In order to restore public confidence in Toronto as a safe city, we can’t respond to gun violence only when these incidents occur and the issue dominates the news cycle — then go back to ignoring the problem once the media spotlight turns away.
Without providing hope to those who live in our most destitute communities, a long-term reduction in violence will not be realized. Do we have the political will to facilitate such change? Are sustained community development projects possible during this period of austerity and government cutbacks? The answers to these questions will largely determine the future of violent crime in Toronto — and the extent to which Toronto residents are exposed to the type of shootings we have experienced over the past month.
Toronto vice-principal Gary Pieters is president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations and also headed an Africentric summer program in Jane-Finch in 2005 — the so-called Year of the Gun — in which he saw students raise their academic skills by a whole level just by being engaged with Africentric lessons.
So, as Sewell sat in the darkened police board room earlier this month along with a chorus of groups — the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Urban Alliance on Race Relations and the Black Action Defence Committee — all calling for an investigation into carding, he still couldn’t believe much was going to happen.
Is creating a so-called Africentric secondary school to improve education chances for African Canadian students a step forward or a step back? Based on my personal experience, I believe it can be an important step forward.