Violent Long Weekend Fuels Talks of Potential Handgun Ban in Toronto

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The Civic Holiday long weekend in early August resulted in 17 people shot during 14 separate incidents in Toronto.


The first gun-related incident of the long weekend started at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 3, 2019.  Police were called to the Dufferin Street and Glen Long Avenue area where they found two male victims with gunshot wounds.

On Sunday, August 4, 2019, a man, whose identity has not been revealed, was left with life-threatening injuries at an Airbnb in one of the most affluent neighbourhoods in Toronto, the Bridle Path (south of Bayview Avenue and York Mills Road).  Officers arrived at the property and found a man, conscious and breathing, lying on the ground, suffering from a gunshot wound to his upper body.  He was immediately taken to hospital and stabilized.  It has been reported that between 20 and 30 people were at the home, which was being rented as an Airbnb.

Later on Sunday, a man received non-life-threatening injuries following a gunshot  in Liberty Village.

At least five people were injured at a nightclub in suburban North York early Monday, August 5, 2019.  One male was found to be in life-threatening condition and four others were found in non-life-threatening condition.  It was also reported that two more victims of this incident took themselves to hospital, but police have not confirmed that these two victims were injured in the nightclub incident.

Hours after responding to the nightclub incident, police were called to Lombard Street near Church Street and Richmond Street East.  Police reported that three individuals were injured after a vehicle was shot.

Police also responded to a gun-related incident shortly before 5 p.m. on Monday, August 5 in the Lawrence Heights area, just south of Yorkdale Shopping Mall.  A man was taken to hospital with gunshot wounds, which were found to be serious, but not life-threatening.  Another victim was able to make it to hospital on his/her own.

Later in the day, police responded to multiple gunshots heard in northwest Toronto.  Another victim of gunshot wounds was found.

Police Chief Mark Saunders does not believe that there is a connection between any of the shooting incidents in the city. 


Toronto Mayor John Tory released a statement calling the gun violence in Toronto “absolutely unacceptable”. 

Mayor Tory continues to advocate for a ban on handguns to address the perilous gun violence in Toronto.  He stated:

The gun violence we have seen in recent days in our city is absolutely unacceptable. … I remain firmly of the belief that a handgun ban will help us address the gun violence we are experiencing in our city and the surrounding area.  I led city council – joined by other major Canadian cities – in sending a clear message on the need for a ban on handguns, assault rifles and semi-automatic firearms.  This was always put forward as a part of the answer to gun violence together with changes to other laws affecting things like bail, additional support for police, and the paramount need for all three governments to invest together in kids, families and neighbourhoods.

Police Chief Mark Saunders responded to questions regarding a potential handgun ban by saying that “anything that removes a handgun, it is a good day in the city”.  He stated:

I’ll let the politicians work on that one.  I’ve got people that are shot.  I’ve got people that are shooting people.  I’m going to use my resources and all of my energy to solve these cases and bring them before the court systems. 

Chief Saunders has responded to the weekend of violence by advising that there will be additional resources in certain parts of the city to deter and reduce the gun violence.  He did not indicate what measures would be taken or which parts of the city the police would focus on. 

Mayor Tory announced earlier this week that the city of Toronto will be receiving $4.5 million to help fight gun violence from all levels of government, including the municipal, provincial and federal governments. However, it remains unclear as to how the funds will be utilized.

Chief Saunders advised that the police service will provide more information regarding its plan of how to use these additional funds shortly.


According to Statistics Canada, gun-related violent crime has been increasing since 2013.  Between 2013 and 2017, gun crime increased by 42% in Canada. 

According to Toronto police, shooting deaths in the city are at a three-year low.  Only 19 people have been killed as a result of shootings in Toronto in 2019, which is down from 30 deaths recorded last year at this time.

Gun violence in the city of Toronto is also comparable to past years.  There are 244 recorded “shooting occurrences” in 2019, which is comparable to 238 occurrences in 2018 and 226 in 2017.  There have been 365 victims of shooting occurrences in 2019, 324 victims in 2018 and 335 victims in 2017.

We will continue to follow the anticipated police service plan to utilize the funds provided by all levels of government to fight gun violence in Toronto and will report any developments in this blog.

If you have been charged with a weapons offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced Oshawa criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Majority of Canadians Support Ban of Handguns

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The latest public opinion poll by the Angus Reid Institute reveals that half of Canadians consider gun violence a serious problem in Canada. 

Toronto Mayor John Tory has campaigned for a handgun ban and the Liberal government is facing pressure from gun control groups to respond to gun violence in Canada following the implementation of a ban on semi-automatic firearms by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after a deadly mosque shooting in Christchurch.


A recent public opinion study completed by the non-profit Angus Reid Institute surveyed 1,525 respondents across the country and is proportionally representative of Canadians from each region of the country.

