Get The System Fixed, Alberta!

Get The System Fixed, Alberta!

Crawford Plains Park
Crawford Plains Shooting


May 5, 2023: It was 5 p.m., and the weather was gloomy. I was debating whether visiting the community park would be appropriate for my preschooler, who had just recovered from a minor illness. I decided against it and chose the backyard instead.

As I was heading towards the backdoor, a police car with a siren raced through my front window, and within a few minutes, the neighbourhood was engulfed by the police presence. Three lives were lost, approximately 400 metres from my house. In my home country, this news would have travelled like fire. Thanks to the ridiculous weight given to privacy here, I was clueless.

Later in the evening, my neighbour, out on her evening stroll, informed me: An angry man with mental health issues has unleashed his anger on a twelve- and thirty-five-year-old mother and child. This was devastating. This child was our fellow player in the park. I vaguely remember the little one zealously switching from swings to slides and to playground climbers, absorbing the fun limited by 4 months of summer. This attack was unwarranted.

A CBC news report mentioned that the suspect, who was later shot down by the police, had a lengthy and violent record. His crimes included assault on a child in the LRT, fellow inmates, and an officer in the prison. His last parole decision read, “You are noted to be unpredictable and are somewhat paranoid, and are manipulative with staff.” The suspect was released on parole on January 26, 2018. He was ordered to live in a community residential facility and abide by a number of conditions, including being seen by a psychologist and a psychiatrist.

Was he doing it? Did he have enough resources to do it? Was this rider monitored and followed up on? Was the family being supported enough?

Nevertheless, the suspect was nabbed by the Edmonton police in April of the same year, just three months apart, for testing positive for metaphetamine. Note that the National Institute on Drug Abuse has defined methaphetamine as “a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system.”

In the years that followed, the suspect was charged several times, the latest being the one in April 2023, for an assault on a person with a scooter. The prosecution was stayed on May 3.

This man was on the loose, and yet nobody noticed. Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee has called the attack a failure of the system. McFee said, “There were multiple intervention points.” Also, there were “multiple opportunities to hold the suspect accountable and provide him the professional support required to manage his behaviour, but the system once again failed.”

Blaming the system mitigates accountability, as everyone is held responsible without assigning any individual accountability. Instead of the ambiguous “there is accountability all over the place,” where exactly the system fails is what we would like to know. Is it the judiciary’s fault for misjudging the intensity of a criminal? The law enforcement for not having a backup plan? The police for not making a strong case against him? The government for not keeping our schools and parks safe? Or the people for not creating a social barricade for such mishaps?

A few days prior to this incident, a Ukrainian refugee was stabbed at a bus stop in a nearby neighbourhood as he sipped his morning coffee. This was also a random assault. The assaulter is still having a free run in the community as the police search continues.

Could we be gutsy enough to call out the ruined system without any pretension? Cracks can be fixed if patches are known.

Guess what? Resolutions are all over the place. There could be cameras in our parks, LRTs, bus stops, and schools. Or maybe post-parole supervision of a criminal’s well-being. Or, just using the grandiose Alberta Fund announced in the Budget this year towards mental health. Or maybe wheedling community connections effectively.

How many such suspects or convicts, without appropriate support, are currently on the loose before their minds give up on them?

As I walk near the affected school, I notice a child jumping into the car after hearing a noise erupting from the back of his car. The psychological impact is deep. The places that are meant to be fun are frightening our kids. If you know the system is failing, fix it. Give the kids back the parks they own, and the summers they deserve.

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