After what police called an “ambush-style” shooting in Mississauga, Ont., killed a teenager and wounded five other people, federal party leaders were quick to offer condolences Sunday, but had little in the way of new ideas to address gun violence in Canada’s cities.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was already en route to Mississauga when he briefly addressed the incident, telling reporters he would speak with the city’s mayor, Bonnie Crombie, to offer support from the federal government.
Crombie, a former Liberal MP, suggested Sunday that all levels of government must increase the resources and funding they direct at the problem of gun violence. Trudeau said what his party is preparing to offer is something he’ll discuss in the coming weeks.
“We know there’s more to do and we will be doing more,” he said.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh went little farther. Both said the root causes of violence need to be addressed, but differed in their views on what those are as they repeated their existing commitments.
“What we do know about some of these shootings that have gone on over the past few months is that they are related to gang activity and that’s why we need better laws to deal with things like bail conditions that known gang members receive,” Scheer told reporters after a campaign announcement in Surrey, B.C.
“That’s why we need greater co-operation with police agencies, that’s exactly what my plan for a safer Canada talks about.”
That plan was mostly released last year. It will form part of the Conservatives’ broader election platform. Among other things, it promises that known gang members won’t be allowed to get bail if arrested (a measure certain to be challenged on constitutional grounds) and bring in longer sentences for gang-related offences.
NDP would allow handgun bans
Peel Regional Police said the intended targets of the shooting in northeast Mississauga, just outside Toronto, appeared to be a group preparing to film a rap video and the 17-year-old victim was a bystander. Police are searching for at least seven suspects who they say fired semi-automatic handguns indiscriminately.
Singh, campaigning in Quebec, re-iterated his party’s promise to allow municipalities to ban handguns, if that’s what they think is the best way to stem violence.
But he said that’s only one step.
“When people don’t have hope they can fall on the wrong path,” Singh said after an event in Sherbrooke.
Social support programs needed
“And we want to make sure we have all the programs in place — affordable housing, good health care, opportunities for work so that young people can find a positive way forward and not end up in a vicious cycle of violence.”
Trudeau’s stop in Mississauga wasn’t entirely for the campaign; he was to attend a celebration rally for tennis star Bianca Andreescu, who captivated the country with her victory in the U.S. Open last weekend.
His attendance at the rally — and call to Crombie — speaks to the two hats he wears these weeks. Despite the fact Parliament has been dissolved, Trudeau remains prime minister. He spent most of the day campaigning as party leader in southern Ontario, and was to wrap up the day with a rally in Markham, a suburb northeast of Toronto.
The shooting in Mississauga is sure to renew calls for a handgun ban. The Liberals have been under pressure for over a year to impose one.
Gun ban being studied
In August 2018, they began a formal study of the idea, with public consultations suggesting Canadians were divided on the issue.
While Trudeau provided no details of his party’s plan on Sunday, the Liberals have signalled they will include some form of gun control in their platform.
Former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, who was named crime-reduction minister in his first term as a Liberal MP, suggested in June that ideas on the table included new standards for secure storage of firearms, preventing people from buying them on behalf of criminals and deterring the smuggling of weapons from the United States.
Conservatives won’t support ban
Police forces have largely stopped short of calling for a ban, with some echoing Blair’s thoughts on the need to tackle illegal firearms-trafficking as a top priority.
Scheer, in B.C., pointed to the fact that not even police want a ban when asked whether his party would support one.
“We listen to the experts on this,” he said.
Surrey is no stranger itself to gun and gang violence. Outrage over the issue saw a new mayor elected last year on a promise to end the city’s policing contract with the RCMP and establish a new force answering to a local police board.