The study has found that 61% of the respondents would support an outright ban on civilian possession of handguns.  This number rises to 75% in regards to a ban on assault weapons. 

When it comes to gun violence, rural and urban respondents voiced different concerns.  Respondents in Canadian cities are most worried about gang activity, while rural Canadians are more concerned about accidental shootings or the use of guns for suicide.

According to the survey, 63% of respondents were in favour of the proposal by the federal Liberal government to lengthen background check periods from the current five-year limit to include a prospective gun owner’s entire history.


Bill Blair (“Blair”), Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, recently stated that implementing a national handgun ban is a possibility. 

Blair was directed to study and consult on a full ban of handguns and assault weapons.  Beginning in 2018, he travelled the country to hold roundtables and public engagements regarding the issue of reducing violent crime involving firearms. 

Last month, Blair released his report entitled “Reducing Violent Crime:  A Dialogue on Handguns and Assault-Style Firearms”.  The report also included written submissions made by Canadians and responses recorded through an online questionnaire which included 134,917 total responses from Canadians (with no limits placed on how many times an individual could complete a survey).

The key findings of Blair’s inquiry include:

  • Polarized views on a potential ban and limiting access to handguns and assault-style firearms;
  • Many felt strongly that a ban would target law-abiding gun owners, rather than illicit gun owners, and would not greatly impact crime reduction (specifically gang violence);
  • Many supported enhanced enforcement capacity by law enforcement and border services, in addition to harsher punishments for those found trafficking in firearms and gun-related crimes;
  • Emphasis on more support for community-level programs and initiatives to address the socioeconomic conditions that lead to gun violence;
  • Emphasis on the need to improve the collection and sharing of data on gun crime; and
  • The need for a multi-faceted approach to dealing with violent crimes, rather than implementing a ban on guns.

Blair has advised that he has been reviewing the data, the experience in other jurisdictions, Canada’s regulatory environment and how firearms are used in criminal activity in Canada.

Blair stated:

… I believe that there are some things that we can do to create a safe environment, reduce gun violence in our communities and make it far more difficult for people who would commit crimes.

I believe there is an overwhelming consensus in this country that public safety is important, that we deserve to be safe in our communities and in our places of worship, and those weapons which have been used to kill so many people have no place in our society.


We have previously blogged about the Toronto Police Services gun buyback program launched in an effort to reduce unwanted firearms and violence in the GTA.

As a result of this recent program, Toronto Police received more than 2,700 unwanted guns from residents during the gun buyback program that started on April 26, 2019 and ran until May 17, 2019.  These guns were all destroyed.

It has been reported that this was the most successful firearm collection in Toronto.  During the three-week program, police collected over 1,900 long guns and over 800 handguns.  In 2008, a similar program was launched resulting in a total of 2000 guns collected by police.

Chief Mark Saunders stated:

We are pleased with the participation of Torontonians taking steps to safely dispose of unwanted guns in their homes.  These guns can present a potential danger if they fall into the wrong hands.  Removing access to these guns, many of which are not securely stored, contributes to community safety.

We will continue to follow up on any developments regarding the government’s response to gun violence in Canada and will provide updates in this blog.

If you have been charged with a weapons offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced Oshawa criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Gun Violence Increasing in Toronto

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The deadly rampage in Toronto last Sunday is just another tragedy in the growing list of fatal shootings in our city. In the wake of a violent summer and in an effort to reduce gun violence in Toronto, Police Chief Mark Saunders (“Saunders”) and Mayor John Tory announced plans to add 200 frontline officers to the night shift.

The additional police officers will be on the job between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. in designated areas of the city that are in need of the added police presence. Officers will be focusing on areas where police have seen gun and gang activity. The increased police presence will last for an eight week period, at which point Toronto police will re-evaluate their needs.

Saunders clarified that neighbourhoods will not be inundated with police,

It’s about being focused and strategic in our deployment. This is not about turning communities upside down. That will never be the intention.

According to Toronto police, there have been 228 shootings in Toronto and 29 people killed in 2018. In comparison to 2017, at the same time of year there were 188 shootings and only 17 deaths. This is a 53% increase in shooting deaths since 2017. The increase has largely been blamed on gang activity.

The most recent tragic event involving gun violence in Toronto occurred on July 23, 2018 after 10:00 p.m. in Toronto’s Greektown neighbourhood. A 29-year-old gunman opened fire resulting in two innocent deaths and thirteen wounded individuals.

Following this recent rampage, Mayor Tory confessed that guns are too accessible in Toronto and stated:

We have a gun problem in that guns are readily available to too many people. The police are doing their best, but they’re operating under extraordinarily difficult circumstances to deal with these guns.


