It’s time every candidate in Mississauga and Brampton tell us exactly how they will help tackle crime
The Pointer has said time and again that words can be mobilized into action – the way Winston Churchill did during the darkest days of the Second World War.
The right ones are needed now by our political leaders as we face another clear and present danger: violence on our streets. Words once again need to be mobilized into action, by those who claim to want to lead.
Recently, over a four-day period, three horrifying incidents took place: one ambush on a Saturday evening in the Malton community, another early the following Monday morning on Highway 410 and Bovaird Drive in Brampton and then the next day in central Mississauga a third shooting shook an entire neighbourhood and the city that surrounds it. In all, seven survivors were left with gunshot wounds. Two people were killed. All three of the violent attacks were carried out using gangland-style gunplay.
The incidents pulled the scab off a deep wound that infects parts of Mississauga and Brampton: too many are caught in the crossfire of gun violence – both physically and metaphorically.
In Malton, an apartment complex that was crowded with kids and parents, was turned into a shooting range as a group of thugs wearing dark clothes and balaclavas opened fire with semi-automatic handguns and a 17-year-old innocent bystander, Jonathan Davis, was killed. Five others – the majority of them young teens – were left with gunshot wounds.
The attack was carried out by at least seven shooters and was apparently over an earlier music video by a group filming another one in a nearby parkette. What’s clear is that more than 130 shots rang out, most targeted at those involved in the video. Davis’s death was another case of ‘wrong place, wrong time’. Chris McCord, who was still the acting chief of Peel Police (he will retire this week), captured perfectly the cruel randomness at the Malton crime scene: “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.”
This chilling summation sounds like something from a mass shooting in a gun-happy, open-carry community in the U.S., not a Canadian suburb.
And then, early the next Monday morning on the 410, gunfire rang out again, this time between two cars. The result: two victims, one dead.
Canada seems immune to all this because of our tighter gun control laws. But according to Statistics Canada, the number of police-reported incidents of all types of violent crime increased 33 percent between 2014 and ’18. Meaning: the numbers represent an emerging trend, not a statistical blip.
Worse still, violent crime in our two cities isn’t an abnormality. The Violent Crime Severity Index (measuring the most severe crimes) said we have a combined rate of increase of 51 percent between 2014 and the end of 2018, compared to 27 percent in Ontario and 17 percent across Canada.
Remember, it was just over a year ago that local observers were talking about “the summer of the gun.”
The response to the Malton murder from some of our local politicians was immediate – after Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish gathered herself following the tragedy that crippled her community, she expressed outrage. Why was the nearby community station closed last year? Just a stone’s throw from where the shooting happened, Parrish had aggressively lobbied former police chief Jennifer Evans to walk back a decision to shut down the desperately needed police station.
But Evans, with her history of irrational behaviour, often out of step with those she was supposed to serve (see her position on carding), refused. The station was shut down 18 months ago, after Evans said the rent for the space was too expensive. Parrish told The Pointer that the former chief’s claims of the need for belt-tightening and a drop in crime in the area, rendering the station unnecessary, were an insult to every resident who expects a chief to keep them safe.
The councillor stepped up her efforts to get not just a community station in Malton, but a stand-alone division. Petitions that had already launched were joined by a new online campaign. Thanks to the help of local residents such as Ann Barclay, who began gathering signatures in support of a new division earlier in the summer, Parrish is planning to deliver to the police services board more than 4,000 names demanding a local division. Brampton Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon, who grew up in Malton, was quick to throw his support behind the idea.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie has also been quick to act. Her well-thought motion at Friday’s police board meeting, passed unanimously, now triggers an entire review of how the force situates its brick and mortar presence and will help scrutinize response times in parts of the two cities where community members are most shaken. The work could lead to a new station or division in Malton and other areas.
After the mass shooting, Crombie said: “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.”
But while Parrish and Crombie and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who seconded Crombie’s police board motion Friday and voiced his own concerns about response times, have been swift not only with their supportive words but their meaningful action, the same can’t be said about many of the federal hopefuls.
