TORONTO – Residents of Danzig Street, caught in a torrent of gunfire last year, are marking the one-year anniversary of the city’s largest mass shooting.
In that year Toronto Community Housing Corporation, which owns subsidized townhomes lining the east-Scarborough street, has evicted one resident in connection with the shooting, installed new lighting and 20 security cameras, and donated space for a community hub.
But some argue those interventions should have happened sooner – ideally before two people were shot to death.
“It’s always reactionary,” said Knia Singh, a community liaison with the African Canadian Coalition of Community Organizations. “They need to be more proactive in making sure the environment is safe.”
Tuesday’s anniversary marked the official opening of a dedicated community space, set up in a donated unit, meant to provides the community with resources directed at education and career support.
“We were able to provide a vacant townhouse unit in the community and that’s now become a hub for residents to meet,” said TCHC spokesperson Sinead Canavan. “They’ve pulled together some really great programming to support some of the younger members of the community.”
Funding for the programs came from a $150,000 donation by Akanimo Udofia, a Toronto-based businessperson and philanthropist who made the donation in November, 2012 after meeting with Councillor Michael Thompson. The donation works in conjunction with city programs and is administered by the Scarborough Boys and Girls Club.
“It’s designed to help the community,” Thompson said. “And part of the help for the community isn’t simply to parachute people in but it’s actually to work with the community so they can essentially help themselves.”
Watch: Danzig Street residents mark the official opening of a new community centre.
The hail of gunfire that erupted at a community barbeque on Danzig Street killed 23-year-old Joshua Yasay and 14-year-old Shyanne Charles were killed. Twenty-three others were injured.
Police said in November they believed the shooting followed a small disagreement between two rival gangs. A member of the Malvern Crew was turned away from the party by members of The Galloway Boys, who police say “took ownership of the party.”
“It’s alleged that the Malvern Crew member left the barbecue, called a number of his associate gang members and attended back at the barbecue to confront the members of the Galloway Boys to seek revenge for being turned away,” Toronto Police Staff Insp. Greg McLane said at a news conference in November.
One year later, four people have been arrested as a result of the shooting. A 16-year-old boy faces several charges including threatening death, a 17-year-old boy faces two counts of second-degree murder among a number of other charges, including aggravated assault. Neither minor can be named.
Nineteen-year-old Nahom Tsegazab is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and 18-year-old Shaquan Mesquito is charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
And Canavan confirmed to Global News that one person, who she could not name, has been evicted from a TCHC building on Danzig Street as a result of the shooting.
TCHC officials have installed 20 security cameras in May – approximately 11 months after the shooting – and new lighting in the back of the townhomes in an effort to make the community more secure.
And the community on Danzig Street has been proactive and taken the lead in recovering from the shooting, said Deputy Police Chief Peter Sloly.
“That community has taken the lead itself. We haven’t had a single shooting or a single homicide in that area,” Sloly said.
He added that the mass shooting was an isolated incident – that Danzig Street was a “peaceful community.”
“It was not on our radar chart. It was a functioning community with good cohesion and a good safety record.”
– With files from Minna Rhee and Mark Carcasole