Toronro Sun Editorial 7/18/98

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Sat, 18 Jul 1998 10:44:08 -0700


Beat it, kid

 Tell us if you've heard this one before.
 City councillors, awash in complaints about squeegee kids, run for
cover, declaring nothing can
legally be done to control them.
 Then, they propose throwing thousands upon thousands of tax dollars -
ours - on make-work
projects for a handful of these kids.
 Sound familiar? It should. It happened this week when one council
committee voted 6-3 against an
anti-begging bylaw (admittedly ill-conceived) while another proposed
spending $500,000 on 100
kids.
 But that's not the whole story. Exactly the same scenario played out in
Toronto in 1996 and 1997.
 On Aug. 12, 1996, the old Toronto council voted 9-8 against a crackdown
on squeegee kids
despite growing public complaints.
 On Jan. 27, 1997, city executive approved a $250,000 program (some of
it private money)
ostensibly to help squeegee kids and homeless youth find work. (On Jan.
28, squeegee kids told the
Sun they simply wouldn't do the minimum wage jobs it envisioned.)
 On Feb. 3, 1997, council passed a $200,000 version of the program.
 On June 11, 1997, Coun. Chris Korwin-Kuczynski, an early advocate of
more law enforcement,
said he wanted to know what had happened to the money, since the program
clearly hadn't worked.

 On June 23, 1997, council approved spending a $50,000 portion of the
$200,000 program on
helping - wait for it - eight street youths.
 Flash forward to the present. Led by Coun. Olivia Chow, who calls
squeegee kids young
entrepreneurs, some councillors want to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Please. Been there. Done
that. It doesn't work. There are more squeegee kids now than ever
before.
 Besides, as Coun. Ila Bossons has observed, throwing public money at
one group of street people
is mere political expediency.
 In fairness to this council, the long-term, serious way to combat this
problem involves some things
simply beyond its abilities.
 It's to change provincial and federal law to make squeegeeing an
offence under the Highway Traffic
Act, amend the Criminal Code to combat aggressive begging, rethink
ill-advised policies such as
scrapping vagrancy laws and deinstitutionalizing mental patients.
 But here's a simple first step for council to consider on July 29.
 We came up with it by listening to one of the squeegee kid leaders from
Quebec. He said he left
Montreal and came here because the cops were hassling him too much. Hey,
sounds like a plan to
us.

--
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Graeme Bacque
<http://web.arcos.org/gbacque>
#14909975 on ICQ
*Question and challenge *all* human 'authority'*
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