In a recent ruling, an Ontario Superior Court judge has decried the continuing scourge of gun violence and the failure of governments to properly regulate — or banish entirely — firearms from Canadian society.
“The primary purpose of illegal guns is to threaten, to maim and to kill,” Justice David E. Harris wrote in his sentencing ruling released at the end of last month.
“They are a disease, a plague on our communities. We have the means at our disposal to eradicate or at least to drastically curtail them. It is difficult to understand why our society would not do everything in its power to ensure that guns are not available for criminal purposes.”
Harris was imposing parole eligibility on two young men who, in the middle of the afternoon on April 27, 2017, went into a Mississauga fast food restaurant armed with a semi-automatic rifle that one of them used to pump up to 15 bullets into 19-year-old Kamar McIntosh.
Calling the case “a poster child for the evil of military assault-type weapons,” Harris pointed out they are “readily available” in Canada and can be purchased at some outdoor stores for under $1,000. His ruling — unusually — included a still photo of the gun taken from surveillance footage a day before the killing.
While the federal government is attempting to ban such weapons “it is more than a little difficult to understand how weapons of war have ever been permitted in Canadian communities,” Harris wrote.
“If grenades are illegal how is that semi-automatic military assault weapons such as the one used in this murder are legal? There is no satisfactory answer. Guns are a disease and a disease we have the means to combat if not outright defeat. Not doing so is a grave abdication of the community’s social responsibility to nurture and ensure the well-being of its citizenry.”
Harris added that firearm control and regulation is “imperative to reduce the carnage” and that Canada “does not have the obstacle posed in the United States by the interpretation of the Second Amendment.”
Harris wrote that it is “important that the judiciary record the specific details they see and hear to enable the public to be informed and sensitized to the many levels of human tragedy brought on by gun violence.” His ruling, which was posted online, includes a link to the Canadian organization Doctors for Protection from Guns, a group of physicians who advocate for reducing the prevalence of firearms.
After a trial last year, a jury in Brampton convicted Shamar Meredith and Thulani Chizanga of second-degree murder. Although there were elements of planning and deliberation present, the jury rejected a conclusion of first-degree murder, Harris wrote. The COVID-19 pandemic has since delayed sentencing.
Meredith shot McIntosh just outside a washroom at a Popeyes restaurant at the intersection of Hurontario and King Streets around 3:30 p.m. on April 27, 2017. Staff and patrons scattered, fearing for their lives.
“This was not a killing, it was a slaughter,” the judge wrote. Although no motive was proven, the killing likely related to illicit drug activity.
The judge also questioned the brazenness of the killing a man in a public place, and the fact the three accused — one young person was convicted of manslaughter at a separate trial — seemed unconcerned about a preponderance of video surveillance cameras.
“The inanity of this crime demonstrates a profound indifference to the value of life. This underscores a pressing social problem which may lurk below: poverty, lack of opportunity, a world without hope.”
Still, Harris said this does not diminish the high moral responsibility of the two defendants, whose brutal actions have left the victim’s family shattered.
Meredith, who came to the restaurant armed with the gun and fired the fusillade, had four court orders prohibiting the possession of firearms and weapons. He received an automatic life sentence, and Harris set his parole ineligibility at 16 years. The judge had the discretion to impose a parole eligibility period in the range of 10 to 25 years.
Chizanga, who did not possess the murder weapon, will have to wait 12 years into his life sentence before he can apply for parole, Harris ruled.
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Both men are in their early 20s.
Harris’s ruling includes a long list of judicial pronouncements about gun violence, including one of his own, from 2018, when he called the proliferation of handguns in the GTA “a pressing and urgent matter of public safety.”