After reading Mr. Egan’s column about the meeting held in my ward on Tuesday, I am disappointed that this is the impression he was left with.
The meeting was designed to show the community precisely which groups and organizations are working together to solve the problem. Residents could hear from each partner what new steps are being taken. Many residents did gain that information because they approached each booth and asked questions.
The only people who left without the information they sought were those residents who refused to take part. If they refuse to engage in this part of the process how can we expect them to engage as part of the solution?
Mr. Egan writes about the fact the gang exit strategy only “reaches the troublemaker after his havoc has been wreaked.” He is correct that this cannot be the only solution. It was never meant to be.
The Ottawa Police Service is also working with siblings of known gang members to keep them from falling into the same lifestyle as their brothers and sisters. The Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa is providing after school, homework and employment programs to give kids an alternative to a life of crime. These are but a few examples.
Mr. Egan writes, “If a gang member can be easily swayed by “a program,” he wouldn’t be a gang member. So, a post-offence strategy is no magic wand.”
Here, too, he is correct. There is no one solution to this problem.
What will work, however, is bringing all of the groups seeking a solution together and making sure that the community is involved and engaged as a partner.
There are those who are always quick to point out we have a problem, and we have heard from them. Naming the problem is no longer enough though. Now is the time for action and for showing the community how they can help.
That was the purpose of our meeting: to show what is being done and to engage the community in becoming part of the solution, not to fuel a shouting match that serves only to frustrate the community further. Those who choose to be engaged – and there are many – will be the true solvers of these troubles.
Councillor for Bay Ward