One of the victims of Saturdays shooting at the Eaton Centre was working toward getting away from his past gang affiliation, according to a Toronto gang-activist. The victim, in his early 20s, started with the Breaking the Cycle program in Scarborough just a few months ago. According to the program’s director, Gary Newman, he was doing well and enjoying the program. “He had two job placements; he works four days a week,” said Newman. “He’s been committed, willing to participate – and that’s a big part – he’s a guy that’s willing and wants … to see a better future for himself.” A court-ordered publication ban prevents Global News from publishing the names of the shooting victims. Breaking the Cycle is a Toronto-area program, run through the Canadian Training Institute, that helps people aged 15 to 30, break out of violent, dangerous lifestyles, their association with gangs, and move towards a more productive and safe life. Since the program’s inception in 2003, the program has helped approximately 350 people, with 88 per cent of those having graduated. Sixty-seven per cent of those who had graduated are employed, in school, and not participating in gangs. The victim who was participating in the Breaking the Cycle program was referred to the program by a past participant and graduate – something that, according to Newman, is a cycle that helps get people into the program and off the streets. “What happens a lot of times is, people who graduate the program go back to their friends in the neighbourhoods and will tell them to go to this program, and it will help you,” Newman said. “The hard part for him – I would assume – is that safety – is being able to be safe, and trying to be reintegrated and enjoying himself in a Saturday afternoon.” Six people were shot on Saturday at the Eaton Centre in an incident that Toronto police believe is not gang-related – though three of the victims were gang-affiliated. “It’s the mind-state that promotes that violent lifestyle. It’s being able to feel safe and to trust again,” said Newman. Though some of the participants in the program are facing trouble because of recent budget cuts, said Newman. “The program used to be funded to take place five days a week, six hours a day and that was all on site, one to one counselling. Now the program, through funding cuts, is to have all of our guys in work placements four days a week, then counselling one day a week,” said Newman. The victim may have been affected by that sudden cut in funding, Newman suggested. “So because of the push to get these guys employed so fast, we forget to get them settled, to be safe, to be employed. So he’s a guy that falls into that unfortunate part,” Newman said.
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