US embassy cable - 05TORONTO3195

GUNS AN ELECTION ISSUE IN GREATER TORONTO AREA

Identifier: 05TORONTO3195
Wikileaks: View 05TORONTO3195 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Toronto
Created: 2005-12-07 16:31:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: KCRM PGOV PREL CA Elections Crime
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TORONTO 003195 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/07/2015 
TAGS: KCRM, PGOV, PREL, CA, Elections, Crime 
SUBJECT: GUNS AN ELECTION ISSUE IN GREATER TORONTO AREA 
 
REF: TORONTO 2966 
 
Classified By: Consul General Jessica Lecroy for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d 
). 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  A November poll of Greater Toronto Area 
(GTA - population 5 million) voters revealed they considered 
crime to be their second most important issue in the context 
of the Canadian federal election campaign.  Not 
coincidentally, Toronto is experiencing an unprecedented wave 
of fatal shootings, with reports of the latest carnage being 
played up in the Canadian press.  How the gun issue will play 
in the upcoming political campaigns and whether candidates 
will try to blame the U.S. for the rising violence is yet to 
be determined.  This message provides context for the many 
factors in play.  End Summary. 
 
Gun Crimes Up in Toronto 
------------------------ 
 
2. (SBU) A poll conducted during the third week of November 
by Environics Research Corporation for the Canadian 
Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) revealed that crime was second 
only to health care as a concern for voters in Canada,s 
largest city (Toronto is 2.5 million; the GTA is 5 million). 
Recent violent crime statistics support voter concern.  There 
were an unprecedented 72 homicides in Toronto for 2005, and 
50 were committed with guns.  Both the number of murders and 
the homicide-by-firearm ratio is the highest in Toronto 
history. Toronto is still a safe place relative to 
comparable-sized cities in the U.S.  Chicago has virtually 
the same population as Toronto and 2005 year-to-date has a 
homicide rate of 13 per 100,000 people.  Even with the 
alarming spike, Toronto,s 2005 homicide rate is 2.6 per 
100,000 residents, small comfort to Toronto residents. 
 
Gun Violence Is an Election Issue 
--------------------------------- 
 
3.  (SBU) Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair turned up the heat 
after a December 1 meeting with Ontario Premier Dalton 
McGuinty by promising to make gun violence an election issue. 
  Blair also took a swipe at the federal Justice Ministry,s 
refusal to act on Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant,s 
request to strengthen existing federal firearms statutes 
(septel) when he said that "Only the federal government can 
toughen gun laws" (NOTE: Blair,s comments came following a 
November month-long gun surrender and amnesty program 
conducted by the Toronto Police that netted 250 firearms and 
1,500 rounds of ammunition.  END NOTE).  NDP MP candidate to 
represent Toronto,s Trinity-Spadina riding, Olivia Chow 
(wife of NDP leader Jack Layton), claimed on the December 5 
telecast of the talk show "Focus on Ontario" that 50% of the 
guns used in Toronto-area crimes were smuggled from the U.S. 
Gun control activists in Ontario have taken note of the 
recent decision by a U.S. federal court to allow a New York 
City lawsuit against gun manufacturers to proceed, despite 
recent federal legislation that shields gun makers; the suit 
targets guns smuggled in from other states.  The November 18 
fatal shooting of 18-year-old Amon Beckles as he emerged from 
the funeral of an earlier shooting victim appeared to have 
been the tipping point for Toronto's black community; a 
future "Gun Summit" with Prime Minister Martin has not yet 
been scheduled. 
 
