Police survey a crime scene following a shooting in Scarborough, a suburb in east Toronto, July 17, 2012. Two people were killed and at least 19 injured in a shooting at an outdoor party in Toronto, police said on Tuesday, raising fresh fears of a rise in gun crime in Canada's largest city.
Credits: REUTERS/MARK BLINCH
In the wake of the Toronto community housing shooting that left two dead and 23 injured, some Toronto councillors are suggesting residents convicted of drug and gun crimes should be eligible for immediate eviction. But the Residential Tenancies Act doesn't allow this.
Municipal housing corporations must file evictions to the Landlord and Tenant Board, which can be a lengthy process and result in a decision allowing the tenant to remain.
It seems surreal to us that this eviction right doesn't already exist. One would think that if people are living for free on our dime, we would at least be able to outline the rules.
When the issue last surfaced in 2008, our mayor, Jim Watson, was then provincial housing minister. He resisted such a change.
"If someone has been convicted of a crime we can't kick them out of public housing for that reason ... Whether it's a serious crime involving a gun or a white-collar crime, we don't have the luxury of simply telling that individual that they are not eligible for social housing ... That's the reality that we have to deal with."
That "reality" he was speaking of was legislation. Legislation can always be amended by government. Watson's party had a majority in the Legislature at the time and could have made those changes.
It's impossible to tell if, had such an adjustment been pursued in 2008, it would have prevented future shootings. But without a doubt it would have sent a clear message, and tossed out some of the bad apples.
There is also the chance there would be a constitutional challenge to such a law. Depending on how the changes are drafted, they could be interpreted as denying citizens access to basic rights.
But these are mitigating factors to keep in mind and flesh out. Not reasons to toss out the idea.
We hope Watson reconsiders his position. As the mayor of a major Ontario city and the former minister, his words carry weight in the Ontario Legislature.
Ottawa isn't Toronto. But, as the broad daylight Riverview Park gunfire exchange on Tuesday showed, we do have a guns and gangs problem. Let's be proactive, not reactive.