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Mayor Tory ramps up social services to address gun violence

Last Updated Jul 18, 2018 at 5:03 pm EDT

Toronto Mayor John Tory speaks during a press conference regarding new tactics for the ongoing gun shootings in Toronto on July 18, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Toronto is moving to provide more social services and job opportunities to at-risk youth in an effort to address a recent spike in shootings, Mayor John Tory said Wednesday.

Some initiatives already in place will be expanded and new ones will be put instituted, including mental health and trauma recovery programs.

In the next couple of weeks, social services will see an influx of cash, as the city has applied for grants from the National Crime Prevention Strategy and municipal funds will fill in the rest, Tory said.

“We are sending a clear message with these requests to the federal government that we want to do all that we can with their help to make sure that our communities are addressing the roots of violence and causes of violence and trying to prevent it before it happens,” he said.

The announcement comes less than a week after the mayor said $15 million from all three levels of government was earmarked for efforts to curb gun violence, including programs aimed at preventing youth from joining gangs.

As part of the new community-focused and anti-violence measures, two job fairs will be organized in marginalized communities.

Employers are aware that some of the youth might have had previous issues with the justice system, said Tory.

“The group of young people we are talking about are eager to get their foot in the door and get some self-confidence and self-respect and to contribute to this successful city,” he said.

“We have to help them to do just that by expending and making sure we can support as many of these programs as possible,” he added.

Tory said a recent job fair was extremely successful.

“So far, 42 people have actually been hired and viable contact has been made with many more, so I except the total number out of that job fair will be an excess of that,” Tory said.

Toronto Community Housing will also hire an additional 50 young people this summer, and the city will ramp up youth recreation programs in marginalized neighbourhoods.

New funding will also be dedicated to help parents and service providers support children impacted by community violence.

Children’s Services, Toronto Public Health and other divisions will work together to develop and implement a toolkit and training to engage children with their parents.

Tory said he visited the mother of the two young girls who were injured in a shooting at a playground on July 14.

He said it happens that “kids are not back out on the playground because, in many cases, the parents and or the kids are still affected very much by something that happened a while ago.”

“There is a need for us to make sure that these people receive some of the support they need,” he said.

It was recently announced that 200 frontline police officers would be added to the night shift over the summer in an effort to reduce gun violence.

Police data shows gun violence has killed 27 people and injured 82 so far in 2018, compared with 17 deaths and 80 injuries at this time last year.

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