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Alarming levels of shootings, a decade after ‘Year of the Gun’

Guest Column by Sevaun Palvetzian 
Published in Toronto Sun 

If you’ve lived in and around Toronto long enough, you probably remember 2005. It was known as the “Year of the Gun.” That year, 52 people were killed in 359 different shootings.

Thirteen years later, we’re still seeing alarming levels of gun violence. As of July 16, 27 people had been killed in 220 total shootings in our city. For comparison, 2017 saw a total of 17 gun deaths.

Recent gun violence has rightly set off alarm bells. Just last year, Toronto was ranked as the fourth safest city globally and first in North America. So while many may still feel good about the level of security in our city, just as many others don’t feel the same.

We can’t ignore what’s happening in front of us. We need take steps now to ensure Toronto remains a safe place to live.

Recently, the city and police took steps to address the issue by beefing up overnight police presence and announcing a proposed $12 million funding boost to existing community programs for at-risk youth, specifically youth employment.

In 2008, The Review of the Roots of Youth Violence report found that young people who face higher rates of isolation, poverty, racism, inequitable community design, and lack of economic opportunity among others are more susceptible to gun violence.

While government action is key, they shouldn’t have to go it alone. There are other, equally important areas to take targeted action, invest in our youth, and take aim at the root causes putting some on a collision course with gun violence.

One way is helping more young people plug into our economy through good jobs and strong networks.

We know there are over 80,000 youth in the Toronto region who aren’t in a job, in school or in a training program—but that doesn’t mean these young people aren’t skilled or aren’t ready to work. That’s why equipping both youth and employers with the right tools and skills to connect is so important.

Youth need to understand how to navigate the online job market and develop a professional online presence as job seekers. Employers have an opportunity to shift their own hiring processes to be more open and transparent for youth. Making these slight changes can mean youth find that ever-important first job, and employers can gain a capable and eager new employee.

CivicAction has helped move this forward. On July 20, we’ll engage almost 400 youth and youth workers across the GTA at YouthConnect, an annual event we host with LinkedIn Canada that provides hands-on training and skill building to better connect youth with employers. And through HireNext, major companies such as RBC, H&M, McDonalds, Starbucks, IBM and more have signed on to help shift their hiring practices to be more open, transparent and designed for vulnerable youth.

But we can’t forget that, especially for youth, you are the company you keep.

Toronto is full of leaders who could be effective mentors and also help build professional networks for young people who may lack connections. Developing a personal and professional network of people to bounce ideas off of, ask questions, or look to for career examples goes much further than you might think. Just ask the young people involved in United Way Greater Toronto’s netWORKS program.

There’s no doubt that Toronto is growing and thriving—but this prosperity isn’t reaching everyone. Getting our fellow citizens, especially youth, into good foundational jobs and helping them grow through mentorship and networks will ensure they stay on a prosperous path.

 

See the column.