In less than one month, residents of Montreal’s Little Burgundy neighbourhood have had to deal with two shootings, both within a few blocks of each other.
On July 3, a 21-year-old man was shot and killed and on Saturday a 22-year-old woman was injured by shards of glass after a gunshot was fired at a car she was in.
James Yersh moved to the southwest neighbourhood on July 1 but has already witnessed the aftermath of both incidents.
“It’s pretty sad to have the gun violence and everything, you know, especially with young kids using the gun. It’s terrible,” he says.
But for residents such as Atamna Salim and Yvette Christie, they have different perspectives. Both have lived in the area for much longer.
“I feel ashamed of my neighbourhood. It wasn’t like that before,” says Salim, who grew up in Little Burgundy.
“I have lived in this neighbourhood since 1990,” says Christie. “I’ve never been a victim of violence, but I’ve been around it. Things have been different for awhile, but lately there has been a surge of violence coming up.”
Community organizations are hearing first-hand how residents are feeling these days. Michael P. Farkas, the Director of Youth in Motion says it’s disheartening to hear how worried some residents are feeling.
“They’re locking their doors. Changing their bed away from the windows, not taking their kids to the park,” he says.
According to Montreal police, the spike in violence is due to a conflict between gangs.
Farkas adds it’s important to continue reaching out to the youth.
“We know we’ll have to do different things throughout the next year. We hope politicians will also pay attention and maybe propose forms of programs or training for the upcoming generations,” said Farkas when speaking about solutions to help minimize violence in the community.
For Yvette Christie, setting a good example starts at home.
“I’ve always said the same thing to all the children that live in this neighborhood, they call me mom,” she says.
“Educate yourself and make a difference. Make your society proud. Make yourself proud. Make your race proud.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Farkas, along with some 100 other people, took to the streets to march for peace and show their support to residents who have been living in fear.
Residents on Quesnel Street came out of their homes and to their balconies to clap and join the choir of people singing “no to violence” and “give peace a chance.”
Police say they are working with community organizations such as Farkas’ to talk to youth and spread awareness.
They say they’ve also stepped up their patrolling in the area after observing an increase in violence over the past weeks.
“At this time we’re putting a lot of officers on the streets to make sure we are visible and having less chances of these types of incidents happening,” said Jean-Marc Schanzenbach, Station 15 commander.
Officers joined the march as well, to show residents they are standing with them.
“I thought it was really important and I hold it to heart to make sure the city is well protected,”Schanzenbach said.
“We’re working very hard with our collaborators, our partners in the community centres to make sure the population is safe as the investigators work on different cases.”
People who participated in the march said they hope police remain present and shift their focus to prevention.
–With files from Global’s Gloria Henriquez