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MORGAN: Calgary’s Crack-Train is a pipeline for crime

“Calgary’s city hall can no longer afford to ignore this issue. The city’s downtown is turning into a crime-ridden embarrassment, and that crime wave is riding the Crack-Train all the way into the residential suburbs.”

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It began with a tweet.

I have been regularly using the west leg of the Calgary LRT in order to get to the Western Standard’s downtown offices.

As do so many other commuters, I have kept my head down and avoided paying attention to the crime and disorder which surrounded me on the train. On a day where the drug use and disorder was so bad that my blinders slipped, I tweeted out how bad things had gotten. I was greeted by a flood of replies from other exasperated Calgarians who had been enduring the crime wave as well. One person shared a video of a man brazenly smoking what appeared to be meth on the train.

As the images and videos of drug use and criminality on Calgary’s LRT system began flooding social media, City Hall was forced to respond. Calgary’s Transportation general manager Doug Morgan was questioned by city council and he acknowledged that social disorder had increased substantially since the COVID-19 pandemic had begun. Morgan referenced “More than 1,300 covert text conversations in January and 4,000 calls that came from the public on social disorder and safety concerns”.

In light of the exposure of this crisis of crime in Calgary’s city transit system, I assumed that at least for the short term I would see some increases in efforts to make trains safer. I was to be disappointed.

I took a trip on a cool Thursday afternoon on the LRT from the Westbrook station to Marlborough station and back. Upon entering the Westbrook station I was greeted with a DOAP team intervention. I observed discarded drug paraphernalia including a syringe along with multiple people passed out around the station.

Drug paraphernalia at the Calgary Westbrook LRT station in February 2021 (photo credit: Cory Morgan)

During my ride I saw open drug consumption, one drug deal, and constant loud exchanges from clearly impaired people who dominated the trains. There was no sign of law enforcement anywhere.

While the COVID-19 pandemic and the cold weather have made the problem of crime on the Calgary LRT system more acute, this has been a growing problem on city trains and in the neighborhood’s that they serve for years now. Indulgent, liberal approaches to crime and disorder on city transit has turned the LRT system into a law-free zone which transfers crime into outlying areas from a downtown in decay.

In the crime map below, the link between LRT service and crime is striking. A dark-red coloured pattern of high crime rates follows every LRT line into residential areas in every quadrant of the city. With virtually no law enforcement or even fare enforcement, criminals have found the city LRT system to be an ideal way to travel out of the core in order to ply their trade in residential areas. Even affluent parts of the city such as Signal Hill have been highlighted for high crime rates and the proximity of the West leg of the LRT as a contributing factor can’t be ignored.

The most visible and worst neighborhood deterioration due to the LRT lines has been in the Westbrook area. In being one of the first stops outside of the city core and in having a large sheltered station, the area has become a destination for addicts and the associated crimes that comes with them.

In the period from 2015 until the end of 2020, the community of Glendale has seen a 52 per cent increase in crime. Rosscarrock has seen a 43 per cent increase in crime, and that community even has a police station in it. These established city communities have paid a terrible price for having an LRT built into their neighbourhoods eight years ago. This has nothing to do with the pandemic.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Calgary’s city administration have long been pursuing the goals of having more people ride transit and having more people move into inner-city neighborhoods. In the name of urbanization, they turn a blind eye to the rampant crime and disorder which is driving people away from transit use and encourages them to move to outlying parts of the city. If the city does not get its transit crime issues under control soon, it won’t have a hope of achieving its urban density dreams.

Communities where the planned “Green Line” is to be built may want to seriously reconsider their support for the project. Do they really want to enjoy the LRT benefits that came with the West leg of the LRT in 2012?

A man consuming drugs on Calgary’s LRT in February 2021 (photo credit: B. Hancock)

Calgary’s city hall can no longer afford to ignore this issue. The city’s downtown is turning into a crime-ridden embarrassment, and that crime wave is riding the Crack-Train all the way into the residential suburbs.

In the long-term, the answer will be more mental health and addictions treatment. In the short-term, the city needs to crack down on disorder and drug use on the transit system before it loses the last remnant of law-abiding commuters. It must enforce the fares vigorously and immediately remove the drug users on the trains.

Every station and every train is loaded with cameras. The city can’t pretend that they don’t see what is going on. It will take some resources, but this can be cleaned up.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi loves to use the term “world-class city” in describing what he wants to build as a legacy for himself. World-class cities don’t ignore massive and growing crime problems on their transit systems.

Cory Morgan is the Podcast Editor and a columnist for the Western Standard

Opinion

FROM: Why the secular mind cannot understand Pastor Coates’ civil disobedience

“Until the secular mind acknowledges that other coherent worldviews exist, the divide between it and the religious mind will remain intractable.”

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My scissors don’t work very well. The rivet at the centre has fatigued and loosened over time so that the blades no longer meet. To my chagrin, almost anything I try to cut merely passes between the blades unmarked and unscathed. It appears to be a pair of scissors, but it’s incapable of functioning as one.

Recent criticisms of Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church by our politicians and those in the mainstream media are just like my scissors. They have failed to meet at an intersection. A grand missing-of-the-point. Even politicians and media outlets that I assumed would be receptive to Pastor Coates’s plight have demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of his position, and, presumably, of those in his congregation. Until these critics sincerely consider Pastor Coates’s arguments and acknowledge the worldview that compels him to behave as he has, these criticisms will continue to completely and utterly fail.

Premier Jason Kenney – whom I’m told once considered entering the priesthood – provided an unsolicited and backhanded homily to Pastor Coates, on the final day of Danielle Smith’s radio show, by outlining his view on what being a Christian means for the rest of us.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw – whose mandate concerns the maintenance of the public healthcare system, not theological matters – advised Pastor Coates to be “compassionate.” (This term seems to be eclipsing “we’re all in this together” as Dr. Hinshaw’s favoured bromide.)

Then there’s Mayor Naheed Nenshi who believes it is within his expertise to lecture Pastor Coates – a graduate of The Master’s Seminary – on the “tenets” of Christianity.

Even Sun Media’s Lorne Gunter joined the chorus of those admonishing Pastor Coates on his ethical responsibilities.

None of these critics has sincerely engaged Pastor Coates’s position, but it’s not their fault. There’s a crucial divide between them because their worldviews are so fundamentally different. This is an example of a secular mind being unwilling to acknowledge or understand the religious mind. And just like my failed scissors, Pastor Coates’s critics have not addressed his position, and so it remains unmarked and unscathed.

On the Sunday before his incarceration, Pastor Coates thoughtfully and eloquently surveyed his view on ecclesiology; a term for the theology of the Church. The biblical Church (notice the capitalization?) is commanded to be obedient to Christ and to submit to the state. If the state oversteps its God-given jurisdiction and requires believers to be disobedient to Christ, civil disobedience becomes their moral imperative.

Historically, the Bible has been held to command Christians to meet together for the important religious ritual of corporate worship. Can you see the dilemma yet? Obedience to Christ conflicts with what the Alberta government demands. And just as our constitution is superior to ordinary statutes, Pastor Coates views his moral duty to obey Christ as superior to obedience to the state.

Now, if you scoff and say, “obedience to Christ” is a meaningless and hopelessly vague moral directive either because one, it’s impossibly idiosyncratic or two, Christ is fiction, then all you’ve done is demonstrate my thesis. Until you sincerely consider Pastor Coates’s arguments and acknowledge the worldview that compels him, you lack even the capacity to understand his actions.

Pastor Coates’s actions stem from a view of the world where Christ is a real person that places real demands on the lives of those claiming to be his followers. If you reject this – and many people reasonably do – you cannot criticize Pastor Coates as an intellectual charlatan or, worse yet, someone lacking in compassion. All you’ve done is reject his faith in Christ. And, quite frankly, that’s boring.

Notice that Pastor Coates’s religious convictions do not mean that the state has no jurisdiction within the Church. The state has outlawed murder, rape and assault. So has Christ. There is no conflict. If the state wants to punish a congregant from GraceLife Church for unlawful violent actions, I do not doubt that Pastor Coates would recognize the authority of the state. It’s only when there is a conflict between Christ and the state that the state must be opposed through civil disobedience.

Until the secular mind acknowledges that other coherent worldviews exist, the divide between it and the religious mind will remain intractable.

Derek James-From is a columnist for the Western Standard and a constitutional lawyer

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Energy

OUELLETTE: To save Canada’s energy industry, we need to end dependence on the US market

“The construction of new Canadian pipelines would maximize the volume of fuels transported by the safest, greenest means, and allow us to seize a golden opportunity to diversify the markets for our oil.”

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Guest column from Miguel Ouellette, Economist and Director of Operations at the Montreal Economic Institute www.iedm.org

Oil: Let’s put an end to our dependence on the United States

By Miguel Ouellette, Economist and Director of Operations at the Montreal Economic Institute www.iedm.org

Imagine for a moment that you are the head of a popcorn company. You know that the demand for popcorn is strong, and that contrary to what anti-fast food lobby groups say, demand will continue to increase in the coming years. But you have a problem: 98 per cent of your popcorn is purchased by one single cinema, because you didn’t diversify your client base. This cinema, however, has just named a new CEO who, to please some nutritionist friends, wants to keep your popcorn out. What do you do? Would it maybe be a good idea to try to sell your popcorn in other cinemas in order to save your company, and all its associated jobs?

