Shooting in Greektown, Toronto Accompanying Each Other is More Important than Gun Control - Press Clippings

Shooting in Greektown, Toronto
Accompanying Each Other is More Important than Gun Control

John Zucchi Il Sussidiario


Greektown, a quaint neighbourhood on Toronto’s east side is a well-frequented dining area in the summer. On a warm summer evening you will see people strolling the local streets or sitting at the many restaurant tables on the sidewalk, as Torontonians take advantage of the warm summer evenings before the cold weather sets in again. Late Sunday evening, after a rainy day and as people ventured back out on the streets a lone gunman carrying a dark bag and dressed in black began randomly shooting at groups of people on Greektown’s main street, known as the Danforth. At this time we know only that the gunman was 29 years of age, that he shot thirteen people, fled the scene and then killed himself. One woman was felled, and he continued shooting her. Another victim died, and a nine-year old girl is in critical condition.

It is odd to comment on a tragedy when all the facts are not yet clear. We have no idea yet of the motives for these killings nor do we know the identity of the shooter.

Certainly, this terrible event leaves us with many questions. How is this possible in a peaceable country such as Canada? We have very strict gun control laws. We have no political battles on the right to bear arms. Canadians find the easy access to arms in the United States to be abhorrent, Canadian cities are known to be much safer than American cities. You need not fear walking the streets of Toronto late at night. In Canada, with a population of 37 million there were 611 murders in 2016. The city of Chicago alone recorded 762 homicides the same year.

And yet, we have had our moments of terror. In 1989, fourteen young women were gunned down at the École Polytechnique in Montréal. A few years later another mass shooting took place at a college in Montréal. Early last year another young man opened fire in a mosque in Quebec, killing six Muslims at prayer and injuring 19 others. Earlier this year a disillusioned young man, using a large rental van, mowed down numerous people on one of Toronto’s busiest street, leading to ten deaths and 13 injuries. And one of the serious questions in Toronto lately has been how to deal with the easy access to illegal guns as the city has experienced a spike in murders involving firearms – 26 so far this year. The murders are mostly gang-related.

It would be a pity if American gun advocates were to argue that gun control in Canada has done nothing to stave off terrorist incidents. Gun control is certainly necessary, but it also cannot be the only answer. As the Canadian cases show, no matter how much you can keep guns out of the country or behind locked doors, there is always a way to procure illegal weapons, or legal hunting arms for that matter.

What is striking is the loneliness of the perpetrators of these attacks of these last 30 years, at least in Canada. They seem to be off everyone’s radar maps. All the cases cited above – and I could mention other ones – involved lonely, disillusioned young men with ties to no one. High school classmates remembered them as loners. They might be attending school or working or doing things others do but somehow were disaffiliated.

Very recently, the city of Montréal had one of its longest heat waves on record. It resulted in 55 deaths. Most of the victims were elderly men, living on the upper floors of buildings without air conditioning. Most of them had physical or mental problems. And all of them were alone, without friends, without someone checking in on them. Every year, Fr. Claude Paradis, a former homeless man who is now a priest ministering to the homeless in Montréal, celebrates a funeral mass for all the people in the city who have died and whose bodies have not been claimed by relatives or friends. This year there were over 400 unclaimed bodies in the city.

Do these facts not suggest that perhaps there is a breakdown in our social fabric? While on the one hand we have all kinds of good voluntary associations, while young people are encouraged to do volunteer work even as a way of increasing their chances of entering their university of choice, is it not a sad fact that we allow so many people to slip through the cracks? Do we really have a concern for our neighbours, for their needs? Of course, we cannot predict human freedom. No mechanism will make people good. One can always choose evil, but if in some way we were able to reach out to those people who seem to have gone over the edge, those who die alone, or those whose loneliness is so unbearable that they turn to violence, would we not live in a more human society?

As a first step we can keep the victims of this terrible tragedy, including the killer himself, in our thoughts and prayers, which is not a pious phrase but involves a conscious gesture. In this simple manner we can begin to let them know that they are not forgotten. And not to forget our neighbour is already the sign of a new awareness.

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