Navdeep Bains, the Liberal incumbent for Mississauga—Malton, who served as minister of innovation, science and economic development said: “My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and families impacted by yesterday’s shooting in #Malton.”
Mississauga—Malton Liberal incumbent Navdeep Bains
Other than those words, the political veteran who carries considerable clout in Parliament has been largely silent on the issue of gun crime in his own constituency. No talk of federal funding for a range of programs to combat youth violence, gangs and increasing gunplay on the streets. No word from him about specific policies or partnerships at the local level to combat crime in the community. And no vision for a long-term strategy, driven by Ottawa, to address the most troubling issue for many voters.
The Liberals did announce, shortly after the Malton carnage, a proposed ban on certain assault-style rifles such as the AR-15, and followed the NDP lead, pledging to allow municipalities to enact their own bans on certain handguns. But where is the immediate and direct action from those local candidates who want our votes? Most distressing is the lack of funding from higher levels of government to help address mounting crime in two cities that are chronically under-funded.
Mississauga and Brampton have about 140 police officers per 100,000 residents compared to the Ontario average of 183 and the national average of 188. And the population here, particularly in Brampton, continues to swell.
The Pointer asked Liberal leader Justin Trudeau at a recent Brampton campaign stop why the two cities get such short shrift, especially considering their growth policies that allow tens of thousands of newcomers to settle in the region every year, as the Liberals expand immigration targets. But he side-stepped the question, choosing instead to attack Doug Ford and Andrew Scheer for their failures.
The responses to the shooting from other local candidates were heartfelt, and express what we all feel for the victims and their families. But the ubiquity of the words “thoughts” and “prayers” rings hollow as violence spreads like a pathogen. These words are tired and as light as a milkweed pod that has been emptied of all its seedlings. They simply remind us of inaction and silence coming from the politicians who have the power to do something about this carnage.
The Pointer asked the four Brampton Liberal incumbents, Ruby Sahota, Sonia Sidhu, Kamal Khera and Ramesh Sangha why they failed to advocate for a $3.7 million grant application for a youth crime prevention initiative submitted to their government by Peel police this year that was rejected by Ottawa.
Other than attaching their names to a letter, The Pointer could not find any evidence of lobbying or other direct advocacy any of them did to secure the funding. When asked about it, none of them responded.
One organizer of a townhall meeting on crime in Brampton the day after the Malton shooting called the four incumbents “two-faced” after they failed to show up for the packed event, despite being invited. Organizers questioned if they are even concerned about the devastating crime that has left many in the city shaken.
A Brampton townhall on crime the day after the Malton shooting
Dozens of business owners across the two cities have told The Pointer that crime is their biggest concern, but many say they get little to no response from elected officials in the two higher levels of government.
Which brings us into the orbit of the federal election now running its course to the vote on October 21. We need to hear clearly and loudly from those on the long list of candidates vying for office in the 11 seats in Mississauga and Brampton.
Please answer the following questions: Where do you stand on gun ownership? Do you support a crackdown on handguns and semi-automatic weapons? How do you (or your party) propose to stop the violence? Do you understand the issue, and have you studied the numbers? Will you visit the areas impacted by this rising crime and will you talk to the victims and the business owners and the moms and dads and children most effected? Will you reach out to the police, or social workers, or mental health officials, or the others on the frontlines when it comes to addressing this issue to get a better understanding? Are you aware of the current human trafficking crisis in the two cities and what are you planning to do about it?
Voters cannot afford to send another Amarjot Sandhu to office. He’s the Brampton PC MPP who somehow won the party’s nomination then last year’s election, only to become a complete disgrace to his city. He either failed to show up for important votes at Queen’s Park regarding his city or voted against Brampton’s interests, in favour of pleasing his boss, Doug Ford. He was a no-show for last year’s Remembrance Day ceremony when he was supposed to lay a wreath in honour of those many fallen heroes who died for our country and his own constituents whose family members endured the ultimate sacrifice. They were outraged.
