Press Conference at Queen's Park
Higher social assistance rates will reduce gun violence say community members and mothers who’ve lost children to gun violence
Aug 8, 2018, Toronto, ON – Community members and mothers of shooting victims say that the Ford government’s decision to cut the increase in Ontario Works will increase the poverty that is at the root of gun violence in Toronto.
“Poverty is the root cause of gun violence,” says Louis March of the Zero Gun Violence Movement. “If you look at a map of shootings and a map of low income areas in Toronto, they almost exactly overlap. The link between poverty and gun violence is well established. International studies show that the greater the gap between rich and poor in a country, the higher the homicide rate.”
Community members who grew up in low income communities say that a lack of respect and shame are the link between poverty and gun violence.
“There’s a lot of shame in poverty,” says Patrick Knight, a TDSB Principal and also Principal of the South Toronto Detention Centre. “The kids who pick up guns are looking for the respect that our society is not providing for them.”
The community members argue that the decision to cut social assistance rate increases without consulting those affected shows a level of disrespect for those on social assistance. Community members ask why the government is consulting with religious groups about sex ed, but not with low income communities about social assistance cuts. They are asking the government to restore social assistance rates to levels of the early 1990s. Currently a single person on social assistance receives $721/month. Adjusted for inflation the rate in the early 1990s would be $1050.
“I committed my first armed robbery at 15,” says Elizabeth Correia, a youth counsellor. “When I look back on it now, I was reacting to a lifetime of shame. My family lived in poverty, my father sexually abused me, at 15 I was being shuffled from foster home to foster home with my belongings in a garbage bag. The streets offered me the things I needed at the time – money, respect and love. Everyone I grew up with was poor and guns were part of our way to reclaim some respect.”
The group is asking the Ford government to recognize the link between poverty and gun violence and to not only reverse its decision to cut social assistance increases, but to restore rates to inflation adjusted 1990s rates and to continue with the minimum income study.
“If we want to get rid of guns, we need to get rid of poverty,” says Stacey King the mother of three children injured in the playground shooting in Scarborough earlier this summer.
A media conference was held in the media studio at Queen’s Park at 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday, August 8th.
View the slide presentation on Mapping Gun Homicides in Toronto: