February 13 2013
Toronto’s black community leaders say apathy and cynicism needs to end if the city is serious about curbing youth and gun violence.
“The killings from January to now among the young people, over 90 per cent of them are African Canadians, and nobody says it’s a crisis,” said community consultant Ken Jeffers at a downtown Toronto press conference on Wednesday. “So what is a crisis? For us, it is.”
The call to action comes just three days after 15-year-old St. Aubyn Rodney was killed after being shot in the Jane and Finch area Monday night.
A 17-year-old boy was charged with manslaughter in connection to the death on Wednesday. Two other people, an 18-year-old man and a boy, are facing breach of recognizance charges in the case.
Dewitt Lee from the Harriet Tubman Community Organization believes there is an aura of hopelessness that exists in the city’s black community when it comes to youth and gun violence which needs to be changed.
“It’s natural, you become numb to certain things, after a while it becomes normal, there’s no way to prevent it happening,” said Lee. “We have to fight against that.”
One Toronto city councillor is suggesting officials take a hard look at implementing youth violence strategies that were drafted in 2008.
“I’m asking city council to do what it can to play its part in implementing the Review of the Roots of Youth Violence report that was drafted in 2008,” said Ward 22 councillor Josh Matlow. “We don’t need to ask more questions about what to do, we need the will to actually see them through and implement them.”
Some of the recommendations include an anti-racism plan, working more closely with local school boards, and providing youth with arts, sports or employment opportunities.
“What residents can do is challenge elected officials, to not only say that they don’t like youth violence, but to do something about it, to do more than call for simple solutions,” Matlow explained.
Although there are no straightforward answers to curb youth violence, especially among the black community, leaders say more effort needs to be made to reach out to troubled youth and end complacency when it comes to eliminating violent crime.
“What’s really creeping in right now is cynicism, the young people are saying like ‘you are not doing anything for us, you’re impotent’ and we’re losing respect,” said Jeffers.
Toronto’s black leaders plan on staging a youth violence summit in the near future with an action plan they say will finally address the reality of the community.