Friday, January 13, 2006

Minister says Toronto's black community needs to raise its own children so the police don't have to

CTV:

The Boston minister who played a big part in reducing crime in that city says Toronto's black community needs to raise its own children so the police don't have to.

After a meeting with Police Chief Bill Blair on Tuesday, Rev. Eugene Rivers said the black community has shown a lack of leadership. He also said someone must step forward if things are going to change.

"You see, the mistake is to put the burden of raising black children on the police department," said the minister, known for his frank assessments and down-to-earth manner.

"They are not professionally or morally obligated to raise the children of a community… The police become an actor when we fail to discipline our sons and they get out of line.

"Then we want to complain about the police because we fail to do the job we should have done."

Rivers' strong comments about black leadership has sparked some controversy and marked divisions within the black community.

"Unfortunately, Reverend Rivers may not have been comprehensively briefed," Dave Mitchell of the Coalition of African Canadian Organizations said Tuesday.

"You need to know the history if you're going to be able to at least halfway predict the future. So if you have no clue about what the history is you can't get that clue in two days."

The coalition is a lobby group that met with Prime Minister Paul Martin in November.

Lawyer Courtney Betty partially agreed with Reverend Rivers.

"I think there's been a leadership vacuum on all levels, whether it be on the city level, the province, or on the federal level. No one has really come forward to put together an overall solution."

Rivers is touted for his work stemming gun violence in what is known as the "Boston Miracle."

He was brought to Toronto by the Greater Toronto Area Faith Alliance -- reportedly for a fee of $20,000 -- to advise city officials on ways to reduce shootings in the city.

Those emerging from the meeting with Blair said a "social contract" would be created between the faith community and the police, but that details of the document won't be released until at least March.

"I think that we've come up with some good strategies that we can incorporate into what we're doing here in Toronto," said Blair.

The Faith Alliance's Don Meredith said the city's future will depend on how well Toronto adapts Boston's successes to its own reality.

"The Boston model is about the faith-based communities working together with the police, with businesses, to put together a comprehensive plan that will address youth violence.

"We're not Boston, and Boston is not Toronto," he said. "We need to take the best practices out of Boston and create a Toronto model."

Yesterday, Rivers met with Mayor David Miller and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who have vowed, with Blair, to work together to attack gun crime.

After today's meeting, Rivers delivered a speech to the congregation at St. Andrew's Anglican Church, near Victoria Park and the 401 highway.

He was then heading to Father Henry Carr Catholic Secondary School, the police's 23 Division in Etobicoke and a Seventh Day Adventist church in the same area.

The church is the location where 18-year-old Amon Beckles was shot dead while attending his friend's funeral.

In the 1990s, Rivers united ministers, police and politicians to stop gang violence. The plan cut Boston's murder rate in half, but recent shootings there have called the program's lasting results into question.

In a December murder next to River's home, four young men were shot and killed in a basement recording studio.

The Washington Post reported Boston's rise in violence can be attributed to a drying up of funding and "an influx of guns and teenagers" that is changing the face of Boston neighbourhoods.

It takes an American to combat Canada's violent crime

Reverend's tough talk on crime leaves out no one

If Jane Creba had been black

Toronto, City At Risk

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