Toronto Youth Cabinet wants city to do more about gun violence

The Toronto Youth Cabinet, the official youth advocacy body to the city, organized a youth town hall on gun violence and community safety on Tuesday that drew dozens of people. It was held at the Rexdale Community Hub, near Kipling Avenue and Finch Avenue West. (Julia Knope/CBC - image credit)
The Toronto Youth Cabinet, the official youth advocacy body to the city, organized a youth town hall on gun violence and community safety on Tuesday that drew dozens of people. It was held at the Rexdale Community Hub, near Kipling Avenue and Finch Avenue West. (Julia Knope/CBC - image credit)

A Toronto organization that encourages young people to get involved in municipal affairs is calling on the city to do a better job of curbing gun violence among youth in Rexdale.

The Toronto Youth Cabinet, the official youth advocacy body to the city, organized a youth town hall on gun violence and community safety on Tuesday that drew dozens of people. It was held at the Rexdale Community Hub, near Kipling Avenue and Finch Avenue West.

Stephen Mensah, executive director of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, said the town hall was organized to bring young people in Rexdale together to engage in a conversation about their shared experiences, express their concerns and propose "tangible solutions" to address problems they are facing in the city.

"I've long said that the gun violence in the city of Toronto is trending younger and younger," Mensah said.

"Young people are disproportionately perpetrating acts of violence and they're also impacted by it disproportionately. And so now, more than ever, it's important to bring young people together to reinforce our calls on what needs to be done to ensure we have a safer, more equitable city."

Decades of "purposeful" disinvestment by governments has led to the situation where young people in the city's most vulnerable communities are starved of opportunities, he said. He said there is a "bounty of poverty and violence" in certain communities as opposed to a "bounty of opportunities."

Mensah said common-sense measures are needed to tackle the problem of gun violence.

"We're hoping for our politicians to listen," he added.

Stephen Mensah, the executive director of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, speaks to media outside of North Albion Collegiate Institute.
Stephen Mensah, the executive director of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, speaks to media outside of North Albion Collegiate Institute.

Stephen Mensah, the executive director of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, speaks to reporters outside of North Albion Collegiate Institute following a mass shooting there. (Grant Linton/CBC)

The town hall comes a day after Toronto police charged a 14-year-old boy with two counts of first degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder in a shooting that left two men dead and three others injured.

That shooting on June 2 took place in the parking lot of North Albion Collegiate Institute, a high school in the city's west end near the corner of Mount Olive Drive and Kipling Avenue in Etobicoke.

Meanwhile, hours before the town hall, another 14-year-old boy was arrested after police found evidence of gunfire outside an apartment building at Kipling Avenue and Finch Avenue West.

'It can happen to you at any time'

Yussuf Johnson,18, attended the town hall and said he no longer feels safe in his community after a recent string of shootings.

"It really doesn't matter who you are. It can happen to you at anytime," he said.

Johnson said knows the impact of gun violence all too well. He said he was shot at random by a teen boy last year while walking home from school. He had to go to the hospital for treatment. No one has been arrested.

"Physically, at first, it did impact me a lot because I couldn't get up," he said. "Mentally, it screwed me over more because I was in my room just every single day for the past three months and the scenario had just been playing in my mind."

'I don't think a youth should live like that'

Ismat Morgan-Sadique, another student, said incidents like these are impacting the day-to-day lives of young people.

"I have just now started to see the rise in gun violence in people of my age group," Morgan-Sadique said.

"Subconsciously, you are doing things to protect yourself from these situations and I don't think a child should live like that. I don't think a youth should live like that."

The Toronto Youth Cabinet, Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District school board are calling for the city to invest further into five key areas:

  • Youth hubs.

  • Youth employment initiatives.

  • Student nutrition programs.

  • After school programming.

  • Violence prevention grants.

In a statement to CBC Toronto, a spokesperson for Mayor Chow said the city's budget set aside "additional funding for more community-driven youth recreational programming for priority neighbourhoods."

The statement added: "There is more work to do to support youth and prevent youth violence."