the responsibility of regional governments and their law enforcement agencies to create and sustain the necessary crime prevention and detection mechanism to deal with returning deportees.
It is understood that deported criminals from Canada, United States and Europe will always find creative and strategic ways to continue with their criminal efforts. Unfortunately, many of their criminal schemes involve the use and application of various forms of technology that might very well be ahead of our local national security forces. This is why regional governments must prioritize national security training with an emphasis on information technology.
My advice to Caribbean governments is to tone down the rhetoric about deportees from Canada. It is not a policy or legislative issue that they can influence. However, there is the possibility for more timely information sharing about deportees and maybe the region’s consular representatives in Canada might wish to explore other efforts that extend beyond Canada’s United Nations responsibilities on detained persons.
Let me conclude by saying that Caribbean immigrants to Canada have done well and are of critical value to the mosaic. Many whose children are now Canadians are doing extremely well. An attestation to these comments was clearly demonstrated in the recent London Olympics as many of the visible minorities who represented Canada are of Caribbean heritage.
Caribbean Canadians are contributing to the Canadian economy and exercising their civic engagement responsibilities. A small contingent of criminals and misfits should not depict the overall value of our community. If the criminals and misfits make the decision to survive through criminality and they are caught. They must be prepared to stand up and face the Canadian judicial system, face the possibility of deportation and our Caribbean leaders and begging civil society organizations must stop making apologies and accusing Canada of rights infringement.
This is not the case. Many of the criminals are visitors who have overstayed their time and resorted to criminality. Many of the newly arrived immigrants have failed to shield themselves by not obtaining Canadian citizenship. They have no one to blame. Crime does not pay.