I was driving the five minutes home from dropping off a friend as I saw several police cars zoom by westbound in front of me—we’re just one street away from the Danforth. I was woefully unaware of what was happening only five minutes away. Unaware, that is until the messages started pouring in.
“Please tell me you don’t live here!”
“Are you okay???”
“This happened just five minutes from us!”
When we think of violence in Toronto, Greektown—the bustling stretch of the Danforth known for its family-friendly nightlife and generational communities—is not what comes to mind.
Though we can say the same for an angry young man running pedestrians down in a van in North York or a gunfight breaking out in the city’s busiest mall. Sadly, Toronto’s no stranger to violence—it’s just rare that it hits so close to home.
But let me explain to anyone who doesn’t live here why this is so surprising.
Some Things You’ll Know About Toronto if You Live in Toronto
- Handguns are illegal in Canada. We don’t bandy over gun laws like our neighbours to the South—there’s basically no reason to own a firearm in Toronto, yet we see the majority of the nation’s gun violence each year.
- Toronto’s seen worldwide as a diverse and accepting city. I’ve travelled enough to know that people see Canadians as friendly to a fault, and when they hear Toronto, it’s this city they want to visit because we have representation from just about every country in the world. Which is what makes this so jarring—we’re not perfect (we’ve discussed plenty about the challenges faced by our Black community alone), but it’s not somewhere we immediately identify with violence when we hear Toronto’s name.
- We’re unaccustomed to violence of this scale. There’s been the long-standing rhetoric of “at least we’re not the US,” where mass shootings and acts of violence seem to happen regularly. We stood confident that we’d be safe in a city meant to be gun-free and where we could all find our place somewhere in its borders. But clearly, that’s not the case anymore.
The Toronto Today Isn’t the Toronto I’ve Known for Twenty-Five Years
My Mom’s been urging us for years to move out of the city and back to the ‘burbs where I grew up, but I always shrugged it off ’til today. We’re prone to putting ourselves in a bubble, thinking things like this couldn’t possibly happen to us, because we live in a “nice” neighbourhood. But it takes but a second to wake the heck up and realise that random acts of violence can happen just about anywhere, and no amount of wealth, law or cultural majority will ever truly stop that.
So here we are—this is Toronto now. The city’s always been a little cold, but now it feels unfamiliar. And in a city of 2.8 million—especially when we don’t know why it happened—it can feel like there’s nothing any one of us can do to make things better.
And that’s where we’re wrong.
Dear Toronto—We Need to Care More About TORONTO.
Something I appreciate more these days is that we care less than we used to. We’re so caught up in our busy lives in this city that we’ll give pause when a tragedy occurs, but we move on in mere moments with so many things competing for our attention.
But whatever his reasons, what immediately comes to my mind is that he acted without a shred of empathy. Compassion. The dwindling of the traditional neighbourhood community in modern times leaves too many of us feeling isolated—and that’s how we can end up with situations that we might’ve prevented if they grew up feeling like they belonged to something loving.
So what I’m going to do is this—raise my kids to give a crap about other people. To care about their feelings and value human life. I’m going to work harder to care for others and not turn a blind eye when there’s an obvious need for help in front of me. We need to keep each other accountable and work collectively to create the Toronto we want to live in.
Because if we don’t, who will?
Sympathies to everyone affected by this senselessness, and may we all work toward a future where acts like this are a thing of the past.
Until the next,