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Margaret Parsons of the African Canadian Legal Clinic is framed by councillor Adam Vaughn, left, and Alvin Curling, Co-Chair of Roots and Violence Report during a press conference organized by members of the African Canadian Community to speak out against gun violence at the Don Montgomery Centre in Toronto on Thursday July 19, 2012. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Margaret Parsons of the African Canadian Legal Clinic is framed by councillor Adam Vaughn, left, and Alvin Curling, Co-Chair of Roots and Violence Report during a press conference organized by members of the African Canadian Community to speak out against gun violence at the Don Montgomery Centre in Toronto on Thursday July 19, 2012. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Community groups, politicians buck Ford’s stand on curbing gun violence Add to ...

An array of community groups and politicians called Thursday for more resources and employment to combat the sort of gun violence that left two innocent bystanders dead at a Scarborough block party Monday.

While the issue has been studied extensively, they said, government has failed to implement the recommendations that countless experts, panels and other have made over the years.

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They also had little time for Mayor Rob Ford's proposed solution – lengthening jail sentences and then somehow expelling convicted offenders from the city – arguing that the issue is far more complex.

Mr. Ford told a radio interviewer Wednesday night that he would meet with prime minister Stephen Harper to toughen up gun laws.

"Once they’re charged and they go to jail the most important thing is when they get out of jail, I don’t want them living in this city. They can go anywhere else, but I don’t want them in the city," he told AM40.

Asked how he planned to force gangsters out of Toronto, Mr. Ford said: "I don’t know and that’s what I’m going to sit down with the prime minister and find out: how our immigration laws work."

At a press conference in a Scarborough community centre organized by the African Canadian Legal Clinic, former provincial cabinet minister Alvin Curling said government should offer stable and consistent funding to community organizations and youth workers, rather than running short-term pilot projects. More could also be done to improve public housing and expand mental health programs.

"Because of the recession, whatever supports the priority neighbourhoods had have been cut back," he said.

Mr. Curling co-authored a 2008 report on the causes of youth violence, but community leaders said the province has not implemented his recommendations.

"I'm not a big fan of more reports or commissions or studies. We have hit a plateau," said city councillor Paul Ainslie. "We need to implement what's already been studied."

Likwa Nkala with Metro East Youth Services said community organizations need better access to schools to put programs in place. They could also do more to coordinate and listen to the community to understand its needs.

"The biggest gap is how we engage our young people while they're in school," he said.

Councillor Adam Vaughan said public housing residents should have the opportunity to start small businesses to generate economic development, citing informal hair salons in housing projects and a program in Alexandra Park that allows residents to run food stands out of converted shipping containers.

Mr. Vaughan, a critic of the mayor, also took aim at the notion that more police alone would simply do the trick.

"I've heard people say 'let's make life for gang members miserable,'" he said. "But ask any young person involved in that, and they'll tell you it's the misery that put them there."

Mr. Ford's cuts to public housing and other programs, he said, are part of the problem and also pointed to the mayor's vote last month to refuse hundreds of thousands of provincial money for anti-gang programs.

"If when the three levels of government come to talk about this issue, all they want to talk about is jail, they can go to hell," he said, to sustained applause from the crowd.

Follow on Twitter: @adrianmorrow

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