Just how unfit he is for office was crystalized when The Pointer recently learned of and reported on charges laid against Sandhu for operating illegal secondary suites. He pleaded guilty early this month to the offences, which he was charged with just weeks before his election last year.
We cannot afford more fake leaders like Sandhu.
So, to the federal candidates, outline your specific solutions to address the number one issue for many constituents. Send us a signal that you will fight like hell to bring the resources needed to make us feel safe in our own homes, and on our streets. Lay out a clear plan to secure funding for crime prevention, for youth initiatives, increased funding for policing in the two cities and other more advanced crime-fighting strategies.
At the Sunday townhall, smack dab in the middle of two violent incidents, ‘Concerned Residents of Brampton’ held the gathering to discuss this violence. When the Liberal incumbents didn’t bother to show – or even respond to the invite, questions swirled. Perhaps they were busy erecting signs, manning the phones at campaign headquarters, fundraising, enjoying a round of golf, or eating a pizza and watching HBO? Who knows? The conclusion to be drawn is that they didn’t care enough to make an appearance – at a time of crisis. “Maybe they have other priorities over the public’s safety,” deadpanned Jotvinder Sodhi, one of the organizers of the event.
Maybe they thought it was enough that their party leaders had already commented?
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Canada needs to do more to stop the flow of illegal guns into the country, and he plans to hire more border agents. He appeared to side with the national association of police chiefs, which recently said it does not support a proposed handgun ban.
Trudeau reportedly said he would discuss the shooting and further federal support with Crombie.
It’s not nearly good enough. He is back in Mississauga today, trying to secure the coveted six seats in the city. He has already made multiple stops in Brampton, looking to talk his way into another five seats, there. Will he do anything, specifically, for crime in the region? That’s 11 seats, all won by the Liberals in 2015. This time, will we get anything in return? We’ll see.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said: “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.”
Better. But lacking fortitude. And where are the details? Where is the money? This is the region that first elected him to public office. Where is the return on investment?
There are about 50 candidates looking for your vote in the ridings in Mississauga and Brampton. So far, the only thing we’ve heard from any of them on this issue is stony silence. Have they been eaten up by a party system that says, “shut up, and follow the leader?”
Their deference is dangerous and portends to more malaise once they move to Ottawa and disappear into the backbenches. Will they be advocates for our two cities suffering from a disproportionate amount of violent crime? That Sunday town hall raised a red flag – and not a Liberal one!
With October 21 looming, time is running out to let voters know where candidates stand on helping solve street violence. If the attitude of federal candidates is to leave the problem solving to mayors and councillors or Peel police, then all of the candidates running here need to be called out.
If they believe holding office in Ottawa means solving only the big issues facing the country as a whole, and that crime should be left to municipal or provincial leaders, they are wrong – dead wrong. Public safety at the local level is a macro issue! It has huge impact on our economy, our collective sense of well-being and our belief that we live in the greatest country on the planet. Strip all that away, and everything begins to fall apart.
The real voices calling for change are coming from the local politicians, the ones with street cred, who face the day-to-day worries coming from their worried constituents.
Patrick Brown caused some controversy when he tweeted, “I’m sick & tired of 416 gang activity spilling over into Peel Region. We still have not received any of the gun & gang funding that Toronto & Ottawa receive. This is yet another reminder that gang activity doesn’t respect postal codes.”
It might be hard to prove the first part, about crime arriving from Toronto, but he’s dead right about the second. Gangsters don’t recognize municipal borders when they pull off their dirty deeds. And these two cities have been completely ignored. While Queen’s Park recently dedicated $28 million in special funding for Toronto police to address the guns and gang problem there, Peel police got zero. Even Evans publicly lamented to the province that her two cities were being ignored.