Mayor Tory announced a $15-million plan to confront gun crime in Toronto. These funds are coming from all three levels of government. Some of this money will be allocated to 16 community initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence and preventing youth from joining gangs. These initiatives include new employment opportunities, job fairs in marginalized communities, establishing a children’s mental health recovery team, and the expansion of existing programs. Some of the money will be allocated to YouthWorx, which is a program by Toronto Community Housing that employs young people in various fields.

Toronto is also in the process of applying for federal funding available to municipalities through the National Crime Prevention Strategy.


The following is a list of some of the shootings that have occurred in the Greater Toronto Area since the beginning of summer 2018:

  1. June 24: Two men shot and killed inside a home in Etobicoke;
  2. June 24: Drive-by shooting in North York;
  3. June 25: Man shot and killed inside an apartment building in the early morning in Toronto;
  4. June 28: Man arrived at a hospital in Toronto with a gunshot wound to his foot;
  5. June 29: Pedestrian and cyclist shot in Moss Park neighbourhood;
  6. June 30: Two men dead and another woman injured during a daylight shooting in Toronto’s Entertainment District;
  7. June 30: Teenage boy collapsed from a gunshot wound behind a church in the Downsview area;
  8. July 1: Man shot and killed and three others injured in a shooting in Kensington Market;
  9. July 3: Man suffered bullet wound to the hip in a drive-by shooting in the Fashion District;
  10. July 8: Man shot and killed in parking lot in North York, believed to be a targeted attack;
  11. July 9: Man killed in shooting in Black Creek neighbourhood;
  12. July 9: Man shot in the Annex neighbourhood;
  13. July 22: Woman and young girl shot and killed and 13 others injured on the Danforth.


Former Toronto police chief and current Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, Bill Blair, reports that he has been in touch with Major Tory and Saunders to discuss the latest deadly shooting in Toronto and how Ottawa can support the city’s efforts to put an end to the increasing incidence of gun violence. Blair will be working closely with Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford have also had discussions following the latest shooting in Toronto about how the two levels of government can work together.

Premier Ford has also confirmed that all three levels of government will be working together to tackle the gun violence sweeping through Toronto. He stated:

As Premier, my commitment to you is that I will do everything in my power to keep our neighbourhoods safe. We will make sure our police have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs, and we will work with our municipal and federal counterparts to identify, apprehend and convict those who commit, or plan to commit violence.


Mere days before the horrific shooting spree, Toronto’s police services board had requested more security cameras and new technology to be installed in parts of the city to help curb gun violence. The board has requested more than double the number of closed circuit police cameras in public places where gang activity and gun violence are known to take place. This would bring the total number of police cameras to approximately 80.

The board is also requesting that the city implement “ShotSpotter” technology that uses microphones to detect and locate gunfire, and automatically informs the police.

It will cost $4-million over the next two years to implement both of these measures. This will likely be covered by the crime prevention funding from both the federal and provincial governments.

If you have been charged with a weapons offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced Oshawa defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Proposed Gun Control Laws Aimed at Gun Store Owners

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

On March 21, 2018, the Liberals introduced Bill C-71 to improve Canada’s existing gun control legislation. This legislation includes measures to broaden background checks for gun owners, toughen rules around the transportation of handguns, and tighten record keeping requirements for the sale of firearms. Bill C-71 proposes to make changes to the Firearms Act, the Criminal Code and repeals changes made by the previous Conservative Government.

In Canada, crimes involving firearms have increased by 30% between 2013 and 2016, with 2,465 offences occurring in 2016. Homicides involving guns have increased by two thirds between 2013 and 2016, with 223 homicides occurring in 2016.

The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, stated:

While Canada is one of the safest countries in the world, increased gun crime has caused too much violence and taken too many lives in communities of all kinds. … With this legislation and our other measures, we are taking concrete steps to make our country less vulnerable to the scourge of gun violence, while being fair to responsible, law-abiding firearms owners and businesses.


Gun control in Canada is governed by the Canadian Firearms Act and the Canadian Criminal Code. This legislation defines different types of weapons and set out rules regarding which weapons are legal in Canada and under what circumstances.

Canadian law classifies firearms as follows:

  • Prohibited:   .32 or .25 caliber handguns or those with a barrel length of 105 mm or less, automatic firearms, short-barrelled long guns;
  • Restricted:   handguns that are not classified as prohibited, semi-automatic long guns with a barrel less than 470 mm;
  • Non-Restricted: those not regulated as either restricted or prohibited.

A Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) is required to possess firearms. The eligibility for a PAL includes a background check to determine whether the applicant has been convicted of any of the designated offences, treated for any mental illness associated with actual or threatened violence, or has a history of behaviour that includes violence, or threatened or attempted violence within the previous five years.

