As federal party leaders weigh in on chaotic Malton shooting spree, local councillor says area’s crime has long been ignored
Photos by Mansoor Tanweer/Joel Wittnebel

As federal party leaders weigh in on chaotic Malton shooting spree, local councillor says area’s crime has long been ignored

The busy apartment complex in Malton was crowded with kids and parents Saturday, many of them eagerly awaiting sweet treats from the ice cream truck selling its wares in the parking lot. 

As the sun started to set, a group of people wearing dark clothes and balaclavas arrived and opened fire with semi-automatic handguns, which can unload as many as 33 bullets in three seconds. More than 100 rounds littered the streets when the gunfire stopped. One 17-year-old bystander was dead and five others, the majority of them young teens, including a 13-year-old girl, were left with gunshot wounds.

Peel police believe the ambush-style attack by at least seven shooters was over a rap video that was being filmed in a parkette behind the apartment complex, and was in response to another video by the same group which was released a week ago. According to acting Chief Chris McCord, it contained information “challenging other people within the community.” 

Acting Chief Chris McCord

The 17-year-old bystander who was killed has been identified as Jonathan Davis. He and the five others shot were at the wrong place at the wrong time, McCord said, adding that it’s unclear how many of those shot were actually targeted by the assailants. Some, he said, just happened to be in the area where the video was being filmed. He said the shooters were trying to fire at those involved with the video.

“This was very brazen,” he said. “It was a beautiful evening. There was an ice cream truck here and there were families lined up outside the ice cream truck, and then they (the suspects) came in and just indiscriminately opened fire with no regard for any of the innocent people gathered here.” 

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who sits on the Peel Police Services Board, responded to the shooting yesterday.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie at a police board meeting earlier this year

“I‘m deeply shocked and saddened to hear of this senseless gun violence in our city; it’s unacceptable. I‘m committed to ensuring Mississauga remains one of the safest cities by helping to get illegal guns off our streets. My thoughts remain with the young victims & their families,” she wrote in a statement posted on Twitter. “When I spoke to residents in Malton, they were visibly shaken and deeply upset. My thoughts are with the innocent young boy who passed and the victims who are still recovering. I'm advocating for increased funding for a police station in Malton and for our share of gun and gangs funding.”

While Toronto has received millions of dollars in funding from higher levels of government in recent years to address rising gang violence and gun use on the streets, Mississauga and Brampton have largely been ignored.

For local Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish, the tragic shooting reignites a debate that has been going on in her ward for years. 

“There is a lack of policing in Malton because our 21 Division is in Brampton and Malton is a relatively isolated section of Mississauga surrounded by the airport and massive industrial stretches,” Parrish told The Pointer. “Residents complain that reported break-ins etc. don't get a response for hours.”

According to Parrish, the local community station in Malton was closed in 2018 as a budgetary measure. She says former chief Jennifer Evans backed the decision, with statistics illustrating how crime had gone down in the Malton area. Since that time, the lack of a police presence has only exacerbated the situation, and Parrish has expressed her frustration over the overall lack of funding for policing in the area. 

Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish says policing in Malton has been underfunded

Evans’ claim came as national crime statistics suggested overall violent crime in Brampton and Mississauga had dramatically increased. National crime data, as reported by each police service, shows the violent crime severity index for Brampton and Mississauga has worsened at three times the rate of the national average over the past five years, from the start of 2014 to the end of 2018.  

“No community station, no community presence, few cruisers assigned to Malton for patrol, all leads to Malton being an ideal place for outside youth gangs to do their videos and walk into our parks with guns drawn. Members of the community have 3,500 signatures on a petition asking for a full division, which we will present to the Police Services Board,” Parrish says.

McCord said the force is gathering information to find the suspects.

“This brazen act of violence will not be tolerated. This incident appears to be a targeted attack and I’d like to reassure the community that their safety is the number one concern for me and for the men and women of Peel Regional Police,” he said. “We have dedicated numerous resources to this investigation and will work diligently to locate the people responsible. If anyone has any information on this incident, I urge them to call our investigators or Crime Stoppers.”

Candidates in the federal election campaign were quick to condemn the violence, offer condolences to the victims and their families, and highlight their thoughts on solutions to mounting violent crime in some cities. 

In British Columbia, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was asked by reporters about the shooting and said Canada needs to do more to stop the flow of illegal guns into the country, and he plans to hire more border agents, but he appeared to side with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which recently said it does not support a proposed handgun ban. 

