In many ways, the Eaton Centre is the hub of Toronto. As CBC Radio's Matt Galloway remarked earlier this morning -- it is "the closest thing this city has to a central plaza and is part of so many people's personal geography."
The large family-friendly mall is almost always open any given day and opens and closes late. The mall is closed on only two occasions out of the whole year -- Easter Sunday and Christmas Day. Because of this convenience coupled with its central locations and variety stores, a million tourists in a mere week and local Torontonians patronize the mall.
This past Saturday evening, in what the Toronto Police (now) describe as a "meeting over gang turf that turned violent," its violence was played out in front of thousands of patrons inside the food court of the Eaton Centre. A young 24-year-old Somali-Canadian, and resident of Alexander Park social housing lost his life, becoming the city's 21st homicide of the year. More people are still in the hospital in a real grave danger of losing theirs.
Earlier today, a 23-year-old Guyana native, Christopher Husbands, and Torontonian was arrested and charged with one count of first degree murder and six counts of attempted murder in connection with the attack.
In a world in which I am dying to be invisible, it is sad to note this one seems to be yet another black on black crime that takes one to the deadly summer of 2005 -- the summer of the Gun where the number of shootings were very high, and the role of gangs in our streets.
Is the incident at the Eaton Centre an isolated incident? According to the area Councillor, Adam Vaughn, it is not. He told the Globe and Mail how "You can't point to a date on a calendar or an event on a rap sheet and say that's what caused this. It is part of an intensifying rivalry that defies geographic description in the same way it defies racial description...the Eaton Centre shooting followed about three months of escalating violence involving youths from Alexandra Park and Regent Park, the city's largest public-housing complex, located east of downtown.
For a local organization like -- UMOVE -- an anti-violence Toronto group it almost has been a regular occurrence of tragedies for a long time. Almost all of its members have lost a kid -- as a direct result of a senseless crime that is not resolved. For the founder of UMOVE (United Mothers Opposed of Violence Everywhere), Audette Sheppard, who lost her son a decade ago as a result of a drive by shooting: "Every time a murder happens, it just hit you right back and it seems like seven minutes."
I was at a funeral wake for an older Ethiopian-Canadian woman in Regent Park when news of the tragedy became public just before 7 p.m. on Saturday. News of it traveled quick and swift at the gathering. It seemed everyone had a story to tell. For them, it seemed this was the second murder in just mere days.
It seemed most of the guests had come from yet another funeral in Scarborough. As the Eaton shooting became the 21st victim, the 20th victim of violence was an 18-year-old Ethiopian Canadian in Arif Berkedle. According to witnesses, the young man was located in his silver Cadillac with a bullet hole to his head in Scarborough. Many literally became emotional describing the frustration and sorrow of the victim's family.
With no witness or interest in the case -- "So far, police have little to go on." In no time, I am sure; his story will be buried in more future tragedies. The reality is that it did not happen in downtown Toronto but in the less-to-do working class neighborhoods of Scarborough.
At the Eaton shooting -- Acting Deputy Chief Jeff McGuire described the alleged shooter as "One idiot with a gun doesn't speak to the state of affairs of Toronto. Then again, the alleged shooter did not have to speak -- he had a powerful tool -- his gun -- to speak for him.