Four months ago, I left my cell phone on the steps of Our Lady of Lebanon Parish on Queen Street in Toronto. Given the chance, Parkdale just ate it up.
Today, I stepped into my local Wind Mobile store on Dundas to ask the owner, Ameer, to help me buy a replacement.
Four blissful months without a cell phone came to an end.
As I waited, I got to observe Ameer deal with a local hipster client, looking all Frank and Oak in his beard and sunglasses. Ameer was the picture of patience and solicitude.
Mr. Frank and Oak on the other hand was rude and arrogant. “I know how to read,” he said, in response to a bit of customer service.
I was surprised, and not just because I thought that simply having a plentiful beard bestowed one with an infinite sense of grace; but also by Ameer’s consistent friendly and helpful demeanour.
After Mr. Frank&Oak left, I asked Ameer how he remained so calm and equanimous.
“Oh, I deal with those kinds of people all the time,” he said. And we somehow segued into Ameer’s background.
Ameer’s has owned the store for two years. He’s a recent immigrant from Karachi, Pakistan. And he’s been robbed three times in the past year.
Three times! I couldn’t believe it. Once, last February, two men came into his store at around 7 pm, brandishing guns. They forced him to lie down behind one of the displays while they pilfered every single phone.
His phones, too. Ameer has to buy his own stock.
When they left, Ameer ran after them. Their bag split in half and the phones inside fell to the sidewalk. The robbers ran behind a nearby building and Ameer started after them, until a neighbouring business owner brought him to his senses and told him to stop.
Nonetheless, Ameer managed to catch sight of his assailants enter the area of an apartment building across the way.
“The police came once,” Ameer explained, “but they never came back.” No subsequent calls.
Ditto for the other times thieves broke into his store. Once, they left some blood on the floor after they broke the door as they entered. Police took swabs for DNA evidence but never got back to Ameer about the results. He’s never been to court.
Nonetheless, Ameer is as friendly as can be. Optimistic, glad to help me out, he gave me a discount. I can’t even sure if that was just a part of his general m.o. or if I got bonus friendliness for not being as rude as the previous customer.
The Hassles of Criminal Law
Over the past month or so, Toronto witnessed the grand implosion of Jian Ghomeshi’s career through public allegations of sexual and physical abuse, from people like actress Lucy DeCoutere. One thing has become clear: the justice system can kind of suck.
It sucks that if you’re the victim of sexual assault, you’re afraid to go to the police because you’re worried that you won’t be believed. Or that you’ll have to prove your allegations in court on top of having gone through them in the first place.
It kind of sucks for Ameer too, who’s been robbed three times, has had three formulaic experiences with Toronto police, and doesn’t even know if the same people who robbed him have come back into his store to scope it out for another try. Or maybe to rudely buy a cell phone and brush off the finest service this side of Karachi.
It also kind of sucks if you are a black male in this city and you’re randomly stopped by police because you fit a general description of someone who committed a crime in the neighbourhood. Or because you are “loitering”.
And then it sucks too if, due to a random, unjustified stop, whether black or white, man or woman, the police luck upon some marijuana, or even some crack, when they had no reason to stop you. Then you’re hauled into court, held for bail, and maybe released on ridiculous bail conditions that essentially force you to live like a prisoner in your own home. Or with your relatives.
All of this kind of sucks.
And it doesn’t feel any better to be a police officer who’s forced to prove to a judge that your actions pass constitutional muster. And to be berated by lawyers barely out of diapers about whether a ten second interference with their client’s liberty somehow violated their sacred rights, notwithstanding a gun or drugs that contribute to the debilitation of said client’s community. Or life.
And it’ll probably suck for Jian Ghomeshi to have to live with his mother for the next year or two because, what, living with his mother is going to stop him from re-offending?
Does anyone seriously believe that Jian Ghomeshi is at risk to reoffend, to commit another alleged terrible date over the next year or two? Who are the women lining up to date this guy? But yet, even his high-priced, Hollywood-esque lawyer and the firm she heads up couldn’t get Jian back in his beaches’ home. He has to live with mommy.
So much for fearsome Marie Henein. The system always wins.
There’s much more to say, but it strikes me that those who reinforce the fear of the justice system that already exists in the minds of so many worried about making a criminal complaint don’t do the objects of their supposed sympathy any favours.
It’s the system, really. It’s not a place where justice is made, so much as ground out. One of my interlocutors in Twitter perhaps said it best. As long as justice is a zero sum game, we all lose something. Maybe there’s a wrongfully convicted accused person, or maybe a disbelieved complainant.
But the system is rigged in favour of tears.