Voices missing at summit on gun and gang violence

From Left: Randy Bell, Kelly Whetter, Joan Howard, Louis March, Keith Sweeny.

Louis March, founder of the Toronto-based Zero Gun Violence Movement, (ZGVM) who had gone to Ottawa last week “with great expectations” to attend the summit on gun and  gang violence, returned home “deeply disappointed.”

March who had  led a delegation of  five to the summit, convened by the federal government, said his group, which included two mothers who had lost sons to gun violence, did not get a  chance to speak.

“We heard from politicians, academics and many others but the people at our table were given just about a minute or two to speak,” he told the Caribbean Camera in an interview.

“Consequently, we  did not have an opportunity to make a significant input into the discussions.”

“Sad to say, the summit missed the mark in many areas. It was a lost opportunity because it was able to attract over 300 attendees who basically sat down and listened to one presentation after the other… mostly from the Western provinces’ perspective.

” Any meaningful discussion between the attendees and presenters took place during the breaks.”

As  March  explained, ” many voices were missing, including the victims of gun and gang violence whose stories and experiences are crucial in better understanding the full personal, community and social impacts.”

He suggested that it is high time that Mayor John Tory and his government convene a “made-in-Toronto anti-gun and gang violence summit.”

At the Ottawa summit, Toronto Mayor John Tory spoke of  the  need for more money and stronger laws to fight the scourge of gang-related gun violence.

He said  that while Canada generally has tight controls on firearms, there are “some holes that exist in that system.”

The number of gun homicides in Toronto rose  from  22 in 2013 n to 41 in 2016,

The federal government has earmarked more than $327-million over five years, and $100-million a year thereafter, to address criminal gun and gang activities.

In a statement issued following the summit, Ralph  Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, said “we all need to work together to tackle these challenges and to implement solutions.”