Local Police Superintendent appointed OPP Commissioner.

Toronto Police Superintendent Ron Taverner, currently in charge of 12, 23 and 31 Divisions (the north-west corner of the city that includes Weston and Mount Dennis) is heading for a new job on December 17. He has been appointed Commissioner of the 9000 member Ontario Provincial Police. According to Ontario’s Newsroom site, his appointment is “based on the unanimous recommendation of a selection committee comprised exclusively of members of the Ontario Public Service and supported by Odgers Berndtson, an executive search firm.”.

Superintendent Taverner’s career with Toronto Police began in 1967 and there are many supportive and glowing testimonials in reaction to his appointment. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders and Police Association President Mike McCormack (among others) welcomed the news and think that the appointment is a good one.

There is at least one dissenting voice. Former OPP Commissioner (2010 – 2014), Chris Lewis says he is shocked. In an interview with CTV News, Lewis says says things like, “The appointment is a real kick to the OPP – someone from the outside with very limited experience.”, “The fix was in from the outset.” (Taverner is a friend of the Ford family).

Who will replace Taverner? Let’s hope it’s someone who can solve some of the problems that have frustrated the current incumbent and stubbornly resisted a solution over the past few years.

Time to Effectively Address Gun Violence

Once again Weston Road, and York South-Weston generally, has been in the news quite a bit thanks to more senseless violence and young lives lost. However, responses to violence in our community that propose more police and do not take real crime fighting solutions into account are just as destructive; this past week we have once again been inundated with more of these ineffectual and reactionary responses. On September 6, Midyanta Community Services hastily put together what was promoted as a “Community Consultation” for the Black community at the Jane Street Hub with Toronto Chief of Police Mark Saunders.

I attended this meeting and was pleasantly surprised and happy to hear the Chief talk about the need for addressing the root causes of violence. Saunders went as far to say that arresting a perpetrator is too late and there is a need for intervention much earlier. However, he could and would not go farther than that. When I pressed him on his willingness to champion redirecting funding from police (such as Doug Ford’s proposal to give $25 million dollars over 4 years to Toronto police to address guns and gangs) to poverty reduction strategies he was quick to state that he cannot do that and offered little on what he can do.

While I was very disappointed in this response, Saunders was put in a difficult position and unfairly left on a limb by himself. When discussing the root causes of crime we cannot go to police we must demand our elected representatives to step up; sadly, in York South-Weston, they are not doing that.

The problem with gun violence and criminality in Toronto is not the magnitude but the concentration of the violence; meaning some communities are drastically over-represented by the impact of direct gun violence. More police does not address this fact and the evidence is clear. The evidence shows that if we want to address criminality we must address poverty, housing, access to food, employment, education, and the ways racial inequality is prevalent in all these areas.

 

The staff at Midyanta Community Services quite effectively showed this at the meeting last week by highlighting that crime statistics for 2018 showed an over concentration in low-income communities with high concentration of Black, racially marginalized, and recent Canadian communities; this includes York South-Weston. Consider the following:

  • York South-Weston has the 3rd highest drop out rates in high school according to the Toronto District School Board’s August 2016 Report on Cohort Graduation Rates
  • 30% of children under 18 in York South-Weston live in poverty with York South-Weston being in the top 30 ridings in Canada with highest rates of child poverty (https://campaign2000.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Campaign-2000-Riding-by-Riding-Child-Poverty-Report.pdf).
  • In Ontario, there are five times more Indigenous boys and four times more Black boys in the young male jail population than what they represent in the general young male population (https://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2013/03/01/unequal_justice_aboriginal_and_black_inmates_disproportionately_fill_ontario_jails.html).
  • In York South-Weston we have organizations that have shown to be more effective than police and prisons in fighting crime by showing a strong relationship between addressing education and employment needs for youth in conflict with the law and how it drastically reduces recidivism amongst these populations (http://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/april-2018/youth-justice-system-thats-courts-prisons/).

However, our elected representatives are disturbingly absent and silent when it comes to promoting and implementing policies to address these stark realities of neglect.

At the Midyanta meeting, MP for Humber River-Black Creek, Judy Sgro, provided some words of greetings from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but no offerings on how the federal government would address the root causes of violence. When I pressed her on this (as she was leaving 5 minutes after the meeting began) she agreed that we need to address poverty but could not offer anything on what the Federal government would do. I would have loved to ask our own MP for York South Weston, Ahmed Hussen, on what he would do but he was noticeably absent.