Canadian oil is in a similar situation. His very first day in office, new US President Joe Biden revoked Keystone XL’s permit, and this project will likely not be his last victim. As in our hypothetical example, 98 per cent of Canada’s oil exports go to our southern neighbour. What should Canada and its industry do, then, to sell its product? The answer: Build new pipelines in order to reduce the risk associated with this one-client strategy and maximize oil export revenues.

According to the latest estimates, global oil demand will grow by 9 per cent by 2045, and by more than 40 per cent in a number of Asian countries. New pipelines would allow Canada to transport its oil to a larger number of refineries and terminals that could then export it to these new markets.

We therefore need more pipeline infrastructure to diversify our exports, and the Canadian government should do everything in its power to allow these projects to be completed. Putting all of our eggs in the same basket is a risky strategy. The Keystone XL cancellation alone represents over $50 million a day in potential exports for Canada that have fallen through.

Over the past five years, the federal government collected an average of $14 billion a year from the oil and gas industry. This tax revenue totals more than half of the sum of all provincial deficits during the pandemic. And the energy sector directly or indirectly employs over 830,000 workers, and accounts for around 10 per cent of our GDP. It’s therefore not just “Big Oil” that would benefit from such a strategy, but all Canadians.

Finally, it bears repeating: Pipelines are the safest and “greenest” method of transporting oil. New pipeline projects compromise neither our safety nor the protection of our natural environment. On average, over 99.99 per cent of the oil transported by federally regulated pipeline arrives without incident every year. Not to mention that transporting fuel by pipeline emits from 61 per cent to 77 per cent fewer GHGs than transport by rail.

In short, the construction of new Canadian pipelines would maximize the volume of fuels transported by the safest, greenest means, and allow us to seize a golden opportunity to diversify the markets for our oil.

So I ask you again: If you were the boss, what would you do?

Guest column from Miguel Ouellette, Economist and Director of Operations at the Montreal Economic Institute www.iedm.org

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Opinion

MORGAN: Sexual assaults & extortion just the latest reasons to shut down Trudeau’s prison-hotels

“We never should have begun locking up innocent citizens in quarantine facilities in the first place. In light of these alleged assaults, all forced-quarantine facilities should be closed immediately and people allowed to go home.”

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As if the incidents of law-abiding Canadian citizens being swooped away in unmarked vans from airports to be imprisoned incommunicado from concerned family members wasn’t enough, we are now learning of serious reports of extortion and sexual assaults on people forced into quarantine.

The time is long since past to shut down Trudeau’s prison-hotels.

In an all too familiar story; a woman had arrived from the United States only to be told that she had taken the “wrong” COVID-19 test and was forced to quarantine in a government-run hotel in Montreal. She was told that she was not allowed to disclose her location, even to close family. A neighboring “guest” in the hotel allegedly forced his way into her room and sexually assaulted her. Robert Shakory faces one count of sexual assault, one count of breaking and entering, and one count of criminal harassment in the incident.

In Oakville Ontario, a quarantine screening officer allegedly demanded cash from a woman before sexually assaulting her at her private home. Privately contracted government screening officers essentially are enforcing house arrest upon people under quarantine. Police have arrested a man they identified only as Hemant, 27, of Hamilton. He has been charged with sexual assault and extortion. Apparently, he only goes by a single name.

Canada should not be imprisoning law-abiding citizens in the first place. The least we could hope for and expect though is that the citizens being imprisoned for mandatory COVID-19 quarantines would be kept safe. It is horrifying to imagine a vulnerable loved one being assaulted while under quarantine, yet it appears that these cases are becoming increasingly common.

Whether in homes or in hotels, when a person is locked there by law and force, it is imprisonment. The prison power dynamics quickly take over. Prisoners are dejected and vulnerable while other prisoners and authority figures take advantage of them. It’s unthinkable that Canadian citizens are enduring this sort of experience for the crime of having traveled, as the constitution is supposed to guarantee is their right.

In Toronto at Pearson International airport, there are reports that returning travelers are refusing quarantine orders and walking out of the airport. Peel region police are now refusing to enforce the quarantine orders. As Martha Stuart says, “and that’s a good thing.” People refusing to comply with government-ordered quarantine orders whether at home or in a prison-hotel have a very real defence in saying that they fear for their safety.

We never should have begun locking up innocent citizens in quarantine facilities in the first place. In light of these alleged assaults, all forced-quarantine facilities should be closed immediately and people allowed to go home. If the state can’t keep citizens safe, it must release them. This is only going to get worse. Innocent people are being stripped of their liberties, harm is being down, and expensive lawsuits are pending.

When we look back on our pandemic responses, we are going to see a great many errors that were made. Locking up our citizens is by far our most egregious one. History will not look kindly at the leaders that forced it to happen.

Cory Morgan is the Podcast Editor and a column for the Western Standard

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