Recent violent assaults by young people raise questions about the relationship between violence and youth in Canadian society. When incidents like the murders of the 5 young people in Calgary and the knife attack at a Brampton High School happen we ask ourselves, why and how did this happen? Because they are so violent and tragic we ask about the mental health of those involved. These events are especially troubling because they involve young people, who are the future of our communities. We like to believe that our youth should not have to deal with such violent crimes.
Violence in any form affects the communities where it occurs leaving scars not only on the victims and their families but everyone who is a part of that community. We are left not only to pick up the pieces but to ask how to stop such violence in the future. At the same time media coverage of violent incidents fuels concerns about violence in our society. There are questions about why such crimes occur. Everyone has an opinion and a solution. Conservatives call for harsher penalties and sentencing, while others blame video games, films and television for fostering a climate that condones and encourages violence. There are discussions on how to prevent such crimes, through the implementation of protocols to catch those who commit them before they occur. While it may not be possible or even desirable to police possible crimes, violent acts like this shock us out of complacency. We need to have these discussions about our society.
Violence is in a way a form of communication. It speaks of anger, frustration, loss and mental health. In the wake of such tragedy we need to ask what has happened to our social safety net? All of us want to live in a society that is safe. To this end we need to think not only about the personal safety of individuals and families but also about the safety of our friends and neighbours. This means building a safety net that offers aid to those in need and those who are having problems, while not building walls that keep some people in and others out. Access is paramount.
Sadly, the dismantling of the healthcare system across Canada has meant that too many programs that help those in need have been lost. As healthcare costs rise, preventive programs especially those that address mental health have come under the fiscal axe of governments and healthcare professionals. These preventive programs offered aid and care to those in need of help. Statistically each of us will reach out at some point in our life for some kind of help to ensure our mental well-being. Cutting programs and facilities that offer such care is counter-productive, eating away at our social safety net. Preventive programs contribute to our collective well-being.
Each of us needs to ask what kind of society do we want to live in? Do we want a society that offers protection only to a select few or do we want a society that offers protection for everyone no matter their background. Instead of building walls to protect ourselves we need to build a stronger safety net that offers aid and assistance to anyone who needs help in times of need.
Fortunately, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has not experienced the level of violence, as you would expect for a student population of its size. The support mechanisms are there. I would attribute this, not only to the very strict policies the TDSB has in place when it comes to violence, but the open dialogue teachers and counselors have with their students. However, with yearly cuts to the TDSB budget, it’s programs like these that are first to go.
As tragic as these events are, we must take the time to analyze what went wrong – in some cases what went right – and learn from it. Let us do all we can to keep our schools and our communities safe. Let us continue to INVEST in education.