Toronto

Front-line health workers rally for stricter gun control laws

The "national day of action" was organized by Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns, a coalition that formed in the wake of last year's mass shooting in Toronto's Greektown neighbourhood.

Demonstrations planned in 16 cities across Canada

A model of a coffin is carried as physicians and health workers protest in Toronto as part of a national day of action to call for stronger gun control laws. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Physicians and other front-line health professionals are calling for stricter gun control laws at rallies in 16 cities across Canada on Wednesday.

The "national day of action" was organized by Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns, a coalition that formed in the wake of last year's mass shooting in Toronto's Greektown neighbourhood. The group's membership is comprised of trauma surgeons and other front-line emergency room personnel, psychiatrists and paramedics.

In a news release, the group said it is calling for a "public health focus to the debate around guns and a comprehensive public policy response to this crisis in our communities."

The Toronto event started at noon outside the United Church on Queen Street E. Demonstrations are also scheduled in places such as Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal, St. John's and Halifax. 

'The worst night of our lives'

Claire Smith, the mother of Danforth shooting survivor Samantha Price, spoke to the crowd about her personal experience with gun violence. 

Last summer's mass shooting was "the worst night of our lives," she said.

"The attacker used a handgun that had no business being on the Danforth that night," she added. 

"That is why we, the families and victims of the Danforth shooting — and I'm sure other victims of gun violence all across Canada — stand today with the medical community to drown out the misinformed voices that do not take responsibility for this epidemic."

Claire Smith, centre, speaks at the gun control rally in Toronto on Wednesday. Her daughter, Samantha Price, was injured in the Danforth shooting last summer. (Albert Leung/CBC)

Participants carried a mock coffin, representing victims of shootings, to city hall, where they met briefly with Mayor John Tory for photos. 

Dr. Najma Ahmed, a trauma surgeon at St. Michael's hospital in downtown Toronto, has emerged as the public face of the organization. Her advocacy work began in earnest after she helped treat victims of the Danforth shooting last summer.

"More and more we're seeing devastating injuries from higher calibre bullets, from multiple bullets," she told CBC Toronto. 

"The increased proliferation of guns in society can make these things more frequent and more deadly," she said. 

Dr. Najma Ahmed, a trauma surgeon at St. Michael's Hospital, has been an advocate for stricter gun laws and has been the target of a gun rights group. (Albert Leung/CBC)

Doctor target of gun rights group

Ahmed revealed in March that she had been the subject of nearly 70 complaints filed against her with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. The complaints came after a gun rights group called the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights (CCFR) published several posts about her on its website along with instructions about how to lodge the grievances.

She was "surprised by the ferocity of the push back," she said.

"I feel very much that this group is acting in its own self interest and not so much in the interest of public health," she explained. 

The college later said it would not investigate the complaints.

Members also strongly support Bill C-71. The proposed legislation would see an overhaul of the background check system for owning a firearm, new record-keeping requirements for retailers and increased restrictions on transporting a firearm.

The group is also advocating for a country-wide ban on handguns and assault-style weapons. Amid a violent summer last year, Tory himself came out in support of a ban on handguns in the city. 

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