Anti-gun violence advocate explores compensation for families following Iran plane crash payments

CP24

This weekend, Louis March met with families who have lost members to gun violence and one of the things they discussed was the recent Iran plane crash.

Specifically, how the Canadian government recently announced financial aid of $25,000 to those families to assist with transporation and funeral services, along with the expectation the Iranian government would also compensate them. 

The founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement believes now is the time to have a similiar discussion around families being affected by trauma in our own backyard. 

"It's a very difficult topic," March says, adding the families affected by the international disaster deserve every bit of their assistance. "This is needed, but why are we so selective as to who we support?"

"They've done an excellent job in what their response has been, but why don't we get that same type of response?" 

March's community work includes collaborating with various organizations and agencies in Toronto of developing policies and programs to eventually to arrive at the goal of his titled movement. 

March said while the plane crash and gun violence are obviously different events, "a tragic loss is a tragic loss."

"How can shootings become normalized, we're okay with it in Rexdale, but we're not okay with it in Rosedale?" he said. "Not all the shootings that take place are people that are involved and gang-related." 

"We work with mothers who have lost their children to gun violence because they were doing good, not bad, but their loss is undermined." 

March points out that when certain acts of violence occur, trauma response teams are deployed to affected groups or communities, but that's uncommon in areas of high violence and families have funerals to pay for as well. 

But he stresses that possible compensation is just one part of what has to be a much broader discussion around gun violence in Toronto. 

During Project Community Space, Toronto Police's response to an uptick in gun violence in 2019, there were 463 arrests and 1,145 charges laid. 

The 15-week, $4.5 million program also led to 247 guns being seized, but overall shootings also increased during the same time period. 

"Absolutely the shootings increased so we had to adapt to that," Supt. Steve Watts of the Organized Crime Enforcement said in December. "It's always discouraging when someone gets shot, I don't care if it's one shooting a month of it's 50." 

March says leaders have to tackle issues of probation, bail, mental health and housing combined with the massive increase of guns on the street and the brazen willingness to use them. 

He suggests a major meeting or summit with all three levels of government, the police, along with various community organizations and other stakehoolders to develop a comprehensive plan of preventing violence instead of reacting to it. 

"We have a made in Toronto problem, we need a made in Toronto solution," he said.