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Friday, August 8, 2008

Unrest in Canada - Tim McLean Case Revives Debate About Capital Punishment, Race Issues, and Comments on McDougall Shooting

I wanted to comment on the Greyhound murder case for a while now, but have been holding back because it is such a sensitive issue and also out of respect for the family. However, it is apparent now to me that there is much that needs to be addressed even if nobody ever reads this blog.

So firstly, I apologize to the McLean family for discussing this topic at all. The fact that the nation found the story on the news before the family did reveals how little discretion the media had with handling the case, and by releasing the descriptive account given by Garnet Caton. It also is indicative how big a role the media played in forwarding this story into the Canadian consciousness as it is - a gruesome murder story that I hear everyone talking about no matter where I go. My condolences to the McLean family.

Being a resident of Edmonton, I have often shopped at the Clareview Wal-Mart and have eaten at many McDonald's stores on the North End. Many of my friends went to the Capital Ex festival (though I didn't) and I have a friend that was born in Brandon, Manitoba. I am not personally connected to anyone that knows the victim Tim McLean or the maniacal Vince Li, but all this hits very close to home. To think I even shopped at the same Wal-Mart and perhaps even rang through Mr. Li's checkout is unnerving.

But is he really as rare a breed as he would seem? Are we surrounded by psychos or is it just a product of the media? Am I alarmed by living in what seems to be proximity to Mr. Li's stomping grounds, or is it just a moral panic built up by all the media speculation?

I suppose I find it more worthwhile to respond to comments made by everyday Canadians, rather than respond to watered-down, press-friendly comments made on big-wig news websites. Those comments are made to be as neutral and unbiased as possible (as they should be) without offending anyone, whereas the comments left at the bottom on CBC.ca contains the raw emotion, reactions, prejudices and frustrations that everyday Canadians keep bottled up inside as Joe Blow and Jane Doe, which can be effectively released via anonymous usernames through the world wide web.

Quoting AnthonyToronto from CBC.ca:

AnthonyToronto wrote:
Posted 2008/08/07
at 6:05 PM ET

On the natives killed in that province, the response has been that it was a valid action to shoot these men because they had knives. So if taking abrupt action (shooting someone) was valid in those instances, then what was the hold-up in coming to that decision where this huge knife-wielder who had clearly already killed someone was concerned?
<Link Here>

Also, in once instance of his many controversial comments, the user Crusades2008 was quoted as saying:

Crusades2008 wrote:
Posted 2008/08/02
at 8:19 AM ET

So, how many visible minorities were killed by Ted Bundy, Charles Manson... or Paul Bernardo or Clifford Olsen and etc.?


But, white people are constantly the victims of the senseless violence committed by non-whites. WE are the victims, not they. And it's time that WE do something about it.

<Link Here>

What's worse is that Tom Metzger has been contributing to these comments on the CBC.ca communal comments page at the bottom, though some of his more outrageous comments, along with Crusades' , have been removed. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the name, Tom Metzger is the founder of the White Aryan Resistance. There is no guarantee that the user was Mr. Metzger himself, but whoever it was he or she supported his views enough to take up the torch on his behalf. Though it would have been better to leave the comments on there so that Canadians can evaluate them for what they are and discuss them in the public forum, the action taken by CBC.ca admins is reflective of the content of the deleted comment.

Reading through comments made by Canadians across the nation far and wide, it has become clear that some questions have arisen out of this mess:

1) Why didn't the police officers shoot to kill, as in other comparable cases? Or on this matter, why did they negotiate with the suspect instead of rushing the bus to detain the suspect in a quick, orderly fashion? Why didn't they use a taser?
2) Did Mr. Li receive preferential treatment? Should Canada reinstate capital punishment for the sake of such extreme murder cases?Is he more/less dangerous as a recent Chinese immigrant? Are Asian immigrants more dangerous, as Crusades2008 seems to be claiming? Should "whites" consider themselves the victims and be wary of all recent immigrants?
3) Why didn't other passengers rush to the aid of Mr. McLean?

Addressing item (1):

For those of you familar with the fatal shooting death of a knife wielding Aboriginal suspect by Winnepeg police on August 2, many Aboriginal posters on CBC.ca have demanded to know why Craig McDougall was not spared whereas Vince Li was afforded a chance in court.

The premises are as such:

(1) Both men wielded knives.
(2) Vince Li commited a murder.
(3) Craig McDougall did not technically commit a crime, with the exception of resisting arrest, having a weapon, etc.
(4) Attempts were made to taser Craig McDougall, which failed.
(5) No attempt was made to taser Vince Li.
(6) Craig McDougall was in an open space.
(7) Vince Li was quarantined aboard a Greyhound bus.
(8) Vince Li threw the knife and scissors out the broken window before attempting escape.

My conclusion:

The Winnepeg police, wary of the knife wielding suspect in the Greyhound case, were quick to react once the attempts to taser the suspect failed. Seeing as Mr. Li was quarantined aboard the Greyhound bus, a standoff ensued. Because Mr. Li disposed of his weapons before attempting escape, he was now harmless to harm police officers. Though I don't want to make any assumptions in the McDougall case, his refusal to drop his knife may have caused him to appear as a viable threat to officers on scene which led to their decision to shoot him.

Furthermore, the Greyhound bus is too narrow for police officers to try to rush a quarantined suspect who, now seperated from the other passengers and on scene officers, was unable to inflict any further unspeakable acts. If the tasering of Mr. McDougall can fail out in the open, then it is surely a possibility on a narrow bus corridor where you are in a tight space with a knife wielding murderer. Not exactly the kind of place where you want to get stuck if the taser fails and if you're the guy who has to do the tasering.

