Out of control: An analysis of the solutions proposed to Toronto’s gun violence

28 Nov 2006

The city of Toronto is in upheaval with regards to the extreme gun violence of the last year. This situation has caused the community to continue to undergo increasing separation, away from the collectivist view point and into the individualistic mind set. Our city is now a place where accusatory remarks and persistent finger pointing amongst the general public and the government have become a daily agenda. This social pattern has been increasing in the last few years but has become even more prevalent as a result of the recent shootings especially after the death of a young white, 15-year old female Jane Creba shot on Boxing Day, in the daytime, in front of many witnesses. This recent incident has generated a flurry of responses from governments, individual citizens and social groups. One of these groups is the Coalition of African-Canadian Organizations (COCA) which has recently indicated that they feel government officials and police are not stepping up to the plate.

They feel that the police did not respond or make arrests as fast in previous cases as they did in the recent Creba murder. Sandra Carnegie-Douglas of the Jamaican-Canadian Association added that “Most know that community can’t wait any longer for action. We''re losing our children, and we feel that this is a crisis of national proportions.”

Canada''s Federal Party Leaders: Paul Martin (Liberal), Stephen Harper (Conservative), Gilles Duceppe (Bloc Quebecois) and Jack Layton (ND

So the federal government and the various political parties are responding with various proposals.

Prime Minister Paul Martin has informed us of his party’s intent to solve this problem through the reverse-onus action. This is where the accused gets a chance to prove that he/she deserves a chance to be released on bail. Other suggestions by the Liberal party are to increase RCMP officers, as well as stop smuggling by tightening up the security and searches at the U.S. borders.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, in addressing the issue, promised "mandatory prison sentences for violent, repeat and serious offences." NDP Leader Jack Layton is campaigning in support of stricter laws regarding firearm-related offences.

These plans and promises, for the most part, sound great in theory but do not ease the resounding fear that is growing within our city. They also do not provide an answer for the families of the young men and women who have died as a result of gun violence so far. For example, Paul Martin’s suggestion on reverse onus might prove to be a solution once the perpetrators of these violent gun crimes are caught, but it doesn’t address the concerns of the public on how to stop the increasing gun violence. Secondly, his plan to increase the number of RCMP officers and stop smuggling could help achieve some form of control, but then that raises additional concerns amongst the citizens of Toronto as to who will pay for the increase in police officers. What criteria and guidelines will these officers follow to apprehend the youth committing these crimes? What negative effects will tighter border procedures have on the city in terms of the public and the economy?

Stephen Harper and Jack Layton are taking a more affirmative stance which is to increase mandatory sentences and enforce stricter gun laws. These plans of action alleviate fear by assuring the general public that these criminals will not be able to escape the law once apprehended. However, it doesn’t take into consideration that many of the perpetrators of these crimes are rarely apprehended. Nor, does it provide any solutions on how to approach the youths in order to prevent them from committing these vicious acts. Imprisoning these offenders for a longer period of time keeps them off the street but only isolates them further from society. Thus, making it harder for them to cope and adjust to this rapidly changing society when they do come out.

Out of all the suggestions made so far, the only one that truly caught my attention was presented by David Mitchell of the Association of Black Law Enforcers. He said “that if a pipe broke in your home would you mop up the water or would you try to fix the pipe where the source of the problem lies.” He then went on to discuss that in most cases you would try to stop the problem from the source.

For many of us this approach to solving problems has been a means of survival. If we have a problem with a bill, we generally contact the company who issued the bill in attempts to correct the issue. Consultation from a doctor is usually obtained when we’re sick in order for us to choose the appropriate medication. Although it sounds simple in theory and many of us approach life in a similar way, we still have not applied this concept to claiming back this great city. How long will we as citizens continue to blame the government, mayor, police force and the judicial system? Here we are, a society under attack within our own walls, and we’re content with waiting for the government to come up with quick fixes.

David Hume the renowned British philosopher once said “Nothing is more surprising than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few.” Even though our country is ruled by democratic policy we don’t have to sit idle and wait on the so called leaders to solve our problems once they’re elected. As individuals and members of the society we can stop the violence and free the minds of the young children who are getting caught up in this vicious cycle.

I am proposing that the community start becoming a community. If gun violence is a major problem within “the black community”, then let us attack the problem from within. We have to start funding, supporting and creating more community programs for the youths. Do we really need the government to fund community projects? Starting programs for the youth of Toronto is as simple as renting a gym, throwing community barbecues, books expos anything that reaches the youth in a positive way. How many of us have acknowledged there is an increase of single mothers raising children in lower income communities. Maybe reaching some of these troubled youth means reaching out to the mothers who have to raise them on their own. I am well aware that I don’t have all the answers. However, my voice might inspire others to speak up.

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