Toronto mayor calls for action at border following forum on gun violence
TORONTO -- The mayors of cities across the Toronto area provided a laundry list of wishes to the federal government on Tuesday, including action at the border, in a joint effort aimed at curbing a rise in gun violence.
The municipal leaders, along with police chiefs and Ontario's solicitor general, met with a representative from the federal government at Toronto City Hall, and much of the discussion focused on the smuggling of guns into the province.
"There's a real job to do at the border," Toronto Mayor John Tory, who hosted the meeting, told reporters afterward.
A presentation Toronto police made to municipal leaders at the meeting shows an estimated 73 per cent of guns seized in 2019 that could be traced had come across the border. A significant number of guns the force seizes every year cannot be traced.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the percentage of smuggled guns is even greater across Ontario.
"Our provincial numbers show 84 per cent are illegal guns that come across the borders," she said. "We need to actually crack down on that because that ultimately will keep our community safer."
Police forces also want more information from the Canada Border Services Agency, Tory said, and have asked for a meeting with the border guards.
"There haven't been granular, specific-focused discussions between local police forces and the border authorities about how these guns are coming across," Tory said.
Joel Lightbound, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, said the federal government is listening.
"We need to share the intelligence better with local law enforcement -- that's something that came up from this meeting," he said.
"What we're going to be looking at is making sure (border guards) and local law enforcement collaborate more efficiently when it comes to operational capacities."
The municipal leaders and the province also continued their call for tougher bail for those accused of gun-related offences, and longer sentences for those convicted.
The group also pushed for expanded use of electronic monitoring bracelets for those who get bail.
Mississauga, Ont., Mayor Bonnie Crombie also highlighted the backlog in the courts, and the need for more judges and justices of the peace, as further problems plaguing the justice system.
Tory said co-operation among all levels of government will be necessary to address gun violence, which has spiked throughout the GTA. In Toronto, for instance, police figures show shootings rose from 288 incidents in 2015 to 492 last year.
"We need the support of ... these other governments to continue to try and attack this menace that poses such a threat to safety in our communities," Tory said.
"Far too many neighbourhoods in all of the regions and cities represented today have been terrorized by gun violence, and I think people should not have to endure that."
Last August, Tory requested additional resources after a spate of shootings that police said were largely related to street gangs.
The resulting program, dubbed Project Community Space and funded by all three levels of government, was lauded by Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders, who said in his end-of-year address that the city was moving in the right direction in its approach to fighting gun and gang violence
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Jan. 28, 2020.