Episode available within Canada only.

Toronto markets itself as a world-class, diverse and tolerant city. But if you scratch beneath the surface, the 428 shootings that took place in 2018 will tell a different story. Captured in CBC Docs POV’s Year of the Gun, produced and directed by Toronto filmmaker Marc de Guerre, it’s a story of disparities between neighbourhoods, some that are well-served and others that are forced to live with a constant fear of violence.

Although politicians attempt to stake out annual anomalies with the label “The Year of the Gun,” the city of Toronto has had to contend with gun violence for the last 30 years. What made 2018 different was not the number of shootings, but rather the city’s, and the country’s, awareness of gun violence.

flowers on the Danforth following a shooting

Flowers on Danforth Ave following a shooting that killed two young people. Credit: Getty Images

Year of the Gun, filmed during 2018 — the year with the highest recorded number of gun deaths and injuries combined — looks at how this violence impacts Toronto’s residents and what they’re doing to fight back.

Toronto is a divided city of immense wealth and profound poverty, where many residents lack access to the affordable housing, dependable transportation and employment opportunities that would provide a decent quality of life. Known as the child poverty capital of Canada, it’s also a place where racialized families have a much higher risk of living in poverty. And it’s in low-income, marginalized communities where much of the city’s gun violence takes place.

In some neighbourhoods, there are residents who have lost multiple people in their lives to gun death. Adam Vaughan, MP for Spadina–Fort York, says he’s been to more funerals in his riding related to shootings than to funerals for his own family. And the toll on these communities is immense.

Zya Brown is the founder of Think 2wice, an organization that provides “trauma-informed and culturally sensitive” programming and support to young people in at-risk neighbourhoods and people who have been incarcerated. She understands how essential support systems are in steering people away from violence.

“Sometimes you see people say, ‘Oh, you just need to make that change,’” Brown says. “But how do you tell someone to change when they’re surrounded by darkness? When they’re surrounded by poverty and trauma and grief?”

Experts say that gun violence is not a problem without solutions. There’s been no shortage of community advocacy, or op-eds and government papers detailing the many potential ways to address the issue.

One major obstacle is that, too often, when we attempt to talk about gun violence in Canada, the conversation veers toward long guns, hunting and tradition, and away from systemic issues. (This is despite the fact that Canada has far less national mythology around the importance of firearms than other countries.)

As former gang member Adam Ellis says: “It’s easier to blame a young Black male for the ills of society than to turn the lens and say what’s really happening here.” Year of the Gun attempts to do just that: to turn the focus on Toronto and look at what decades of underinvestment in marginalized and impoverished communities has done.

Louis March from the Zero Gun Violence Movement understands this underinvestment all too well, having been a community advocate for more than 30 years. “[It’s] poverty, period, in its various forms. It’s lack of supports; it’s lack of resources; it’s a lack of a way out. Why aren’t we working toward closing that gap?” he asks. “We know that 60 to 70 per cent of the shootings take place in community housing. Is that not an early intervention point?”

And yet the goal of seriously addressing the problems that plague low-income communities remains ever out of reach. Residents watch as successive governments offer little more than token investments in programs to help disadvantaged youth while allocating tens of millions of dollars in new funding to law enforcement agencies. 

The question remains, as Sureya Ibrahim, a community worker in Regent Park, puts it: “How many Black kids [do] we have to lose in order to say, ‘Enough is enough’?”

By Angela Wright

Credits (Click to expand)

Year of the Gun


written & directed by
Marc de Guerre
 

executive producer
Janice Dawe
 

produced by
Marc de Guerre
 

edited by
James Blokland
 

director of photography
Sasha Jordan Appler
 

composer
Rose Bolton
 

production manager
Erica Leendertse
 

additional camera
Stephen Chung
 

assistant camera
Ali Ati Al Daradji
Eric Poliquin
 

sound recordist
Jason Milligan
 

additional sound
James Lazarenko
James Belyea
François Proulx
 

Associate Producer, Jane-Finch
Paul Nguyen

production assistant
Bryce Humphrey
 

business affairs
Bizable Media
 

transcription
Adrienne Michelle Smith
 

visual research
Marc de Guerre
Erica Leendertse
 

post-production coordinator
Odharnait Maguire
 

publicist
Cynthia Amsden
 

digital intermediate
Blokland Pictures
 

sound supervisor
Mic Forsey
 

sound edit
Rolling Pictures
 

project manager, rolling pictures
Brandon Tobia
 

sound editor
Chris Russell
 

re-recording mixer
Mic Forsey
 

live music recording
Canterbury Studios
 

conductor
John Herberman
 

musicians
Jennie Baccante
Chas Elliott
Valerie Kuinka
James MacDonald
Jonathan Tortolano
Claudio Vena
Lesley Young
 

legal
Daniel Henry
 

production accountant
Candis Buder
 

production auditor
Jimmy Ye
 

insurance
Front Row Insurance Brokers
 

archival material
Pond 5
CBC Archive Sales
CITY TV/Rogers Media Inc.
CTV News
eFootage.com
Getty
Global
CPAC
Jane-Finch.com
Shaun Winston
 

music
Blacus Ninjah
“Code Round Here”
 

thanks to
Beaver Creek Institution
Zya Brown
Louis March
Paul Nguyen, Jane-Finch.com
Toronto Police Service
Kelly Whetter
Angela Wright

for the CBC

general manager, programming
Sally Catto
 

executive director, unscripted content
Jennifer Dettman
 

senior director, documentary
Sandra Kleinfeld
 

senior director of production, unscripted content
Alexandra Lane
 

executive in charge of production
Charlotte Engel
 

produced with the participation of
Canada Media Fund
Rogers Documentary Fund
Rogers Telefund
Ontario Creates
Government of Canada

produced with the cooperation of the Canadian Federation of Musicians

produced in association with
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
CBC.CA/CBCDocsPOV
YEAR OF THE GUN
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