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Montreal mayor calls for federal action on gun violence after teen's shooting

MONTREAL — The "cowardly" shooting of a 16-year-old boy Sunday in Montreal is renewing calls for the government to do more about gun violence as authorities work to solve his murder.

MONTREAL — The "cowardly" shooting of a 16-year-old boy Sunday in Montreal is renewing calls for the government to do more about gun violence as authorities work to solve his murder.

Thomas Trudel, 16, was killed in the city's St-Michel district not far from his home. Police received calls at about 9 p.m. Sunday for gunshots in a residential area in the northeastern borough.

They have said a suspect had a brief exchange with Trudel before shooting him. Trudel, a student at Joseph-François-Perrault high school, was not known to police.

Frantz Benjamin, who represents the local riding of Viau in the provincial legislature for the Opposition Liberals, grew up in the area and said he knows members of Trudel's extended family. He described Trudel as a regular kid "who was heading home because his mother had given him a curfew, and he needed to be home before 9 p.m."

Instead he fell victim to "a cowardly attack," Benjamin said in a phone interview Tuesday. "It's terrible violence, and we can't have this anymore."

He said Trudel's death should send a message to political leaders.

"A 16-year-old with his whole life ahead of him should not die like this," he said. "And Thomas's death must not be in vain. His death must serve as an awakening to say we have a responsibility as a society to do more for our youth."

Trudel's killing was the 31st homicide in Montreal in 2021. He is the third teenager killed this year and the second to die in the past month after 16-year-old Jannai Dopwell-Bailey was stabbed to death outside his school Oct. 18.

The mayor and Montreal's police chief offered their condolences to Trudel's family during a news conference on Tuesday, vowing to do everything possible to find those responsible.

"A young man killed in cold blood, it's difficult to comprehend," Mayor Valérie Plante told reporters, acknowledging a community shaken by Trudel's slaying. "I'm tempted to say child — I know he was 16 — but it's young, it's too young. It makes no sense."

Police have not made any arrests in Trudel's killing, but police Chief Sylvain Caron said the investigation is moving forward.

Plante renewed calls on the federal government to ban handguns, tighten border controls and bring in tougher laws for handgun crimes. 

Benjamin, the father of a teen girl, called for more funding for community organizations that work in prevention. He made a similar appeal after 15-year-old Meriem Boundaoui was killed in February during a drive-by shooting in the city’s St-Leonard neighbourhood.

The provincial government invested heavily in policing after several shootings in Montreal, creating an anti-gun violence and trafficking unit called Operation Centaure.

"That's fine, but nothing new was announced for the community groups that work in prevention, and that doesn't make sense," Benjamin said, noting that much of that prevention falls to community organizations, schools and parents.

A march is planned on Saturday in honour of Trudel and the other teen victims, organized by a local community organization Forum Jeunesse de St-Michel. "The message is no to violence, no to guns," Benjamin said. "It's a message of hope we want to send to youth."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2021.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press