Toronto

Chicago's mayor advocates for treating gun violence as 'public health crisis' following meeting with Tory at city hall

Published March 2, 2020 8:06 p.m. ET
Updated March 2, 2020 8:08 p.m. ET

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot advocated for a “holistic approach” that treats gun violence as a “public health crisis” rather than a law-enforcement problem as she met with Mayor John Tory at city hall on Monday.

The two mayors sat down for about 90 minutes inside Tory’s office to discuss a number of issues of mutual concern, including gun violence.

While the scope of the problem in Chicago continues to be on another level when compared to Toronto, the Windy City has had some success in curbing the violence and in 2019 saw its total of homicides decline for the third consecutive year (492).

Homicides in Toronto were also down slightly in 2019 but the total number of shootings was up about 15 per cent from the year previous.

“I think what we have done right is view our epidemic of gun violence as a public health crisis and not just one where we put forward law enforcement first and only,” Lightfoot told reporters following the meeting with Tory. “We have brought a lot of resources to the issue of gun violence and looking at what the root causes are. Clearly law enforcement continues to play a role but we have also brought our parks, our schools, our libraries and we have leaned heavily into the faith community and community-based organizations to help us look at what are the challenges the communities are facing and how we use the resources and the bully pulpit of the mayor’s office to focus like a laser beam on those communities that are most in need.”

Lightfoot, who was elected in 2019, said that there is “no magic lever a mayor can pull” when it comes to gun violence but she said that leaders must talk more “about what we can do to reach young people who are most at risk of either being victims or perpetrators of violence.”

She said that we also all have a responsibility to make sure we are not normalizing gun violence

For his part, Tory has often highlighted the need to invest in young people and families as a means of addressing the rising levels of gun violence and recently championed a $6 million investment in youth programming as part of the 2020 budget.

He told reporters that he shared with Lightfoot information about a City of Toronto program to establish grants for community programs aimed at reducing the root causes of violence and was “heartened” to find out that it is a “similar approach” to the one the City of Chicago is taking.

He said that their discussion didn’t provide him with any overnight fixes for something that has become a “scourge” on the city but he said it did give them a chance to “compare notes.”

“We talked a lot about opportunity in some of the communities that become more marginalized from the core. The mayor (Lightfoot) has said that people’s destinies should not be determined by their postal code and I think you have heard me talk about this before too as being the single biggest challenge that faces the city of Toronto,” Tory said. “People should not have their opportunity or their destiny affected by personal characteristics or by geography.”

In addition to gun violence and addressing the root causes of violence, Tory said that he and Lightfoot also talked about affordable housing, waterfront development and Chicago’s experience in building a 24.5 acre park in its downtown core.

Monday’s sit-down was the first meeting between the mayors of the two sister cities since Tory met with Lightfoot’s predecessor, Rahm Emanuel, during a trade mission to the Windy City in 2017.


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