The federal government committed new funding for Toronto police to tackle guns and gangs, one day before the mayor and Prime Minister are set to meet to discuss a recent spike in shootings.
At a news conference Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would be sitting down with Mayor John Tory Tuesday after “a deadly few weeks” in Canada’s largest city.
As of Monday, more than 400 shooting victims have been recorded in Toronto so far this year, up from 336 this time last year. The number of fatal shootings, however, has gone down. Twenty people have been killed by gunfire in Toronto so far this year, compared to 30 at this same time last year.
“Our hearts go out to the communities and the family members affected,” Mr. Trudeau said. “This is something that we have taken significant steps on but we recognize there is always more to do.”
He announced that the government will be providing $1.5-million to the city.
The Liberal government has recently backed away from the possibility of a countrywide handgun ban, despite formal calls for one from the cities of Toronto and Montreal. The Liberals plan to instead campaign in this fall’s federal election on a plan to prohibit and buy back some military-style assault weapons that are legal.
“We have a range of things we have to do and gun control, handgun control in particular, is part of that,” Liberal MP Adam Vaughan said after Monday’s press conference, which was to announce funding for legal aid.
Mayor John Tory also pledged Monday to allocate funds at a municipal level toward combatting gun violence. Mr. Tory said the city would also be providing $1.5-million to the police force – a commitment that he will seek approval for at city council’s next meeting.
That additional money, Mr. Tory said, “will fund an even more intensive focus on those responsible for inflicting gun violence on our neighbourhoods as well as increasing police presence to keep communities safe.”
The provincial government also reannounced an existing funding commitment that they made last year, to provide $18-million over four years to TPS, to fight gun and gang violence. Premier Doug Ford said in a news release Monday that $1.5-million from that pot will be allocated “to put boots on the ground where they are needed most to keep people safe.”
Police Chief Mark Saunders declined to offer specifics Monday about how the funds will be used, saying in an e-mail statement that he will provide more details about his “comprehensive plan” in the coming days.
Shootings have been on the rise in Toronto in recent years. Last year was one of the most violent in the city’s history, with a record-breaking number of homicides, more than half of which were shootings.
The chief cited gun and gang violence as a priority at the end of 2018. He stressed at the time that this is not solely a policing issue, and will require collaboration across social-service providers.
Two people were killed in shootings this past weekend in the Greater Toronto Area. In Vaughan, York Region police are investigating a shooting that took place on a residential street. The victim in that case had walked to hospital, but died shortly after.
In a separate incident, a man was shot and killed Friday afternoon near an elementary school in East York on Wakunda Place near O’Connor Drive. Another man was wounded. Police have said the killing was tied to gang activity.