TORONTO – Olivia Chow promises to lobby the federal government to ban handguns in Toronto and push city council to further bolster crime prevention strategies in neighbourhoods if elected mayor.
“I believe that taking guns out of people’s hand means fewer guns on the streets,” Chow said. “There’s no reason why people need hand guns in a big city like ours.”
The former federal MP for Trinity-Spadina made her campaign announcement Monday morning at Toronto’s Emmanuel Church of the Nazarene in north Toronto.
“The mayor opposed the long gun registry. I want to work with big city mayors to tighten controls.”
It was seven years this month when 11-year-old Ephraim Brown was fatally shot attending a birthday party at a townhouse in North York.
The police investigation revealed the boy was caught in the crossfire when gunshots erupted between two rival groups during the gathering.
“We’re number four in big cities, in terms of young people involved in gun crimes,” she said.
Chow explained her campaign on crime prevention also includes strengthening community partnerships in at-risk neighbourhoods by having police interact more frequently with churches, community centres and social workers.
“We don’t need to hire more police officers. With better shift work, we can get more officers out on the streets,” explained Chow. “It’s really about partnership and meeting the needs of the community.”
Fellow mayoral candidate John Tory responded to Chow’s comments in a press release, saying a ban on hand guns would not curb gun violence. He also advocated working with the community as a means to get firearms off Toronto’s streets.
“What Ms. Chow doesn’t seem to understand is that criminals and gang members don’t obey the law. Calling for such a ban isn’t leadership. It’s an empty gesture,” he said. “As your Mayor, I will work tirelessly with community groups and police to get guns and gangs off our streets.”
In a web chat with the Toronto Star this past April, Chow said she would support a Toronto handgun ban.
Back then, fellow candidate Karen Stintz responded by saying Chow “hasn’t done her homework” on the gun issue in Toronto and referenced 2008 when council requested the federal government to ban handguns in Canada.
“We need a mayor that is going to take care of our neighbourhoods and help contribute to creating safe spaces for all Torontonians,” Stintz said in a statement. “We don’t need a mayor that will focus on steps we have already taken.”
In her press conference, Chow also promised to push for better after-school programs and create 5,000 jobs for young people.
She said there’s also a need to examine de-escalation tactics involving people with mental illness.