Gregor Robertson (not shown) uses an invisible force field to deflect blame
Martin Luther King, Jr. said that 'the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.' The actions of Mayor Gregor Robertson in response to the shocking incident at the Ray-Cam Community Centre are, in my opinion, the measure of the man.
For those who do not know the story, a toddler was kidnapped by a mentally ill man at a City-funded community centre in the Strathcona neighbourhood just at the edge of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The perpetrator barricaded himself with a young boy he didn't know for over seven hours, and in the end slashed the 3-year old's face with a knife, before police stormed in to end the incident.
VPD Const. Lindsey Houghton said after the incident that the boy was a "hero" for keeping his cool. It struck me as a puzzling way to characterize what was more likely shock. Then ten hours after hostage taking ended a press release was issued by Mayor Gregor Robertson.
Of course, that release is not available to the general public through Robertson's blog nor the City's media page, which invariably post good news only. You'll have to take my word for it that the words which follow are Robertson's. After the usual bumph about how tragic the situation was and thanking police and centre staff, Mayor Gregor reveals something about the perpetrator:
The incident last night raises some tough questions about the state of mental health prevention and care in Vancouver and throughout the Province. This man had a history of mental health issues and involvement in violent incidents, which raises serious questions about why he was in a community centre.
We've just had a tragic incident involving a mentally ill man and a child in a public facility. The Mayor of Vancouver might want to get to the bottom of how it happened, but as we see in his first public statements he's pointing fingers. Those "tough questions" Robertson has are not for people under his bailiwick. No, they're for the Province.
Let's stop here for a moment to consider what is revealed by Mayor Gregor's statement. He's the Chair of the Police Board. Clearly the VPD must have opened their files on the perpetrator Kyle Jackson to allow Robertson to state that Jackson has a history of "involvement in violent incidents" and has "mental health issues."
The City will be asking Provincial authorities for answers on why this man was out on the street. There are several outstanding questions that we need answered, both to understand how this happened and how to prevent it from happening again.
Understandably, people working in the Provincial government were just a little pissed off that Gregor was blaming them again for a problem on his watch. Interviewed on CKNW Radio today Health Minister Kevin Falcon stated that there is nothing in five years of records to indicate that the Kyle Jackson had sought treatment for mental health issues. He criticized Robertson for barking off before all the facts are in.
National Post writer Brian Hutchinson stated on Wednesday:
By demanding answers of “Provincial authorities,” the mayor seemed to be pointing a finger. One could accuse him of trying to assign blame, of using this near-tragedy to score political points.
So here we have our mayor trying to score points after a little three year old boy has received a five-inch gash on his face from an assailant's knife. Not even in a situation as dire as this, where any kind of politicking is incredibly unbecoming, can Robertson just put a sock in it and take responsibility for something which has happened under his watch.
Whether it's Robertson perpetual blame game on the Olympic Village, where his own actions which are said to have caused a nearly $200 million loss to Vancouver tax payers are conveniently ignored. Or something as unthinkable as the incident at Ray-Cam. You can always count on Gregor putting up his deflector shields and making sure someone else besides him takes the hit.
In my books that's the opposite of leadership.
Thankfully at least some media are not going to let Gregor get away this crass exploitation of the Ray Cam incident. Tonight CKNW's Penny Daflos is questioning the Mayor's storyline.
Vancouver Police aren't confirming Mayor Gregor Robertson's claim that the man who allegedly held a toddler hostage Tuesday has a history of mental illness.
Constable Lindsay Houghton says learning more about Jackson is on a long list of tasks, "Our investigators have a lot to do in liaising with Crown Counsel and other agencies. Whether it's helping staff at Ray-Cam come to grips with what they've been through and working to find out what in fact Mr. Jackson's background really is. So we can't confirm whether or not he has a mental health history because we just don't know."
Robertson held a press conference Wednesday afternoon criticizing the Province for dragging its feet on providing mental health resources, which the VPD have asked for.
So now the VPD are "working to find out what in fact Mr. Jackson's background really is?" Well, it was good enough for Gregor to grandstand on Wednesday afternoon, so why bother?
On Tuesday evening while that child was being held hostage in a city community centre, Gregor was conducting his Vision Vancouver "telephone town hall" and trying to drum up votes among party faithful on that costly conference call. Given the Ray-Cam situation had started before the call started, it might have made sense if the Mayor begged off and postponed the meeting.
Instead, Robertson stayed on the call, answering puffball questions during the Vision-moderated sixty minutes.
Putting politics before the people in his charge. That's the real measure of our Mayor.
- post by Mike