Scarborough is being left behind, and one only has to take a quick look at the numbers to understand the unequal conditions that are giving rise to these forms of gang violence. According to United Way statistics, from 1981 to 2001, there's been a 136.6 per cent growth in poor families in Scarborough. As of 2001, 83 per cent of poor families are families of colour, while 64 per cent are immigrant families.
In the Morningside neighbourhood where Danzig is located, 51.3 of individuals 15 and older are classified as low-income, and 56.6 percent in neighbouring West Hill. All of these statistics were collected before the economic crisis that began in 2007-8 recession, and the inequality in these neighbourhoods has likely only grown more acute.
According to Respect Scarborough, a grassroots organization formed in 2011, "Large factories which once provided well-paying, permanent jobs have been closing up, going bankrupt, or shifting production south of the border (or overseas). Good jobs are harder and harder to find because of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the rising value of the dollar, and globalization." Low-paying part-time and temp jobs have increasingly filled the void, and immigrant workers in particular are often forced into extremely poor working conditions.
As we begin to search for answers to Monday's shooting, it's crucial that we connect the most visible forms of violence that we witness with the deeper, structural violence that may not be as visible, but that gives rise to these more visible ones all the same.
With unemployment and poverty on the rise, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford voted last January to cut funding for youth outreach workers, and only last month voted against every one of the city's development grants programs. Harper and McGuinty are also implicated in this deeper violence, as their austerity budgets have hacked at the social programs these communities depend on with quality jobs so scarce.
And quite recently, the Toronto District School Board announced that it was closing eight Toronto schools, two of which are in the Morningside neighbourhood: Heron Park Junior Public School and Peter Secor Junior Public School.
It's within this context that Monday night's shooting occurred. The racists and Harper and the "tough-on-crime crowd" have their perspective, but we need to focus the discussion on the systemic reasons for this tragedy. As Scarborough begins to heal from Monday's trauma, we owe it to the victims and their families to fight for real solutions to gun violence.