Jane Creba, 15, a Toronto shopper, was killed when she stepped into a spray of gunfire between rival teenage gangs in the middle of the busy downtown shopping district on Dec. 26; six others were wounded. The Washington Post says the incident “climaxed a year of sensational shootings” and put the issue of gun violence at the top of the national debate during an election season. The death of 10th-grader Creba brought a call by Prime Minister Paul Martin for a ban on handguns, which are already tightly regulated. It prompted a chorus of demands for tougher laws and more police in a country that prides itself on safety and moderation.
Toronto compiled a 15-year high in the rate of homicides with firearms in 2005. “Canadians deserve safe streets. Toronto isn’t Detroit. Vancouver isn’t south Los Angeles,” Martin said. “We are not going to allow our cities to fall into mindless violence.” In the campaign leading up to next Monday’s parliamentary elections, Martin’s opponents have lambasted him for failing to get tough with the U.S. to stop the smuggling of weapons across the border. Canada’s overall homicide rate is largely unchanged and remains about one-third of that of the United States. Last year, Toronto had 52 gun-related homicides; Chicago and Los Angeles, roughly comparable in size, had 338 and 366, respectively. The number of such homicides in Canada has dropped by one-third since 1991. Gun control advocates say an even sharper decline in the number of homicides with rifles and shotguns — a two-thirds drop in 15 years — is a consequence of tighter licensing and registration laws enacted in the 1990s.