Community News|

Within the first weeks following the fatal January 31st shootings at 85 Queens Wharf in CityPlace, some of the people we’ve spoken with in the community are still reeling from the shock. 

CPRA Board Members Darren Pereira and Peter Chiaramonte spoke with residents who live on the same floor as the violence occurred, who actually “felt” the shock waves of the gunshots. Including a couple of gentlemen who got a call on their phone from a friend warning them of the gunshots, just as they were about to press the button on their elevator.  

Darren and Peter also met with City Community Crisis Response Program Officer Matthew Dewar and his colleagues at the “Healing Conversation” sessions the Community Safety and Wellbeing Unit held last Friday. It was evident from the residents’ general demeanour, and what they had to say, that people were somewhat comforted and reassured by the personal attention and services the response team provided.

Every time there’s a multiple shooting, it brings me back…[Gun violence] is happening all the time now.

In a recent statement to Toronto.com reporter Joanne Lavoie, Juno award-winning Indigenous singer/songwriter and long-time Toronto resident Brenda MacIntyre, had this to say, “Every time there’s a multiple shooting, it brings me back…[Gun violence] is happening all the time now.” MacIntyre—who lost her son Quinn Taylor (age 29) to gun violence four years ago outside a downtown Chinatown restaurant—added that she feels “poverty is the real killer.”

She’s not alone in this sentiment. The day after the CityPlace shootings occurred, City Councillor Joe Cressy posted a letter to the community which read, in part: “We need a comprehensive plan to combat the root causes of violence in our communities, and we also need to ban handguns right across this country.” Indeed, Toronto City Council has approved Cressy’s request to call on the Federal Government to implement a complete handgun ban across the country.

MPPs Jessica Bell and Chris Glover Sign-on Letter to Push for Compliance with Proposed Rules Changes

This week the former CPRA Board of Directors’ Secretary Kate Whittaker forwarded a letter to our Board from MPP Jessica Bell and MPP Chris Glover—asking the residents’ associations in Spadina-Fort York to share a sign-on letter they’ve put together. The letter requires that the specific short-term rental platform Airbnb “remove thousands of units, including the CityPlace unit where the tragedy took place, that do not meet the City’s criteria for short-term rental regulation.” 

(With respect to Case PL180082, which began on August 30, 2018, the appeal has now been dismissed. The City of Toronto’s By-law regarding Short Term Rentals is now in effect.)

The Board discussed this request at our recent (Wednesday, February 12th) meeting. We are in full support of a strategy that proposes pertinent action to reduce future risks of violence in our community. Absolutely and without reservation. And we are inviting Members of the Legislative Assembly and others to speak directly with us about these matters of gun control, youth violence, the growing gap between rich and poor, and the skyrocketing costs of living in CityPlace Toronto. Which we consider pertinent to the root causes of gun violence in our City.

Gun Control, Youth Violence, the Growing Gap Between Rich and Poor, and the Skyrocketing Costs of Living in CityPlace, Toronto

The CPRA is obliged to take into account the interests of all parties to our community. As the request from MPPs Bell and Glover is written, we do not—at this time—believe that focusing on short-term rental (STR) platforms like Airbnb et al to be the most prudent course of action. There are many other short-term rental platforms operating without these restrictions, and we urge compliance with the law from all of them, even if an appeal and stay is eventually granted.

We further recognize the disruptive nature of this new technology and the manifold means by which this technology is transforming our society. We also intend to take an active part in ongoing conversations and efforts to de-risk the turbulent effects this new technology may be having on our politics and social wellbeing. But that’s the key: Conversation. 

The approach we have in mind to take is to engage representatives of short-term rental platforms, together with key community stake holders, about how we can reduce the negative impacts of this disruption. The genie is out of the bottle. We request of our elected leaders that they use their political leverage to compel these STR companies to engage with our community directly. We’d like to work with them on such endeavours.

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In the same Toronto.com news story as Brenda MacIntyre, Mayor John Tory said that police officials confirmed that the victims of the shootings at 85 Queens Wharf fell within the average 15-30-year age bracket as eight of the last 10 victims of fatal gun shootings in the City. 

“This trend was one of the most significant facts which lay behind our decision…to announce an additional $6-million in community-based anti-violence investments in the City’s 2020 budget,” Mayor Tory added. However, it’s been reported that the City of Toronto’s proposed 2020 budget has little new money for youth gun violence programs allotted.

Although we urge all parties to comply with the law regarding short-term rentals, we do not believe this will solve any of the underlying issues facing the youth of our community. The Board believes that first-class treatment of our youth can tip the scales towards more socially constructive behaviour over time. So much so, in fact, that such initiatives can foster authentic tolerance, greater empathy, respect and appreciation for basic human kindness.

Therefore, the CPRA Board of Directors feel that an additional 0.55 per cent of the $6-million addition to the Police Services Budget could and should be redirected to youth programs. 

We call upon the City to begin with the high schools and elementary schools. There are an abundance of celebrity athletes, actors, politicians, thought leaders, and comedians in our town who are willing to donate their time to speak to the youth of our City. (At the Toronto District School Board there are 73,000 students spread across 110 schools. At the Toronto Catholic District School Board there are 17,000 students across 31 schools.) We believe every one of these students can and should be meaningfully touched throughout the calendar year on an ongoing basis.

It’s up to us all to help make this happen.

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