Toronto’s escalating gun violence

Mayor John Tory defended his work to address gun violence Monday, saying he’s doing “everything” he can and called attempts to blame him for the rash of crime a “very unfortunate politicization” of the issue.

Tory told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning Monday that Toronto remains a safe city despite a rash of shootings, a number of which have happened in busy public spaces.

The latest fatal shootings, the city’s 53rd and 54th homicides of the year, occurred just one block apart. Early Sunday, a man in his 20s was shot dead near Driftwood Avenue and Jane Street, while early Monday, a man in his 20s was killed a block north at Shoreham Court and Shoreham Drive.

“I believe that I’m doing everything I possibly can as the mayor,” Tory said on Monday.

“The notion that people hold me personally responsible for this, I don’t think most people find that credible. And I find it, as I said earlier, a very unfortunate politicization of this.”

On the weekend, community activists held a rally near the scene of a previous fatal shooting at Queen and Peter streets, and disputed Tory’s claim that the city is safe.

“This cannot be a safe city when the children cannot go out into the park and play,” Princess Boucher told the gathered crowd, referencing the incident where two girls were shot and injured on a Scarborough playground last month.

After hearing that clip Monday, Tory maintained the city is safe, but added: “The challenge is to keep it safe and there is a challenge to that at the moment, there’s no question.”

He said last week’s meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was focused in large part on the city’s gun violence, and how the federal government can help.

Tory said his next step will be to meet “with everyone I can” to work on solutions, including developing new, or restarting previous, community programs that will help divert at-risk youth from a life of crime.

Later Monday morning, the mayor’s office issued a statement saying that Tory will meet with Ontario Premier Doug Ford at Queen’s Park today at 4 p.m.

Asked whether the city has adequately addressed the root issues of why people turn to violence as outlined in the “Roots of Youth Violence” report from a decade ago, Tory replied that there have been “some beginnings to that.”

The report cited disenfranchisement, poverty and other contributing factors to youth violence. Tory noted that the city has taken some targeted measures, including bringing job fairs to parts of Rexdale, but “I don’t think we’ve done enough.”

Tory also defended his use of the word “thugs” when referring to those who perpetrate gun violence.

“Somebody who does that, and pulls a gun out and shoots people either randomly or in a targeted way, is a thug, thank you,” Tory said. “I don’t think there’s any debate about that. And I’m talking about the people who are shooting the guns. They are thugs, and I don’t apologize for that.”

Tory said he spoke with Trudeau about establishing stable, long-term funding for community programs, as well as looking at help for people coming out of jail who are at risk of re-offending.

“There are people who go to jail, they come out, and the police can predict on their watch the time when they will be back at it again because nobody in jail tried to divert them away from that behaviour,” Tory said.

While he affirmed his support for the Toronto police officers patrolling the city’s streets, Tory did take aim at Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack, who he blamed on the weekend for a engaging in a “dangerous set of tactics” when it comes to the gun violence issue.

He said he suspects McCormack was behind a scathing letter written by an officer that accuses Tory of contributing to gun violence by cancelling TAVIS, the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy, a special police task force established in the wake of major gun violence in the summer of 2005.

The force’s professional standards unit has launched an investigation into the letter.

Tory said Monday McCormack has “steadfastly resisted” plans to modernize policing in the city, including proposed shift changes.

“He has been a major player standing in the way of the kind of reforms that have to be brought about so we can have more police in the communities when they’re needed, where they’re needed,” Tory said.

On Saturday, after Tory made similar accusations against McCormack, the union president called Tory’s accusations an attempt to distract from the gun violence itself.

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