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Diasporian News of Sunday, 21 August 2005

Source: Eyiah, Joe Kingsley

Gun Violence in Toronto

After School Programs Could Save Our Youth From Street Violence.
Meanwhile Metro-Housing Areas Need 24-hour Security!

It is on record (August 14, 2005) that 33 people including youth have been killed with guns since the start of this year in Toronto. Others including a 4-year-old boy have sustained serious wounds from gun shots. Mothers are seen frequently in the media pleading, and anguishing over the gunning down of their young sons by other ?careless and frustrated? young men.

Most of these women are minorities and single mothers struggling to raise large number of children on their own. Where are the fathers? My eyes welled up with tears when a Ghanaian single mother, Aunte Felicia living at Driftwood Drive recently appeared on Global TV pleading for help to raise her 6 children. Poor woman! She works day and night to cater for her children and has no quality time with children growing in such a vulnerable area of the city.

We have on our hands unprecedented street violence perpetuated by young men against young men in our communities. What can our municipal government as well as community leaders do to save our youth from these acts of violence in our neighborhoods?

The Worst Affected Areas:

The northwestern section of Toronto and the east are often in the news with such crimes. The areas in northwest include Etobicoke (mainly Kipling, John Garland, Jamestown), Jane/Finch Area (Driftwood Court/Drive, Tobormery, Fairwood, Shoreham) and Jane/Wilson Area including Chalkfarm and Sheridan Mall vicinities. Scarborough in the east is also very vulnerable to such violence/crimes. Also, some parts of downtown such as Yonge-Dundas Square come up for mentioning when discussing areas which constantly experience street violence. The demographic pattern of the crimes gives an interesting picture. The middle-class areas of the municipality such as Willowdale, Bay Street, Rosedale, the Beach Cabbagetown, to mention a few, scarcely experience such violence. The poor Toronto areas where metro houses and a lot single mothers reside are the victimized area. Such areas are paying highly for their poverty! My million question is: Where is the Toronto, a city which foundation was so carefully laid on the principle of social equity and safety nets?

As immigrant teacher, I have chosen to teach, since the year 2000 till present, at a school in the Jane/Finch Area (my school is located in the Driftwood Court area). I have also lived in Jane/Wilson area up till now and have experienced the horror and terrifying ordeals such violence bring to my people living or working in such vicinities. There have been shooting in my school parking lot before. The Police have often blocked ways and avenues I use to go to work due to such street violence.

I have also had in the cause of my duty as a teacher of an inner-city school to deal with some violent students (though without guns). Their frustration and anger are always clear indications of their predicaments at home and lack of adequate social amenities in their vicinities to satisfy their social needs. Their energies are often misdirected by peer pressure into unfortunate acts of violence. So what do we do as a caring community to save the energies of such youth from being diverted into committing crimes against themselves and innocent by-passers?

More After School Programs Are Needed! Politicians and law-forcing officers are missing the point when they neglect their duties to go to the basis of such crimes to find meaningful solutions to the cancer of street violence in those low income/socially deprived areas of Toronto. The ?big men? are calling for more cops on our streets, lobbying for tougher sentencing for the criminals (our youth), insisting that parents become more responsible in their child-rearing.

Such are their lofty solutions to street violence in the poverty-stricken parts of Toronto. I will like to draw their attention to the economies of keeping our youth in school and off the streets! As long as the schools in such areas are well equipped with social facilities such as basketball courts and soccer fields as well as indoor swimming pools our youth will be attracted to programs that can engage their energies after spending hours of academic activities in the classroom.

The lack of after school programs send our youth to homes where parents are often away working to make ends meet. The young men are therefore left on their own to roam the Malls and falling into the company of gangsters who engage their energies in acts of violence. The work being done by Osei Benjiman and his youth for development group in the Jane/Finch has proved in its small capacity how after school meaningful and well organized programs can take our youth off the streets and from the company of gangsters. His is but just a drop of water in a big ocean! I call for more allocation of the taxpayers? money towards after school programs to save our youth from becoming ?street-ward?.

Provide 24-hour Security for Metro-housing Communities:

Meanwhile, I see the need for the Metro-Housing Authorities to provide security 24/7 for metro-housing areas where most of such acts of street violence often occur. It was rather unfortunate that last Thursday when Mayor Miller finally found time to meet with one of the vulnerable communities at the Oakdale Community Centre (Jane/Finch) and the infatigable youth worker at the area, Osei Benjamin, raised the issue of security for metro-housing areas, the officers from MTHA at the meeting quickly went on the defensive! It is not enough providing the many single mothers with cheap accommodation (rent) and welfare (money for food) to raise large numbers of teenagers in those areas without providing them with adequate security.

All said and done, I also employ our single mothers to strive for better education as an example to their children. Don?t be allured by the government?s cheap accommodation and merger welfare money to remain in your poor conditions forever. Ontario is a province which is yours to discover!

Joe Kingsley Eyiah
Teacher, Brookview Middle School, Toronto

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