Anti-gun violence activist Louis March told thousands at the March for our Lives rally at Queen’s Park on Saturday that Toronto has its own crisis that needs to be addressed.
March, the Jamaica-born founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement (ZGVM), said that even though the rally was in solidarity with hundreds of rallies taking place in the United States,” it is important to send a loud and clear message to political leaders that we also have a crisis here in Toronto.”
“It’s a ‘made in Toronto’ gun and gang violence crisis and it is about time that Mayor John Tory and his associates and provincial leaders commit to organizing a ‘made in Toronto’ anti-gun and anti-gang violence summit,” he declared.
And he suggested that all the stakeholders engaged in addressing this crisis ” should be invited to the table to have a meaningful discussion about moving forward.”
March noted that there has been a one hundred per cent increase in gun homicides in Toronto from 2013 to 2016 ” and the violence continues with three in the past two weeks.”
He said that while John Tory is “indeed correct” that Toronto is one of the safest large metropolitan cities in the world,” he needs to add that it depends on what part of the city in which you are living.
” He needs to admit that when it comes to gun violence, that there is a huge difference between living in Rosedale and living in Rexdale.
‘ We may not have schools under siege like they do in the United States. However, in Toronto , we have certain communities under siege.
“These are communities where children are not allowed to play outside after school and where pizza deliveries will not happen after certain hours due to the potential of gun or gang violence.
“This is the real Toronto that our political leaders refuse to acknowledge,” he told the assembled marchers.
“Families, friends and communities are being torn apart by gun violence in Toronto and this is not the time to be smug just because we do not have the mass shootings as they do in America.”
Also addressing the rally was Henry Dryden, a student from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school in Florida, where 17 people – students and staff – were killed on February 14 last by a young man armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
Dryden who was not at school at the time of the mass shooting, said that “even though our own country seems to be ignoring us … belittling us a lot, we have the support from people from all over the world, and that’s amazing that our voices have reached that far.”
The Florida student who was in Toronto to visit relatives, called for the banning of the sale of assault weapons.
Commenting about the numbers of people who attended the Toronto rally, March told the Caribbean Camera after the event that “we expected about four or five hundred people.”
“But according to police estimates, there were more than 3,000.
“We were happy to see so many people there to put our political leaders on notice that their current response to the gun violence crisis is not good enough.
“We expect better, especially with municipal and provincial elections on the horizon.”
Last Saturday’s rally in Toronto coincided with at least 12 other events across Canada held in support of the massive March for Our Lives gathering in Washington, D.C., organized by students after the mass shooting last month in Florida.
The Toronto rally was organized by Communities for Zero Violence, a group of mothers who have lost children to gun violence, along with the Zero Gun Violence Movement, a collaboration of more than 40 community organizations.