Extra $6M funding not enough to tackle rising gun violence in Toronto

Published On February 10, 2020 | By Sewon Hwang | News
Police block off crime scene with tape. (TEX TEXIN)
Sewon Hwang

Toronto Mayor John Tory pledged an additional $6 million in funding for anti-violence programs on Feb. 3, but one advocate says the investment is not enough to tackle rising gun violence in the city.

Tory made the announcement at Falstaff Community Centre near Jane Street and Highway 401, an area that has seen a significant rate of gun violence in Toronto.

He said the increase in funding will go toward “grassroots” initiatives aimed at decreasing gun and gang violence among youth.

These include the launch of new youth hubs in Toronto Public Library branches and in parks, forestry and recreation facilities, and the establishment of community youth violence prevention grants.

“I am committed to making sure the City of Toronto invests in kids and families in addressing the roots of gun violence, supports our police service and border officials as they work to suppress violence in our communities and stop the flow of illegal guns,” Tory said.

The investment supplements $18.6 million that has already been proposed in the city’s 2020 budget for anti-violence strategies, which includes plans for poverty reduction and additional funding for Toronto Police Services.

But Louis March, founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement, said the additional funding does not address the root causes of gun violence.

“It’s not strategically placed based on a proper analysis of where the problem is,” he said. “It does not undo the damage that has been caused.”

March said the funding increase is a retroactive response to a downtown Toronto shooting in an Airbnb that left three young men dead on Jan. 31.

He also criticized the funding allotted to law enforcement, saying more money is needed for community services that engage youth and other vulnerable groups who may otherwise turn to gun and gang violence.

“The police have made it clear that we cannot arrest or step out of this problem,” March said. “We need community engagement because somebody is not listening.”

He said the city needs strategies to improve the social and economic well-being of its most vulnerable citizens to more effectively address gun violence.

“When you are involved in criminal activity, you do not take orders from others … they don’t show up for the first day on the job because they’re not going to do that for $14 an hour when they can make so much money doing drugs on the streets,” March said.

“This is not going to interrupt the cycle of violence,” he said.

The City of Toronto’s 2020 budget is pending approval from council later this month.

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