Zero Gun Violence marks a decade of progress in Toronto

Aisha Francis and Louis March

In what started as a 90-day summer program initiative, Zero Gun Violence in Toronto has come a long way in addressing the pressing issue of gun violence in the city. In an interview with Louis March, the founder of Zero Gun Violence, we gained insight into the organization’s journey, accomplishments, and vision for the future.

Zero Gun Violence was founded with the intention of tackling gun violence in Toronto communities. However, the initial 90-day program revealed that the problem ran much deeper than anticipated. Ten years later, the organization has a better understanding of the issue and has reached significant milestones in its mission.

Louis March highlighted the crucial partnerships that have developed over the years. Notably, the Toronto Raptors which played a pivotal role in advocating for Canada’s National Day for Gun Violence Awareness on the first Friday of June every year. Corporate Toronto, including Sunrise Restaurants and Caribbean Camera, have also joined the cause, demonstrating their commitment to addressing gun violence.

The Raptors’ involvement has gone beyond advocacy, with Masai Ujiri personally supporting the cause and providing free tickets to community members for preseason games. These collaborations reflect the growing recognition of gun violence as a community issue.

From left: Danny Stone, Debbie Donkor, Dom Tulloch, Louis March, Ernestine Dunkley, Andrew Cox, Donna Johnson and Mello Ayo

Zero Gun Violence recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. While it wasn’t a grand celebration, a small gathering of core team members came together to acknowledge the progress made over the past decade. One significant achievement discussed during this period was the declining gun violence statistics in Toronto over the last 18 months.

March emphasized the importance of recognizing the efforts of those who have contributed to the decline in gun violence. The city of Toronto now has a 10-year plan, Safe TO, designed to address gun violence comprehensively. The plan aims to bring key stakeholders, including the police, school boards, and housing organizations, to work together in tackling the issue.

Additionally, collaborations with Canadian border security has led to more significant gun busts and a decrease in illegal guns entering communities. However, this has also shifted the landscape towards other issues such as increased stabbings and pharmacy robberies.

One of the notable achievements mentioned was the improved collaboration among community organizations. In Lawrence Heights, a community that was once a hotspot for gun violence, there were no gun violence incidents in 2022, a testament to the effectiveness of community organizations working together.

While Zero Gun Violence has made significant progress, the ultimate goal remains unchanged: zero gun violence in Toronto. The organization is optimistic about the positive trend in recent years and its ability to prevent the crisis from escalating further.

In addition to their advocacy efforts, Zero Gun Violence has been actively involved in community healing programs. Mothers who have lost their children to gun violence find support through the Healing Circle for Mothers of Peace and a trip to Niagara Falls. Partnerships with organizations like Enbridge Gas and YWCA have also contributed to community engagement and support.

Zero Gun Violence’s journey over the past decade has been marked by dedication, collaboration, and tangible progress in addressing gun violence in Toronto. While challenges remain, the organization remains committed to its vision of zero-gun violence, with the support of key partners, the community, and the city itself. The 10th anniversary serves as a testament to their enduring commitment to making Toronto safer for all.