Whatever else people think about Monday evening’s outrageous mass shooting in a Toronto suburb, there is no doubt that the gangsters who wield guns in Canada’s largest city are becoming more indiscriminate about when and where they pull the trigger. Like the monstrous and wanton gunfight that killed two people and wounded five others in the food court at the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto in June, this latest attack occurred in the most public of places: on a quiet side street at a community barbecue meant for local children. Early reports suggest a dispute broke out between a group of uninvited, gun-toting outsiders known to have gang connections and that, as in the Eaton Centre incident, the shooters made no attempt to differentiate between their targets and innocent bystanders. On the contrary, the shooters gleefully opened fired as if there were no such thing as civilians, sending horrified men, women and children scrambling. They killed a 14-year-old girl and a 23-year-old man – police confirm both were innocent bystanders – and wounded 21 more, including an infant.
In one respect, the perpetrators are no different than terrorists: Their cold-blooded violence has the same noxious effect of spreading fear and inciting the breakdown of community trust. Can it be argued that income inequality, poor social services and a feeling of disenfranchisement can lead a young man into gangs and a life of crime? Certainly. But are these factors still at play when a gang member pulls out a gun and heartlessly empties it in the direction of fleeing women and children? No. This goes beyond that. As one man whose relative was wounded on Monday told reporters, “The new players in the game are playing it wrong. It’s got to stop.”
It absolutely has to stop. The fact that gun murders are a relative rarity in Toronto is not the issue. Likewise, the fact that Monday’s atrocity took place in a suburban neighbourhood should not cause Torontonians to treat it as an isolated event and somehow different from the Eaton Centre incident or the infamous Boxing Day shooting of 2005 that killed a young woman and wounded six other bystanders. The issue of the moment is the ever-more profound depths of depravity to which these “players” are willing to sink. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said in the aftermath of Monday’s killing that he has talked to Mayor Rob Ford and Police Chief Bill Blair about calling a meeting to discuss what needs to be done. It’s a meeting he should convene as soon as possible, but it can only be the beginning. Like terrorism, these deranged actions are something our society cannot tolerate and should be answered with equal resolve.