Calgary Sun

Friday, July 2, 1999

It's time we dared to act

By RICK BELL -- Calgary Sun

You scan the newspaper of the last two days and ask the same question as everyone else in this city. Why?

Brittany Yano, five years old. Joshua Yano, three years old. Drowned in their mom's and dad's holiday home. Why?

Cole Thompson, just 2 1/2 years old, his little life shaken out of him. Why?

How the hell does this happen?

These stories are no longer so isolated, are they?

There are other deaths, other headlines in the past days, past weeks, past months. They keep coming.

You cannot look away.

Adults killing kids. Kids killing kids. Still the question lurks. Why?

Naturally, the Why never points at us.

The answer is over there. It's always somebody else, some other neighbourhood, some other street, some other family.

Some other force turning us into this society where the value of everyone, including and especially children, is diminished.

When the truth does hit, when the facts come too close and we can avoid them no longer, when reality worms its way into the quiet country town cloaking itself in virtue or the respectability of the dream-home suburb, we do not have much new to say.

Shock. How could it happen here? Why?

Like the rest of us, Colleen Klein also asks Why?

"Oh, my. This makes me cry for the little ones. It makes your heart really bleed," she tells me when she hears of Cole's death.

"Where are we going? Why are people doing these things? Somebody's got to make the difference.

"I don't have the answer any more than you do. But there are kids killing kids, parents killing their babies. I sure hope we can come up with an answer.

"There use to be two places you could be completely safe: Home and school. Not now. If we don't nip this in the bud, we'll see it get worse. And we know it's bad enough today."

Yes, Colleen is Ralph's wife, and in the past she's often used her clout to help young people.

This October is no different. Colleen heads up the Provincial Children's Forum, where people will work on ways to put children first once more.

This coming Tuesday, she announces the details.

Colleen talks about kids a lot. She and Ralph share 10 grandchildren. "And one great-grand baby.

"I believe somebody up there gave me direction," Colleen says of her work.

"And when I was growing up, I was picked on for my Scottish and Native blood. But I'm a fighter and I believe in standing tall. Sometimes you only really understand if you have walked in somebody else's shoes.

"One thing I know is we have to get back to the basics. I want children to feel safe again. We have to look after their minds, their bodies and their souls."

In one way, Colleen is no different from the rest of us perplexed souls.

She speaks of her six-year-old grandchild who is afraid to go to school, of our courts which allow kiddie porn. She laments the way authority has eroded.

She's upset when our young are used as weapons in adult fights or as sex toys or when even the youngest of children are shuffled off to be raised by strangers.

Colleen even supports school uniforms and laments the stresses of our I-want-it-all world.

"We're just far, far too materialistic. The material things are not everything. There is more to life."

But, for most of us, the ideas and good intentions flow and that's where it stops. Talk.

Thankfully though, not all go this well-travelled road.

Others, like Colleen, dare to act.

Copyright© 1999, Canoe Limited Partnership.