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After 2 men shot 'indiscriminately' in Jane-Finch, leaders pledge support for at-risk youth

People place flowers at a vigil for Adu Boakye, a man who was fatally shot while waiting for the bus near a community centre in northwest on Feb. 24, 2024. Boakye was a 39-year-old man from Ghana who police said came to Toronto last November to support his family.  (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press - image credit)
People place flowers at a vigil for Adu Boakye, a man who was fatally shot while waiting for the bus near a community centre in northwest on Feb. 24, 2024. Boakye was a 39-year-old man from Ghana who police said came to Toronto last November to support his family. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Police, community and city leaders pledged on Wednesday to tackle gun violence and increase support for young people in Toronto's Jane-Finch neighbourhood following a pair of shootings last month.

The move comes after a 39-year-old father and newcomer to Canada was killed and a 16-year-old boy critically injured after being shot in the face in two separate shootings within 24 hours of each other near a bus shelter at Jane Street and Driftwood Avenue in February.

Police have said both victims were shot "indiscriminately" while innocently going about their day.

Andrea Tabnor of the grassroots organization Jane and Finch Unity Organization said more needs to be done to support youth at risk of gun violence.

"We're all here because of vulnerable youths and at-risk youths," she said. "We need to get to the root of the situation in order for us to make a difference."

Andrea Tabnor of the Jane and Finch Unity Organization speaks to reporters after taking part in the roundtable.
Andrea Tabnor of the Jane and Finch Unity Organization speaks to reporters after taking part in the roundtable.

Andrea Tabnor of the Jane and Finch Unity Organization speaks to reporters after taking part in the roundtable. (CBC)

Tabnor spoke after taking part in a roundtable discussion on gun violence in the neighborhood. Around 30 people attended the meeting, including the local councillor, police officers, community housing workers, social workers, city staff and people impacted by gun violence.

The area around Jane Street and Finch Avenue — a historically low-income neighbourhood — has seen improvements in community safety in recent years, with police saying last month that gun violence was at a 10-year low in 2023.

Tabnor said she felt "voices were heard" at the meeting, but stressed the importance of supporting the work of grassroots organizations that have built trust with youth.

"At-risk youths, they come with trust and they come with loyalty and they come with familiar faces," she said.

She said while the city provides funding for such organizations, it's not always communicated to the right people.

"Funding is really an issue for grassroots organizations that need the funding in order to reach the at-risk youth."

WATCH | 2 people shot 'indiscriminately' near bus stop, police say:

Byron Gray grew up in the neighbourhood and is now the manager for the TD Community Engagement Centre at York University.

He said solutions to community violence require a co-ordinated response from the grassroots to the federal government.

"This room today was filled with different levels of our community and that's the type of insight and collaboration that we need to come to these solutions," Gray said.

Coun. Anthony Perruzza (Humber River-Black Creek) said the meeting featured a "frank conversation" about what can be done to further increase safety, and led to the outline of an action plan featuring both immediate and long-term items.

Perruzza said some of the immediate asks from the community include better information sharing about city programs and how to access them, a more visible police presence and better lighting in and around the community centre, at Toronto Community Housing buildings, and on local streets.

In the long term, Perruzza said a working group is being established to engage with the community about designing more effective outreach programs that connect with young people.

"How do we connect with them and give them better, you know, life choices, better paths and better pathways?" he said. "That's something that came up."

Perruzza said creating more safe spaces for young people also emerged as a community priority.

Coun. Anthony Peruzza says community feedback at the roundtable discussions on how to improve safety led to the creation of an action plan.
Coun. Anthony Peruzza says community feedback at the roundtable discussions on how to improve safety led to the creation of an action plan.

Coun. Anthony Perruzza says community feedback at the roundtable discussions on how to improve safety led to the creation of an action plan. (CBC)

Toronto Police Supt. Andy Singh, unit commander from 31 Division, said police set up a command post at the community centre following the shootings. But he said the force is also focused on non-police interventions.

"We're always trying to address the needs of the community and in a lot of cases it's by bringing in partner agencies, stakeholders from the community," Singh said.

"Because policing is not what they're looking for. We may be the front-end response, but the sustainable solution comes from bringing in organizations that can provide those solutions that what the community needs."