By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The federal government’s recent announcement that a National Day Against Gun Violence will now be held annually on the first Friday of June is being welcomed by the advocacy group Danforth Families for Safe Communities (DFSC).
“It is a day to reflect on our progress in dealing with the problem,” said East Toronto resident Ken Price, one of the founders of the DFSC.
“To be successful in reducing this scourge, we need all levels of government to play a role. We see the federal government and the City (of Toronto) doing their part. So, now in particular, we need more focus and partnership and resources from our province who fund and deliver many of the relevant services that address this problem.”
DFSC is a coalition of families affected by the 2018 Danforth Shooting who are dedicated to advocating for measures that will enhance community safety by seeking gun policy reform as well as other measures.
The Danforth Shooting, which occurred on July 18, 2018, took the lives of Malvern Collegiate graduate and local resident Reese Fallon, 18, and Markham resident Julianna Kozis,10. Thirteen other people were injured after being shot in the incident, including Price’s daughter.
The handgun used in the Danforth Shooting had originally been legally sold in Canada, but was then stolen from a gun dealer in Saskatchewan in 2015.
The DFSC and other advocacy groups across the country have called for the federal government to take action against gun violence, and in particular the possession and sale of handguns. The federal government’s Bill C-21, which was approved in May of this year, includes a freeze on the sale, purchase or transfer of handguns.
In the United States, there has been a National Day Against Gun Violence since 2013. It began after the shooting death of teenager Hadiya Pendleton in Chicago.
Along with this month’s announcement of a Canadian National Day Against Gun Violence, the federal government said in May that it would be making a $390 million investment in programs aimed towards stopping crimes with firearms.
The funds, which are to be used to “support a variety of initiatives, including support for law enforcement and prevention programs” will be available to provinces and territories over a five-year period, said Minister Marco Mendicino in a May 8 news release.
“The safety and security of Canadians is our government’s top priority,” said Mendicino in the news release. “The best way to keep people safe is to stop crime and violence before it starts.”
He said that the funding will “support young people in making good choices”.
Price told Beach Metro Community News that he believes Toronto should use its share of those federal funds to help police combat organized crime, border protection, and for the gathering and sharing of information related to gun crime.
However, he said that many more measures need to be taken in order to effectively manage the threat of gun violence.
“As DFSC, we have certainly advocated for gun control measures – to curb the supply of handguns that are the type of firearms most often used in gun crime,” said Price. “But we have also said that gun control is only part of the puzzle. We think, as with other complex issues that affect the public at large, gun violence needs a public health approach.”
Along with controlling the supply of guns, DFSC has also continuously advocated for measures that also promote prevention, intervention and healing.
Price highlighted the Building Stronger Communities fund, a $250 million federal program which creates opportunity, mentorship programs or counselling in underserved communities, as one that can be helpful.
“We think the focus needs to shift to provincially delivered services – such as health, education, housing, community services – that can be brought to bear on this. So, yes, we need the police to have the tools and resources they need to protect us and enforce the laws, but that alone is not sufficient.”
With the fifth anniversary of the Danforth Shooting approaching, Price said that the recent measures taken on by the federal level have created a platform for many smaller voices who are also advocating for safer communities.
Toronto has seen seven people killed as a result of gun violence so far this year with another 42 injured in shooting incidents, according to the Toronto Police Service’s Public Safety Data Portal. The number of total incidents involving firearms in the city this year was 120 as of June 11. With the first six months of the year yet to be completed, it appears Toronto is well on track to exceeding last year’s total of 178 incidents involving firearms.
Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.