Canada’s doctors pushing for tougher gun laws

Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns was formed to bring more attention to the issue.

The memorial set up for the Danforth victims in 2018. Malleena Browne/NowToronto/Toronto Observer

With the Toronto Board of Health endorsing a ban on ammunition and handguns, the spotlight on gun violence has never been brighter. Incidents of gun violence are on the rise and there is a strong call to action by Canada’s doctors.

According to the Toronto Police Service, gun-related deaths are down 20 per cent and 44 per cent of firearms incidents result in no injury at all, but the growing number of occurrences has been a storyline in Toronto for a while now. That trend of firearm-related incidents has become enough of an issue that last year, the Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns was formed to try and shed more of a spotlight on how bad the issue has become.

 “When I moved to Canada about six years ago, I never anticipated to be in a position to be talking about firearms within Canada from a public health standpoint,” says Dr. Anna Dare, who came here from New Zealand six years ago and is chief surgical resident at the University of Toronto.

Toronto Police Service stats show the increase in occurrences of gun violence from 2018.

Dare also rotates between other hospitals in the city, having just finished up being one of the chief surgical residents at Sunnybrook Hospital over the summer. Dare has been with the CDPG since its inception. New Zealand has recently implemented sweeping gun control measures after the terrible Christchurch shooting, in which Brenton Tarrant murdered 51 people in two mosques and live-streamed the whole thing.

Dr. Najma Ahmed was on call the night of the Danforth shooting on July 22, 2018, when Faisal Hussain left his home and walked over to an area on the Danforth, near Alexander the Great Parkette and drew his handgun and opened fire. He then proceeded to travel westbound while continuing to fire at people on the streets and in restaurants. Hussain turned the gun on himself once authorities arrived, but by then he had shot 13 people and killed two of them.

In a town hall hosted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the recent federal campaign, Dr. Ahmed described that night as “a horrific and terrible experience.” Dr. Ahmed observed that not long after the shooting, the attitude towards gun control in the city started to shift. “The city awakened to the idea that mass shootings are not just a thing of the United States. It can happen here. It did happen here.”

Dr. Ahmed works at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto as a trauma surgeon and is also a professor of surgery at the University of Toronto. She is one of 300 members of the CDPG that was formed in November 2018, around the time the National Rifle Association tweeted at America’s doctors to “stay in their lane.”

The CDPG is a non-profit organization and consists of doctors from across the country that are advocating for stronger gun laws after witnessing gun violence firsthand. Ahmed and other trauma and emergency surgeons from across Canada have been keeping an eye on gun-related violence across the country for the last several years. The public awakening that occurred after the Danforth shooting helped to propel their efforts.

Ahmed says a bigger problem is that 75 per cent of gun deaths in Canada occur by suicide, so she would like to see more social programs put into effect by the recently re-elected Liberal government. These programs would be directed towards such things as inner-city violence, poverty and racism.

Ahmed also says she would like the government to study what other countries who have been strict on guns have done because gun violence is a permanent mental and physical scar. “You just lose control for a second, and everyone’s life changes in a flash.”

Ahmed says the CDPG has tried to get in touch with the Liberal party since the Oct. 21 election, but have not been able to make contact yet, but talking to them about what is on the CDPG’s shortlist of things to get done. But a ban on guns requires an agreement between all three levels of government, which is something that Doug Ford’s government has said they won’t agree to.

Ahmed would like the premier to come and see the aftermath of the violence himself. “I invite the premier of our province, Mr. Ford, to my operating room any day of the week … so that he can witness what he says is not a problem.”

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Posted: Nov 19 2019 12:04 am
Filed under: News