Gun Violence is a Public Health Issue
On Wednesday December 1st, 2021, Mitzie Hunter, MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood will call on the Minister of Health to adopt her Private Members Bill: The Safe and Healthy Communities Act (Addressing Gun Violence) 2021 into government legislation. One of the critical changes would see insured services include prescribed and hospital-based and community-based violence intervention programs. If passed, the Bill would:
Declare gun violence as a public health issue; allow for counselling services for survivors of gun violence to be covered by OHIP; allow Boards of Health to develop programs and services for reducing gun violence
“Gun violence is at a crisis level that cannot continue to be ignored. It is an issue that we see in more marginalized communities rooting from the underlying systemic inequities that persists here in Ontario,” said Hunter, whose riding includes the priority neighbourhood of Kingston-Galloway. “I spoke to a woman named Irin. She came to my office for help because a bullet went through her car window. These are the issues my community office deals with.”
So far this year, there have been 78 homicides in Toronto – surpassing last year’s total of 61. 43 Division Police responded to seven shootings in Scarborough during the month of November alone.
“Addressing the trauma caused by guns requires a comprehensive public policy approach. Recognizing gun violence as a public health issue and the need to engage the broader community are essential ingredients in reducing gun violence,” explains Dr. Najma Ahmed, founding Co-chair of Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns.
Adds YouthLink’s Manager of Community Services Zohra Rahman, “The lack of supports for victims of gun violence is unacceptable. As a trauma therapist, I have witnessed the positive impacts that timely counselling has had on young people and their loved ones affected by incidents of gun violence.”
MPP Hunter has long been an advocate for community safety and well-being. In 2018, she introduced a PMB Bill 30 – Fighting Back Against Handguns Act, 2018, calling on the Province to allow municipalities to ban the sale of ammunition within their boundaries.
In 2019, a report by Toronto’s Medical Office of Health, Community Violence in Toronto – A Public Health Approach called on the Ontario Government to enact The Safe and Healthy Communities Act. The report was adopted unanimously by Toronto City Council on November 26, 2019. Last year, Sunnybrook Hospital implemented a pilot hospital-based violence intervention program (HVIP). MPP Hunter’s bill would allow other hospitals across the province to create their own HVIP and public health units to develop community based interventions.
“We have an opportunity here to intervene before that bullet is fired or trafficked or pointed at one of our neighbours. We can solve the issue at its root. I urge the Minister of Health to adopt this bill so we can deliver the change that is so desperately needed. This is a public health emergency,” declares Hu