Drawing a straight line between recreational drug use and the recent spate of gang shootings in Ottawa is a little like revealing the truth behind the real source of all those gifts under the Christmas tree: Which is to say, the truth tends spoil the party even though we all know where they really come from.
Truth is local drugs are managed from source to the marketplace by sophisticated criminal networks responsible for much of the violence that is now plaguing some Ottawa neighbourhoods. That includes Friday’s incident at the Tanger Mall and a recent spate of other shootings that have left residents of some west end social housing communities ducking in fear.
Those gangs lure recruits through the promise of easy money and sustain a culture of violence to protect their interests. They use the profits to buy guns to enforce their control of communities, and they don’t care who gets hurt or worse in the process.
Recreational drug users choose to ignore these simple facts because it would ruin the buzz, or at least force them to face the true consequences of their actions.
Nancy Worsfold, director of Crime Prevention Ottawa, was absolutely right to pin some blame for recent shootings on the many recreational drug users across the city who choose to avoid the truth about where the money goes and who really profits. “I’m deeply concerned that the violence that we’ve seen is related to a lucrative drug market and the drug market is driven by two kinds of users — the recreational user and people who are addicted,” said Worsfold.
Crime Prevention Ottawa is one player in a city-wide effort to reduce gang activity, an effort that is severely compromised every time a recreational drug user puts another dollar into the hands of some thug. Even pot use isn’t entirely victim free as its distribution is often managed by gangs bent on protecting their piece of the illicit drug market.
There isn’t much ordinary citizens can do to reduce the supply of drugs.
Criminal interests will always find a way to supply a ready marketplace.
But we can do something about the demand for illicit drugs.
That is, if those who are creating the demand are ready to face up to the true consequences of their actions.
Those who won’t are silent allies of the very gangs that are plaguing this city.