Orillia city councillor Ralph Cipolla is worried that the deadly gun-related crimes becoming rampant in big cities like Toronto will soon find their way to Orillia.
“Eventually, it will filter to smaller communities,” Cipolla warned. “We need to ensure safety for our citizens … and we need to be prepared for future incidences of this nature.”
With that in mind, Cipolla received his council colleagues’ support Monday night to send a detailed request to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, among others, to work harder to combat the growing problem.
“We need to protect our kids and ensure our schools and playgrounds, parks and waterfront are safe,” said Cipolla, so families can live “without fear.”
The council resolution notes “guns and gun violence has become a growing concern” and says “gangs are targeting and enticing youth to perform criminal acts."
Because “guns are the weapon of choice for youth gangs to exude power and resort to brazen criminal acts,” city council is asking Ford “to call on all levels of government to collaborate with police services to reintroduce and withstand efforts to effectively address the issues associated with gun violence and gangs.”
The resolution asks the premier “to consider intervention efforts such as support for children and families at risk for gun violence, as well as programs to assist children to succeed in school, recreational opportunities, drug rehabilitation programs, and training/work opportunities to counter the culture of gun-related violence.”
The resolution also asks the Premier to call for a ban of assault weapons and handguns, while calling on the federal government to investigate options under the Criminal Code to address gun-related crime.
The initiative almost stalled because part of the long-time councillor’s original resolution included calls for mandatory minimum sentences for firearms trafficking, for the possession of an illegal firearm and for the use of a firearm during an offence.
Coun. Jay Fallis said he was in favour of the intent of Cipolla’s resolution, but could not support it because of the clause related to mandatory minimum sentences due to a Supreme Court ruling in 2015 that delcared mandatory minimum sentences aren’t effective.
“Justice Beverley McLachlin is quoted as saying: ‘The government has not established that mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment act as a deterrent against gun-related crimes,’” Fallis said, citing her decision.
“She wrote that empirical evidence suggests that mandatory minimum sentences do not, in fact, deter crimes. She was very clear on this,” said Fallis, who noted a majority of Supreme Court justices agreed.
“Ultimately, for me, this is beyond our jurisdiction as a municipal council,” said Fallis. “I support Coun. Cipolla’s efforts to actively make an attempt to curb gun violence in Canada. I applaud him ... but I can’t support it.”
As a result, Cipolla agreed to remove the clauses about the mandatory minimum sentences. With that change, the majority of council supported the resolution.
The official resolution will now be sent to Doug Ford, local federal and provincial politicians, federal and provincial political leaders, Toronto Mayor John Tory, the Ontario Association of Police Services Board members and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, among others.
Coun. Ted Emond said it was a good first step.
The resolution will “acknowledge to Orillians that we at this council table are aware of the difficulty gun violence and its relationship to drug scenes is an emerging and rising issue in our country,” said Emond.
However, he said it’s not enough just to ask other levels of government to deal with the “complex” issue.
“We really need to begin to think about how in Orillia we can do things as opposed to just pass on to colleagues at the provincial and federal levels,” said Emond.
“It’s important for all levels of government, including our own, to find ways to help solve it.”