TORONTO - With just days left until the end of 2021, fatal shootings in Toronto have surpassed last year’s gun related fatalities. The latest data from Toronto Police Services (TPS) show 43 people were killed from gun violence compared to 39 the previous year. At a 10.3% increase in fatalities in just one year, Torontonians are concerned about the rising gun crime in the city.
The data is current up until December 19, 2021, and does not include the most recent report of 29-year old man shot dead in the city’s west end on December 26.
Despite a 13.7% drop in total shootings compared to the 454 total events in 2020, the rise in fatal gun-related events is disconcerting to say the least. Even the Covid-induced lockdowns seems to have had little impact on the deadly gun crime in the city.
In fact, except for 2018, when TPS recorded 50 gun-related deaths, 2021 is well on its way to be one of the highest years for firearm inflicted deaths over the last eight-year period. This year already shows a nearly 60% increase in fatal gun crime since 2014 when only 27 people were killed by firearms.
So, what transpired between 2014, when total shooting events numbered 177 and the present year when total events are close to 400. Some may point to the abandonment of street checks, also known as “carding”. The practice involved police stopping people who were not involved in an investigation to collect identifying information.
Opposition to the controversial tool was widespread. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association called the practice “unlawful and unconstitutional” and many saw it as disproportionately targeting racialized communities, primarily Black Canadians. Since 2014, police in Ontario began to curtail street checks and a new provincial rule banning the “carding” practice by police came into effect in 2017.
Some may wish to point to the abandonment of the carding practice as the main factor that caused the increasing trend in crime stats. However, other elements may contribute to the surge.
For instance, during a press conference last month, Toronto Police Chief James Ramer pointed to the surge in mental health crises during the pandemic and the volume of guns crossing the border into Canada having a large impact on the deadly shootings in the city. He also indicated that 80% of guns used in criminal activity traced by Toronto Police came from the United States.
The Toronto numbers are troubling and do not include the neighbouring regions of Peel, York and Durham. The figures not only represent a life impacted by gun violence, but it spills over to include their families, loved ones and community members.
P. Pajdo is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter