Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Thursday that the spate of violent shootings in Toronto this week has demonstrated the need to take a deeper look at a troubling problem.
"It’s a time for us to be reflective and not reflexive," he said.
"I think it would be a mistake for us to divide quickly into two camps: Those who believe that the solution is to be found exclusively in tougher laws and those who believe that the solution is to be found exclusively in more community supports."
Shooting deaths mount
Toronto police were called to a schoolyard in the early hours of Thursday morning, where a man’s body was found.
His death by gunfire followed a fatal shooting near a west-end soccer field on Tuesday evening and a shooting at a street party that left two dead and 23 others wounded the night before.
After the Monday street-party shooting in Scarborough, politicians have made various calls for a ban on handguns, tougher sentences and more support for police.
Next week, Mayor Rob Ford and McGuinty will meet with police Chief Bill Blair to discuss ways to prevent shootings similar to the one on Monday night. Leaders from the black community are asking to be included in that meeting, so they can be part of the larger conversation about building stronger communities and preventing young people from making dangerous choices.
Margaret Parsons, executive director with the African Canadian Legal Clinic, says too many black youth are dying as a result of gun violence and community-building is the answer — not increased policing.
"Turning our communities into quasi-military zones by deploying 200 cops isn’t the long-term answer," Parsons told reporters Thursday morning.
Parsons said that black community leaders had not been invited to the meeting next week, which she said was unacceptable.
"We don’t want to be left out when solutions are crafted," Parsons said. "We should be, we want to be and we expect to be at the table."
She urged the political leaders to either invite the black community leaders to their forthcoming meeting, or "at the very least" to speak to them beforehand.
Youth need jobs, Ford says
Reporters questioned the mayor Thursday about his preference to spend federal dollars on policing, rather than social programs.
Ford said that in his opinion, “the best social program is a job,” which is why he believes it is important to create a favourable employment environment in the city.
Furthermore, the mayor said, he coaches “some of the toughest youth in the city” and is familiar with what they need in their lives.
“I know what these kids need, I know what they want, I know where they come from,” he said. “They are not looking for a handout. They are looking for a job.”
Lingering fear, a lingering problem
Some residents in the area where the street-party shooting occurred have expressed frustration that it took a hail of bullets to draw attention to their struggles.
At the same time, authorities vowed to track down those responsible for the brazen public shootout.
Coun. Adam Vaughan said Thursday that the people who live in the neighbourhoods where shootings occur continue to suffer after the police catch up with the perpetrators.
"The fear that’s created by these situations is sometimes more damaging than reported and understood," Vaughan said.
He said the people who end up living in fear and the children who are kept indoors over fears for their safety are also victims of the gun violence that unfolds — even if they weren’t wounded by bullets.
"These are long-reaching impacts of the events that happen in neighbourhoods where guns get fired," Vaughan said.
John Schade saw a man shot in Malvern two years ago when he was walking through a park. Schade ran to the man’s aide and tried to help him.
"I rolled him over and tried to help him. I took his shirt off, put it under his head," Schade told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.
Schade said the incident is "still a nightmare" for him.
"I don’t sleep. I sleep hardly at all, still to this day," he said.