A World of Tanks?

The new way to stop litterers?/ Wikimedia Commons 110226-N-TT977-224

The new way to stop litterers?/ Wikimedia Commons 110226-N-TT977-224

A blitz on our freedoms.

Author: John Loeppky

A recent National Post article highlighted an uptick in the amount of Canadian police detachments that are purchasing and/or deployed armoured vehicles. In the past few weeks we have seen the radical militarization of the American police force come into the spotlight. I am talking about Ferguson, Missouri, where the riots surrounding the death of Michael Brown sparked law enforcement blowback so severe that residents of the Kansas City suburb were trading tips and tricks (via Twitter) with Gazan citizens on how best to minimize the effects of tear gas. Such a conversation is definitely a first-world problem we shouldn’t need to be discussing.

As Canadians, we like to think that we are immune to such “ridiculousness,” but are we? And, if we are venerable to such encumbrances on personal liberties, where does it start? Well, what if your friendly neighbourhood diner installed a gun range? What if Fuddruckers’ newest game was Blast the Target With an AK-47? If you have not yet been informed of the most recent example surrounding the gun craziness affecting good ol’ America, allow me to fill you in. On Aug 25, a nine-year-old girl in Arizona was allowed to shoot an Uzi at a gun range/restaurant combination named Burgers and Bullets. Security protocol was not followed and the instructor on duty died when said nine year old fired the weapon, lost control, with the resulting recoil causing a fatal wound and, I’m sure, the young girl to be mentally scarred for life.

We can chalk this up to the complete insanity of a nine-year-old handling a weapon that most adults are not trusted with; we can argue until we are crimson that the gun culture, so prevalent in the United States, has infected the minds of so many and injured many innocent people; we could argue that safety protocols were ignored and that the entire thing could have been avoided; but the answer is not a singular nor is it definitive. Each of the preceding arguments has merit, but it is the melting pot of influences that created this tragedy, one that will, sadly, end up being repeated. We are talking about a country with guns so heavily rooted in its culture, that weaponry has become the norm, even for a child. To say this incident was preventable has to be the understatement of the decade.

Which brings me back to the militarization we are seeing – albeit very slowly – in the ranks of local Canadian police forces. We are witnessing a new wave of equipment that is as much about intimidation as it is about safety. As we have seen in Ferguson, intimidation does not always equal a safer world. In fact, escalation is the more likely result. So far, the returns have been mostly positive when it comes to the deployment of the units in question. Saskatoon police have been deploying their armoured vehicle, dubbed the “BearCat”, to an increasing number of calls without any evidence of a military coup, but one does have to wonder: when will an armoured vehicle become the norm? And, when that does happen, how far will militarization’s talons extend?

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