a tale of two communities

Canada is a big country, with a lot of diversity, but there are indeed many cultural strings binding us together.

Canada is a big country, with a lot of diversity, but there are indeed many cultural strings binding us together.

Who would have thought vigilante justice would be one of them?

Last week in Whitehorse a group of 50 people, mostly young men, some armed with clubs and blades, exercised their power by exorcising a suspected drug dealer from a local bar.

Although they carried weapons, their actions were non-violent.

The group that assembled on Wednesday and Thursday “wasn’t like a violent mob,” said one activist, who asked to remain nameless because he fears for his safety.

“But there were people that were armed with knives, because these guys are dangerous.”

And, although the confrontation remained non-violent, it was vigilantism nonetheless — informal justice taking place outside the law.

But what a weak brand of vigilantism the Yukon wields, compared to New Brunswick.

Last weekend about 50 residents in Grand Manan, NB, attacked a known drug house operating in the island hamlet of 2,700 people, and burned it to the ground.

Hooligans on both sides of the conflict wielded guns, knives and baseball bats as they fought for more than four hours, according to the Globe and Mail.

The island’s three RCMP officers were quickly overwhelmed. Volunteer firefighters tried unsuccessfully to quash the flames, all the while dodging rocks hurled by the vigilantes.

Gunfire was traded, but no one was hit. More than a dozen minor injuries resulted, with no charges laid, while the cops try to figure out who did what.

Now that’s a mob.

“If there are charges we’ll deal with it but really we want to help the community heal,” Grand Manan RCMP Sgt. Greg MacAvoy told the Globe and Mail.

“It’s a lesson in how things can go off the rails.

“You hope that in the clear light of day that people who were involved have had time to have a sober second thought and say, ‘Hey, maybe we went a little overboard.’”

You think?

“It’s pretty hard to condone violence of the level that escalated to Saturday night,” continued MacAvoy.

“You can understand that people get frustrated and to the end of their rope.

“I’m betting a lot of the people involved in this were acting completely out of character. But things don’t have to get that extreme.”

The question, for Whitehorse as well, is why did they feel they had to take justice into their own hands?

Some, like Grand Manan’s mayor Dennis Greene, blame the justice system.

“The police are doing a fine job but we’re being let down by the justice system, which gives criminals more rights than victims,” Greene told the Globe and Mail.

Others blame the police for not cracking down on known drug houses and users.

But Whitehorse RCMP say their hands are tied.

“It’s a problem because people don’t want to get involved,” Whitehorse RCMP Sgt. Ross Milward said last week.

“They’re intimidated, and if we don’t have witnesses there’s nothing we can do.”

The vigilante reaction in Whitehorse is already established.

It’s just not Maritime-tough quite yet.

We hope it never is.

(GM)