By Nicole Georges
Louis March, Founder of Zero Gun Violence Movement, a collaboration of 40 agencies and programs working towards the ambitious goal of zero gun violence in the city, says the millions of dollars pledged by the Federal government to fight illegal guns and gang violence should not go solely into policing. Federal Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair recently announced a $54 million pledge to help Ontario address gun violence and crime.
Marsh, whose organization is now 6 years old, says he and other advocates connect and consult with victims of gun violence, as well as persons who formally engaged in gun crimes, to seek solutions to make Toronto safe. He says those consultations show that communities need to be invested in and Federal funds are being misdirected.
“This money is part of $328 million announced last year which they plan to disburse to the provinces over 3 years, and in Ontario it’s earmarked to go towards policing, specialised prosecutors to handle bail, and intelligence gathering in jail. To solve gun violence you cannot focus solely on policing. There needs to be investment in communities, in programs and policies which deal with the socio-economic causes of violence,” said Marsh.
Marsh was critical of what he perceives as Mayor John Tory’s rhetoric on anti-gun violence, and suggested the recent Federal funds will be used as “hush money”.
“This money is going to stop John Tory from talking about a ban on hand guns. Every time money is announced, it goes to policing; not investment in families, societies or communities. Tory describes Toronto as safe, and he’s right; some areas are safe. In other communities when it gets dark people barricade themselves in their homes. We’ve had 285 shootings this year, 430 victims last year we had 364 victims.” Marsh adds the Mayor has ignored or refused repeated calls to host an anti-gun violence summit bringing community and government stakeholders together.
According to the Zero gun-violence activist, the current funding will not have the desired impact on alleviating gun violence in the city.
“We have worked for the last 6 years across this city, consulting and engaging in advocacy for government funding, and changes to policy and programming designs and decisions. We talk to the victims and see the after-effects gun crimes have had on them, and we talk to those who have used guns, and now want to be part of the solution. They all point to taking care of the needs of kids, keeping them in school and directing them away from a life of crime. Unfortunately government announces these funds to make people feel safe, but I don’t trust their motivation because they are not doing what it takes to prevent this violence; it’s about reaction not prevention.” Marsh concludes that government funding can only make a difference if it is part and parcel of a more comprehensive plan that includes investment in jobs, health and education.