No solution to gun violence without stakeholders

Members of the Zero Gun Violence Movement (ZGVM) and Communities for Zero Violence(CZV) in front of the Parliament Building in Ottawa.
In circle are Louis March, leader of the ZGVM, and Kelly Whetter, leader of the CZV.

Six years into the current gun violence crisis and finally Toronto Mayor John Tory has decided to convene a meeting with GTA Mayors, Police Chiefs and Regional Chairs along with Provincial and Federal government representatives to address the crisis.

In the six years from 2014 to 2019, when police data started showing that there was a gun violence crisis brewing – we have seen a 165 percent  increase in shootings from 177 to 469. In victims being shot, we have seen a 203 percent increase from 242 to 732. In gun homicides, a 63 percent increase from 2014 to 2019.  The total human carnage – over 2100 shootings, over 3100 victims shot and 227 homicides.

The question must be asked – with these staggering numbers, why did it take six years to show some political leadership by convening this meeting? As founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement, a collaboration of over 40 different organizations, agencies and programs working across the City to achieve zero gun violence everywhere, we have been demanding political leaders to acknowledge the growing gun violence crisis and to take appropriate and urgent action.

Sadly it took six years to convene this two hour meeting with selective representation, to declare actions which have already been presented. Improve Canadian border efforts to help stop illegal guns coming across the border – not new. Improve co-operation efforts among all levels of government – not new. Review justice system protocols with a focus on bail and sentencing standards – not new. Invest in community neighbourhoods, families and youth – not new. Accurate and specific collected gun crime data that can be shared among policing services and the public – not new.

Most of the ideas presented at the, after meeting press conference was re-cycled content that ZGVM and other key stakeholders have been demanding since the gun violence crisis took a turn for the worst, starting in 2014.

Yes, it was great seeing representatives from the three levels of government in the same room discussing concerns about the gun violence crisis. It was also great seeing the Mayors bobbing their heads on the podium in agreement as Tory read from his script – but seriously, were any real commitments made, resulting from the meeting? Pardon my hesitation to jump for joy; we have heard this all before; nothing new was said.

Look, this was six years overdue and maybe on a positive note, a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, we do not have another six years to wait before Tory decides to convene another meeting that actually includes all the key stakeholders that have been working this crisis for some time. They would be able to contribute key inputs in crafting a strategic action plan based on the new realities of gun and gang violence in Toronto and surrounding municipalities.

Time to take advantage of this momentum to immediately convene an All- Stakeholders Anti-Gun and Gang Violence Summit, including the participants at yesterday’s meeting. Make sure to also include educators, employers, housing, youth leaders, justice, corrections, mental health, drug addiction, gun violence victims, social media, ex-offenders, etc. We can get ahead of this gun and gang violence crisis with a well informed and crafted strategic action plan.

Toronto is recognized as a world-class City and we have a well experienced Mayor. We have the resources and means to not only say that addressing this gun violence crisis is a priority but to actually do something about it with the right leadership, commitment and courage. 

The time is now – not six years down the road!