A Toronto Killer Is 13 Years Old




  A city boy, only 13 years of age, was arrested a week or so ago and charged with murder after he’s said to have helped kill a young man, apparently by stabbing.   The victim was a 19 year old, named Aaron Rankine-Wright, who was on his bicycle on his way to work when he was assaulted for no reason by three males who soon fled. The young boy who entered the fray, is now charged with the most serious charge of all — first degree murder. He was not named, because of his age. (A funeral was held Saturday for the bicycle victim who was described by a friend as “a kind and gentle soul.” I wonder what will become of that boy as an adult.

   It’s a dreadful incident so — unless we happen to be courtroom lawyers — we can refer to a 2016 Canadian Press article with a heading that helps on this specific incident:  “How Canadian courts handle young people charged with murder.” (Take note: he’s 13 and we have now described him as “a murderer.”) In Canada, it’s natural for the young accused to expect he’ll be tried just as adults are tried. Not always. But, if or when we are advised that the incident and the charges are deeply serious, the government office of the attorney general can advocate that if the youth is guilty and thereby convicted, he will be sentenced as an adult. It seems reasonable that the whole issue is tragic in all aspects before the trial, then at the trial.

    Both the design and atmosphere of Toronto when we moved here from the Maritimes 1961 were distinctly different from today.  Changes are reflected in foreboding headlines in the city’s most influential paper, The Toronto Star.  Day after day it runs articles with headings similar to the one of June 13: “Death Toll Mounts on City’s Streets.” On the next page is this headline: “Four charged after police seize guns, and ammunition.” Moreover, we must mention one of Canadian history’s most gruesome discoveries, the bodies of eight men, killed and buried some years ago, on the lush green edge of Leaside, a prosperous Toronto neighborhood. (A landscape worker, Bruce MacArthur has been charged, imprisoned awaiting trial.) I can honestly say that virtually every morning we wake to vicious and ugly tragedies. Toronto thereby is no longer “Toronto the Good.” But it’s clear that saying is “gone for good.”

     Nonetheless, I personally regard traditional Torontonians as responsible and ethical citizens. In fact, a year ago, The Economist, a very respected journal, surveyed the safety of 60 cities, and when all the statistics were in, Toronto was the fourth major secure city in the world, and the most secure city in North America. Obviously this is good news, though we must remember that we are competing with a country at our borders that, to be accurate, has considerable criminal activity. A professional criminality rating has proven the Toronto homicide rating was 2.0 per 100,000 citizens. That’s very good, especially if you compare it with the cities recently put under the oversight of a man named Trump. So: while the homicide rating for Toronto was as above, look at the US: Atlanta is 19.0; Chicago is 18.5; Boston (9.0 and so on.  Compared to these ratings, we are still considered a secure city.

     An element in all of this is, of course, the police departments here and everywhere. My modest experience as a journalist meeting with the Toronto police department was very positive when, some years ago, I did a profile on one of the major chiefs and interviewed several of his senior officers. I’ve also had that experience in RCMP interviews and found them highly professional.  However, we Canadians have not escaped the professional criminals. A document I read, “Crime in Toronto,” is most candid and positive.

   I needn’t say how critical it is to have a competent city force supplemented by the presence of the RCMP. There is no doubting the presence of professional criminals in any large city. At times it’s Mafia or a support for it. The document I’ve already mentioned is  excellent, dealing with all aspects of criminality in the city where we live. Once we raise the issue of criminality among young people I begin to wonder if some juvenile delinquents graduate to loftier white collar crime which clearly exists in three or four of our cities.

    To me, there’s not a lot that can be done, given the boy’s dreadful situation. I do wonder how his parents feel, how they’ll face it and how they’ll look to their son’s future. I certainly have no perspective on how to deal with it. The other day, I remembered a saying expressed years ago and just might apply to his situation. It was spoken by the well known American speaker and philanthropist Tony Robbins. “It’s in your moments of decision,” he once said, “that your destiny is shaped.” I guess. The boy’s destiny thereby awaits the courtroom hearing.