I have spent most of this afternoon in a meeting called to formulate a response to the freezing death of a 33-year-old man in a parking garage on Saturday night. 

Much has been made by the local media of the fact that this man has a conviction in the Province of Newfoundland for sexual assault and an outstanding warrant on another similar charge. (I do not for one minute condone this kind of behavior, but it does not serve as 'justification' for someone dying a miserable death in the street.) 

I have also viewed with alarm messages appearing on the Internet in the course of last weekend with subject lines such as 'The Mentally Ill Homeless' and 'Panhandling vs. 'Scam'handling'... the total message conveyed by all of this seems to be that the homeless population is made up of sexual perverts, crazies, or scam artists... in other words, we are deserving of whatever fate befalls us. 

THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. Would any reasonable person allow any racist or sexist remark to go unchallenged? The obvious answer is 'no'... so why should bigoted attitudes towards poor and homeless persons be allowed to go unchallenged? I for one am sick unto death of the scapegoating, having witnessed in my own community the lethal consequences of these attitudes. In May last year, three prostitutes were gunned down in downtown Toronto in one night... all by the same man. Just two weeks ago, two young women were shot dead in the stairwell of a housing project just a few blocks from where I live. 

I view the current social climate of cruelty and intolerance as being directly responsible for all five of these violent deaths. 

In both cases much was made by police and media alike of 'lifestyle' issues as a contributing factor to these murders... implying that because of their way of life, these five human beings somehow deserved to die. I want to state here and now that such attitudes constitute scapegoating; that they are superstitious moralistic CRAP: and that we as a human community must adopt an attitude of zero-tolerance for this kind of prejudice. 

JANUARY 27, 1997