New police unit to fight gun crime in Montreal

·2 min read

MONTREAL — In response to a spate of gun violence, including a triple homicide Monday evening in Montreal, the Quebec government says it will create a mixed unit of provincial and Montreal police to fight the phenomenon in the province's largest city.

Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault told reporters Wednesday alongside Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante the unit will be permanent and dedicated to reducing gun trafficking. The RCMP have also been contacted about joining the effort.

Guilbault said it won't take long for the unit to get to work.

"It's something that's going to be up and running very quickly," she said. "It will be efficient and operational directly in the field."

The announcement came less than 48 hours after a hail of bullets hit at an apartment building in the city's northeast end Monday evening, killing three people known to police and injuring two others.

Montreal police don't release detailed statistics on shootings in the city, but police and residents of several neighbourhoods say gun violence is quickly rising in Montreal — and the shootings are getting more brazen. Montreal police Insp. David Shane said the number of gun crimes is comparable to previous years but the incidents are becoming more serious.

Guilbault said work is ongoing to form a committee composed of members of her office and city officials to draft a wider crime-reduction strategy involving community workers.

Plante said all levels of government are committed to getting guns off the street and making the city's neighbourhoods safer.

For Montreal police, the new unit will allow its own weapons trafficking unit, introduced in February, to work full-time in the southwestern and northeastern parts of the city, which have seen a rise in gun violence linked to organized crime.

“Behind this violence, these criminals are engaged in turf wars over the sale of drugs or in the trafficking of young people for sexual exploitation," Montreal police Chief Sylvain Caron said. "These are complex, large-scale investigations."

Caron told reporters that Monday's daylight shooting, which involved a few dozen bullets fired from outside an apartment building, was incomprehensible and could have resulted in collateral victims.

Three men, two 29-year-olds and a 63-year-old, were killed. Two other men were injured but survived the shooting.

Plante also encouraged Ottawa to do more, saying that Bill C-21, which targets smuggling and trafficking in firearms among other things, does not meet the city's expectations in tackling guns. The bill, tabled in February, focuses primarily on assault weapons while leaving the issue of handguns for municipalities to deal with.

Plante noted the issue extends beyond the city territory, and the issue is a pan-Canadian one.

“Once again, I think we are forgetting the notion that there are no borders for firearms,” Plante said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2021.

Frédéric Lacroix-Couture, The Canadian Press

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