United in grief, mothers of children lost to gun violence march toward solutions
'Easier to get a gun than it is to get a job,' says mother whose son's killer not yet found
A group of mothers united by tragedy came together with a powerful message about the seemingly endless gun violence in Toronto that they say is responsible for stealing their lives of their children.
It's not the first time the Zero Gun Violence Movement has taken to the streets to call for stronger action on the problem. The group's march began at City Hall and ended at Queen's Park with a balloon release in honour of their lost loved ones.
And many of the family members present on Saturday say they know the demonstration likely won't be their last.
Among those marching was Evelyn Fox, whose 26-year-old son, Kiesingar Gunn, was gunned down outside a club in Liberty Village last fall. Next month will mark one year since the father of four was fatally shot while trying to break up a fight in the Liberty Street and Mowat Avenue area.
'I don't understand how people are so callous'
Police don't believe Gunn was the intended target and his killer has yet to be found.
"The fact that the person who shot my son hasn't even had any type of guilt on his conscience enough to come forward… it's really disappointing," Fox said.
"You took an innocent person's life who has four children… now they have to grow up without a father. I don't understand how people are so callous."
This fall, Fox will be among those heading to Ottawa in the hope of meeting with federal politicians to push for tougher gun laws and to push for more action to divert youth away from gangs.
Fox doesn't know what the person responsible for her son's death went through before the moment Gunn was stolen from her, but wants to see more action taken to prevent young people from turning to violence.
"It's easier to get a gun than it is to get a job for some of these youth," she said.
'Something I'll never get over'
Joan Howard knows the pain of losing a son all too well.
Her son, Kempton Howard, was shot and killed in 2003. She's has been pushing for action against gun violence ever since. This past February, Howard's plan for a national program to support families affected by gun crimes and programming to keep young people away from gangs was tabled in Parliament.
The work almost keeps her pain at bay, she says.
But the agony of losing a child is something Howard says never goes away. "We have no place to go," she says.
Each December, as the anniversary of her son's death approaches, Howard says her body feels different — so much so that she no longer celebrates Christmas.
"This is something I'll never get over," said Howard. "I'm just fighting and I'll keep up the fight until the Lord tells me it's over."
Son would be proud, says mother of victim
Kelly Whetter's only child, Gabriel Nikov, was just 18 when he was shot and killed. She says he would be proud to see his mother coming together with others amidst her own pain to try to make a difference.
"That's my mom," she knows he would say.
Whetter says taking a stand against the violence is something she needs to do not only for her son, but so that no one else has to endure the pain she's experienced.
"It's fathers, it's brothers, it's sisters, it's friends. It's layers and layers in the community that's affected. Kids that don't want to go outside anymore… That's not right."