The community of Toronto’s Dixon neighborhood says they’re “losing hope” and are begging the provincial government to do more to combat gun violence.
The calls for action come on the heels of a triple shooting at Kingsview Village Junior School where 16-year-old Zakariye Ali was shot to death shortly before midnight on Oct. 8.
Two other teens were struck by bullets but survived. They’ve since been released from hospital.
Just three days prior, 29-year-old Abdulkadir Bihi was shot and killed in broad daylight while he sat in a vehicle idling outside an apartment building near Islington Avenue and Dixon Road.
While two suspects later turned themselves in to police for Bihi’s murder, authorities are still searching for those responsible in Ali’s.
Farhia Warsame, the executive director of the Somali Women and Children’s Support Network, said the community needs more support from police and additional help from the provincial government to “stop the circle” of gun violence.
She said as of right now, the community has “no support” or programs operating in the area to prevent youth from becoming a part of a dangerous lifestyle.
“There (are) a lot of people and other organizations claiming they offer programs in Dixon, such as mentoring programs, outreach programs, prevention programs but none of that is happening in this area,” she told reporters at Kingsview Village Junior School on Thursday.
“The only program we have at this moment is in this room right here, where all youth can come. We know the government funded a lot of resources to come to Dixon and it’s not been received. It’s not happening. We’d like that to be looked at.”
Warsame, whose son was shot and killed in 2015, said the community has been “emotional” since the loss of 16-year-old Ali.
She invited the Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau to visit the community so they can show him how the murders are affecting them.
“It’s an underserved community. It’s a marginalized community. The youth doesn’t have any hope,” Warsame said, acknowledging that the area has a large population of immigrants and refugees, particularly from Somalia.
“The city will come when a crisis happens, the police will come when a shooting happens, when a person passes away – everyone comes. But we need a prevention program before anything happens.”
One mother who approached the podium said she’s exhausted of the lack of action.
“The thing is, we’re losing a lot of youth. We bury a lot of youth and right now we didn’t come to talk, we came to find justice. We’re going to come together the way we came together today and there’s won’t to be any more talks,” Ayan said.
“We need support from the government. We need support from the media and we need support from the police. We don’t need labelling, we are tired of labelling. We just need justice.”
Ward 2 Coun. Michael Ford, who attended Thursday’s meeting, later told CP24 that he intends on calling Coteau’s office to also offer him the invitation to visit the tragedy stricken neighbourhood.
In the meantime, Ford said he plans on meeting with city officials, the Toronto District School Board and residents in the coming weeks to figure out a “path forward.”
“I think it’s very important that the city is investing in support programs for the community,” Ford said.
“This is a very diverse community and knowing that city programs aren’t where they should be in this neighbourhood, we have been advocating with that, working with people in the not for profit sector, charities and of course the business community as well as the city to be investing in here. That’s very important.”
At an unrelated event Friday, Mayor John Tory also addressed the spate of killings, saying any act of violence is of “great concern.”
“I will say that in discussions that I’ve had with the police service and with the chief, there has been a reallocation of some police resources to the northwest part of the city,” Tory said.
“I think this a subject of constant reexamination on the issue of deployment of police resources, and as we watch what’s going on in those communities, I certainly will be in close touch with the acting police chief about trying to make sure that we keep that part of the city safer and that we try to reduce the number of these kinds of violence incidents.”
A GoFundMe page has been created for Zakariye Ali, who died Sunday. To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/zakariye-ali.