Canadian governments, says Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, now have a shared responsibility to make certain the lives lost on Danzig Street weren’t lost in vain.
“This is a complicated problem. It’s going to take all of us (to solve it) and it’s going to take all of us at our best,” McGuinty said Friday, July 20, after meeting community leaders close to where the Danzig mass shooting took place.
Ahead of a meeting Monday with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, Police Chief Bill Blair and, McGuinty hoped, a federal representative, the premier seemed to restate that his own “balanced” approach to youth violence had been working.
The people McGuinty met at the East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club reminded him “the smartest way to deal with crime is to be tough both on crime and the causes of crime,” he said.
Investments in neighbourhood infrastructure and youth programs have had a measurable effect, McGuinty said: Until recently the overall crime rate in Ontario had been declining, youth crime was down and fewer people who committed crimes were re-offending.
Though he did not commit more funds, McGuinty said he was told funding for the programs must continue so people can count on them.
“We have been going in the right direction,” he said standing beside Margarett Best, the local MPP and a member of his cabinet, as he addressed reporters.
McGuinty acknowledged “something’s still missing” in how violence has been addressed.
He said more police resources and a federal ban on handguns are part of the answer – the latter would send the right message, he said, that “we’re going to develop a different gun culture here in Canada” – but warned against “simplistic short-sighted solutions.”
Ford’s characterization of programs supported by the city’s own community grants as “hug-a-thug” is unfortunate, he said.
Nearby, Alvin Curling. a former Scarborough MPP who co-wrote The Roots of Youth Violence report for the province, was also critical of the mayor’s call for gang members and other criminals to be sent out of Toronto or expelled from Canada if they are not citizens.
“Where are they going to go? Another country?” asked Curling, who said politicians must “get on the same page” to address root causes of crime and violence, such as a lack of jobs, racism, or lack of affordable housing. The differing agendas of different governments are meanwhile making the problem worse, he said.
“This is a Canadian challenge and a Canadian problem that must be resolved by all Canadians.”
Margaret Parsons, executive director of the African Canadian Legal Clinic, said the premier should agree to a targeted approach to addressing violence that has a disproportionate affect on her community.
Safety and security are important to the African community, but instead of a law-and-order solution, its members want partnership and collaboration, Parsons said.
“You cannot arrest your way out of the situation.”
But on the street corner outside the building, Stephen Taylor, a resident of Scarborough’s Cedarbrae neighbourhood, was carrying a sign that read “Protect Toronto’s Citizens Not Toronto’s Image.”
Carrying a loaded gun “is an act of terrorism” and anyone caught doing it should get a mandatory five-year sentence, without bail, said Taylor, a member of Coalition for Citizen’s Safety in Toronto.
“Criminals think the gun laws are a joke,” but when politicians see people are serious about strengthening them, they will act, he said.