Criminal Law

Solving the gun problem starts with kids: Goldlist

By Staff

The answer to quelling Toronto’s gun epidemic isn’t more policing but getting the attention of children in impoverished neighbourhoods, says Toronto defence lawyer Jordana Goldlist.

Goldlist, the principal of JHG Criminal Law whose practice focuses on homicide cases, says the mother of two young children caught in the crossfire at a Scarborough playground in June has the right approach.

The sisters, aged five and nine, were shot when two men opened fire on a third man in the playground in June. They underwent emergency surgery and are expected to make a full recovery. There were 11 children in the playground at the time.

According to the Globe and Mail, the wounded sisters’ mother says the solution is to focus on the cause of gun violence. Rather than more police and surveillance cameras, she says, poverty must be addressed. She called for workshops and programming for young people and those who are already in jail for gun crimes because they are at a high risk to reoffend.

“I think she’s 100-per-cent right,” Goldlist tells “We need to mentor kids in those neighbourhoods before they choose to go into crime and guns. These shootings are just getting more and more brazen and extra policing isn’t going to address the cause.”

She says the trend over the last few years has been a cycle of rising gunplay and Band-Aid solutions that result in a temporary reduction before the cycle starts to increase again.

Goldlist points to prior high-profile cases.

“The people doing the shooting don’t care, we have to address the underlying issues. They don’t care about minimum sentences for guns, they don’t care who is in the way. They might feel remorse after accidentally shooting a child but in the moment, they don’t care,” says Goldlist.

She says before- and after-school programs, sports activities, and working with kids aged 10 through 16 years is critical.

“We need to talk to them openly and share concerns,” she says. “It has to be a holistic approach.”

She says police programs like carding only create animosity.

“If you stop 100 people and you find two criminals, maybe get two guns, that’s great,” she says. “But you’ve alienated 98 other people because they feel they’ve been treated like criminals even though they did nothing wrong.”

Similarly, she says, those convicted of gun and gang offences might also provide insights if they can be surveyed or interviewed in jail. Their answers might start to provide some ideas on how to better deal with gun violence in other ways beyond simply putting more police on the streets.

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