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Should Halifax be aligning itself with Guardian Angels?


Reportedly, Halifax mayor Peter Kelly first met Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa in the studios of radio station WABC in New York City, where Sliwa hosts a talk show.

Neither Kelly nor Sliwa returned repeated calls for comment, so there's no telling what the mayor thought of the radio show. But if shows broadcast live and over the internet last week are representative, Kelly was treated to a series of diatribes typical of American right-wing "hate radio."

Many of Sliwa's statements would likely make most Haligonians cringe. For example: "Who benefits the most from Christmas? Retailers! And they're mostly Jews!"

This was followed by a discussion of the American post office's new policy of checking the police records of volunteers in the Operation Santa program, which responds to children's letters to Santa. Sliwa saw the check as an affront created by lawyers, and said he wanted to deal with the lawyers "Soprano-style....I'll put my boot to the back of their head, and say, "What, you want to do away with Santa?'"

"You know all about plastic surgery," Sliwa said to a female newsreader on the show. She objected, and he explained himself: "Well, you talk to women and they're always saying, "I need a little work on the eyes,' or whatever."

Ridiculing those who planned to demonstrate against the Ronald McDonald float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Sliwa, a former McDonald's night manager, announced he was going to lead a "Big Mac attack" against the protestors.

Does such racial and gender stereotyping, or the casual reference to the use of violence, raise concern about the methods and operations of the Guardian Angels? For Kelly, evidently not: after visiting the radio studio, the mayor then invited Sliwa to tour Halifax, and the Guardian Angels have since announced they'll set up shop in town.

But at least one Halifax councillor said she is "leery" of Sliwa and the Guardian Angels.

"Those are hate words," said Dawn Sloane, after I read her quotes from Sliwa's show. "I don't believe in hate." Sloane's district includes both Pizza Corner and the Common, areas well known for violent attacks.

"I'm leery of his tactics," she continued. "Because of what I heard and saw of his mannerism. We have enough violence in this city. I don't want people thinking this is like Dodge and they can take it upon themselves to be tougher than the next guy."

Sloane said she would prefer the "Common Watch" approach to violence—a relatively new effort to hold more social activities on the Common, bringing more "eyes and ears" to public areas.

The Halifax Police Department also is keeping the Angels at arm's length, in part because, unlike other citizen watch groups that operate in Metro, the Angels pledge to physically subdue those suspected of crime and place them under citizen arrest.

"We're not anti-Guardian Angels," said spokesperson Jeff Carr. "But we can't condone private citizens getting involved in physical confrontations."

But Armdale-Purcell's Cove councillor Linda Mosher supports the Angels: "I see them as promoting safety and deterrence.

"He's a talk show host," said Mosher after I read her Sliwa's radio quotes. "He's trying to be sensationalist."

Mosher pointed out that the Halifax Guardian Angels organization will be independent from Sliwa, and that volunteers will be trained in martial arts, legal issues and first aid. One of those doing the training is Woo Yong Jung, Mosher's own Taekwondo instructor.

"I don't want a bunch of thugs out there," she said. "And I'm confident they're doing this right."

The newly founded Toronto Guardian Angels organization has adopted "a more Canadian approach, not like the New York Guardian Angels," said Mosher.


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