What you Should Know About Gun Violence in Canada

As American mass shootings make their way into global headlines regularly, it makes me reflect on Canada’s problem with gun violence in its major cities, more specifically, in the Greater Toronto Area. I realize that although my fellow Canadians would like to think of gun violence as an American epidemic, Canadian cities, as well as rural communities are also dealing with their fair share of the epidemic despite seemingly strict gun control laws and high global safety rating.

According to IMMI Group, Toronto, Canada’s most populous city was the 16th worst major city in the country based on the crime rate. And the World Atlas says that Toronto was the 14th most dangerous city in the country. 

Let’s take the Raptors championship parade for example, hundreds of thousands of fans gathered to celebrate the NBA team’s history-making win and in the midst of the celebration, two people were shot. I vividly remember watching news anchors pause in confusion, trying to fully grasp what had taken place as they learned about the shooting.

The city is quite different from what one may assume of it at first glance and it has experienced an increase in gun-based violence.

Here are a few things I’ve come to know and realize about gun violence in the city of Toronto.


They have greatly changed the atmosphere of the city.

The city of Toronto has recorded 54 homicides thus far in 2019. 24 of these deaths were the result of shootings. Additionally, after four shootings on Sept. 9, the city reached a total of 300 shootings this year. As a result of this violence, a fear has been instilled in people of all ages throughout the city which says that public places aren’t nearly as safe as they once were.

The police are attributing the increase of gun-based violence to street gangs.

Global News reported that Toronto’s police chief said that street gangs are to blame for the vast majority of the shootings which have taken place recently in the city.

Knia Singh, who ran for mayor in 2018, released a 10-point plan in hopes of reducing gun-based crimes in the city. According to CBA, One of his main ideas was to identify when gangs are operating, in hopes that officials would be better apt to combat gun violence, although his plans never got put into action, Inspector Joseph Matthews, who took over the Toronto Police’s Gun and Gang Violence Task Force in January stated that officers “are doing the best they can to get guns off the street.”

We need to take action.

The ownership of guns in Canada is a privilege, not a right. And with the rise in violence at the hands of guns, perhaps we ought to rethink if guns belong in our communities.

With that in mind, it is up to all levels of the government to come together and work towards a solution that ensures the safety of all Canadians and the overall prosperity of the nation.

The city of Toronto was able to take preventative matters following the van attack of 2018 by erecting concrete barriers to thwart attacks near the Rogers Centre and Union Station, so why not put some much-needed attention towards banning handguns?

Presently, the federal, provincial and municipal government announced that they’d be contributing $1.5 million to Toronto’s city police to handle gun violence and Toronto’s mayor John Tory even called on Canada’s federal government to put a complete ban on handguns — firm action has yet to be taken. 

But, as citizens, you can ensure that the federal government is on board by utilizing your right to vote in the upcoming federal election (if you are 18 years or older). Before doing so, however, take a moment to take into account where each party and each MP for your electoral district stands on gun-related issues, such as a handgun and assault weapon ban.

For example, Liberals have studied handgun and assault weapon bans, but have yet to commit to either. However, they have passed Bill C-71 expanding gun background checks.

On the other hand, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is strongly against a handgun ban, arguing that it punishes lawful gun owners and instead proposes lifetime bans only for those who have been formerly convicted of crimes involving violent crimes, gang activity, and the buying and reselling of guns.

The New Democratic Party has not yet endorsed a handgun ban but has called on cities to be given the power to ban them. They even went so far as to call on Liberals to spend $100 million dollars a year to tackle gang violence.

The Bloc Quebecois has yet to issue a policy on the issue, but the province of Quebec has instituted its own handgun registry.

The Green party is in favor of both a handgun and assault rifle ban, by running a confidential buy-back program.

And lastly, the People’s Party has criticized any moves to make gun ownership more complex and supports lifetime firearm certifications.


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In the end, the decision will be in the hands of Canada’s federal government, but living in a democracy, you have the right to make your voice heard. Do so, by voting in Canada’s federal election on Monday, October 21, 2019, to make your communities and our nation a safer place.

