Hundreds march to protest growing gun violence in Toronto

One of the organizers of Saturday's march says individuals, families and entire communities are being devastated by gun violence. (Prasanjeet Choudhury/CBC - image credit)

One of the organizers of Saturday’s march says individuals, families and entire communities are being devastated by gun violence. (Prasanjeet Choudhury/CBC – image credit)

More than 200 people marched in downtown Toronto on Saturday in a renewed push for government action on gun violence in the wake of 302 shootings in the city so far this year.

The founder of Zero Gun Violence Movement, Louis March, says more action is needed to reduce gun violence, which he says has continued unabated in the city for months.

“Enough is enough,” March told CBC Toronto.

“The gun violence continues. It just continues and the impact is so significant, and the government is still talking, waiting while people are dying.”

As of Sept. 19, Toronto police have recorded 31 homicides by shootings out of a total of 302 shootings so far this year. Recent victims of gun violence include three people, one of them a Toronto police officer, killed in a shooting rampage across the GTA on Sept. 12, and a 17-year-old who died during a daylight shooting in Scarborough this week.

“Gun violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum. – Louis March, founder, Zero Gun Violence Movement

March said he and other organizers wanted to bring attention to the fact that gun violence is a major problem in the city.

“Gun violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There’s a lot of things that happened before it takes place, but there’s a lot of trauma, hurt and pain that happens after, and no one seems to be able to come to grips with the magnitude of this problem and why we have to be better at getting ahead of it,” he said.

March said individuals, families and entire communities are being devastated by gun violence.

“You can’t undo it. You can’t put the bullet back in the gun. You can’t bring the person back to life,” he said.

“Trauma is internalized because not many people want to hear about it, not many people want to deal with it.

“The government supports that are available are limited — with expiry dates — but that trauma continues. And sometimes it even serves in the cycle of violence later on, in terms of retaliation and so on. It’s a mental health issue, it’s a grieving issue, it’s a trauma issue, and nobody wants to look at that side of the problem.”

Prasanjeet Choudhury/CBCPrasanjeet Choudhury/CBC

Prasanjeet Choudhury/CBC

Numbers from Statistics Canada show the number of homicides committed by shootings has increased every year since 2018.

Figures from Toronto police show that in 2017 there were 392 shootings and firearm discharges, with more than 400 recorded in each of the following years up to 2021.

‘Teenagers are carrying guns,’ March says

March said it doesn’t surprise him to hear teens being charged in recent shootings in the city.

“It’s been going on for the last few years and we’ve spoken about it, and nobody is looking at, ‘How did we get here?'” he said.

“Fifteen years ago, 10 years ago, it wasn’t like that. Teenagers are carrying guns and they’re not afraid to use [them] in public spaces, in safe spaces or even if innocents are around.”

Evelyn Fox, founder of Communities for Zero Violence, says her son — Kiesingar Gunn — was hit by a stray bullet outside a club in Liberty Village on Sept. 11, 2016.

Six years later, Fox says “the person who killed him has not been held accountable. No witnesses have come forward who want to give my family justice or closure or even hold that person accountable.”

Prasanjeet Choudhury/CBCPrasanjeet Choudhury/CBC

Prasanjeet Choudhury/CBC

Fox brought her youngest grandchild — Gunn’s niece — to Saturday’s march.

“She unfortunately will never know the love of her uncle because he was killed a year after she was born,” she said.

“They had a very close relationship in the 12 months that they were able to spend together.”

Fox said the march provided an opportunity for her “to find people who I could connect with, who understood what was going on inside my head, going on inside my heart, and truly understand that I won’t just get over this and I won’t just move on.”

Prasanjeet Choudhury/CBCPrasanjeet Choudhury/CBC

Prasanjeet Choudhury/CBC

Samantha Xentury Cowe-Tomlinson says her boyfriend and his brother were victims of gun violence in 2012, and she was shot in 2019.

“I still have the bullet in my back. I lose loved ones and friends all the time,” Cowe-Tomlinson said, adding that she now works for the One by One Movement, which aims to decrease violence in Toronto.

“That’s why I’m here today: to support my team, the mothers who have lost their children, the people who have lost their lives, other people like me who are victims of senseless violence.”

‘Do whatever you can’

Cowe-Tomlinson said she wants more action from more people to combat gun violence.

“If you feel any way about gun violence in this city, do whatever you can, say whatever you can, use whatever platform you have to make a change because change can be made,” she said.

Toronto has earmarked $12 million this year to develop a new approach to gun violence and mental health calls.

Last November, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his government would invest $75.1 million over the next three years to combat gun violence and crime across the province.