The new get-tough strategy on gun violence isn't exactly getting off to a flying start. Mayor David Miller informed us just the other day that 44 per cent of new police recruits in training are women and members of visible minorities.
Strange. I expected him to announce that 60 per cent, if not more, are black, given that these new members of the force were hired with the gun violence crisis in mind. The reason couldn't possibly be that recruiters failed to find a larger pool of visible minority recruits, could it?
I don't object if more police officers are sent to comb suspect neighbourhoods for drugs and gunmen, as politicians have pledged.
But the current belief in get-tough can easily become an escape for governments that lack the will to spend the cash to create futures for black youth.
I fear the addition to the mix of influential Reverend Eugene Rivers and his "Boston miracle" isn't going to take things any further.
A couple of weeks back, Rivers made a whirlwind tour through Toronto organizations, chastising the black community for family breakdown and the lack of fatherhood in black households.
Attacking social activists for their emphasis on pushing for government resources, Rivers seemed to be selling just another form of zero tolerance. Look where that got us.
While it would be very nice for all children to go home at the end of the day to a loving dad, fatherlessness has existed in the black community for a few hundred years. Gun-related violence in Toronto, on the other hand, is barely 15 years old.
Yes, the legacy of slavery is still with us. While mothers remained essential to the rearing of the baby born of slave parents in the U.S., the Caribbean and Canada during the slavery era, fathers were often sold, so bonding was dysfunctional.
And though it would be a noble idea to eradicate this pattern of absenteeism from the subconscious minds of some black fathers, it's wrong to blame paternal absence for drugs and guns.
It's never been proven to be a cause, and pretending it is, no matter how well intentioned, merely lays blame at the feet of single mothers, many of whom have built successful families. Most importantly, it conveniently lets politicians off the hook on income and opportunity redistribution issues - the very heart of the matter.
Who would argue with the Reverend's positive proposals for drop-in centres, homework clubs, recreational facilities, big brothers for fatherless kids and prominently visible clergy in deprived neighbourhoods?
But these worthy activities are already happening. Hundreds, if not thousands, of dedicated men and women of all races have been donating their precious time.
I personally operated a very successful Saturday Homework Club for years.
But I've come to realize that at the end of the day, deprived youth have to go back to the same homes in their deprived neighbourhoods.
Governments can't pretend more police, mandatory sentencing, church outreach and counselling for dads will make up for the failure to provide equal education and employment. And formal equality may not be enough any more. We need substantive equality, which means hiring programs actually favouring black youth for a while. If Toronto police recruiters had had that in mind, 70 or even 100 per cent of new recruits would be blacks.
The focus on fathers, mentoring and church social services is well- meaning, but no one, not even an outspoken and caring minister from Boston, should give our politicians a reason to do nothing.