Fatal shooting outside Woburn Collegiate renews calls for stronger gun laws
Toronto police officers investigate a fatal shooting on Oct. 31 outside Scarborough's Woburn Collegiate. (Steve Ryan/Twitter)
Published Sunday, November 13, 2022 6:13AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, November 13, 2022 6:32AM EST
The fatal shooting of a teenager on Oct. 31 outside Woburn Collegiate brought back a flood of painful feelings for the Khoswari family.
Back on Jan. 20, 2020, the family’s youngest son and brother, 15-year-old Safiullah, Safi for short, was gunned down just steps from the Scarborough high school.
A then-15-year-old Toronto boy was arrested about 20 minutes after the shooting. The young offender, who was not named due to the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was charged with second-degree murder. That charge has since been withdrawn, Toronto Police Service’s homicide squad told CP24.com. Police said they aren’t commenting further on the case, which at this point remains unsolved.
“It’s been really hard. This news has brought a lot of anxiety for me and my family,” said Safi’s oldest brother Ahmad Khoswari.
“Our family has forever been changed.”
Khoswari said the hardest part is not knowing who is responsible for Safi’s murder.
“(Safi) got caught in the crossfire. …We don’t have closure. We’ve been left in the dark for more than two years,” he said, adding the bullet that struck and killed his brother was actually intended for the teen who was initially arrested and charged.
“It’s hard to think, to focus. We’re just trying to live life, to look forward.”
Just over a week ago, Toronto police made an arrest in the recent murder of another teenager in the community, 18-year-old Jefferson Peter Shardeley Guerrier. A 17-year-old boy, whose identity cannot be revealed under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, turned himself in to police on Nov. 3.
Local MPP Mitzie Hunter, who has long advocated for community safety and well-being, has brought forward a number of private member’s bills in an ongoing effort to address gun violence both in her community and across the province.
Five years ago, she introduced Bill 30 – Fighting Back Against Handguns Act, 2018, which called on the province to allow municipalities to ban the sale of handgun ammunition within their boundaries. That private member’s bill, which would have amended the Ammunition Regulation Act, 1994, passed the first reading, but was defeated on the second one in October 2018.
In June 2019, Hunter introduced Bill 129, The Safe and Healthy Community Act, which among other things proposed amending the Health Insurance Act and the Health Protection and Promotion Act to declare gun violence a public health issue, however the session ended and so the bill “died on the Order Papers” as it had only passed first reading.
Last December, Hunter re-introduced The Safe and Healthy Community Act, which was then known as Bill 60. The bill, which also called for boards of health across the province to put in place programs and services to reduce gun violence and increase the capacity of the community to assist survivors and others affected by it, passed the first reading and got to committee, however the government refused to move to have it studied and once again it died on the Order Paper when the election was called.
The past August, Hunter once again re-introduced the same bill, which is now known as Bill 9. It made it to the second reading, but was voted down on Sept. 8.
In a recent note to the community, Hunter said she’s “heartbroken about the loss of life and the loss of innocence for the young people exposed to this (latest) tragic incident.”
“In speaking with Trustee Zakir Patel, it was clear to me that this act of violence shattered a peaceful setting and terrified our community as a whole. Furthermore it underscores the urgent need for immediate and meaningful action towards ending gun violence,” Hunter wrote, adding shootings like the one that happened on Oct. 31 have a “deep intergenerational impact.”
“I know that the transformative power of community is key in addressing gun violence and that’s why I have continued to advocate for legislation that recognizes it is a public health issue,” she said.
“It is critical that we strengthen our commitment to increasing support, particularly at the community level and especially for our youth. It has never been more important to unlock and mobilize urgently needed resources that will help make Scarborough safer.”
On the day of the murder, Toronto Mayor John Tory released a statement that read in part:
“Schools should be safe for everyone and absolutely free of guns and violence,” he wrote.
“This latest incident makes me very angry and I intend to sit down with police and school board officials to see what more we might do to ensure the safety of students, educators and staff in and around our schools.”
The following morning, Toronto District School Board's Director of Education Colleen Russell-Rawlins said a “multi-pronged” approach is needed to prevent violent crimes in school, including action from the school board and different levels of government.
Khoswari, meanwhile, said what happened to his brother and the pain his family has endured as a result of Safi’s death could have happened to anyone.
He said concrete steps must be taken now and stronger laws put in place to get guns off the streets.
“Kids are out there shooting at each other,” he said.
“We need to get control of the guns and the violence. How many kids need to die for the government to act?”
With files from CP24's Joshua Freeman.