Harper, Ford trade 'suggestions' on tackling gun crime
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford exchanged views Tuesday on how to prevent the kind of gun violence that has been claiming lives on the streets of Canada’s most populous city in recent weeks.
Harper met with the mayor at a Scarborough police station for about 30 minutes. They then came out for a brief photo opportunity with the media.
The prime minister provided a few details of that discussion when speaking to reporters in Oshawa, Ont., later in the afternoon.
"We obviously discussed the recent events and our continued and I think joint determination and one shared by the province to tackle gun crime directly," said Harper.
Harper said they also discussed ongoing enforcement measures, as well as proposed criminal justice measures that are still before Parliament.
"I made some specific suggestions to the mayor, as he did to me. And we’re both going to look into some additional measures we can also take," Harper said.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Ford issued a statement, saying that their discussion was "the beginning of ongoing work to make sure we have the tools in place to better prevent gang violence and protect the public from criminals."
Premier Dalton McGuinty also spoke briefly with the prime minister on Tuesday, when the two men attended an announcement in Oshawa, Ont.
McGuinty said he asked Harper to consider what more could be done to stop guns from being smuggled into Canada from the United States.
"The fact of the matter is, most of the guns that end up in the hands of young criminals are illegal guns and they're coming from south of the border," McGuinty said, noting that the prime minister indicated "he's going to take another look at that."
Mayor applauds funding from province
The mayor, who has already met with Toronto's police chief and McGuinty regarding the recent shootings, declared a "huge victory" Monday after he was assured by the premier that the province would ensure that $5 million in permanent funding would be earmarked to fund a special police squad to curb violence.
The funding for Toronto's anti-violence intervention strategy (TAVIS) unit, which polices the city's so-called priority neighbourhoods, had previously not been set aside as an ongoing commitment from the province.
McGuinty also pledged $7.5 million in permanent funding for the provincial anti-violence intervention strategy (PAVIS), the provincial extension of TAVIS, which funds similar units in several other Ontario municipalities.
The mayor had said Monday he wished to seek a similar monetary commitment from Ottawa during his meeting with Harper on Tuesday.
"A lot of this comes down to stable funding, and that's what I'm going to be asking the prime minister for, just like I asked the premier for," Ford said.
However, there was no mention of any new funding from either Ford or Harper after their meeting ended on Tuesday.
Leader wants action at federal level
The executive director of the African Canadian Legal Clinic questioned why the mayor met the prime minister at a police station, and not in the community on Danzig Street where 14-year-old Shyanne Charles and 23-year-old Joshua Yasay lost their lives.
"This isn't the time for photo-ops. This is the time for action," said Margaret Parsons in an interview with CBC News.
"And I hope the prime minister will have the decency to go and pay respects to young Shyanne's parents and family and to show some concern and to send a message, not just to that community, but to the families of all the victims of these senseless and tragic crimes that he cares and that he's actually doing something. And that he's going to do something at the federal level."
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So far, the provincial funding that was announced is only for policing. Social program announcements are expected within the next 30 days.
Meanwhile, Toronto Coun. Adam Vaughan said he welcomes stabilized funding for an anti-gang task force, though he thinks such a program is only part of the solution.
Vaughan told CBC News on Tuesday morning that he wants to see more engagement between members of the community and officers "who bring the skills and the cultural awareness" to make connections with locals while walking the beat.
"If you're going to talk criminal justice, if you don't also talk about social justice, you're not getting the equation right," he said, adding he would tell the prime minister law and order must go hand-in-hand with a social component to effectively stem gun violence.
The development of more youth programs and better public housing would be part of that agenda, Vaughan said.
"If you don't have a strong social justice system, your criminal justice system will constantly be chasing gunfire around the city. It's time to put an end to this problem, and the way to do it is with a comprehensive approach and not simply just talking law and order."
Among those concerned that more police will simply mean more criminal records is Likwa Nkala, a community worker with East Metro Youth Services.
Nkala said he has already brought that to the attention of police Chief Bill Blair.
"And he said, 'We're not going to arrest ourselves out of the situation,' Nkala said. "When we are arresting people, it means that the problem is already showing itself."
The premier has said he thinks a balanced approach is needed — investing in both social programs and police initiatives.
Aneshia Fedee, who lives in the troubled Scarborough area where a mass shooting killed two people and wounded nearly two dozen, believes the mayor's priorities are backwards and that more officers patrolling the streets isn't necessarily the answer.
Fedee said she wants to see a proactive rather than a reactionary approach.
"They wait for something like this to happen, and then they decide where the money goes," she said. "I mean, this is stuff that should be [planned] ahead of time. They should prevent it. Prevention is better than cure."