Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Bill Blair and Toronto Centre MP Marci Ien, meets Regent Parkers to hear safety concerns and inform the community about Bill C-21.
On a cold night at 11:40 PM, on February 2nd, 2021, multiple gunshots were heard near Regent Park Boulevard and Dundas Street east, Toronto. Soon Toronto Police Cruisers were seen rushing towards a parking lot on Oak street between Sackville and Sumach street.
Four men in their 50s and 60s were sitting in a Golden Honda Accord, were sipping their warm coffee, when two unidentified men opened fire on the car. Three men were injured and one was unharmed. Out of the three, one victim is reported to had suffered life threatening injuries while other two had major injuries as well.
The deafening gunshots not only has shaken the community and has spread fear among the neighbourhood but has also mobilized a conversation around the issue of gun violence and the policies that have recently been considered under Canadian legislation on firearms.
Recently, in the wake of these shootings, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Bill Blair, and Toronto Centre MP Marci Ien met to discuss the issue and to updated the Regent Park community on what the government was doing to make Regent Park and other urban communities safer.
The Government of Canada has tabled a new legislation surrounding the control on gun violence and has introduced a buy-back for illegal weapons. Bill C-21 would also increase penalties for the smuggling and trafficking of weapons, provides clear restrictions on the use of illegal weapons, and hopes to eradicate the risks associated to legal firearms and the banned assault-style firearms.
Among the amendments in Bill C-21 the government proposes to:
combat intimate partner and gender-based violence, and self-harm by allowing people, such as concerned friends or relatives, to apply to the courts for the immediate removal of an individual's firearms, or to suspend and review an individual's license to own firearms;
help create safer communities by supporting municipalities that ban handguns through bylaws restricting storage and transportation in their jurisdictions;
give young people the opportunities and resources to avoid criminal behaviour by providing funding in the amount of $250 million over 5 years – starting in 2021-22 - to municipalities and Indigenous communities to support anti-gang programming and prevention programs for youth-at-risk.
From my perspective, the proposed legislation is a strategic attempt at providing safety measures to communities, and in protecting the vulnerable groups such as youth at risk. It serves as a framework to mitigate potential violence due to firearms and illegal weapons.
However, there is a greater opportunity in providing support to the community by running various awareness campaigns based on the legislation reforms proposing stiffer sentences for gun crime, creating social cohesion in the neighbourhood for the victims and vulnerable groups through well-planned physical and mental health activities and cultural events. Further, in my opinion it is very important to engage the youth using modern day tools of communication such as social media, and mobilizing influencers, bloggers and celebrity endorsements to support prevention initiatives.
The owners of weapons should also be engaged regularly, and monitored for their responsible utilization of weapons as there is a need for law enforcement agencies to continue a stricter regulation on weapon smuggling, and existing gun lobbies.
The Regent Park region has overcome many challenges over its history, and with support from community members and service provides, community policing initiatives and collaboration from all three levels of government, the neighbourhood will continue to thrive and be a safe place to live and raise families.
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