Thursday, October 07, 2010

Toronto the strange

I've been following for some time the on-going persecution of a Chinese-Canadian storekeeper in Toronto by the serve-and-protect guys and a prosecutor with too much time on his hands. It's like reading a cautionary tale in which everything we know as normal is inverted.

Toronto is a city of sophisticates presently demonstrating their stubborn commitment to equality by supporting a boorish lackwit to head up their city council. It's a place where cops can arrest and imprison hundreds of innocent citizens at a time with seeming impunity, and be defended wholeheartedly by a Liberal premier and an NDP mayor. It's located in an alternate reality called Ontario, where laws are secret and ephemeral.

Toronto, in fact, is beginning to remind me of the ancient city of Sodom--but the Sodom of the Jewish tradition.

That city was known for the radical selfishness of its inhabitants, its anti-immigration policies--and its parodic perversion of justice. A woman who was assaulted was handed over to her attacker, and was returned to her husband only after she was pregnant. If you cut the ear off your neighbour's donkey, the animal was yours until the ear should grow back. If you were attacked, you had to pay a fee to your assailant for letting your blood: it was considered a chargeable medical benefit.

Back to Toronto, and the facts of the case. A small-time petty criminal named Anthony Bennett, a man with a lengthy rap sheet, stole several plants from a store delightfully named The Lucky Moose. Unsatisfied with his haul, he came back for a second helping, but he was recognized, pursued by owner David Chen and two others, caught, immobilized and held in a van until the police could arrive.

At this point, we vanish into that anti-world where Sodom once stood. The boys in blue promptly arrested Chen and jailed him overnight. They charged him with kidnapping, and, because he had a box-cutter in his apron when he ran after the thief, with carrying a concealed weapon as well.

That was too much even for the Crown, but two other charges stuck: assault and forcible confinement.

The cops did arrest the thief at the time. In the looking-glass world that is Toronto, however, he was given a reduced sentence--in return for agreeing to testify against his victim.

Chen's trial is now underway, after the powers that be finally managed to find him an interpreter. The thief has been enthralling us all with his tale of woe, even if he can't remember if it was his finger or his thumb that was allegedly damaged during his time of tribulation.

The spectacle continues--and on our dime, of course. Because, in this contemporary alternate universe, we too must pay our assailants.

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