Canada Grieving mother holds vigil, as gun violence mushrooms in Toronto
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Kelly Whetter knows the pain of losing a child to gun violence. She doesn’t want any other mother to go through what she did.
Whetter held a vigil Thursday evening at the corner of Yonge and Bloor streets, the same spother 18-year-old son Gabriel Nikov was shot to death.
More than 50 family members, friends and supporters gathered to remember Gabriel, sing songs and have a conversation about the need to curb gun violence in Toronto.
“The first year is the toughest,” said Whetter, wearing a bright red shirt bearing her son’s photo. “He’s smiling that big beautiful smile. He’d be so proud of me that I’m not lying on the couch crying and that I’m out here in his honour and memory.”
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Whetter was joined by three other mothers at the vigil, each of whom had lost a child of their own to shootings.
“I want something to be done about this violence in this city,” said Brenda MacIntyre, whose 29-year-old son Quinn Taylor was killed in January 2016, leaving behind a three-year-old daughter.
“He was at the prime of his life. He had turned his life around,” McIntyre recalled.
“He didn’t have the easiest life. The last five years of his life he was happy; he had gone to university for music. He was having such an amazing life and then I remember he came to me probably only a couple weeks before he was killed and said ‘everything’s going so amazing for me, mom, I’m afraid something’s going to go wrong.’”
Shootings increased by about 41 per cent between 2015 and 2016, when there were 407 across the city, according to Toronto Police. Just two year before that, there were 177 shootings in Toronto.
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Forty people were killed last year due to shootings, compared to 26 and 27 the two previous years, respectively.
About three months ago, Wetter discovered the Zero Gun Violence Movement, a volunteer collaboration of organizations and agencies wanting to solve gun violence.
Inspired to make a difference, she emailed the group.
“I said I feel like I need to get involved with you because I have such anger and I don’t know where to put it,” said Wetter.
Louis March, founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement, said the main reason shootings have gone up is because politicians and others aren’t addressing its root causes.
“We know which communities are struggling. We know which communities (where) there’s potential for violence,” March said. “We need to parachute resources into those communities. We’re not reactionary. We want to get in there and deal with this issue before it simmers and explodes in guns.”
Crowshoe family will ‘never be done’ seeking justice for murdered teen
In Blackfoot, there isn’t a word for goodbye, only one that means “I’ll see you later.” That provides some comfort to Jimmy Crowshoe, who’s son Colton was murdered nearly three years ago, although the family wonders if they’ll ever get answers. The Alberta Serious Response Team (ASIRT) announced last week it had concluded its investigation into the Calgary Police Service’s (CPS) handling of Colton’s missing persons file in 2014 and allegations racial bias was shown by officers towards the 18-year-old a week before his disappearance. No charges will be laid, even though Susan Hughson, executive director of ASIRT, admitted mistakes were made – they just weren’t criminal. “I think about him everyday, I go in his room, and I ask myself who did this. I wish I could make things better, but I can’t,” Jimmy said. “I miss him a whole lot.” RELATED: Family of Colton Crowshoe still waiting for answers in son's 2014 death Tanya Johnston, Colton’s aunt, said she wasn’t surprised to hear no charges would be laid, just deeply disappointed. “When we found out, I told (Hughson) that today, not only did you let down Colton and his family, but you also let down so many other indigenous families,” she said. “Because now we know – we’re still on our own in this system.” Even more disappointing, the outcome of the investigation had been leaked to the media before the family had officially been informed, according to Johnston. “We were all in shock.
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