Editor, the News;
Re: Bar raising (News Views, Oct. 14).
It has been shocking to watch the ongoing abandonment of community standards in what is passing for dialog on the issues of homelessness, drug use and shelters.
These issues make us uncomfortable because they are complex and difficult to resolve. That discomfort makes some angry and resentful and anywhere people can comment on the internet reflects that, especially “comments” sections for newspapers.
It has gotten so bad that many newspapers have shut down their comment sections.
The Internet was tailor-made for the expression of angry resentment.
People who relish that form of expression or who see politics as a blood sport have taken full advantage of that capacity.
Even with the glaring example of the price of entrenched polarization to the south of us, some have leapt into the fray with no holds barred and that has reduced the value of the whole conversation to near nothing.
I am not taking sides here.
There are people of good will and serious intent on all sides and there are also wildlings who want nothing more than a fight.
We need to advance this conversation. Winter is upon us and a very vulnerable population is out in the cold with its own set of circling sharks.
We need to get people off the street into some reasonable form of shelter that addresses their particular needs, which includes not housing those rendered homeless by economics or disability with those who are drug-addicted.
We need to tackle the crime associated with not just the homeless population, but also with those who live on the criminal fringe and feel they have a right to anything that is not nailed down – and sometimes even then.
Crime is only petty when it hasn’t happened to you.
Homeless or not, there needs to be serious consequences for crime, which aren’t ignorable by any sector of the population.
We need a clear understanding of what the terms being used mean – does ‘low-barrier’ just mean a free-for-all for drug users, or is there more to it?
This clarification needs to take place in all media so none can claim they haven’t had access to it.
Both bureaucrats and experts need to pay attention to the language they use and stick to plain, clear English – no jargon.
We also need to apply critical thinking to the claims people make.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion and to express that opinion.
But not all opinions are fact-based or deserving of equal consideration in the public sphere.
Finally, we need to remember that incautious speech on social media can and will come back to haunt us and can be enough to scuttle something like a political career.
Every community in the Lower Mainland is struggling with these issues.
A lot of ideas have been tried that have not worked.
We need new ideas and a mind-set that is prepared to give those ideas a chance.
Shouting at each other in cyberspace will not get us there.