L to R Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Community & Social Services Jason Luan and Associate Minister for Mental Health & Addictions Mike Ellis
Minister Josephine pon Speaks to the Crowd . Also in Photo is Minister Prasad & Dr. Holly Mah
Chinatown protest placards
Recently, we had the privilege to witness the outpouring of anger of the Edmonton Chinatown Community because of the violent crimes happening in their community which claimed the lives of two community members.
On May 18, Hung Trang, 64, was assaulted inside Albert’s Auto Body repair on 10604-98 Street. He and Ban Phuc Hoang were both beaten to death. Edmonton Police recently caught Justin Bone. The accused is charged with two counts of second-degree murder.
Because of the homicide incidents in Chinatown, the community went to the City Council Chamber so they could express their disappointment and for our City Officials to understand the situation they are facing. “We want action Now, not tomorrow,” said an angry Chinatown businessman who wishes to remain anonymous. The Chamber was packed with over 250 people and guards had to start turning people away because there was no more room. The City Council took at least an hour to deliberate if they would allow the people in the Chamber to speak.
I was shocked with how our Bureaucracy is failing the people. Councillor Andrew Knack, who was not present in the Chamber but was present virtually said there are also other important matters that the city needs to address. In fairness to Councillor Knack, it is true that they have other matters on their agenda, but this is a pressing matter that required immediate attention and mind you, it was not only Knack who stated this but other Councillors as well. What surprised me is that I left an hour after, and they were still not yet finished deliberating. What is so hard about addressing the situation at hand? Our officials must learn to be flexible when situations like this happen.
When they finally agreed to allow the people in the Chamber to speak, the City council, through the motion of Councillor Jennifer Rice, agreed to release $300,000 from their Contingency fund to help hire security guards to patrol Chinatown. Currently, there are nine guards working 12-hour days, patrolling 97 street to 101 street and 105 Ave to 110A Avenue. The Edmonton Police have also committed to put up a Community Interdisciplinary Station inside Chinatown where they can easily attend to situations nearby and will house Social Workers and Community officers. The way I see it is these new measures are only going to be effective if it is a long-term program. Right now, the budget provided will only last for a few months.
Prior to this violent incident, The Edmonton Chinatown Community had been asking for help for a long time and they were ignored.
Chinatown Area & Business Association Executive Director Wen Wang in an interview with this writer told us they are happy with the new short-term measures if delivered. Asked by this writer about how many Supervised injection sites are still in Chinatown, Wang says there are still two. Wang says she hopes they are not being discriminated. They have learned to Co-Exist.
The Association organizes to pick up needles from April to December. They pick up at around 400 needles a month. “Injection sites are not functioning as planned,” says Wang.
This writer told Wang that there were about one million needles picked up every year prior to injection sites, based on a reliable source from the Government of Alberta. While injection sites prevent overdose, I strongly believe injection sites should be built outside of the city and far from mass transportation, and here is why I say this. Currently, we have them inside the city core, so if we have tourists who come to Edmonton, where do they want to go? It is an obvious answer. They want to see the City Centre. And the first thing they will notice is the amount of people on the streets because they are homeless. Wang agrees with me when I said the city should be clean. In Fact, they have a joint project with Hope Mission, which is a cleaning project.
So, do you know why there are so many problems in the LRT and Bus Stations? In my own opinion, it is because we have so many homeless or mentally ill people who roam around our City Core and have easy access to rapid transit.
Wang adds “We need to decentralize social agencies. Addiction, Mental Illness and Homelessness cannot be rolled into one.”
It is a problem that the Provincial and Municipal Government need to seriously look at. The solution is not just throwing money into building shelters. This does not solve it. “Because what if the person does not want to stay in that housing and they might feel they are being confined?” says Wang. Both the Provincial and Municipal government must work hand in hand to move services outside the city and make sure that there are Social Workers as well as Doctors who can help people with rehabilitation to get out of addition. There is also a need for trainers who can Introduce them to building crafts, carpentry, or any farming work so that during rehabilitation they can feel that they can be part of the community and they have a contribution towards it.
These homeless individuals could have turned to substance abuse because they feel worthless, and no one is giving them the opportunity. No one would like to be homeless, nor become an addict. It could be because of an unfortunate incident in their career or life, that they have fallen on hard times, so support them so that they can become worthy individuals who can reintegrate to society when they are ready.
So how did all this violent crime happen in Chinatown? According to a very recent report from CBC news, they learned that Bone, who was charged with the crimes, was dropped off by the Parkland RCMP officers in West Edmonton on May 15, even though bail conditions prohibited him from being in Edmonton Unsupervised.
Why was Bone released into Edmonton City when bail conditions were noticeably clear that he must be supervised? Where did the system fail?
Alberta Solicitor General and Minister of Justice Tyler Shandro should investigate this. It took only three days before Bone committed another crime. If Bone were not released into the city, both Hung and Hoang would still be alive. This is a clear case that our Justice system has flaws that need to be addressed not tomorrow, but now!
Our Justice System needs an overhaul. People who violate laws are no longer scared of the punishment that is being dealt to them. Just imagine, law breakers who killed someone can be Freed back into society within a few years. How about the life that was taken away and the rights of the grieving family? Or Picture this, a Rapist who goes after Women and Children, is jailed for a few years, and sent back into our communities. How is this considered safe and correct when the victims are still suffering even after their release in jail? Our Federal and Provincial Legislators need to act now before it is too late.
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