Toronto’s faith community assembled at a tearful prayer vigil Wednesday night in support of the family of slain teen Jarvis Montaque – the third 15-year-old gunned down in the city in just one month.
Dr. Carmen Lewis of Etobicoke’s Lighthouse Fellowship Assembly was just one of many faith leaders who spoke out against the recent spate of gun violence responsible for the “slaughter” of Jarvis and so many other young boys.
“There are so many things that are happening in our community – the shooting, the killing. Father God, it needs to stop,” prayed Lewis at the emotional vigil in front of Jarvis’ family and nearly 200 supporters at Elmbank Community Centre. “We’re asking you God, as we strategize as to how we can resolve these problems, that you will give us the wisdom that we need...and we ask that you touch our young people – give them hope, give them peace, give them joy.”
Jarvis’ murder over the Family Day weekend marked the third teen gun fatality in Toronto since Jan. 18, when Tyson Bailey, 15, was shot multiple times in the stairwell of a Regent Park highrise. Fifteen-year-old St. Aubyn Rodney, shot inside his Jane Street and Finch Avenue West apartment on Feb. 11, was the next.
And then there was Jarvis, who was shot down at close range in what police believe was a targeted shooting Sunday, Feb. 17 night while hanging out with friends on a paved walkway just outside his Jamestown home at around 10:50 p.m. The suspect in the shooting, described by police as a black male wearing dark clothing, is still outstanding.
Characterized by all who knew him as churchgoing kid who stayed out of trouble, police said this week that they’re still at a loss for a motive in the slaying of the “quiet, kind and loving” Father Henry Carr student, who moved to Toronto two years ago from Jamaica seeking a better life.
“From all accounts that we have, (Jarvis) was a well-liked young man and a good student,” 23 Division Supt. Ron Taverner said during an appeal for witnesses to his murder to come forward earlier this week. “He was not in any way involved in anything in the community that he shouldn’t have.”
Described as the West Indian Volunteer Community Support Services’ “number one” volunteer, Jarvis held a special place in his heart for children and regularly helped out with the Jamestown-based organization’s homework program.
It was while working as a councillor with the organization that Jarvis first met Al Bowen, senior pastor at Abundant Life Assembly – the Etobicoke church Jarvis attended faithfully every week – and that the two quickly became fast friends.
“I remember I needed workers to help me go get flowers from a very hot greenhouse. It was 110 F, and guess who was the best worker? Jarvis. Guess who never wilted in the heat? Jarvis. Guess who never complained? Jarvis,” Bowen said of Jarvis, remembering him as a “workhorse” and a “very, very, very incredible young man.”
While media at Wednesday night’s vigil for Jarvis were instructed not to approach his family members, one of the teen’s 10 sisters spoke on the family’s behalf: “Jarvis was my step-brother, but I loved him like he was my blood brother. I loved him with all my heart, and he was always there for me,” she said before offering a tearful thanks to the 200-strong crowd for their love and support in the wake of her family’s tragic loss.
Pastor Andrew King of Toronto Central Seventh-Day Adventist knows all too well the toll this most recent spate of gun violence has taken on the families of the lost boys.
Just three weeks ago, he presided over the funeral of Tyson Bailey. On Wednesday night he called for an end to the violence at Jarvis’ vigil.
“It needs to stop. They’re taking our children one by one by one. Until we in the community come together from every facet of the community...things are not going to change. We need to take back our communities!” he boomed, to a chorus of ‘amens’ from the crowd. “We’ve got to make sure the message is strong and loud: we will not tolerate more killing!”