Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gun Violence in the City of Toronto

Gun violence and the gun culture in the City of Toronto or for that matter in the Greater Toronto Area is not new. As a criminal defence lawyer, a lawyer who also act for victims of crime and a Black man in Toronto, the recent shootings and gun violence is not new to me nor is it surprising.

What is surprising is that the three levels of government has done little to deal with the issues that the Black Community brought to its attention five years ago that spoke about deeper issues that drive these young people to a culture of guns, drugs and gangs. Those issues include lack of enough adequate after-school programs, being kicked out of school under the draconian Education Act, being recially profiledby the police and other law enforcement authorities, being labelled and stereotyped - self-fullfilng amongst other issues.

The Federal Parliament made amendments to the Criminal Code as a result of the enactment of Bill C-2 which came into force on May 1st 2008 that increases the ‘minimum terms of imprisonment’ that must be imposed for various firearms and prohibited/restricted weapons offences, particularly where the offence has been committed with a restricted or prohibited firearm, in connection with a criminal organization, or by an individual with a previous conviction or a firearms and/or prohibited/restricted weapons offence. 

With ten shootings in the past week in Toronto, the mandatory minimum penitentiary sentencing regime is attractive to those dangerous criminals. However, the principle of general deterrence does not really apply because it does not appear that the majority of them gets it -  so we have a disproportionate amount of Black men being killed by gun violence and being jailed for being the perpetrators: NOT GOOD!!!

I have posted below a press release we sent out in August 2005, you will see that the issues raised then still exists today!!!!

Coalition of African Canadian Community Organizations Speaks out on Gun Violence and Calls for a Summit with all three levels of government

Toronto, August 22, 2005:   We have come together as a coalition of African Canadian community organizations to express our support and empathy for the youth, families and communities who have been impacted by the recent spate of violence across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). In particular, we express our deepest sympathy to those families who have lost loved ones. These incidents of violence and loss of life threaten our collective consciousness as a community.

We wish to make it clear that we consider the escalating violence and criminal behavior being experienced as unacceptable and a situation that must be of concern to all residents. These challenges to community safety cannot be allowed to go on unchecked and must be addressed under the provisions of the laws of this country.

We must emphasize however, that these activities are not disconnected from the broader and more entrenched socio-economic conditions that adversely impact our community. Limited opportunities; lack of access to jobs, services and programs; the increased targeting and systematic expulsion of our children under the Safe Schools Act, among other conditions, deprive our young people access to the privileges and opportunities afforded others in this society. These factors have left our community particularly vulnerable.

We believe that it is the collective responsibility of governments, institutions and communities to develop and implement strategies and measures that will address the systemic and root causes of youth violence and criminal activity. In addition, all three levels of government must act aggressively to determine the sources of the supply of guns that are being made accessible to young people and to stop the flow of these weapons.

We intend to fully engage all three levels of government, the police, the private sector, the media and our communities in developing a fully integrated response that empowers the African Canadian community to define and deliver community-based solutions. This must be done in a partnership in which governments and institutions, including the private sector play an enabling role in the funding of services and programs.

It is the fundamental responsibility of government at all levels to address the issues that continue to marginalize the African Canadian community and we look forward to and expect a strong and sustainable partnership between government, community organizations and our communities as we work together to safeguard and enhance the future of our youth and the African Canadian community.

The Coalition calls:
  • For a summit to be convened with all three levels of government within the next 30-days to discuss and fully develop integrated strategies to address the issues raised by the Coalition;
  • On all levels of government, public institutions and the private sector to play a leading and continuing role in the funding of services and programs that impact the African Canadian community;
  • For better policing that is among other things, accountable to an independent, public oversight body. To ensure community safety, the relationship between the police and the African Canadian community must be improved. 
  • On all three levels of government to work collaboratively and hastily to identify the sources and methods of the supply of guns so readily available in our cities and to stop their supply; and
  • On the Ontario Ministry of Education and Boards of Education to discontinue the Application and Implementation of the Safe Schools Act  which discriminates against and disenfranchise African Canadian youth.

There is no need for further reports or studies. The time to act is now!

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