Following a background check, an individual must undergo the “Canadian Firearms Safety Course” and pass the corresponding exam. The individual must also fill our forms and provide character references.


Enhanced Background Checks

Bill C-71 proposes to expand background checks for those who want to buy a firearm. As described above, the current background check looks back on the last five years. It has been proposed that the RCMP examine any relevant information throughout the individual’s lifetime for prospective gun owners and those who have to renew their gun licences. The RCMP will complete an extensive background check looking into criminal, mental health, addiction and domestic violence records before authorizing an individual a licence to possess a firearm.

Once a licence has been issued, background checks will be ongoing to see if a licence holder has become a public safety risk.

Gun Shop Owner Obligations

Bill C-71 proposes changes to the responsibilities placed on gun vendors in Canada.

Under the new legislation, commercial gun shop retailers will be required to keep information about sales and inventory for at least 20 years, including the firearm’s serial number, the licence number of the transferee, the reference number and the day the reference number was issued. This requirement will not apply to private sellers.

Also, anyone selling or gifting a non-restricted firearm will be required to verify that the person they are providing the firearm to holds a valid firearm licence through the Canadian Firearms Program.

Police investigating a firearms crime can trace the owner of a gun through the licence number, but they are required to get a warrant in order to access the records held by gun shop retailers.

Transportation Regulations

Bill C-71 proposes that owners of restricted or prohibited firearms will need to obtain Authorization to Transport (ATT) documents every time they wish to take their guns anywhere other than a shooting club or gun range. Therefore, taking a firearm for servicing by a gunsmith or to a gun show would require separate authorizations to transport the firearm. However, authorizations to transport will not be required for non-restricted firearms.

If you have been charged with a firearm/gun offence or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced Oshawa defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

What is “Wilful Blindness” in Criminal Law?

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In a recent decision, R. v. Downey, the Court of Appeal could find no error by the trial judge in convicting the accused of various firearm related offences arising from having imported three guns into Canada. The appellant argued that the trial judge erred in applying the doctrine of wilful blindness.


Three guns were found hidden in the vehicle that Michelle-Ann Downey drove across the border from Detroit, Michigan into Canada.

The original trial judge concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that Downey had been “wilfully blind” regarding the nature of what she was transporting into Canada.

On appeal, Downey’s counsel argued that the trial judge had erred in his application of the doctrine of wilful blindness. Counsel argued that there was no evidence from which to draw the inference that Downey had suspected that she had guns (rather than some other criminal contraband) in her vehicle. The Court of Appeal disagreed that the trial judge made this error.


In Canada, a crime is defined by two things:

  1. the act itself; and,
  2. the intention behind the act.

Wilful blindness applies to the accused’s state of mind. It describes a situation where someone tries to escape criminal liability by intentionally overlooking the obvious.

The Court of Appeal in Downey specifically wrote that “[w]ilful blindness acts as a substitute for actual knowledge”. The court relied on the words of Charron J. in the Supreme Court of Canada decision of 2010 in R. v. Briscoe:

The doctrine of willful blindness imputes knowledge to an accused whose suspicion is aroused to the point where he or she sees the need for further inquiries, but deliberately chooses not to make those inquiries.

Wilful blindness has also been described as the state of “deliberate ignorance” of a certain fact. It is not enough that the accused failed to inquire about a certain fact, but instead the accused intentionally and deliberately did not inquire.


In applying the doctrine of wilful blindness, one does not question what a reasonable person would have done in the circumstances. Instead, one must find that the accused deliberately refrained from making inquiries so as not to have his/her suspicions confirmed.

A court may make the following inquiries when considering the doctrine of wilful blindness:

  • Has the accused’s suspicion been triggered about a fact that would reveal a prohibited consequence or situation?
  • Is the accused’s suspicion about the prohibited consequence or situation probable or at least likely to occur?
  • Did the accused inquire about the suspicion?
  • If the accused inquired about the suspicion did the accused have any remaining suspicion after the inquiry?
  • If the accused had any remaining suspicions after the inquiry, did the accused make further inquiries?


In the case of R. v. Downey, the trial judge found that the accused’s suspicion had been aroused to the point that there was a need for inquiry, but she deliberately did not inquire so as not to learn the truth. The trial judge gave these examples:

  • Her evidence was inconsistent with text messages located on her phone;
  • She knew it was not illegal to bring $4,000 into the country, yet she told the customs officials she was not carrying cash;
  • It was implausible that she thought she would be paid $1,000 for smuggling $4,000 into the country; and,
  • She admitted that her conscience was telling her she was doing something wrong.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the conviction appeal and dismissed the sentence appeal by concluding that there was no basis to interfere with the sentence of two years less a day.

If you have questions regarding your legal rights, contact the criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP. To speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer, please call us at 905-404-1947 or contact us online for a free consultation.