Toronto’s mayor has announced investments in a slew of community-focused initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence and the “appeal of crime,” specifically for youth.

The measures include new employment opportunities and job fairs in marginalized communities, the establishing of a “children’s mental health recovery team” and the expansion of existing programs like Toronto Community Housing’s Youth Worx and the Community Crisis Response Program.

John Tory said the move is the city’s contribution to a “balanced approach” to curb gun violence.

“A lot of this is going to be a person-by-person, neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood, family-by-family approach. Some of the numbers don’t sound large but every single person or family we can help will make a substantial contribution,” he said.

“I think it’s going to help more kids to succeed now, by giving them the tools they need.”

Last week, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders announced that the service would deploy up to 200 additional frontline officers to help quell the apparent surge in gunplay. The officers will be posted at priority areas between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. for eight weeks starting July 20.

At the time, Tory said a $15 million investment had been earmarked from all three levels of government to fund both the community programs and the additional police presence. Some of the funding was expected to stem from National Crime Prevention Funds.

The 16 different community initiatives will see a total of $12 million of that investment.

Tory said he’s received “nothing but cooperation” from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister Ralph Goodale and newly-minted Premier Doug Ford on the city’s efforts.

“They’ve assured me that the government will move as quickly as possible to approve this money and make sure it flows to our city. It doesn’t mean every application will be approved to the dollar but I think there’s a very receptive attitude,” he said.

“Premier Ford indicated to me directly (that) they’re in the midst of trying to figure out how they’re going to be helpful.”

Included in the efforts is a doubling in staff at the Community Crisis Response Program. Tory said the program’s four employees responded to 604 “violent traumatic incidents” in 2017 alone.

YouthWorx, which helps bring summer work to youth in TCHC communities, will also see a staffing increase. At Tory’s request, TCHC will also employ “an additional 50 young people” to the program starting this summer.

He said 80 per cent of the kids involved in the summer program who later sought jobs during the school year were successful.

“I don’t think we can underestimate the importance of people being able to get a job during the school year and the positive contribution that will make not only to their self-esteem and self-respect but to them being productively occupied,” he said.

Two additional job fairs will also be organized in the coming weeks, Tory said. The job fairs will be specifically tailored for youth with “some past involvement in the justice system.”

He boasted of the success of a recent, similar job fair in Toronto’s Rexdale community.

“Three-hundred twenty-five young people, some with criminal records, were looking to get hired at the job fair,” he said. “So far, 42 people have actually been hired and viable contact has been made to more.”

The city will also expand youth recreation programs in at-risk neighbourhoods, extend hours at drop-in programs and community centres and add new counsellors to the Toronto Youth Partnership and Employment Program (TYPE) in four districts across the city.

The “Children’s Mental Health and Trauma Recovery” program will be a new addition to the efforts. Tory says the concept behind the program came from consultation with communities and families directly affected by gun crime, including Stacey King, whose daughters were struck by stray bullets while they played at a Scarborough playground last month.

The program will consist of representatives from a number of city divisions – including Toronto Public Health and Children’s Services – to provide support to children impacted by violence in their community.

“The kids are not back out on the playground,” he said. “There’s a need there for us to make sure that people so directly affected by these acts of violence receive some of the support they need.”

According to Toronto police, there have been 27 gun-related homicides in 2018, which is up by 10 from this time last year. There have been 220 non-fatal shootings with a total of 286 victims.


A full list of programs that will be impacted can be viewed below: