Is gun violence pushing Toronto the US way?

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Sabrina Almeida

Until last year reports of shootings usually referred to incidents south of the border. But not anymore. The spate of gun violence in Toronto over past the six months raises serious doubts about it being a “safe” city. While those who live and work in the metropolis have no choice, others are thinking hard about spending as much time here.

“It’s almost inconceivable these kinds of things can happen,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory shortly after the Danforth attack on Sunday which left three dead and 13 injured. The weekend had almost past without incident and the city was hoping to turn the corner on crime… But it was not to be. A grim reminder that the recent shootings are no longer just stray incidents.

As Greek town residents, Torontonians and those of us living in nearby suburbs struggled to come to terms with this latest tragedy, Wednesday brought news of one more shooting in the Humber Summit area. A man in his 20s was shot while driving and crashed his vehicle. Residents shook their heads in sad disbelief.

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Police, local authorities and GTA residents are united in our concern and bewilderment over the repeated gun violence.

Is it that easy to procure firearms in the city? How does an individual with mental health issues get access to one? Faisal Hussain (the Danforth shooter) was not on any watchlist. However, some reports suggest that his “online activities” were known to police. Does this mean he was radicalized? Or that he had suicidal or homicidal tendencies? These questions dominate conversations in office cafeterias and conference rooms as well as social gatherings. What steps could have been taken to prevent this catastrophe is uppermost in everyone’s mind.

Yet the answers will bring little consolation to the victims or their families, especially the loved ones of the two slain girls. Eighteen-year-old Reese Fallon is the same age as my younger son who studies in Toronto and is planning to move here in September. The thought of him being in harm’s way sends chills up my spine.

My heart breaks for the mother of 10-year-old Julianna Kozis who, according to some reports, witnessed her daughter’s horrific end.

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A friend shared that his family was supposed to have dinner on the Danforth Sunday evening which is what many were doing when the mass shooting occurred. The area is well known for its sumptuous cuisine. Luckily for him, plans changed or who knows what might have happened. I wonder if the incident will impact turnout at the popular Taste of the Danforth festival this August.
So many of us visit the entertainment district, shopping areas and eateries in Toronto. I’d hate to be looking over my shoulder in suspicion whenever I’m here. Also, most of my family works in the city. With the shootings, subway and van incident, I fear for their safety.

The news that Toronto City Council is asking Ottawa to ban the sale of guns within the city and increasing police presence is somewhat comforting. But we know that most firearms are obtained through illegal channels and therefore unaccounted for. Reports suggest that Hussain may have acquired the gun from his brother who is alleged to have ties to a Toronto street gang. Which brings us full circle.

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Toronto Police Services statistics reveal there have been 228 shootings and 308 victims of gun violence this year. In my humble opinion this calls for immediate action on the part of law enforcement as well as logical thinking from the rest of us. This is not the time to raise issues of carding, racism or stereotyping. That MPP Michael Tibollo wore a bulletproof vest to visit a high-crime area or Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti challenged activists to call him racist when he did the same shouldn’t be the focus.

I salute Tarek Fatah for saying that officials and media should not ignore the possibility that this could be a Muslim hate crime to demonstrate they are not Islamophobic. No doubt Fatah is a liberal but still from the community and while some fundamentalists might fret and fume over his statement, it is still less provocative or inflammatory coming from him than a non-Muslim.
While this does not give our racial biases free rein, it is time to acknowledge and work towards addressing the problems in our communities. -CINEWS

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