Toronto Danforth Shooter : strong city that still ignores painful truths still joining real global village at last

Jul 27th, 2018 | By | Category: In Brief

Grace Lake, Ontario. Photo : LKS White.

The last time in this troubled year that some of us here heard about troubling killings in our Toronto homeland we were in northern California.  (See “Toronto van killings : strong city that ignores painful truths joins real global village at last,” 2 May 2018.)

And now, some three months later, when we first heard about “Ralph Goodale’s Office Says There Is ‘No National Security Nexus’ To Toronto Danforth Shooter” (25 July 2018) we were deep in the wilderness cottage country of the old Provisional County of Haliburton, Ontario — about three hours drive north of the present-day “global city.”

The long and short is that around 10 PM this past Sunday evening the 29-year-old Faisal Hussain, who lived with his parents in a seventh floor apartment in the Thorncliffe Park high-rise neighborhood some three kilometers away, suddenly started shooting people near the Alexander the Great Parkette on Danforth Avenue.

Hussain continued shooting as he proceeded west along “the Danforth” (as some still say), in what is now often called Greektown — until he apparently shot himself dead after an initial encounter with police at Danforth and Bowden Street. By this point he had “killed an 18-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl and injured 13 others.”

Shortly after Toronto police had identified Faisal Hussain “a news release was sent out to select media attributed to the ‘Hussain Family’.” It expressed deep grief and regret over what Faisal had done, and explained that he had struggled with mental health issues for years.

Emergency measures professionals attend to shooting victims late Sunday evening in Toronto, July 22, 2018.

Not too long after that a statement by the ISIS terrorist group in the Middle East claimed Faisal Hussain “was a soldier of the Islamic State and carried out the attack in response to calls to target the citizens of the coalition countries” — although “‘ISIS’ did not provide further detail or evidence for its claim.”

Both the Toronto police and the office of federal public safety minister Ralph Goodale have said that, so far, there is no evidence of the sort they find convincing to sustain the ISIS claim.

At the same time, the most sensible and constructive view I’ve stumbled across is a tweet from former Ontario NDP premier, federal Liberal interim leader, and longtime Toronto resident Bob Rae :  “No contradiction between reports ISIS is claiming credit for Danforth attack and stories that shooter had history of mental illness, and that guns are a problem.  It’s not a game of either/or.  Terror preys on vulnerable people and weak laws.” (6:27 AM —  25 Jul 2018).

What is it about the Alexander the Great Parkette at Danforth & Logan that attracted Faisal Hussain?

“Faisal Hussain, in an image released by his family.”

I have lived in Toronto most of my life (and I’m now … into my 70s, say). And it is similarly easy enough for me to believe that someone called Faisal Hussain, especially if he has struggled with mental health issues, might have trouble understanding just who and what he is in the enormously and laudably but also somewhat puzzlingly diverse Toronto global city of 2018.

It is also easy enough for me to believe that the Torontonian Faisal Hussain, who looks out so mournfully from an apparently family-provided photograph now in circulation, might be attracted to some “jihadist” (aka “deviant”?)  message on the world wide web, from Islamic State, ISIS or ISIL or Daesh or whatever.

And then, without any direct organizational connection that would impress local police or federal public safety officials, something he took from ISIS (and related) arguments online may have finally helped inspire Mr. Hussain to walk out along the Danforth in the east end of the old city of Toronto on a Sunday summer evening, and start shooting passers-by.

Bob Rae is not the only public figure to raise this self-invented “jihadist soldier” possibility. And there are a few still largely unconfirmed reports that arguably point in similar directions.

“Police officers walk past Alexander the Great Parkette while investigating a mass shooting on Danforth Avenue in Toronto, Canada, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Helgren.”

Eg : “Several media outlets with inside sources to the investigation say Hussain visited ISIS websites and expressed support and may have previously lived in Afghanistan and Pakistan” ; “Just moments before, Mr. Hussain ran into Jaspal Singh, who was cutting through a laneway on his way to his restaurant on the busy strip … Mr. Singh, who lives in the neighbourhood, was face to face with the shooter, who told him: ‘Don’t worry, I’m not going to shoot you’.”

(For some countervailing impression of verbal abuse Faisal Hussain might often enough have run into himself, even in the enormously diverse global city of Toronto today — where 51% of city residents “were born outside Canada and over 150 languages and dialects are spoken” — see as well : “’It’s my f–king province’ man yells at Muslim family near Toronto ferry terminal.” And for past struggles with mental health note “Toronto mass shooter Faisal Hussain previously said ‘I want to kill someone’: former teacher.”)

Faisal Hussain’s tragic journey along the Danforth in Toronto, Sunday evening, July 22, 2018. Thanks to City News.

Even if local police and other investigators finally fail to confirm reports of Mr. Hussain’s visits to ISIS websites and so forth, there are broad hints about political motivations in the particular urban geography of his destructive  death-walk last Sunday night on the Danforth.

He started his rampage close to the Alexander the Great Parkette at Logan and Danforth. This marks a local Toronto bow to the ancient “Western” (and modern “Christian”) Greek culture of the Mediterranean in the Near and Middle East — longstanding rival to the “Islamic” Turks and Arabs of the old Ottoman Empire and beyond. What finally happened can at least be interpreted as Faisal Hussain attacking the Christian West (in Greektown Toronto) on behalf of the Islamic Middle East (in the high-rise inner suburbia of Thorncliffe Park).

Talking about the real complicated story of the global city in Toronto today … ?

At candlelight vigil for brave victims of Danforth shooting in Toronto, Wednesday 25 July 2018.

Like many other city residents, I feel very strongly that something very firm  must be done about the almost unprecedented gun and other killing in Toronto this year, without really having much of a clear idea about just what this might be.

(Recent remarks by Barack Obama, honouring the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela, have nonetheless  helped  me understand something of what lies at the bottom of this year’s tragedies in my  home town. Today, he has lamented : “We see much of the world threatening to return to a more dangerous, more brutal, way of doing business.” And  in the summer of 2018 that perception has certainly reached the streets of Toronto, ever keen to keep up with whoever or whatever it is that’s setting the international pace.)

One small hope for future improvement does strike me for the time being. Almost all the various aspiring Toronto establishments of the present, right or left, are still trying hard not to talk about many of the painful truths in this wonderfully diverse new global city.

It may be as well that finally connecting with the real complicated story of just why Faisal Hussain did the utterly appalling things he did last Sunday evening can help reduce the chances of further human disasters of this sort.

The challenges of doing this without seriously stimulating too many multicultural antagonisms and worse are no doubt vast. And the city’s current leadership has (perhaps wisely enough) typically viewed evading and ignoring these challenges as the most sensible policy.

We may, however, have reached a point in the growth of almost everything where this kind of leadership will no longer work.

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