Tasers are the first resort before guns. In the Greyhound case, it is obvious that even after the window was broken by Mr. Li that the taser does not seem to be an option to officers on scene. In the McDougall case, tasers failed. It does not appear to me that Mr. McDougall received unfair treatment, but once again, that is not for me to determine. That is for the Wasagamack First Nation Reserve and the Canadian judicial system to determine.

My apologies to the McDougall family, the Wasagamack First Nation Reserve and all people who knew Mr. McDougall. The fact remains that the two cases are not comparable and that the conditions under which Mr. McDougall were shot were not the same as the ones that allowed Mr. Li to live. My condolences to the McDougall family.

Addressing item (2):

As discussed in item (1), some posters believe Mr. Li received preferential treatment by police officers by not subduing him earlier (without a standoff), by not firing upon sight. Some are enraged that he is not being charged with first degree murder. Others believe this warrants bringing back capital punishment (at least for "special cases," as some have described it). Many believe these to be better options than recommending psychiatric treatment to a murdered. He has even asked the judge to kill him and many Canadians are keen on granting his request.

Firstly, police officers cannot shoot a suspect on sight! At least they shouldn't, if they are going to do their job correctly. You can't shoot every bloody suspect no matter how guilty they may seem. The evidence may overwhelmingly prove that the suspect is guilty upon inspection - but that is upon inspection. You can never determine something on sight - our senses and perception are not perfect: people need glasses, hearing aids, psychiatric evaluations.

We cannot deal out death so easily unless we wish to become exactly the same as the murderers we wish to condemn.

The difference between Mr. Li and Mr. McDougall? If a taser failed to subdue a knife wielding suspect then perhaps shooting was the only viable option left to police officers. However, Mr. Li voluntarily dropped his weapon even though his intention was to flee the scene. That is why one was shot and the other was not. Does Mr. Li deserve the death penalty? Perhaps. Is it cheaper than rehabilitation? No doubt. But we are not the stewards of life and death. That privilege is not ours and should never be.

Furthermore, there seems to be some sort of idea being proposed by White Power movements that immigrants and Asian immigrants in particular are more likely to commit henious crimes than Whites or caucasian Canadians.

No doubt most informed Canadians can recall the murder-suicide case of Joshua Lall (1) (2) from Calgary, in which an entire family and a basement tenant was slaughtered, the only survivor being the one year old baby Anna Lall.

Surely, "White" Canadians do commit henious crimes as well.

However, then the argument arises about the Virginia Tech shootings commited by Seung-Hui Cho, who was an Asian international student studying in Blacksburg, Virginia. Unfortunately, he was also an Asian immigrant. But how easily we have forgotten the Amish school shootings and the Columbine massacre which were the grisly inspiration for Cho's rampage.

A quick scan of school-related tragedies shows that the majority of attacker(s) are not Asian nor do they occur in Canada. Given the statistics one might even make the arguement that Asian immigrants have more to fear from Caucasians when moving to North America than from other Asian immigrants! But all this is irrelevant and we are doing Tim McLean and all the Virgina Tech and Columbine victims a disservice by even discussing it. The race of an attacker is irrelevant in such cases. Only the tragedy of the victims' lives lost. To think in the 21st century that race movements are still using such tragedies as a means to further their political and social theories and agendas is disgusting.

I hope my fellow Canadians see Metzger and his racial scapegoating attempts as what they really are. I'm born and raised in Canada but the fact remains that I am a visible minority. It is because of these nutjobs that I fear going outside alone late at night for fear of being lynched. When people talk of retribution for "Whites" for a crime I am not responsible for, just because the criminal was a minority face by the name Vince Li, I suddenly have to fear for my own life. The media and race interest groups have thrown this way out of proportions. It also saddens me that I have to compare murder cases to make the point, but in order to show how dissimilar two things really are, you have to compare and contrast the nitty-gritty.

Addressing item (3):

If the police, armed with tasers and guns, were fearful of attacking the knife wielding Vince Li, wouldn't you be? Perhaps if I was in his case I would have done something different. Perhaps a lot of us would and could and should have been there. But we weren't. And the possibility arises that if he did do something he too would have been just another victim of Mr. Li's. We cannot grope about alternate possibilities: we can only live with what is.

Quoting NewmarketNDPer from CBC.ca:

NewmarketNDPer wrote:
Posted 2008/08/08
at 12:35 AM ET

Over here in Asia thousands are watching this case and taking due note that Canadians are acting [in a] rather different way than the government of the [USA] ... and the [Chinese government]. To them this is a test of patience, a way to [gauge] Canada for its humanity and civilization.
<Link Here>

NewmarketNDPer is obviously from an Asian country overseas. He is astonished at our reaction to the Greyhound case and how patient we are with the criminal and praises our humanity.

NewmarketNDPer gets it right: the majority of Canadians do realise that this case goes beyond the face-value of media moral panics, calls for capital punishment, and that Canada is exercising our collective ability to be a democratic nation. As a nation, we can go beyond the knee-jerk policies that define other nations and that is what sets us apart. The very fact that a guy like NewmarketNDPer can speak on our humane reactions to suc
h an inhumane crime speaks volumes about our identity as a nation.

The true tragedy is not that Vince Weiguang Li is not a candidate for the electric chair. The real tragedy is not that fellow unarmed passengers were unable to subdue a maniac that police officers themselves were wary of approaching.

With all this heated speculation we as Canadians may have forgotten that the tragedy is that Mr. McLean was undeserving of his fate. I'm sure the majority of Canadians will also agree with me that the true tragedy of the matter is that the media were so heavily involved in this story. The gut-wrenching tragedy is that the family found out on the news like 30 million other Canadians.

And as a result, the undeniable tragedy is that Tim McLean cannot rest in peace.

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