Julian Fantino is the federal minister responsible for helping the world's poor, but he is also a former Toronto police chief and, on the day after gunmen sprayed bullets into a street party in that city's east end, he said there must be a "meaningful" price paid for such disregard of human life.
"This is not a time for panicking. It is a time for people to work together at all levels and find solutions that actually will deal with these people in a preventable way," Mr. Fantino, the International Development Minister, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
Perpetrators of these types of crimes have not been deterred by the criminal justice responses that existed for many years, he said. "That is why we are stiffening things up somewhat to make the consequences more meaningful and more certain. And, although that's not the cure-all and the end-all, it does provide some answers."
Tougher sentencing has been a key pillar of Conservative policy since Prime Minister Stephen Harper first won government in 2006. As the investigation into the deadly Monday-night melee continued, Mr. Fantino joined Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews in releasing a statement to recount some of the sentencing measures that their government has enacted, including the introduction of mandatory minimum penalties for all serious firearms.
"Over the many years that I was in law enforcement, we always felt that there was much more that needed to be done in terms of filling the gaps in the criminal justice system and enabling the justice system to be more effective in dealing with an escalation of the sophistication of crime and certainly the gang movement, the gun crimes and so forth," said Mr. Fantino, who was also the head of the Ontario Provincial Police.
But from a federal perspective, it isn't just about creating more laws and more penalties, he said. "There has also been a lot of work done in getting ahead of these kinds of issues," Mr. Fantino said, "the amount of co-operation that is now in place, working across borders between Canadian and American jurisdictions to stem the flow of guns and so forth."
Mr. Toews said Tuesday, during an interview on Golden West Radio, which operates a number of stations across the prairies, that he is concerned about the courts rejecting minimum sentences, especially given the problem of guns smuggled in from the United States.
Conservative crime policies have been heavily criticized by experts, who say they are tough on criminals but will do little in the end to reduce crime. It is a message that has been picked up by opposition members of all stripes.
On Tuesday, however, the New Democrats said they did not want to discuss flaws in Conservative legislation because it was a time for mourning and reflection on the events of the previous evening.
Liberal MP John McKay, in whose riding the shootings took place, said there are better ways to spend crime-fighting dollars than the measures introduced by the Conservatives.
But "to be candid about it, I frankly don't know that any legislation can deal with something like this," Mr. McKay said. "This is some immature individual who decided that they are going to solve their problems at the end of a barrel of a gun."
With a report from The Canadian Press