On Saturday, November 7th, around 2:30pm, four people were shot in the Jane and Stong area, including a 12-year-old boy. The intersection of the shootings is located a few blocks north of Jane and Finch. JFAAP is deeply saddened to hear of this violence and extends our support to all involved.
As a community based resident-led group, we think of all involved when incidents like this occur. We do not describe the victims of gun violence as innocent or guilty, but rather we take the position that violence like this is only possible due to the historical and ongoing structural neglect and inaction by politicians of all levels that continue to leave communities like Jane and Finch vulnerable to repeated incidences of this kind of violence. When anyone picks up a gun, and takes to shooting in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, that is a collective failure of society, which our politicians must take accountability for and not just show up to offer empty promises.
To that end, we write this public statement to denounce the impromptu “Safety Walk” of Sunday, November 8th at 11am by the Mayor of Toronto, John Tory, initiated in collaboration with Interim Police Chief, James Ramer, local city Councillor, Anthony Perruzza, and the MPP, Tom Rakovecic. These politicians arrived at the site where the shooting took place to meet with residents, community workers, and, of course, the media. We denounce this “Safety Walk” for what it is: a symbolic gesture and a meaningless platitude designed to score cheap political points. A quick scan of each of the politicians’ social media accounts following the event reveals similar photos and similar messaging of “listening to community members” and promises to make actionable what was heard. Historically, we know that these grand gestures only provide politicians with opportunities for photo opportunities and for testing their talking points, all at the expense of our communities. We are aware that inaction, continued neglect, and the status quo will continue to be firmly maintained.
Gun violence was significantly reduced due to the community leadership and when the various levels of government invested dollars into community led programs for youth and families. The city however invested more in hyper-policing strategies such as TAVIS (Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy). This investment into programs and services for youth halted when gun violence decreased, however, funding to police programs like TAVIS in the former 13-priority neighbourhoods never ceased. If the government really cared about gun violence, youth and other programs in our communities would be receiving ongoing funding.
We are skeptical of these gestures for good reasons. John Tory used the “safety walk” to claim that local residents want more “Community policing’. Let’s be clear: Residents, community workers, and Jane and Finch collectives have been pleading for increased support to get through the COVID-19 crises, as well as for the city to make no investments in police and focus entirely on resident-led community-based solutions.
Our elected representatives have heard these demands before and have shown themselves as unwilling or incapable of mustering up the political fortitude to change the conditions under which we live. We do not believe an impromptu CHEAP political gesture will change the history of their lack of leadership. Their enacted policies combined with their inaction maintain their lack of interest in the lives, health and wellbeing of the people who live in communities like Jane and Finch.
Under their political terms, we remain vulnerable not only to global pandemics but systemic racism and structural neglect. Symbolic gestures and cheap political points aside, these most recent set of events and their political pandering remind us why we form collectives and community groups: we’re all we’ve got. We continue to do what it is we do, which is take care of each other the best we can. We continue to demand our political representatives do better by doing something that, to date, they have proved unwilling to do: put Black, racialized poor and working people at the center of their mandates. They need to muster up the political will to do something that they have never done before: PUT US FIRST. With COVID-19 raging and the conditions of this kind of violence still firmly in place, it is clearer now more than ever before that our lives depend on it. These politicians are yet to take a ride on the overcrowded buses in our neighbourhoods for the past 8 months while COVID-19 was putting thousands of residents at great risks; they are not doing anything to structurally address housing or food insecurity, provide mental health support for people dealing with isolation as a result of COVID-19 and poverty. We do not need policing, rather we need less crowded and safer buses, decent housing, safe, secure and living-wage jobs, and sustainable funding for programs and services in our community.
Jane Finch Action Against Poverty (JFAAP)
November 10, 2020