Community divided over banning Fiddy

ImageDon't shoot the messenger. That's the response from criminologists, community leaders and politicians who say calls to block hip-hop artist 50 Cent from entering Canada is a misguided way to combat gun violence.

"His music does glorify violence, but by focusing on him, you only give him more attention and risk turning him into a martyr for free expression," said Neil Boyd, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University.

Curtis (50 Cent) Jackson, also known as Fiddy, is supposed to launch a Canadian tour on Dec. 3 in Vancouver, with a Toronto date set for Dec. 20. On Tuesday, Toronto MP Dan McTeague said he had sent a letter to Immigration Minister Joe Volpe, asking him to turn the former crack dealer back at the border.

"I don't think people in Toronto or any urban centre need or want to hear Mr. Jackson's message right now," Mr. McTeague told reporters, pointing to a brazen shooting on the steps of a church in northwest Toronto last Friday, when 18-year-old Amon Beckles was gunned down as mourners gathered for the funeral of another 17-year-old gun victim.

"I think it's time we send a message of our own to those who glorify violence that their gratuitous violence and movies are not welcome in our country," Mr. McTeague said.

Because of his criminal record, Mr. Jackson must obtain a ministerial permit to enter Canada.

Asked whether he would act to block Mr. Jackson's entry, the Immigration Minister said the matter would be handled by staff "with the utmost caution," but he stopped short of committing himself.

"We have a system that deals with performers and with athletes of all varieties," Mr. Volpe told reporters in Ottawa yesterday. "If there's a need for the minister to become involved after that process has taken place, then we deal with the issues as they come forward on a per case basis. None of those issues have come forward to me yet."

Mr. Jackson's life of crime -- the rapper was himself left with nine bullet wounds after being the target of a hit -- was recounted on his 2003 multiplatinum debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin', and a loosely biographical film of the same name that is currently in theatres.

When Mr. Jackson last performed in Toronto, at the Molson Amphitheatre on Canada Day of 2003, 24-year-old Msemaji Granger was shot dead in a parking lot as the audience was leaving. The homicide remains unsolved.

Toronto Mayor David Miller said he couldn't comment on the musician's admissibility to Canada, which is a federal matter, but believes the violent lyrics in some rap music are more of a symptom than a cause of gun violence.

"I see music as an expression of what is happening in communities," Mr. Miller said.

"I don't think people hear music and go out and do what is said. The sad thing is the expression of what is happening in communities, especially in some neighbourhoods in Toronto."

Hugh Graham, president of the Black Business and Professional Association, said in an interview that talk of barring 50 Cent from entering Canada is a distraction from factors that may contribute significantly to street violence, such as poverty, housing and education.

"I don't particularly see the relevance of [banning him] to dealing with the issues we're trying to deal with here," Mr. Graham said.

Margaret Parsons, executive director of the African Canadian Legal Clinic, was harsher on Mr. McTeague's idea of banning the performer.

"When he was here filming his movie, pumping money into the economy, no one had any problem with it," she said.

This isn't the first time a public official has tried to ban Mr. Jackson's entry into Canada. In 2004, then-police-chief Julian Fantino said he had written to Denis Coderre, the federal immigration minister at the time, asking him to ban the musician.

Discuss this topic