A toddler’s birthday party came to a tragic halt Saturday evening as gunshots rang out in the Etobicoke neighbourhood, sending three children and a young man to hospital.
This incident, which left a five-year-old in life-threatening condition, is the latest in a series of shootings over the years in which children have become the victims of gun violence.
After a 12-year-old boy was shot and killed in an apparent gang-related shooting in North York late last year, the community vowed that ‘he has to be last child that dies for no reason.’
However, shootings in the city continue, with 154 recorded as of mid-June, according to Toronto police, and with each year leaving an increasing trail of juvenile victims and their families behind.
In June 2018, a Scarborough neighbourhood was left traumatized after two sisters, aged five and nine, were shot at a playground.
The younger child was shot in the abdomen and the older girl was hit in the ankle. Both underwent surgery and survived the ordeal but the trauma follows them to this day.
The mother of the two girls, Stacey King, wants a better government response to these shootings.
“It’s just getting out of hand, like kids are getting in the crossfire, and it’s not stopping and the government is not doing what its supposed do to put a stop to it,” King told the Star in an interview Sunday.
“They’re scarred for life. I’m scarred for life. It’s almost three years to this day now and the trauma is still there,” she added. “The government is all talk, and the justice system is very messed up.”
“I don’t feel that anything has changed since what happened with my daughters. I can’t even send them to the playground, in our own community? I mean, come on.”
Wendy Cukier is the vice-president of research and innovation at Ryerson University’s school of management. She is also the president of the country’s gun control lobby. She launched the Coalition for Gun Control in the weeks following the Montreal Massacre in 1989.
“There are no simple solutions to a complex problem. For 30 years we’ve been working on this issue, and … reducing the availability of guns has been shown to have an impact,” Cukier said.
“The issue with shooting is not getting better and I think it signals that we need an integrated strategy and one piece of it is gun control, but also it’s about addressing the root causes and making sure the justice system will work.”
One of those causes is the systemic inequity between neighbourhoods that unequally affects people who often also belong to racial and ethnic minorities, said Louise March, founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement, an advocacy collective working towards ending gun violence in the GTA.
March founded the movement in 2013, just after the Danzig Avenue shooting in Scarborough that left 23 wounded and two dead, including 14-year-old Shyanne Charles.
“In terms of inequity, Toronto has become a city of cities; there’s a difference between living in Rosedale and Rexdale,” March told the Star.
“Shootings cause trauma and grief. If we don’t deal with that trauma, it manifests itself as violence within the same community,” he added.
March’s movement is advocating for resources and support to be parachuted in these communities so children, youth and families can feel safe.
“When there is a shooting at a school, public health sends in a team to make sure the people affected by the violence don’t internalize it, but when there’s a shooting in a neighbourhood, is a similar trauma team sent for the young residents?” he said.
“This is why it must be seen as a public health issue, to break the cycle of violence.”