DFSC Statement on the Third Anniversary of the Danforth Tragedy
On July 22, 2021, three years will have passed since a young girl and a teenage woman were murdered, thirteen others were shot, and countless others were terrorized in a seemingly random act of violence on the Danforth. The Toronto Police report that was issued about that night, suggests that about 10 minutes elapsed from the time that the first shots were fired at Alexander the Great Parkette at Logan, until the murderer took his own life on the sidewalk at Danforth and Bowden, with a stolen Smith & Wesson MP40.
This anniversary and all that follow is also a chance to thank the many who helped us. Let us remember the heroism of our First Responders and the Medical profession. From the community, an impressive impromptu vigil was created at Alexander the Great Parkette and attended by thousands, the band Billy Talent organized a concert with the help of the Danforth Music Hall and the Danforth and Greektown BIA, and many others reached out and helped in so many ways.
The situation that night was total chaos. It took some of us days and weeks to learn of the extent of the menace. This tragedy was, and remains, a total shock to our families, and as we have come to know, to many in the Danforth Community, in Toronto, and across the country. This is a grim story to recount every July 22. But one reason to do so is that talking about this horrific event helps to deal with it. We have learned that you do not forget. You try and accept that it happened, and you try your best to live with it. Acknowledging the shock and finding others who feel the same loss and hurt helps a bit. But the loss and its impact on your mental well-being, does not go away. It is a tragedy in this City that often victims are left on their own. They are not supported as we were. This is an issue to which we must pay more attention across Toronto – the supports for those who are left to pick up the pieces. The cost of gun violence is understated, as we have come to learn, and we must as friends and neighbors and fellow citizens of the City, help survivors and their families whenever gun violence occurs.
In the intervening time, some of the families affected by the July 22 event, created a grassroots group called Danforth Families for Safe Communities (DFSC). From the facts of our case, we believe that our tragedy was caused, in part, by-laws that allowed for the wide and growing proliferation of handguns in Canada since the mid 2010’s. Yes, the US border and smuggling of weapons is part of the problem. But it was a handgun imported legally that was used that night. It was available for sale, and then stolen and used by the murderer that night. We must reduce the risk of death posed to the broader community by the existence of these inexpensive, portable, concealable, and deadly weapons.
As DFSC, we continue to advocate for changes to the laws that surround gun ownership in this country. As we all come out of the extraordinary and draining effects of the pandemic, we can, and we must face the other issues that affect our society. And this set of priorities must include better gun laws and enforcement, as well as programs that prevent the temptation to turn to gun violence, and resources to protect those that are threatened all too often by a gun – usually one that is in the home.
Our advocacy is backed by the knowledge that most Canadians want to see these changes. Three national surveys show that the vast majority of Canadians support our request. The Angus Reid Institute published a survey on May 1, 2020, that plainly shows 67% of Canadians want a ban on handguns. Ipsos Canada published a survey on gun control on May 28, 2020, where 71% of respondents indicated that “the federal government’s legislation (related to assault weapons) should also include a ban on all handguns”. An Environics Research poll published in May, shows a full 69% of Canadians prefer gun control laws banning or further restricting handguns to be national and applied uniformly across the country, as opposed to having the federal government work with municipal governments to allow for local bans or further restrictions on handguns.
This July 22 will be a chance to remember and to grieve and reflect. Two trees stand in the north end of Withrow Park in Toronto, near the corner of McConnell and Carlaw Avenues, as a tribute and as a reminder of what happened that night. In the shade of those trees, or wherever victims of that night are gathered to reflect, we remember Reese and Julianna, and the injured, and the witnesses that were there that night, on the Danforth.
About Danforth Families for Safe Communities
DFSC is a group of survivors, families, friends, and community members impacted by the shooting tragedy on Danforth Avenue, Toronto, Canada, on July 22, 2018, where a young girl and a teenager were killed and 13 were shot by a lone gunman. The DFSC have come together in the wake of our tragedy to share our views and experience, in the hope that others will not have to experience anything similar.
Environics Research, for PolyRemembers/PolySeSouvient. An online survey was conducted from May 11th to May 14th, 2020 among a representative sample of 1511 Canadians aged 18 years and over. Results: http://polysesouvient.ca/Documents/POLL_20_05_11_to_14_Environics_NationalLocal_HandgunBan.pdf ; Question: “During the last Federal election, the Liberals promised to work with the provinces and territories to give municipalities the ability to further restrict – or ban – handguns.(Randomize) [ ] Some / While others say that it would be preferable that a ban or further restrictions on handguns, which are not used for hunting, be national and applied uniformly across the country. [ ] Some / While others say that it would be preferable that the federal government work with municipalities to allow for local bans or further restrictions on handguns, instead of bringing in new federal measures for handguns. Which view is closer to your own? ‘It is preferable that gun control laws banning or further restricting handguns, not used for hunting, be national and applied uniformly across the country; ‘It is preferable that the federal government work with municipal governments to allow for local bans or further restrictions on handguns’.”