NDP leader Jack Layton congratulated the Dawson community for their strong support of gun registration in a visit to Dawson College April 4.
“That’s what I admire about you here at Dawson College,” said Layton to the group of faculty and students. “You’ve experienced the horrors of gun violence, even though there was legislation in place, and yet you’re out there defending that legislation. I think that demonstrates a remarkable understanding of what public policy needs to do.”
After the tragedy on Sept. 13, 2006 when a lone gunman entered the school and opened fire, killing one student and injuring 19, the school formed the Dawson College gun control coalition. They have demanded stronger gun laws and are petitioning the Conservative government not to scrap the long-gun registry. The registry was implemented by the Liberal government in 1995 and has reportedly cost almost $2 billion. The Conservative Party vowed during their election campaign to scrap it.
“The answer to gun violence is not to weaken gun control legislation, it’s to ensure that assault weapons don’t end up in civilian hands,” said Layton. “Because guns don’t belong on our city streets. There’s no hunting going on in urban Canada.”
He saluted Hayder Khadim, a Dawson student who was injured in the shooting and still carries bullet fragments in his body, for his efforts in speaking out for the legislation.
Layton also applauded the way the community didn’t let Prime Minister Stephen Harper “get away with [his decision to continue to] scrap the long gun registry because ‘it failed to prevent the tragedy at Dawson College’,” said Layton, quoting what Harper had said just three days after the shooting.
Layton recalled with emotion the Boxing Day shooting in 2005 when one his own constituents, 15-year-old Jane Creba, was killed by crossfire. He said the pain at her school is still a key issue.
“When a shooting takes place in a school, it shakes all of us to the core. We think of a school as a safe place, where you go to learn. So it seems like a violation of everything we believe in when something like that happens.”
He said they have the same spirit that led people, including leaders from Concordia University, to set up the Coalition for Gun Control in the aftermath of l’Ecole Polytechnique massacre in 1989.
After 1995, the year Bill C-68 was enacted, there were 300 fewer gun deaths annually in Canada, according to Layton. He also said, “since the law passed, 6,000 gun licences have been refused and 11,000 have been revoked.”
But gun control is not enough. Layton said that the government also has a responsibility to look at the causes of violence: “the inequalities in our society, economic, social racial and lack of opportunity for people.”
“We’ve got to be vigilant about tearing down these barriers and ensuring that everyone can prosper in our society, so that violence doesn’t become an option that people turn to when faced with these barriers,” said Layton.
“These aren’t isolated incidents, there are things we can do in terms of public policy to prevent these kinds of things.”
– Aude Lalibert