Leadership needed to quell vigilante trend

The same social media sites and local news stories cast homeless people in a very difficult light

Leadership needed to quell vigilante trend

Dear Friends,

I am writing you because people in our communities are under attack and I believe a difference can be made.

Some attacks are being carried out under an animal rights banner, while others are called for in support of neighbourhoods where residents themselves feel under attack. Some appear to be racially motivated while the targets of others are people who suffer from mental health/substance use issues. While people are free to demand better protection for animals and neighbourhoods, recent social media calls that advocate direct action are being lived out in our community. It can only be a matter of time before someone suffers grievous harm and someone else is jailed as a result. I hope you will act to calm public responses and to remind folk of the consequences of their actions.

Recent CHEK TV reports tell of attacks made in the name of animal rights, carried out against people who look like (have the same racial heritage and location) as the people charged with abuse. Local media, both social and traditional, including the CHEK news story itself, inflame the situation with horrific pictures of animal suffering, references to community groups that have sprung up to demand tough and retributive sentencing and images of angry protestors vilifying those under charge. Social media is filled with calls for vengeance upon those charged and recent stories of baseball bat wielding white men on reserve, coupled with images of gunshot holes in the home of a neighbour, indicate how close we are to a difficult outcome that has the potential to injure individuals and relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

The same social media sites and local news stories cast homeless people in a very difficult light, encouraging a fear-based and potential-harm perspective in the community. Images of individuals are posted and people are encouraged to do “whatever it takes” to remove “them” from the scene. Again, people are vilified by category and again, it is only a matter of time until someone is badly hurt. Not a good outcome for either side of that interaction.

There are people living without housing in our communities and I know all levels of government and social service agencies are trying to establish safe, supported and attainable housing as part of a community stability effort. There are animals being treated badly in our community and I know all levels of government and community service agencies are trying to create a safe, supported and secure environment for them. Perhaps the public needs to be made aware of those efforts, and steps they might take in support.

I hope you, as our elected leaders, will take the time, individually and collectively, to let people know what they can do, what government is doing, and what the unfortunate consequences of direct, vigilante action will be. Unfortunate suffering for the wounded, unfortunate time in the criminal justice system for those wounding and encouraging wounding. Please take a strong, public stand so that our community members can find the leadership they need in these uncertain times.

Keith Simmonds


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