By Nasima Fancy

Nasima is your average, stressed out, acne-prone high school student based in Toronto, ON, Canada. Although she spends most of … Read more ›

Oak Creek: A Story of Hate, Hope and Healing

Every year on August 5th, the Sikh American community remembers one of our community’s most devastating tragedies in recent memory — the Oak Creek massacre. On this day in 2012, a white supremacist gunman entered the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, a gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin where he shot and killed six worshippers and severely injured others. This violent attack was the deadliest mass shooting targeting Sikh Americans in U.S. history, and at the time, was one of the worst attacks on a U.S. house of worship in decades. Six worshippers — Paramjit Kaur Saini, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Prakash Singh, Suveg Singh Khattra, and Satwant Singh Kaleka — were killed on that horrific day. An additional community member, Baba Punjab Singh, was severely paralyzed and ultimately passed away from complications related to his injuries in 2020. Others, including Bhai Santokh Singh and responding police officer and hero, Lt. Brian Murphy, were seriously wounded during the shooting. 

[Read Related: Oak Creek Gurdwara Massacre’s 4th Anniversary: Young Sikhs Express Optimism for the Continued Struggle Against Hate and Ignorance]

In 2022, the community came together to demonstrate that we are undaunted. My organization, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) joined in supporting the anniversary observance at Oak Creek: a remembrance event centered around the theme of “Heal, Unite, Act.” The Oak Creek Sikh community hosted a series of in-person events, including the 10th Annual Oak Creek Sikh Memorial Anniversary Candlelight Remembrance Vigil on Friday, August 5, 2022. The program included a representative from the White House, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, Oak Creek Mayor Dan Bukiewicz, and representatives of the families who lost loved ones. Being there in Oak Creek 10 years after the tragedy was deeply meaningful — both to see the inspiring resilience of this community and to remember how much remains to be done.

In D.C., SALDEF continues to fight for policies that improve the lives of Sikh Americans. I had the honor of chairing the most recent iteration of the Faith-Based Security Advisory Council at the Department of Homeland Security, providing recommendations at the request of Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. Consequently, the three subcommittees published a report that emphasized the importance of greater accessibility, greater equity, and greater transparency in counterterrorism efforts that for too long revolved around surveilling populations like the one that was senselessly attacked at the Oak Creek gurdwara in 2012. Leading the FBSAC as a Sikh woman, and representing a community that was highly targeted alongside Muslims by both white supremacists and in post-9/11 counterterrorism profiling, was an opportunity to push the Council to advocate more fiercely for further information-sharing between communities and law enforcement, extending grant opportunities for security for Gurdwaras and other houses of worship, and building trust between the government and Sikh communities. In addition, I advocated for accountability for the damage needlessly caused to Muslim, Arab, South Asian, and Hindu (MASSAH) communities by federal agencies historically pursuing “counterterrorism” objectives which has resulted in eroded trust rather than the development of strong partnerships. 

Although we have made great strides in this country, there is still more to do. Through our work we have partnered with many across the nation to come together and find solutions through tenets central to Sikhism and America — unity, love, and equality. SALDEF continues to strongly endorse the policy framework articulated across the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R. 350 / S. 963); Justice for Victims of Hate Crimes Act; and the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) Improvement Act (H.R. 6825). We believe strongly in mandating federal agencies to create dedicated offices to investigate domestic terrorism; allowing prosecutors to feasibly indict perpetrators of hate crimes; and allowing religious nonprofits to access federal funding to enhance their own security.

[Read Related: Anti-Sikh Hate is on the Rise: Here’s What we can Do]

While 11 years have passed, the effects of the Oak Creek shooting are never far from the minds of Sikh American advocates and the community we serve. SALDEF will not stop taking a stand against senseless violence and hate crimes. We continue to work in unity with our community and movement partners, and fight for better policies that will actively keep all of our communities safe. Through tragedy, we find hope. We know there can be a world where people from all backgrounds and cultures can practice their faith freely and, even though it has eluded the Sikh American community in the past, we still believe this world is possible.

Photo Courtesy of Amrita Kular

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By Kiran Kaur Gill

Kiran Kaur Gill is an accomplished professional with exemplary executive experience. In her role as Executive Director, she is responsible … Read more ›