Chris Baldwin, an 18-year-old Ontario Games champion target shooter was informed his opportunity to speak to a youth camp was being revoked in an email attributing the decision to the recent and tragic gang-relating shooting in the GTA.
Credits: JEFF TRIBE/QMI AGENCY
TORONTO - City of Toronto staff banned two teenage ambassadors for sport shooting from an Ontario Summer Games-related event because of recent gun violence in Toronto.
The move met with immediate outrage from supporters of the sport and the city quickly backtracked on its position.
City spokeswoman Deborah Blackstone said the young athletes - Chris Baldwin, 18, and Sabrina Sergeant, 17 - have since been re-invited to appear at a ceremony for the World Record Camp Games, which promotes the 2012 Ontario Summer Games to be held in Toronto Aug. 16-19.
"Given the recent events in the city, city staff made a decision not to have the athlete ambassadors representing sport shooting participate in the on-stage welcoming ceremony component of the World Record Camp Games due to the very young audience expected to participate in the event," Blackstone said in an e-mail Monday. "Upon further reflection, and discussion with the Games organizing committee, the City of Toronto regrets the decision that was communicated to the Canadian Shooting Sports Association."
Last week in Toronto, 31 people were shot - four fatally, including two who died at a community barbecue in the city's east end.
Baldwin said he was "very, very frustrated and very offended" after he received a letter conveying the original decision.
Baldwin said he and Sergeant were being drawn into an unfair parallel between a legitimate sport and criminal gang-related activity.
"There is absolutely no connection between them," he said. "They just did it to the entire sport, so every legal, law-abiding firearms owner in Canada just got lowered to that level."
Tony Bernardo, executive director of the Canadian Institute for Legislative Action/Canadian Shooting Sports Association, said two teenagers who have excelled at a legitimate sport should not be lumped in with criminals involved in other shootings.
"It's politically correct decision-making; it has no bearing or relevance to anything at all," Bernardo said. "These kids have been training since they were 10...we're talking about the oldest sport in the modern Olympics."
Baldwin is the overall national sporting rifle three-position champion three years in a row and Sergeant won gold and bronze at the 2010 Ontario Summer Games.
Premier Dalton McGuinty said Monday there is no link between sport shooting and the gun violence that has plagued the city this summer.
-- with files from Jeff Tribe