Health professionals in more than a dozen Canadian cities will hold rallies, letter-writing campaigns and information sessions Wednesday to call attention to the problem of gun-related violence and injuries, and push for new policies to reduce those risks.
The events are being organized by Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns (CDPG) and is designed to highlight the risks posed by firearms and the need for a public health response, said Najma Ahmed, a trauma surgeon at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital and one of the group’s founders.
“We would like to raise public awareness about harm, injury and death from guns as a public health issue,” Dr. Ahmed said. “We would like people to understand there are preventative measures and strategies that can be used to mitigate this harm.”
Events are scheduled to take place in 13 cities across the country including Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Kingston, Halifax and St. John’s.
CDPG advocates for a ban on handguns and assault weapons and the passage of Bill C-71, which would require more detailed background checks and for retailers to keep records of firearm sales, among other things.
The group points out that firearm-related violent crime has risen 42 per cent since 2013 and that women and girls are particularly vulnerable. CDPG cited a study published earlier this year by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability that found shooting was the most common method used in the killing of girls and women in Canada last year.
Dr. Ahmed said the Toronto rally, which will take place close to St. Michael’s Hospital, will feature a range of public-health speakers and the mother of one of the victims of last year’s shooting on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue. She said participants plan to walk to Mayor John Tory’s office and deliver a letter.
Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns formed earlier this year in response to the rising rate of gun violence and injuries, and has faced opposition from a pro-gun advocacy group called the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights. The firearm group launched a campaign urging members to lodge complaints about Dr. Ahmed to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and told her to “stay in your lane,” a line that was first used by the U.S. National Rifle Association last year after health professionals there called for stricter gun control.