A coalition of mothers affected by gun violence in Toronto gathered Saturday in the hopes of changing the justice system and helping end violent crimes.
The mothers of three shooting victims — Kelly Whetter, mother to Gabriel Nikov; Brenda MacIntyre, mother to Quinn Taylor; and Evelyn Fox, mother to Kiesingar Gunn — in collaboration with Zero Gun Violence Movement organized the Communities for Zero Violence rally, making a plea to government officials to end the violence that took their sons too soon.
Victims, witnesses, family and friends as well as concerned citizens were invited to join a march from city hall to Queen’s Park with pictures of loved ones, signs and balloons to help promote change in their honour.
The peaceful march aimed to “show the powers that be that don’t live in our communities that we want and need change for the safety of our children,” according to the event’s Facebook page.
At Queen’s Park participants sang, recited poems and shared their grief.
“The emotion and the absolute grief and trauma that we had to witness watching my son pass away after 15 hours on life support has done serious traumatic damage to all of us…we had to witness what a bullet, one single bullet can do to someone’s brain,” said Fox, whose son Kiesingar Gunn was shot and killed outside a nightclub in Liberty Village in September 2016.
Nancy Bokma’s son Justin was shot in July of last year while trying to stop a fight at a club where he worked as security. She and the group of mothers have been making a plea to government officials to do more to stop illegal handguns.
She told CityNews they want politicians to move swiftly.
“We want to go to Queen’s Park in October and talk to the politicians and just try to get them motivated to do something,” she said. “It’s not a safe city. I want to be safe. I want to not worry that this is going to happen to somebody else.”
The families of the victims also want to see stronger sentences to keep perpetrators off the streets, and prevent them from re-offending. They say there needs to be a culture change, so that witnesses to gun violence feel safe enough to come forward and report crimes.
“That someone could do this in a crowd full of people and not one single witness come forward to give my family justice is just sometimes too much to bear,” said Fox.
Many victims’ families, including Fox, have yet to see see their child’s killers punished. Mothers at the rally said they want to make sure no one else goes through what they have.
Tina Khan lost her son Jonathan Khan to gun violence in 2014. She said no one should every have to bury a child.
“No mother gets over something like this,” she said. “You live with the pain and agony and sorrow for the rest of your life.”