3 levels of government come together at community safety summit amid 'rise in violence'
Federal Minister Bill Blair attended meeting in Toronto organized by Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett
Members of government from municipal, provincial and federal levels came together in Toronto on Sunday to discuss keeping communities safe in the wake of a violent year for the city.
"We're seeing a rise in violence in general and gun violence in particular," Bill Blair, minister of border security and organized crime reduction, told CBC Toronto moments before the meeting started.
"In communities right across the country people are concerned about violence," continued Toronto's former police chief.
This comes after Toronto recently surpassed the record for number of homicides in a year set back in 1991.
The meeting, which was organized by Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett, and included MPP Jill Andrew, Councillor Josh Matlow, was held in Holy Blossom Temple in the Forest Hill area of Toronto.
That's where Toronto native Joyce Fienberg, who was killed in the Pittsburgh shooting last month, was a member.
And just a few blocks north of the building, a suspected attack on a group of Jewish teens occurred on Nov. 11. Police say they are investigating the attack as a hate crime.
"I think the most pernicious form of bias and hate in human history has been antisemitism," said Blair. "The history of that community and their victimization over the centuries is a cause of great concern."
'Recognize our own biases'
During the meeting, Jill Andrew, the NDP MPP for Toronto-St. Paul's, encouraged the few dozen residents in the audience to "look into our souls and recognize our own biases."
"We all have them," she said. "We all come to a place where we hold our bags a little closer according to who that person in the elevator is, or what they look like, or the way they're dressing, or what accent they may or may not have."
Josh Matlow, city councillor-elect for the area, said youth violence is "an issue throughout our city" and vowed to demand more funding for his initiative the Youth Equity Strategy — a report that identifies the issues facing youth who are vulnerable to crime and violence.
"We have not been effective as a society to address these issues from where they start," Matlow insisted.
Earlier this month, Blair, along with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, announced the Liberal government will spend $86 million to combat gun and gang violence.
Blair is also in the midst of conducting a public consultation on gun control, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The process could lead to a ban on handguns.
"Combating violence … it requires new approaches and a fresh look to ensure we do all the things, the thousands of things that are necessary to make a difference," he said on Sunday.
With files from Kathleen Harris, Nicole Brockbank and Desmond Brown