Winnipeg mayor calls for meeting with premier, prime minister over violence

WINNIPEG — The mayor of Winnipeg says a meeting with the prime minister and Manitoba premier is necessary after a rise in violence and multiple homicides in the city, including the death of a three-year-old boy stabbed in his sleep.

Mayor Brian Bowman said Tuesday he requested an urgent face-to-face meeting with Justin Trudeau and Brian Pallister.

"We can discuss how we can better work together to build a healthier community to deal with the root causes of crime that we are seeing, specifically relating to the homicides that we are witnessing over the last week," Bowman said.

Winnipeg police are investigating the city's 40th homicide after a man was found shot in a home late Monday night. Officers were called about 11:45 p.m. to a townhouse in the South Pointe neighbourhood, where they located the dead man.

With two months still to go, the city is one homicide away from its highest number of homicides recorded in one year. In 2011, 41 people were killed when a gang rivalry was linked to a spike in killings.

Const. Rob Carver said there have been 11 homicides in Winnipeg just the last 30 days.

"This is unprecedented for us a police service, as a city," he said.

The mayor said recent violence shows there needs to be better access for mental health, addictions and families in crisis. All governments have a role to play, he added, and the city doesn't always have jurisdiction, resources or tools to take action.

"There's no magic wand that I can use, that the premier can use, or the prime minister can use to simply fix all that is unwell in our community," Bowman said.  

"But we need to work together."

Pallister is to be meeting with Trudeau in Ottawa on Friday and he said the recent spate of violence will be on their agenda. When asked if he considered it a crisis, the premier responded that he agreed with getting results for safer streets for Manitobans.

The stabbing of three-year-old Hunter Haze Straight-Smith last week shook the community. Several vigils were held for the boy, who died on Saturday after he was taken off life support.

Only days before, a 14-year-old girl was killed and an 18-year-old woman was taken to hospital in critical condition after a stabbing at a Halloween party.

The following day a baby was injured after a man fired a shotgun into a home then fled.

The police chief has said much of the violent crime is linked to addictions and the methamphetamine crisis gripping the city.

The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba has said meth use has increased by more than 100 per cent in adults and nearly 50 per cent in youth since 2014.

Carver said there has not been an underlying theme to all of the homicides this year — some are random, others are domestic and some are linked to gangs and drugs.

But, he added, the killings have put significant pressure on police resources.

"The strain is huge. It's enormous."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 5, 2019.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press