This article is a little late in its production, but it's likely one of the most impactful and important projects the CCFR has done to date. On a cold winter Sunday afternoon, a group of unlikely teammates made history.
The vitriol and mud slinging by folks with opposing views on contentious issues - from BOTH SIDES of this debate - doesn't exactly foster an environment of mutual respect and collaboration. But between the constant and exhausting social media debates, we all began to notice some common ideas between us. How can this be?
The answer is easy: we all want a safer Canada, we all want an end to violence and crime. So what has divided us all this time? Politicians, and a complacent media. Both have something to gain by keeping us in our corners, fueling us with false stats and editorials placing blame on one or the other. Politicians need one thing: votes, and the media survives on ratings.
What is the cost to this intentional and increasingly wide divide they create for us? Well, I've said it multiple times, the cost is real, and it's in human lives.
We can continue down the path carved out for us, or we can stand up and say we've had enough.
We've had enough.
And so we travelled from across the province to gather in the hallowed halls of Toronto City Hall and we sat and talked. Actually talked. We had an agenda, not a political one, but a literal one. We opened with introductions and a quick background on who we are, who we represent and what we are doing here. It was a diverse collection of people from a variety of backgrounds and causes, yet we all wanted the same thing. There was no politicians, no media, no law enforcement. What there was, was community. A small group of people with big ideas, huge goals and a burning need to actually do something about the violence in our country. Common ground.
There were 3 moms, Evelyn, Kellie and Alison from Communities for Zero Violence, an action group of mothers who have lost their children to "gun violence", Louie March from the Zero Gun Violence Movement and two reps from the One by One Movement, an organization of "formers" (to use their words). Ex gang leaders and extremists, the very people who dealt out violence and chaos in our streets, now converted, reformed, and committed to working to keep young people from going down that dark, terrible road. Allison De Groot from the CSAAA, the organization that represents Canadian firearm retailers, importers and manufacturers, Emily Brown and Frank Dainty (both CCFR members) from the Ontario Council of Shooters and Tracey Wilson from the CCFR attended as representatives for the firearms community. It was important to have a "pro gun" side to the conversation, as we are often the target of social and mainstream media attacks after a shooting or episode of violence occurs.
Unlikely allies - moms mourning their children who were victims of violence, ex gang members and the gun lobbies. Who would have ever thought this meeting would take place. This was an important first step, with much more work to come. We aren't content to chalk it up to a photo op, there is a very real opportunity to make a tangible change in the safety of our communities. Nobody wants to see people get hurt.
While the details of the meeting and it's discussions will remain internal (for now) out of respect for the participants and a deep need to see the project continue, we wanted Canadians to know this is a chance for us all to participate in this kind of "meeting of the minds".
We will circle back to this, with updates and next steps, which are well into production at the time of the crafting of this article. In the meantime, I would encourage those on social media to continue to press for the truth, demand data and fair treatment, but understand the vastness of our backgrounds and stances on issues. Please click on the linked titles for the various organizations and support those who are stepping out of their comfort zone to enter into a new day, a time of action.
We've had enough.