NRA and Rapper 50 Cent Aren't Helping U.S. Image 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
4.  (SBU) Even the U.S.-based National Rifle Association 
(NRA) has entered the fray.  On December 3, representatives 
of the NRA,s "grassroots division" held a seminar in the 
Toronto suburb of Scarborough at the annual convention of the 
Canadian Shooting Sports Association on how to help gun 
rights candidates (NOTE: Scarborough is one of the relatively 
few neighborhoods touched by the recent spate of gun 
violence.  END NOTE).  Reacting to the visit, Deputy Prime 
Minister Anne McLellan said, "The NRA and their U.S-style, 
big money gun lobby efforts are not welcome here."  Someone 
else who is not welcome in Canada is rap artist 50 Cent (aka 
Curtis Jackson).  GTA Federal Liberal MP Dan McTeague 
(Pickering/Scarborough East) led the unsuccessful effort to 
ban Jackson from a Canadian concert tour because his songs 
frequently allude to guns and violence.  In 2003, an 
18-year-old male was shot dead outside a 50 Cent concert in 
Toronto.   50 Cent was admitted, but only with special 
permission due to past felony drug charges in the U.S.  His 
May 2005 visit to Toronto, when he made a brief guest 
appearance at a downtown club, did not spark the same kind of 
public debate that his December visit has generated. 
 
5. (C) On December 5 and 6 Ontario Minister of Community 
Safety and Corrections Monte Kwinter (protect) phoned the CG 
to review the status of the gun cases.  Kwinter reassured the 
CG that Ontario provincial politicians would try hard to 
avoid publicly connecting the U.S. to the current gun issue, 
however, the commonly accepted U.S. nexus might be very hard 
to avoid.  Kwinter briefed the CG on a proposed provincial 
"guns and gangs operations center" that may operate as an 
outgrowth of the Toronto Police guns and gans unit.  Kwinter 
said Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Commissioner Gwen 
Boniface would play a big role in the task force and that it 
would include representatives from the Toronto Police Service 
and the Ontario Attorney General,s office.  The Royal 
Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) was back-briefed on the 
proposal.  During the course of the conversation, he 
complained that, "With friends like the NRA, who needs 
enemies," but added that he understands that the U.S. 
government "certainly has no control over the activities of 
the NRA."  Kwinter also told the CG that no date had been set 
for the Gun Summit to be held in Toronto that was promised by 
Prime Minister Martin during his meeting with representatives 
of the Coalition of African Canadian Organizations (CACO) 
November 22. 
 
6.  (SBU) Reacting to the spike in gun-related violence, 
Ontario has promised to fund 1,000 new police officers 
throughout the province.  Toronto will get 250 new officers, 
though not at once.  Toronto Police have reassigned some 
officers to focus on community policing, but sources close to 
the Toronto Police Service said that the Service can only 
train 40 to 50 cadets at a time in its 13-week academy, so 
the new officers will not begin hitting the streets of 
Toronto before the new year. 
 
7.  (C) Comment: After the CG phoned Minister Kwinter on 
December 8, he advised that the CBC had just minutes earlier 
asked him about plans by the province and federal government 
to make a big announcement on December 9 on the gun issue. 
Kwinter said he was unaware of plans for such an 
announcement, but indicated he thought federal officials 
would leap at the chance to host a "Gun Summit" in Toronto as 
a publicity magnet during the election campaign.  Kwinter,s 
frank discussions with the CG signal that this issue is sure 
to come up during the federal election campaign despite any 
efforts by Ontario government officials to avoid pointing a 
finger at the U.S.  38% of Canada,s population lives in 
Ontario, and the Greater Toronto Area is the political center 
of gravity for the province.  GTA voters are worried about 
guns, despite the fact that gun crimes are limited to certain 
areas of the GTA, are only committed by a small number of 
people, and appear to be mainly gang-related.  We have 
received indications that political considerations may begin 
to influence bilateral law enforcement cooperation, though 
operational cooperation with the ATF remain excellent.  The 
gun issue may also likely be raised in Ambassador Wilkins' 
December 15 editorial board meeting with Toronto's "Sun" 
newspaper, which is law and order focused.  End Comment. 
 
8.  (U) This message was cleared by Consulate A/LEGATT, ICE 
Attache, and ATF Assistant Country Attache. 
 
LECROY 

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