The Compassionate Agenda is a Crime

There is such a thing as immutable character. When my great- grandfathers arrived in Vancouver 125 years ago, you could be shrouded in mink one season and begging the next. Opportunity lay naked on dirt paths; it was already a port that attracted scum, adventurers, innovators and parasites, especially the latter. And growth? It whirled. Add a few million people -- there were 4,000 in Vancouver in 1885 -- and you have the city of today. Sharply divided between the well-heeled and the scrabbling, fed by the structural unemployment of resource-based industries and corrosive '30s socialism, and presto, the Downtown Eastside. Famously the worst slum in North America. And about to become worse.

One hundred million dollars' worth of drugs flows through Vancouver's Downtown Eastside every year. It is the hub of crime in Canada's most dangerous city. Within those 20 square blocks work Colombian cartels, Asian triads, the Mafia, the Russian Mob, Hells Angels, Yakuza and nameless Middle Eastern others. There is a bank, struck by the NDP for the homeless, called Four Corners, where they can cash their welfare cheques, and little clever berths of apartments that look like kitchened dorm rooms at McGill, carved out of SRO hotels for so- called recovering alcoholics and addicts, one block of such designed by Arthur Erickson. Last time I visited, free medical and dental clinics were being built, those a whole lot nicer looking than most of the doctor's offices I see in British Columbia, by the way. And in January? Shooting galleries. Therefore, on the Downtown Eastside, the public will take care of your basic needs, while you maintain your habit with crime -- longer and "healthier." Little wonder this neigbourhood has the largest concentration of addicts in North America. And about to get worse.

British Columbia's property crime rate is almost 60% higher than the national average and the violent crime rate 40% higher. The Downtown Eastside, according to Neil Boyd, a criminologist at SFU, is almost certainly responsible for that. Fifty per cent of all murders in Vancouver are committed within those 12 blocks. Crime dropped in Vancouver in the '90s, but it dropped everywhere else two to five times faster. There are fewer police on the streets than in any other city but Victoria and Regina, the caseload is higher and the courts lackadaisical. Most police on the street say there is no deterrent in the justice system to speak of.

Last year, famously, in a kind of horror story that could only happen in the compassionate Western world, Lance Immerzeel, a murderer, with a drug problem (crack) who was also certifiably insane, was paroled, and within a few months, had murdered a homeless man in a drug-induced rage. Repeat sentence? Five years. Gang warfare among the Sikh community (there have been 50 murders committed by Sikh youth over the past 10 years) is handled with kid gloves because of the fear of racism charges. Retired Vancouver police detective Len Miller says he has watched his south Vancouver neighbourhood deteriorate to the point he now feels he is under siege by violent Canadians from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. He points a finger at a political culture that leads all visible minorities to feel they have special privileges in Canada, and are above the law.

"If you're ethnic, you can get away with anything," Mr. Miller says. Prey upon the weak, and get therapy from the taxpayer? A-OK in Vancouver. More coming soon.

Now you can explain all the reasons for Vancouver's plight: the good weather attracts crooks, neighbourhoods are fragmented because of fast growth and recent immigration, the rich are heartless and there's too much poverty, it's a port, it's been governed by idiots for 10 years and therefore poorer than anywhere else, there are similar stews in every major city on the planet, blah blah blah. This corruption would not have been allowed in my great- grandfather's day or my grandfather's or even in my father's middle age. The culprits?

Our intelligentsia. This, according to British psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple, who contrary to most policy-setting do-gooders actually works day after day after day in a hospital in a British slum in Birmingham, and alternates that with work in a British prison. In Britain, as Holland, the compassionate agenda of the academy has advanced much further than here. The results are plain: The poor and old do not dare to leave their houses, often even during the day, in any medium-sized city in Britain, and in London, I have not one female friend who has not been mugged on the street in broad daylight, nor had her house burgled. Finchley or Belgravia, you are not safe. Women call home in cabs to have the house lights turned on and someone open the door so that they can run, yes run, from the cab to the house. Coming to your town.

Dalrymple is one of the best doctor-writers the English-speaking world has produced, and in carefully carved prose he has been reporting on this abomination for the past 10 years. You will not hear anything of his ideas in any press because Dalrymple does not flaunt the breathlessly compassionate magnanimity of his intentions, he tells the nasty truth. The mere increase in crime in Britain between 1990 and 1991, was greater than the total of all the crime committed in 1950. The lack of faith in a hierarchy of values, a refusal to judge, a refusal to hew to standards of behaviour, the idea that you are not responsible for your own actions, that it is capitalism or the system or the police or racism or your dead grandmother who are to blame, the notion that all ways of life are equally valid, this has mis-served the weak-minded and disadvantaged and allowed evil to prey on the good, to the point where every '60s radical must look at her furry face in the mirror and say: "My ideas have created a vast, miserable, hopeless underclass that is threatening our way of life."

Perhaps, when every middle-class family has had one of their beautiful children murdered by a so-called recovering addict berthed (in a compassionate way) in a half-way house in their neighbourhood, or attracted by the cool new shooting gallery in a clean leafy street, we will finally say this is wrong. We must stop pampering evil and return to swift and sure punishment.