A NEW KIND OF GUN VI­O­LENCE

Busy in­ter­sec­tions. Pub­lic spa­ces. Broad day­light.

StarMetro Toronto - - FRONT PAGE - Ta­mar Harris and Gil­bert Ngabo

‘Toronto is un­der siege right now’ thes­tar.com

Five days. Five shoot­ings. Three dead. Eight in­jured.

Busy in­ter­sec­tions. Pub­lic spa­ces. Broad day­light.

A long week­end of blood­shed in Toronto that started Fri­day morn­ing with a woman al­legedly pulling out a shot­gun and in­jur­ing a pedes­trian and a cy­clist would by Tues­day morn­ing in­clude a day­light shoot­ing in Queen St. W.’s shop­ping dis­trict that killed two, an evening shoot­ing in the busy Kens­ing­ton Mar­ket — where one of four in­jured died Wed­nes­day — and an­other shoot­ing just af­ter last call in the Fash­ion Dis­trict.

Toronto has seen an in­crease in gun vi­o­lence in re­cent months, but the move into highly pub­lic and busy down­town ar­eas has ex­perts say­ing the city as a whole is awak­en­ing to the kind of gun vi­o­lence many com­mu­ni­ties ex­pe­ri­ence in their day-to-day lives as so­cial me­dia al­lows for gun vi­o­lence to spread from tra­di­tion­ally low-in­come res­i­den­tial ar­eas into places of leisure and en­ter­tain­ment.

“Toronto is un­der siege right now, and the mayor can­not con­tinue to say it’s safe,” said Louis March, founder of the Zero Gun Vi­o­lence Move­ment.

March, whose group does out­reach work in com­mu­ni­ties af­fected by gun vi­o­lence, said so­cial me­dia — with peo­ple post­ing their where­abouts on apps such as In­sta­gram — has made it eas­ier for mem­bers of vi­o­lent gangs to lo­cate and at­tack each other.

He said pre­vi­ously the ma­jor­ity of shoot­ings were in the con­fines of com­mu­nity hous­ing ar­eas — gen­er­ally char­ac­ter­ized by poverty, lack of em­ploy­ment, lack of ed­u­ca­tion, men­tal health is­sues and drugs. Now, the vi­o­lence is spilling out of those ar­eas.

“Now there are shoot­ings in Yorkville, on Queen St., King St. The tar­gets are found in schools and chil­dren’s play­grounds,” he said.

Speak­ing to CP24 Tues­day morn­ing, Toronto Po­lice Chief Mark Saun­ders said he was wor­ried about the “brazen­ness” of some of the week­end shoot­ings, adding that it was “not the norm” to have gun vi­o­lence in broad day­light at some of Toronto’s busiest in­ter­sec­tions.

Wendy Cukier, a pro­fes­sor at Ry­er­son Univer­sity and pres­i­dent of the Coali­tion for Gun Con­trol, said “gun vi­o­lence is al­most a fact of daily life” in many com­mu­ni­ties in Toronto, “and it’s not un­til it spills into the down­town core that peo­ple start to pay at­ten­tion.”

“When vi­o­lence oc­curs in a neigh­bour­hood where you shop ev­ery Satur­day, or where you go out for a drink on Fri­day night, it takes on a very dif­fer­ent mean­ing than if it’s in a com­mu­nity that’s more remote,” Cukier said.

“And so I think that we see peo­ple who weren’t pay­ing at­ten­tion sud­denly open­ing their eyes and re­al­iz­ing there’s a prob­lem.”

The gen­eral pop­u­la­tion is now feel­ing the psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fects that vi­o­lence has on how peo­ple think and be­have, said Toronto psy­chother­a­pist and com­mu­nity ad­vo­cate Rev­erend Sky Starr.

“For a reg­u­lar per­son who just wants to live, they’re feel­ing that deep level of in­se­cu­rity,” said Starr, who works with Rex­dale-based Out Of Bounds, a grass­roots initiative that em­pow­ers fam­i­lies and peo­ple who have been wit­nesses or sur­vivors of gun vi­o­lence.

“Peo­ple now feel like it can hap­pen any­time, any­where. Safety and se­cu­rity are ba­sic hu­man needs, and right now all of that is be­ing eroded.”

Jooy­oung Lee, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor of so­ci­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Toronto, said the week­end vi­o­lence has cre­ated a “greater sense of our own mor-

tal­ity.”

“Peo­ple seem to be com­ment­ing how they don’t feel as safe any­more, they don’t know if they can go out at night,” Lee said. “They’ve grown up in these ar­eas and sud­denly these ar­eas have a cloud over them, this omi­nous cloud that por­tends dan­ger.”

Lee said that is of­ten the re­al­ity of racial­ized youth in Canada. He said there is “less pub­lic outrage” and dis­cus­sion when shoot­ings oc­cur in low-in­come, racial­ized com­mu­ni­ties.

“When (shoot­ings) un­fold in set­tings that feel much more familiar, or in places where they quote-unquote shouldn’t be hap­pen­ing or should be safe, then peo­ple be­gin to talk about how brazen they are,” Lee said.

Lee said he hopes peo­ple feel­ing ap­pre­hen­sive and vul­ner­a­ble for the first time will re­flect on how such con­cerns are a re­al­ity for oth­ers, es­pe­cially dis­ad­van­taged youth, “and say ‘some­thing needs to be done about this.’”

“We have to make sure that ev­ery neigh­bour­hood and ev­ery young per­son grow­ing up in the city doesn’t have to go through this and doesn’t have to feel at risk of be­ing bodily harmed or shot,” Lee said.

Ex­po­sure to gun vi­o­lence can weaken the bonds of a civil so­ci­ety, Lee said, as peo­ple lose trust in neigh­bours and be­come less will­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the life of a com­mu­nity.

Cukier echoed that sen­ti­ment, adding quick in­ter­ven­tions are needed, such as in­tel­li­gence-led polic­ing and en­force­ment — mak­ing it harder for peo­ple who are a threat to them­selves and oth­ers to get guns — and com­mu­nity sup­ports.

Starr said the au­thor­i­ties need to be more proac­tive and deal with the sys­temic is­sues at the root of gun vi­o­lence, rather than be­ing re­ac­tive. Sup­port and re­as­sur­ance have to be on­go­ing, she said.

“You just can’t do a lit­tle com­mu­nity event and think this is go­ing to be past. It isn’t,” Starr said.

CAR­LOS OSO­RIO/TORONTO STAR

Toronto po­lice block Queen St. W. at Spad­ina af­ter Satur­day’s fa­tal shoot­ing.

CAR­LOS OSO­RIO/TORONTO STAR

Cube night­club on Queen St. W., near the scene of a shoot­ing. Toronto po­lice said two men died and a woman was in­jured in a shoot­ing Satur­day, just be­fore 8 p.m.

CAR­LOS OSO­RIO/TORONTO STAR

Po­lice said the two men who died in the day­light shoot­ing on Queen St. W. on Satur­day were Jah­vante Smart and Ernest Modekwe, both mem­bers of the city’s hip-hop com­mu­nity.

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