So let it be written…
Life is indeed strange. Consider the case of Surrey couple Chuck and Dona Cadman. They were victims of crime before they entered politics to try to help create a better world.
Harry Bains, on the other hand, entered politics to try to create a better world before he became a victim of crime.
If anything, their stories tell us that no one is immune to the possibility of joining that terrible club the Cadmans, the Bains and far too many others are suddenly pressed into. And I don’t mean being a politician.
Losing a loved one is horrible, but losing a loved one to violence hurls the surviving victim into a godforsaken wilderness of agony and confusion.
The Cadmans were what you’d pretty much call regular folk before a teenaged thug murdered their 16-year-old son, Jesse, in 1992. They channeled their life-changing loss into trying to improve Canadian criminal law, first as lobbyists and then as Members of Parliament.
It was quite a saga. A book was even written about it.
The last I spoke with Harry Bains, before his nephew, Arun Bains, 22, was shot dead in Newton on April 19, was outside the Surrey provincial courthouse. It was pouring rain and we were standing under a tent. The
provincial government had just announced its plan to add more courtrooms.
"The criminals are running rampant," The MLA for Surrey-Newton told me. "There is no one they are afraid of. This government is all about big announcements and lofty goals, but when it comes to the resources at ground level, they’re missing in action."
That was in mid-March. Today, Harry Bains is a different man. His convictions have not changed but are necessarily stronger. We had a sit-down chat at his office this week.
"I never thought something could hit you so hard," he started.
He’s clearly aged. "If it’s coming that close to my house, the question comes, ‘Who is safe in Surrey? Who is next?’ I will not sit idly by, knowing what I know now, watching."
Bains doesn’t see any sign of this local violence ending unless politicians of all stripes set partisanship aside and work together for "real actions, real strategies" to curb it. "Until we do that, this problem will continue on," he says.
Bains notes that jurisdictions with higher crime rates, like New York, have enjoyed some success so we too should be able to make some headway on this. "There are solutions here. Other jurisdictions have dealt with this, and we can deal with this. All we have to do is us politicians together make this a priority, and put resources behind it, and protect our turf, the public turf."
As he grieves, he’s acutely aware statements are being made that everything’s
OK, that Surrey has enough police, and this program and that should do the trick. "I think we’re deflecting our responsibility as elected politicians and I don’t think the public should let us walk away with irresponsible statements," he says.
If all resources were working, Bains tells me, "I wouldn’t be sitting here today grieving with my family, and the one before us, and the one before them. Something is not working.
"For once, let’s set
aside our political differences and say that this is the priority, because the stakes are too high. These are our children. These are our future. These are the people who we expect to run our country when we are not there."
If we don’t get a handle on the violence now, Bains says, he’s "really worried that Surrey, being the fastest growing community, the youngest community, it will be at a level where we will never be able to deal with it for years or decades to come. So we can’t let it get to that level. It is still, I think, at a stage where we can control this."
Political leaders need to invest more in crime prevention, he says. He’d like to see school principals and teachers have the means at their disposal to make tailor-made programs
for students who are showing signs of going astray, to help bring them back.
As for gangsters fighting over territory, "It is not their turf, it’s our turf. It’s public turf. We need to send a message to all those people that it is our
turf, and we will protect it – you don’t belong here."
For Bains, the only way local gangsters will move on is if the Surrey RCMP and Delta Police are
provided with the resources to watch them 24/7, to get in their face and send a strong message they are not wanted here.
"We need to get out of this blame game, being on the defence, and move on to find real solutions so that we can all leave a legacy behind, whether we’re parents, politicians, or religious leaders, that we all can say when our grandchildren are playing and we are on our rocking chairs, retired, that we can genuinely look in their
eyes and say their world is safer because of the role we played.
"It’s our actions, right? It’s our actions that people follow and our children follow, not what we say. So, I think we need to model ourselves so when our children watch us as their parents and role models, they see what is right."
Amen to that, Harry.
…So let it be done.
Tom Zytaruk can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org