Crombie and Brown were also left angered, asking why the anti-gang and gun funding was Toronto specific, not aimed at Peel, or other jurisdictions groaning from this surge in violence. Brown said that fighting gang activity in Etobicoke is good, but the borders between there and Mississauga and Brampton are invisible, and guns and gangs pass easily between them. He connected Toronto gang members to crimes in Peel.
Peel cops are trying to get illegal guns off the streets, but applications to get more of the federal money that has been allotted to Ontario ($65 million over five years) to fund initiatives directed toward gun violence and gang activity won’t begin until next year. Crombie and Brown, who sit on the Peel police board, have said the money is needed here now. They want the province to speed up the outlay of the money received from Ottawa.
But Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been slow on the trigger in directing the federal money to the municipalities. Bill Blair, the former chief of police in Toronto and now our minister of border security and organized crime, said earlier this year that Ford had only tapped a small percentage of the $65 million earmarked for Ontario to fight guns and gangs. However, after his remarks, Ford and his government did commit more of the dollars, but once again, Toronto, will get the largest share for two new “justice centres” to fight gang activity. Kenora and London will get the other two, and they will all open next year.
Can someone running for federal office in Mississauga or Brampton ask our local MPPs why we keep getting ignored, while the daily crime headlines here scream out for help? Or better yet, can they promise that the next wave of federal funding will come with criteria that will guarantee the province has to spread the funding fairly.
Parrish said the tragic shooting in Malton reignites a debate that has been ongoing in her ward for years: a lack of policing. The police’s 21 Division is now located in Brampton, and Malton is like an isolated island, surrounded by the airport and massive industrial stretches, she told The Pointer.
Mississauga Councillor Carolyn Parrish, who represents Malton, has for years fought for more policing resources in her ward
The station in Malton was closed last year as a budgetary measure and backed by Evans who used questionable and unverified statistics showing how crime had gone down in Malton. The lack of a police presence has exacerbated the situation, said Parrish, who couldn’t hide her frustration when interviewed by The Pointer.
The bitter irony is that Evans’ claim came just as national crime statistics suggested overall violent crime in Brampton and Mississauga has dramatically increased.
McCord, who is staying on until new police chief Nishan Duraiappah takes over on Tuesday, said officers are gathering information to find the Malton suspects and promises that “this brazen act of violence will not be tolerated.”
Parrish lamented the fact cost savings seems to have been a priority over public safety in her ward. “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,” she said. “Members of the community have (more than 4,000) signatures on a petition asking for a full division which we will present to the Police Services Board.”
In a Pointer poll by Forum Research taken before the 2018 municipal election in Brampton, 65 percent of respondents said they felt less safe than four years earlier, while only 10 percent said they felt just as safe. No telling what a new poll might uncover if conducted in Mississauga and Brampton after the continued spread of violence.
The five injured and one killed in Malton aren’t collateral damage, but real people, with parents and grandparents and others that loved them. Davis had a full life ahead of him.
Crime is immediate. So recognize it. Fix it. Cities can build transit, pour money into green initiatives, and vote for new land-use policies that up a community’s livability standards, but what good does that do when one of its citizens, an innocent 17-year-old dies from gang violence? And so many others are scared to walk the streets.
Before we put an X beside the name of a candidate in the federal ridings in Mississauga or Brampton, we need some straight talk from them, and a REAL commitment to take an urgent message to Ottawa that we need help. We need advocates, not invisible MPs.
Silence on Parliament Hill is a cop-out. It’s the kind of disinterest that makes cities unsafe.
The need is there for long and short-term fixes.
Parrish was the epitome of a big-thinking, bold leader when she served her city as an MP in Ottawa. Many didn’t like some of the national headlines she created with fiery stances. But she routinely took on her own party and anyone else who got in her way. She’s a momma bear who will fight to the death for her cubs. She thinks Malton is a wonderful place populated by wonderful people who deserve to feel safe. “I'm willing to accept anything anyone suggests so another innocent kid like Jonathan Davis doesn't die,” she said.
The candidates are on notice – voters in these two cities expect action. They too don’t want another innocent victim mowed down by senseless crime.
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