Vancouver's carefully nurtured campaign to be regarded as "the Best Place on Earth" is under threat from a spate of gang-related shootings and murders.
Vancouver is the host city for the Winter Olympics in 2010. This is a city and a province that is obsessed with titling everything – hence the province calling itself ‘The Best Place on Earth’, ‘Lotusland’, and ‘Shangri-La’. The aim for the Winter Olympics is to ‘own the podium’ - in other words the main reason for Canada being at these games is to win more medals than any other country.
Unfortunately, while Canada will probably win the most medals at the Olympics, because so few countries take most winter sports seriously, the events of the last few days in Vancouver really don’t back up the ‘Lotusland’ tag.
Overnight on March 4, there were four more shootings in the Lower Mainland, two of them fatal. The police believe that there is a turf war going on between the various gangs in Vancouver, who are trying to take control of the drug traffic because the market is so huge in ‘Shangri-La’. Meanwhile, the police have made an arrest in the machine-gunning death of a gangster who was killed in broad daylight in the parking lot of a Surrey Mall in the middle of February.
It seems that certain people have been importing weapons for the film industry and then selling the guns to gangs for use in the targeted assassinations of other gangsters. The owner of a gun shop in Surrey was caught with a number of these weapons. Somehow, he’s allowed out on bail – his lawyer saying that the illegality of the weapons is not an issue. Another person has been caught trying to import armour-piercing bullets into the province, ordnance that would go through any bullet-proof vests used by the police. These bullets are only ever issued to NATO forces, so Canada customs aren’t sure how they were acquired by the arrested man.
Like most gang-related issues, some Vancouverites are to blame for the soaring gang crimes. A lot of people use drugs and the gangs provide the source of the narcotics. Also, there is a real problem getting people in Vancouver to take ‘the law’ seriously. Simple things like cars speeding in built-up areas and vehicles going through red lights aren’t policed and enforced at all. As a careful pedestrian I am almost hit every day by a car being driven through a red light. Few people are ever prosecuted for these motoring offences, indicating that the police believe the laws are not worth enforcing. Apparently some people believe traffic cameras are an infringement of their civil liberties. These same people also lead the calls for the police to get tough on gang crime and indicate that there has to be a zero tolerance of the gangsters’ illegal behaviour. As I’ve already said though, crimes in other areas are tolerated - speeding is tolerated, going through a red light is tolerated. You can’t have it both ways depending on the crime in question – either there is a laissez-faire attitude to all crime or there is a zero tolerance to all crime, you can’t pick and choose.