MPP Faisal Hassan shared some thoughts on what could be done and I look forward to what he can bring in this area as the new Youth Engagement Critic for the NDP as the Official Opposition at Queens Park.

Our local councillors were particularly of little substance in this area. Ward 11 Councillor Frances Nunziata said little as she wanted to “listen to the community” which is disappointing considering that there has been plenty of evidence-based solutions on top of what I have briefly outlined which she could have read, advocated for, and implemented in her 30+ years in office.

The Most-Cynical-And-Outright-Neglect-Of-Responsibility Award goes to Ward 12 Councillor Frank DiGiorgio. When I asked him what he would do if re-elected as councillor, in light of the research, to address poverty in his community as a means to address violence he responded firmly “I don’t care about research”.

As residents in this community, the responsibility is on all of this to not allow our elected officials to consistently do a disservice to our law enforcement officials by hiding behind them to address eliminating criminality as they sit by to say and do nothing. We must demand that we have substantial investments in our communities are made which include housing, employment, education, and healthcare because those are real gun violence and crime fighting solutions.

 

Woman stabbed at Weston and King

A female (it’s unclear whether she is a woman or a girl) was stabbed in a random attack at Weston and King yesterday evening.

The police say that two girls were walking on the sidewalk when they were approached by a strange man, who stabbed one of them. They say it “appears to be a random attack”.

One suspect is in custody.

Man murdered at Jane and Weston

“Brazen” doesn’t begin to cover the shooting yesterday morning at Jane and Weston. A gunman put his pistol out of the driver’s side window and killed a 32-year-old driver travelling in the opposite direction. The shooting happened at about 10 in the morning.

From CP24. The shooter is on the right. The victim is on the left.

The driver fired several shots across the dividing line, from his car into the oncoming traffic. It was murderous and reckless, and the video is chilling.

The police are looking for a light-coloured SUV (perhaps an Acura RDX?), and are asking for anyone with video or information to call.

https://www.cp24.com/news/video-shows-gunman-opening-fire-on-driver-of-passing-vehicle-1.4063271

Toronto.com on gangs and guns meeting

While I was sitting on my duff enjoying Neighbour’s Night Out, a real reporter, Lisa Rainford, attended the meeting to debrief residents after the recent arrests and gun seizures in Weston:

Six weeks after police seized 80 guns off the streets of Toronto as part of operation ‘Project Patton’ — which targets the infamous Five Point Generalz gang with ties to Weston —  officers spoke to the community about its after effects.

The seizure was one of the largest in Canadian history, Toronto police told the dozens of residents who attended a public meeting

The police outlined the many risk factors for gang involvement—and revealed a sad fact. Most gang members are children.

“Fifty per cent of gang members are under the age of 18,” Chhinzer said. “Education is our best bet.”

 

Action is needed on gun control.

Last night’s senseless and tragic shootings on the Danforth are more evidence of Toronto’s gun problem. More ruined lives and shattered families at the hands of a (probably disturbed) young man with a gun.

I agree with Mayor Tory when he asks, “Why does anyone in this city need to have a gun at all?”.  There is no good reason for anyone in this city to own a handgun. If you are a target shooter or collector, sorry; you should realize that the safety of the public must come before your hobby.

For those who believe that owning a gun will protect you and your loved ones, think again. The numbers show that guns don’t work for self defence. Statistics from our neighbours to the south amply demonstrate that the person most likely to be shot by a gun is its owner. About one child per week in the U.S. is accidentally shot by a family member’s gun.

A person pulling the trigger on a gun is most likely to be shooting themselves, then their family, then commit a felony, then way, way, way down the line, if they’re lucky, they hit a bad guy.   – Psychology Today

Until recently, most guns used in criminal acts came from the U.S. Now, the majority are supplied domestically from legal and illegal sources or from burgled gun collectors.

The Harper government weakened gun laws in this country in 2012. At the time they insisted that it was the right thing to do, emulating their Republican and NRA friends. Unfortunately, we are seeing the results of that misguided legislation.

Firearms flooded into Canada after Stephen Harper’s Conservative government dismantled the federal long gun registry in 2012 — nearly two million rifles, shotguns and handguns were imported for retail sale across the country over just five years, federal records show. iPolitics.ca 

The Trudeau government has proposed legislation that will tighten gun purchasing requirements. The legislation has been criticized for being too weak. This Liberal platform promise has languished for too long and needs urgent action.

One thing is clear in all the (legitimate) studies; gun control works. What then needs to be done?

There should be:

Guns are far too readily available to far too many people – Mayor Tory