It was 15 years ago: police officers flooded C. W. Jefferys Collegiate in northwest Toronto. Outside, hundreds of anxious parents stood waiting for answers. The news that police delivered — as we now know — was tragic.
Fifteen-year-old Jordan Manners had been killed. It was the first time anyone had been fatally shot inside a Toronto school. Jordan’s death stunned his community and the nation. And for many, it punctured the illusion of safety in Canadian schools.
Since then, we’ve seen a slew of reports and funds directed at anti-violence projects in Toronto. But youth violence in Canada’s largest city hasn’t let up.
In fact, it’s getting worse.
This year, on Valentine’s Day, a student was fatally shot inside a Toronto high school and in October, another shooting happened outside a school.
In the Toronto District School Board, the number of physical assaults has risen by 174 per cent between 2014 and 2019 and the number of incidents involving a weapon has risen by 60 per cent.
Why is gun violence increasing? And can we slow it down?
Devon Jones has spent the past 15 years tackling these very questions. He is a teacher and well-recognized youth worker in the Jane and Finch community — where Jordan Manners was killed. It has been described as Toronto’s most dangerous area to be a kid.
Jones has seen many students who have lost their lives to violence over the years, including Manners. But he has also saved many lives through programs offered by YAAACE — an organization he founded in 2007 that focuses on basketball and academics. He’s a busy man, who had just rushed from dealing with a youth emergency before talking to us from school.
One of the former volunteers of Jones’s organization is Ardavan Eizadirad. Eizadirad is now the executive director of YAAACE. He is also an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University who has written about the root causes of gun violence.
Join us on Don’t Call Me Resilient as we speak to Jones and Eizadirad about the rising rates of gun violence in Canada and the role community organizations play in the solution.
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Don’t Call Me Resilient is produced in partnership with the Journalism Innovation Lab at the University of British Columbia and with a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.