Dealing with social issues

I am writing about the attempted car jacking in Rutland on Sept. 26, near where my family shops.

First let me say I am so glad no one was seriously hurt, but let me tell you that doesn’t mean the victims of this violent attack will be left unaffected.

This was not “a shocking incident.” Let us be clear, this was a violent attack where someone could have sustained life-threatening injuries. I understand that lately, we as a society think we are to blame for everyone else’s problems, but I think this is simply starting to go too far.

“This unprovoked attack on an innocent family again demonstrates our need for more supports for those with complex issues and dealing with their mental health and substance use issues. We are all extremely grateful no one was severely injured in this shocking incident," said RCMP spokesman Cpl. Della-Paolera.

I believe one of the big problems we are facing here in Kelowna is this statement.

I don’t blame the officer for making the statement. It is how everyone seems to be talking these days. But If the take away from this is we need to give more support to the criminals and attackers, then we are going about this all wrong.

I have lots of empathy for the homeless and those suffering from addiction and substance abuse problems, however that is not a free pass to terrorize people in Kelowna. I also have lots of empathy for the victims of crime but let me be clear once again, the victim is not the attacker. The victims were the people who were attacked.

They may suffer from nightmares or worse, I am not sure how they will be affected. I wish them the best and I hope they can process it and make it an interesting story for Thanksgiving and move on. Only time will tell.

There are things we can do as a community. First we have to protect the residents of Kelowna.

Castanet recently ran a poll question: ”Do you support involuntary custodial care for people ­on the street with substance abuse and mental illness?” The results was a resounding yes, with just under 10,000 responding.

If we acknowledge everyone has free choice and we are unwilling to take someone’s right to choose away, even after they have demonstrated they are unable to make good choices, then we also have to acknowledge people are also responsible for the consequences of those choices. You can’t have it both ways.

I believe we need to pressure authorities to make involuntary custodial care a viable option. My grandmother, who I loved dearly, had dementia near the end and she needed to be looked after. As a family, we were sad but understood she couldn’t look after herself even after all the years of looking after us.

As a society we understand there are some, through no fault of their own, who need to be looked after. That often means we make decisions for them so they don’t hurt themselves or others. The courts and doctors need to make these decisions, but we need to pressure the provincial government to make laws that give them the tools to do that.

The RCMP needs to worry about arresting people who break the law, not proselytize about what they think needs to be done. Their job description should be simple, even though the job they do is extremely hard —protect the public and arrest people who break the law.

Their job is not to decide who has substance abuse issues or mental health challenges and whether that was what caused them to break the law. They have enough to do. That is up to other professionals. Arrest people, especially those who pose a danger to the public.

If the RCMP cannot put the needs of the residents of Kelowna first, then we should take a thorough look at a municipal police force that would be directly accountable to city hall.

I have spoken with a mayor of a city that has a municipal police force and he told me he wouldn’t have it any other way. I am not saying it is something we should do, but I think that every option needs to be put forth and fully explored.

City hall then needs to use its voice to tell Crown prosecutors to always advocate for the protection of the public first and foremost. Their job, in my opinion, is to protect the public. We have lawyers who are there to look after the interests of the accused.

Highly qualified judges then need to make decisions that are in the best interest of society. If we as a society had the tools in place, how many overdose deaths could we have prevented in the last year?

We have a system in place but the balance is wrong. The scales of justice need balance or they don’t work. Write your MLA, complain to your MP, tell city hall, tell them (all) to fix this. It can be done.

Anthony Shephard, Kelowna

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