Toronto Mayor David Miller visited the grieving family of slain teenager Jane Creba in private yesterday, but he had a message for the whole city when he addressed a news conference about the Boxing Day shooting at Yonge and Dundas Streets.
"Yonge Street is our street," the mayor said on his first day back from a short vacation. "It's like a shooting happening in front of your house. I think that's how everyone's reacted."
Mr. Miller, wearing Yonge and Dundas buttons on his lapel, also visited the crime scene andsurrounding area yesterday, talking to storeowners and passersby. At one point he comforted a tearful young woman who had also lost a friend to gun violence.
"It was actually heartwarming," he said. ". . . Torontonians were out there today, in large numbers, taking back their street. And I think that speaks to the quality of Torontonians."
The mayor, who also met with Police Chief Bill Blair yesterday, did not offer details about his meeting with 15-year-old Jane's family.
"It was private conversation," he said. "All I am prepared to say is that I gave them my condolences, my sympathies, and spoke to them as a parent of a daughter and told them how I felt and offered them whatever assistance the city could give. And I left it at that. They are deeply grieving, as we all would be, and I think we have to honour their privacy."
The mayor stressed that the city is taking action against gun crime on several fronts. Come Jan. 16, he said, 300 more police officers will hit the streets, 200 of them redeployed by Chief Blair to front-line duties, plus 100 new officers. He also acknowledged that the city, the province and the federal government must do much more to fund youth programs in neighbourhoods affected by gang culture.
City councillor Jane Pitfield, who plans to take on Mr. Miller in the 2006 municipal election, said he should call an emergency council meeting and organize the passing of a resolution to make Toronto "gang free."
"It was status quo; we heard the same promises again," Ms. Pitfield said after the mayor's news conference. "The violence started in the summer. We have been slow to react."
In his remarks to reporters, Mr. Miller repeated his endorsement of Liberal Leader Paul Martin's call for a ban on handguns: "We have to ensure that anyone who has a gun is arrested and brought to justice and put in prison and stays there."
He said the Conservatives do not appear to have a gun-control plan, while acknowledging that New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton is in favour of gun control.
About a dozen members of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, an advocacy organization at City Hall, and other youth groups met earlier yesterday with Mr. Layton and NDP candidate Olivia Chow.
The youth cabinet wants the three levels of government to invest in housing, daycare and apprenticeship opportunities for young people.
"We do need things that are going to stop the bleeding right now. But we also need a long-range plan," Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, 21 and a member of the group, told reporters after the meeting.