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was in Quebec over the weekend and addressed the Malton shooting, reiterating his party’s commitment to allow municipalities to ban handguns if they believe it would help curb crime in certain local jurisdictions. 

He said dealing with the root causes should be a top priority. 

“When people don’t have hope, they can fall on the wrong path,” Singh said after speaking to supporters in Sherbrooke. “And we want to make sure we have all the programs in place — affordable housing, good healthcare, opportunities for work, so that young people can find a positive way forward and not end up in a vicious cycle of violence.”

A handgun ban, even one that could be decided on by individual municipalities, is a potential remedy Parrish says she would be willing to consider. 

“The gangsters that attacked Saturday night weren't carrying handguns, they were carrying illegal arms. But banning guns reduces the number available to the criminals. I'm willing to accept anything anyone suggests so another innocent kid like Jonathan Davis doesn't die.”

However, Vancouver police chief Adam Palmer, who heads the national association, said in August that the majority of guns used in criminal offences are already illegal firearms, and it wouldn’t make sense to place a ban on something that is already prohibited.. 

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, on his way to Mississauga for a rally in Celebration Square to honour US Open tennis champion, and Mississauga native, Bianca Andreescu, reportedly said he would discuss the shooting and further federal support with Mayor Crombie. He has previously said that Canadians can expect to learn more about his plan for gun control during the election campaign, but no announcements have been made to date.

Just hours later, another multiple shooting incident was reported by Peel police, early Monday morning. The incident shut down Highway 410 near Sandalwood Parkway, after a shooting between multiple moving vehicles. The shooting left one man dead and another injured with multiple crime scenes being investigated by police, including in nearby residential areas. 

The local violence has drawn national attention. 

It’s the first time in months that federal leaders have taken notice of the growing incidence of violent crime across Peel Region. While homicides, shootings, stabbings, and many other disturbing crimes rose last year, there was little in the way of increased support from Ottawa, making it hard to see the recent comments as anything more than vote pandering. It’s frustrating for Councillor Parrish, a former Liberal MP, who sees the attention from political leaders as a good thing, but questions if real action will be taken to prevent future acts while healing the wounds from years of neglect in her ward.

Looking at the numbers, it’s clear that any solutions implemented in Peel will start behind the eight ball. 

According to Statistics Canada, the number of violent police-reported incidents of all types of violent crime increased 13 percent between 2017 and 2018. What’s more concerning is that these types of crimes increased 33 percent between 2014 and the end of 2018, a more telling sign that the numbers represent an ongoing trend and not a statistical blip.

Former chief Jennifer Evans backed the recent closing of a police station in Malton and said crime there was declining.

The numbers show that not only is violent crime in Brampton and Mississauga increasing, that increase is happening faster than in many other parts of the country. 

The violent crime severity index, a measurement of the most severe crimes, in Brampton and Mississauga combined has gone up by a troubling 51 percent since 2014, compared to a 27 percent increase in Ontario and 17 percent across the country. 

Statistics Canada uses data provided annually by all police forces, including Peel Region Police, which only patrol Brampton and Mississauga; Caledon is policed by the OPP. One shortcoming of the local data is that it does not distinguish between Brampton and Mississauga, lumping crime data from the two cities together. It’s possible that certain crime rates and the overall numbers in one city could be significantly different than the other, but the aggregated numbers don't allow for such a comparison.

Broken down, the statistics in the two cities create a concerning picture: homicides up 60 percent from 2017; attempted murders, up 136 percent over one year, between 2017 and 2018. 

The numbers illustrate lives affected by all kinds of assaults, from the minor Level 1 actions (pushing, slapping, punching or face-to-face threats, up 10 percent), more violent Level 2 assaults, which typically involve a weapon (an increase of 12 percent), and perhaps permanently changed by the most violent types of assaults, also known as Level 3 or aggravated (an increase of 50 percent). 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Sexual violations also increased almost across the board. Level 1 instances increased 19 percent, and Level 2, which typically involve a weapon, rose 42 percent from 2017. 

Some relief may come soon, as Mississauga looks to create a new community hub in Malton to provide a variety of programs and services for residents and youth. 

“The Hub that will soon be under construction should also have police youth bureau folks as a regular fixture,” Parrish says. “Malton Village is full of wonderful people who deserve full police service because of isolation, proximity to the airport, where human traffickers operate, and soon to be across the highway from the Woodbine Casino.”


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Twitter: @JoeljWittnebel

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