OTTAWA - Public Safety Minister Vic Toews chided Canada's courts Tuesday for striking down mandatory sentences for gun-related crime after a deadly shooting in Toronto that killed two people and sent nearly two dozen others to hospital.

"We are very concerned about the courts doing that, because illegal firearms — especially those smuggled in from the United States ... minimum prison sentences are absolutely essential to create a strong deterrent against that kind of activity," Toews said in an interview with Prairie network Golden West Radio.

"These guns are being used by gangs in order to perpetrate the kind of violence that we've seen on our streets."

Earlier this month, an Ontario Court judge struck down the automatic three-year sentence for firearms trafficking, saying it was disproportionate. Justice Paul Bellefontaine said a crack dealer who offered to sell an undercover police officer a non-existent gun should not have to face the mandatory minimum sentence.

In February, another Ontario judge said sending a first-time offender to prison for three years for possessing a loaded gun amounted to "cruel and unusual punishment" and declared the minimum sentence unconstitutional.

Though Toews did not mention any specific cases by name, those two in particular appeared to be on his mind.

"I am concerned that some courts have been striking down mandatory prison sentences for those who have illegal firearms," he said.

The shooting at an east-end Toronto neighbourhood party Monday night left two people dead and injured 22 others in what police described as the worst incident of gun violence in the city's recent history.

Toews acknowledged that some disputes escalate very quickly to lethal violence.

"The access to firearms from illegal sources — especially firearms from south of the border — simply make that type of 'dispute resolution' so available," he said.

Toews defended federal actions to combat gun crime, noting the government had ushered in mandatory sentences for all serious firearms offences.

The Conservatives have also taken steps to ensure gang-related killings result automatically in a first-degree murder, while also singling out drive-by shootings and bolstering the fight against cross-border gun smuggling.

"We believe that our firearms legislation and the mandatory minimum prison sentences are having the desired impact," Toews said.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson also defended the government's record on trying to rid the streets of smuggled handguns.

"We have taken steps to ensure that the border is open to legitimate business but closed to criminals and gun smugglers," Nicholson said in an interview with The Canadian Press. "And there's better security at our borders today than there ever has been.

"The government of Canada has made it a focus to tackle gangs, guns, drugs — we've been consistent throughout our mandate on that."

The opposition parties largely steered clear of politics following the Toronto melee.

"The people of Toronto have too often faced gun violence recently, something that should never become acceptable for any community in Canada," NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison said in a statement.

"Our communities and neighbourhoods should be safe places where families can gather for a summer barbecue without fear of this kind of violence."

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae encouraged those with any information about the events to speak and be heard. "We must honour the memory of those we lost by working together to ensure such an event never happens again."

Conservative Senator Don Meredith, a pastor, youth advocate, and community organizer, called the shootings "absolutely sick."

"It takes a village to raise a child and it will take a collective effort to solve the problem of gun violence; the police can’t do it alone," he said.

"This isn’t the time to point fingers — we all have a part to play."

Related on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Shyanne Charles, 14, was killed in the shooting on Scarborough's Danzig Street.

  • Police interview neighbours on Tuesday July 17, 2012 near the scene of a shooting on Danzig Street where 19 people were injured and 2 confirmed dead at an outdoor barbecue that took place on Monday July 16, 2012.

  • Neighbours watch on as police walk by on Tuesday July 17, 2012 near the scene of a shooting on Danzig Street where 19 people were injured and 2 confirmed dead at an outdoor barbecue that took place on Monday July 16, 2012 .

  • Mayor Rob Ford speaks to media after visiting the scene of Monday night's shooting on Danzig St. in Toronto on Tuesday July 17, 2012. Toronto police are calling for witnesses to come forward following a deadly shooting at an outdoor neighbourhood party that left two people dead and sent 21 others to hospital, including an infant, in what police are calling the worst incident of gun violence in the city's recent history.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

  • Mayor Rob Ford (right) visits the scene of Monday night's shooting on Danzig St. in Toronto on Tuesday July 17, 2012. Toronto police are calling for witnesses to come forward following a deadly shooting at an outdoor neighbourhood party that left two people dead and sent 21 others to hospital, including an infant, in what police are calling the worst incident of gun violence in the city's recent history.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

  • Shyanne Charles, 14, was killed in the shooting on Scarborough's Danzig Street.

  • Joshua Yasay, 23, was killed in the shooting.

  • Shyanne Charles, 14, was killed in the shooting on Scarborough's Danzig Street.

  • Police interview neighbors near the scene of a shooting in Toronto, on Tuesday, July 17, 2012. Two people are dead and 19 were injured as gunfire broke out late Monday night as more than 200 people attended an outdoor community barbecue. Police described the shootout, which involved multiple guns, as an "unprecedented" episode of violence. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Aaron Vincent Elkaim )

  • Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair arrives for a news conference on Monday night's fatal shooting at a street party in Scarborough, in Toronto, Tuesday, July 17, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ian Willms

  • Police interview neighbors near the scene of a shooting in Toronto, on Tuesday, July 17, 2012. Two people are dead and 19 were injured as gunfire broke out late Monday night as more than 200 people attended an outdoor community barbecue. Police described the shootout, which involved multiple guns, as an "unprecedented" episode of violence. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Aaron Vincent Elkaim )

  • Shannon Longshaw;

  • Police stand on guard on Tuesday July 17, 2012 on Danzig Street near the scene of a shooting where 19 people were injured and 2 confirmed dead at an outdoor barbecue that took place on Monday July 16, 2012 . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

  • A police officer places a marker on Danzig Street in Toronto on Tuesday, July 17, 2012 near the scene of Monday night's shooting. Toronto police are calling for witnesses to come forward following a deadly shooting at an outdoor neighbourhood party that left two people dead and sent 21 others to hospital, including an infant, in what police are calling the worst incident of gun violence in the city's recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

  • Pedestrians look on near the scene of a shooting in Toronto early Tuesday, July 17, 2012, that left 19 people injured and two dead at a house party late Monday July 16. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

  • Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair speaks to the media in Toronto early Tuesday, July 17, 2012, near the scene of a shooting that left 19 people injured and two dead at a house party late Monday, July 16. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

  • Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair walks down Morningside Ave in Toronto early Tuesday, July 17, 2012, following a shooting that left 19 people injured and two dead at a house party late Monday, July 16. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

  • Police stand on guard on Morningside Ave. in Toronto early Tuesday, July 17, 2012, near the scene of a shooting where 19 people were injured and two dead at a house party late Monday, July 16. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

  • Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair speaks to media in Toronto early Tuesday, July 17, 2012, near the scene of a shooting where 19 people were injured and two were left dead at a house party late Monday July 16. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

  • A man is attended to on the scene and loaded onto a gurney for transport following a shooting that left 19 injured and two dead in Toronto late Monday, July 16, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Toronto Star - Rick Madonik

  • ETF officers stand guard following a shooting that left 19 injured and two dead in Toronto late Monday, July 16, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Toronto Star - Rick Madonik



Loading Slideshow...
  • Tyler Josling

  • Tyler Josling

  • Myke Hutchings

  • andrea vaughan

  • IT'S CHANTEL

  • Andrea Williams

  • Giovanni Sardo

  • Susan Alan

  • Curry Favel

  • Shevy

  • Jason Coulls

  • Stephanie Todd

  • Seb FoxAllen

  • Luckshana Kugarajah

  • $ N I T C H L A D Y

  • Peter

  • Stephenie King

  • Melanie Ng

  • Liem Vu

  • Anthony Morgan

  • Daniel Li

  • Brooklyn Searles

  • Sarah Lucas

  • Michelle Tim