The fatal shooting of a teenager outside Woburn Collegiate on Oct. 31 left the Khoswari family with a flood of painful emotions.
On January 20, 2020, the family’s youngest son and brother, 15-year-old Safiullah, Safi for short, was shot dead on the steps of Scarborough High School.
The then 15-year-old Toronto boy was arrested 20 minutes after the shooting. The young offender, whose name has not been released due to provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was charged with second-degree murder. The Toronto Police Service’s Homicide Squad told CP24.com that charge was later dropped. Police said they are not commenting further on the pending case.
“It’s really hard. This news has caused a lot of anxiety for me and my family,” said Safi’s elder brother Ahmad Khoswari.
“Our family has changed forever.”
Khoswari said that the most difficult thing is not knowing who is responsible for Safi’s murder.
“(Safi) was caught in the crossfire. …We have no closure. We have been in the dark for more than two years,” he said, adding that the bullet that killed his brother was actually intended for the teenager who was first arrested and charged.
“It’s hard to think, concentrate. We’re just trying to live life and look ahead.”
A week ago, Toronto police arrested another teenager in the community, 18-year-old Jefferson Peter Shardeli Gurrier, in connection with the recent murder. The 17-year-old boy, who cannot be identified under the terms of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, surrendered to police on November 3.
Local MPP Mitzi Hunter, a longtime advocate for community safety and well-being, has brought forward several private member’s bills in an ongoing effort to address gun violence in her community and across the province.
Five years ago, they introduced Bill 30 – Fighting Back Against Handguns Act, 2018, which called for the province to allow municipalities to ban the sale of handgun ammunition within their boundaries. A private member’s bill that would have amended the Firearms Control Act, 1994 passed the first reading but failed the second in October 2018.
In June 2019, Hunter introduced Bill 129, The Safe and Healthy Communities Act, which, among other things, proposed amending the Health Insurance Act and the Health Care Promotion Act to declare gun violence a public health issue, however the session ended. “The order died on the papers” and it only passed first reading.
Last December, Hunter reintroduced the Safe and Healthy Communities Act, then known as Bill 60. The bill also called for health boards across the province to establish programs and services to reduce gun violence and build capacity. The community passed its first reading in committee to help survivors and others affected, however the government refused to move to study it and again died on the order paper when an election was called.
Last August, Hunter reintroduced the same bill, now known as Bill 9. It reached second reading but was not voted on on September 8.
In a recent note to the community, Hunter said he was heartbroken at the loss of life and loss of innocence for the young people who were subjected to this (most recent) tragic event.
“Having spoken to Trustee Zakir Patel, it became clear to me that this violence has disrupted a peaceful atmosphere and terrorized our community as a whole. “And it underscores the urgent need for urgent and meaningful action to end gun violence,” adding that shootings like the one on Oct. 31 have “profound intergenerational impacts.”
“I know the transformative power of the community is key to addressing gun violence, which is why I will continue to advocate for legislation that recognizes this as 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 young people. It’s never been more important to unlock and mobilize urgently needed resources to help make Scarborough safe.
On the day of the murder, Toronto Mayor John Tory released a statement that read in part:
“Schools should be safe for everyone, 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 can do to ensure the safety of students, teachers and staff in and around our schools.”
The next morning, Colleen Russell-Rawlins, director of education for the Toronto District School Board, said that preventing violent crime at school requires a “multifaceted” approach, including action from the school board and various levels of government.
Meanwhile, Khoswari said what happened to his brother and the pain his family felt following Safi’s death can happen to anyone.
“Stronger measures must be taken now and stricter laws put in place to keep guns off the streets,” he said.
“Kids are shooting at each other,” he said.
“We need to get control of guns and violence. How many children must die to make the government work?
With files from CP24’s Joshua Freeman.