Toronto

Stabbing death sparks debate over Toronto panhandlers

The stabbing death of a St. Catharines man in Toronto after he and a friend refused to give money to panhandlers has revived the debate over panhandling in the city.

The stabbing death of a St. Catharines man in Toronto after he and a friend refused to give money to panhandlers has revived the debate over panhandling in the city.

Some Torontonians say the stabbing death of a man shouldn't reflect badly on panhandlers who aren't aggressive, while others want to bring in a bylaw banning panhandling altogether. ((Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press))

Ross Hammond, 32,was stabbed Thursday after a heated exchange with four people on Queen Street near Niagara Street.

Two men and two women were charged with assault, butHammond died early Saturday of multiple stab wounds.

Hammond's death is the city's 51st homicideof the year.

The deathhassparkedthe latestdebate over panhandling in Toronto, where panhandlers such as Dave have become permanent and highly visible fixtures in Toronto's landscape.

"What harm do I do?"Daveasked CBC Newsas he sat on amilk crate, smoking a cigarette andholding out an empty coffeecup.

"I don't block the sidewalk.I don't curse at people.I don't ask straight out, just 'Have a nice day.' "

It's hard to see people like Dave as a threat, said John Duffy, whowalked by and contributed some changeto the coffee cup.

"The fellow I just gave money to is not somebody I expect to get into a group of four and stab people," hetold CBCNews."But it's pretty scary when you think what happened to that poor fellow."

CityCoun. Michael Thompson said he has no patience for panhandlers and is calling for a specific bylaw banning begging altogether.

"Those who think nothing ought to be done, I don't subscribe to those particular theories at all," said Thompson, who was attacked by a panhandler last year.

But Beric German with the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee said he's worried the killing of Hammond willlabel all panhandlers as aggressive.

"If there's a murder in the home, we don't go after all the people in houses."

The city is conducting a study into panhandling, butthe studydeals with non-aggressive panhandlers who are willing to be helped.

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