On Sunday, the Province began it’s six part series on “thugs,” and the epidemic of youth gang violence that is sweeping BC. The series comes on the heels of what seems like an endless string of violence that has afflicted this province over the past few months. Most recently, of course, was the shooting at Kitsilano restaurant Quattro. Before that was the guy with the chain on South Granville (hey, whatever happened to that guy?), and the Fortune Happiness Restaurant shooting. For a usually peaceful place, those three incidents all happening with the course of a month would make it seem like an epidemic really is sweeping BC.
But it’s not. Disregarding the fact that none of the violence just mentioned above was youth gang related, all you have to do is read a few paragraphs into The Province‘s first piece to understand how out of control this epidemic actually is. The revelation that “gang-related homicides have more than doubled in BC over the last decade” sure sounds troubling, until you find out that the number has “more than doubled” to a whopping 16. 16? That’s not 16 in Vancouver, or even “Metro” Vancouver. It’s for the entire province, with a population resting somewhere upwards of four million.
A quick browse around the BC Vital Statistics homepage (and their most recent available survey, from 2005) reveals how truly “epidemic” youth gang violence is. It’s not nearly the problem that unintentional falls are. In 2005, 339 people fell victim to this sweeping trend. And what else? Well, 145 people died of AIDS, 243 from unintentional poisoning and 369 from car crashes. And if you dig around a bit more on the site, you might even find the enlightening article entitled Beautiful, Deadly British Columbia. While not satisfactorily up to date (the stats are from 1985-1998), the article does reveal that ’98 was a pretty bad year for landslides and avalanches in the province, with 15 people meeting their demise in a deadly cluster of snow and rocks.
The Province even goes on to state that “the increase [in gang violence] can also be partially explained by population growth and an increasing acceptance of a broader definition of what a youth gang is,” meaning that any way you spin it, they’re stretching it with that “doubling” talk. With that knowledge, and the added stats above, how the hell does this completely insignificant increase in an already exceptionally low amount of gang violence justify a six-part-series? The answer to that is what The Province does best: sensationalist fear-mongering.