Gun violence in Toronto runs deeper than just "bad guys" 

BY SHELLEY CARROLL

I was planning on dedicating this first e-blast back after the summer break to a light-hearted roundup of my team's work over the last few weeks. But looking at the news now, I feel that would be disingenuous.

I’ve been struggling to find a way to write about the violence in our city this summer. It seems that day after day, another violent incident occurs and we hear the same stale refrain from politicians and officials: "This is just bad guys targeting bad guys. Toronto is a safe city."

 
In response to a surge in gun violence, all three orders of government pledged $4.5 million in funding for Toronto police.

In response to a surge in gun violence, all three orders of government pledged $4.5 million in funding for Toronto police.

 

We've become used to hearing this statement over and over — but it's cold comfort. I don't know about you, but I just can't buy that anymore. I am too devastated by how many of Toronto's youth are becoming drawn into lives of crime in the first place.

Reliable supports

Whenever we have an uptick in violent incidents in Toronto, we are lucky to have other orders of government rush to invest in our city. Sometimes it’s an infusion of funding for the police service. Other times, it's direct investment in our youth. One of the most generous examples was the "Youth Challenge Fund" created with provincial funding after the notorious "Summer of the Gun" in 2005.

City Hall is always willing to administer these violence response funds — our Social Development staff are brilliant at ensuring these funds reach the most effective not-for-profit agencies to get the maximum benefit on the ground.

 
Among other initiatives, the Youth Challenge Fund supported the development of youth spaces in the city.

Among other initiatives, the Youth Challenge Fund supported the development of youth spaces in the city.

 

The problem is these dollars are always one-time sums that come in, make a difference — and then evaporate. Children and youth need more permanence and stability in their community supports.

Long-term investment

It's high time we recognize the best youth supports are the kind that operate year after year. An eight year-old who sees gang life around him needs to know there is a reliable community space nearby where he can feel safe and learn to make better choices. He needs to know that space is going to be there for him throughout his childhood and adolescent years.

 
Da Lounge  in Parkway Forest CC is a great local youth space, but it needs longer and more reliable hours for youth who need it most.

Da Lounge in Parkway Forest CC is a great local youth space, but it needs longer and more reliable hours for youth who need it most.

 

Programs like this need more than one-time funding infusions whenever our government is nervous. I hope you and I can agree that now is the time to stand up for real investment at the city level to offer our youth better lives.

An example of such a program is Pathways to Education. Pathways was founded as a response to the rapid deterioration of the Regent Park community — young people were dropping out of school, joining gangs and becoming victims of gun violence. The program stepped in to provide integrated support for high school students throughout their entire high school career — and the results were groundbreaking. Core to Pathways' success is the fact that it is funded consistently and kids in that community grow up knowing they have a place to go.

 
Pathways to Education saw a significant improvement in attendance and drop-out rates since it began.

Pathways to Education saw a significant improvement in attendance and drop-out rates since it began.

 

The path forward

We need to take a hard look at what our city provides in the way of spaces and programs for youth to flourish. Where are our gaps? What are we doing about them? I asked for such a review shortly after being sworn into office last year. When it arrives, just in time for Budget season, I will be asking that we respond with committed, continuous investment.

We can no longer convince ourselves these incidents only happen in certain parts of town. Despite excellent youth policing in Parkway Forest, we saw a rumble quickly form on a summer evening and a number of young men were injured. We’ve heard of shots fired and shell casings found recently in Bayview Village.

Instead of resigning ourselves to a new reality, let's get used to investing in our youth to foster the safe city we all want — for the long term.


Community Events and Notices

Park Renaming Meeting.jpg

Join us: Ethennonnhawahstihnen’ Park Naming Consultation

In an effort to fulfill Toronto's commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, we are proposing a new name for a new park in Don Valley North: Ethennonnhawahstihnen’ [et-hen-nonn-ha-wah-stih-nen’], which means "where they had a good, beautiful life." The name was suggested by the Wendat community to honour the Wendat Nation, who first inhabited the area.

We are hosting a public meeting with the City of Toronto’s Park, Forestry and Recreation and Indigenous Affairs Office at Thursday, September 12th at 6:30 PM at MEC North York (784 Sheppard Ave E). Join us and learn more about the story behind the name and the City’s efforts in Indigenous place-making.

For more information, visit: shelleycarroll.ca/park-naming.