Gun violence – shootings and homicides- have continued to increase in Toronto despite the COVID-19 pandemic and social distance restrictions.
Compared to this time last year, shootings in the city have increased by 13 per cent while gun homicides have increased by seven per cent, according to Toronto Police.
At a virtual meeting last week with bereaved mothers of young men killed by gun violence, and community workers, several speakers pointed out that shootings continue to be a major problem in Toronto.
“I’m not sure how many lives we have to lose to make a change to gun violence,” said Sureya Ibrahim, co-founder of Mothers for Peace and a community leader in Regent Park.
When stuff like this happens my immediate thought — especially when it’s the younger ones that are 15 and 16 — goes to the mothers,” said Evelyn Fox, the mother of 26-year-old man who was killed in 2016 by what police believe was a stray bullet.
Community advocates point out that social conditions that lead to violence such as poverty, inadequate housing and education, and a lack of community supports will be exacerbated by COVID-19.
Louis March, founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement of Toronto told the Caribbean Camera that political leaders need “to change their approach in dealing with the gun violence problem.
” They must move from investing in more boots on the ground to investing in community engagement and community development.
“They must also move from banning guns to banning poverty and must also commit to organizing an anti-gun and gang forum with the three levels of government at the table, along with the many key stakeholders including policing, justice, corrections, community, family, academics, educators, housing, youth leaders, gun violence victims and those responsible. ”
He noted that, the recent announcement by the City of Toronto to invest $2 million in anti-violence programming in targeted communities across the City ” is a small step in the right direction.
” However, we need a strategic action plan that has been crafted by government officials and those who really know what is happening on the streets.”
March said he was not impressed by the fact that “the City has a strategic action plan for almost everything else, including repairing street pot-holes, but does not have a strategic and coordinated action plan for anti-gun and gang violence.
” Understandably, the COVID-19 pandemic is grabbing all the headlines but the concerns about the increasing gun violence in the City must still be addressed.”