AURORA - Police services and other agencies across Ontario are pegged to receive an $11.3-million federal government boost to combat growing gun and gang violence in communities large and small, Canada’s Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair announced today in Aurora.
Blair made the announcement at the York Region District School Board’s administrative office with Ontario’s key safety and justice ministers, a Brampton MPP and officials from the public board.
More than $65 million has been made available to Ontario through Ottawa’s national, five-year Gun and Gang Violence Action Fund, with the more than $11 million announced today set to roll out over the next two years in support of the province’s guns and gangs reduction strategy. The remaining $54 million will be available in years three to five.
“Until very recently, right across the country, we have begun to see a very significant increase in violent crime and gang activity,” said Blair, a former 40-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service who served as its chief of police for a decade. “Shootings have now become the most common method of homicide, and gang-related homicides are the most concerning of these incidents of violence. Gang-related homicides in Canada’s largest cities have nearly doubled since 2013.”
The federal funding will focus on prevention, intervention, enforcement, and justice and rehabilitation measures in relation to Ontario’s gun and gang violence, which has been a scourge not only on the province’s biggest cities, but has shown up in northern communities, Indigenous communities, correction facilities, and rural locales.
Ontario’s Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Sylvia Jones said “individuals who choose guns and gangs as a lifestyle need to be shut down in the province of Ontario."
The selection of York’s public school board for today’s announcement underscores what the funding is hoping to achieve: strong enforcement and prosecution; proactive gun and gang disruption; tailoring youth and violence-prevention efforts that support at-risk youths and; effectively addressing risk factors.
“We have to invest in our kids and our communities to address the circumstances that give rise to violence,” Blair said.
For its part, York public board vice-chairperson Juanita Nathan said Ottawa’s new funding will help to support ongoing efforts to keep students in the classroom and engaged.
“Our goals aim to reduce suspension rates in schools to provide better outcome,” Nathan said. “We’re working to reduce the amount of days children are absent from school. The reduction of suspension and lost learning days will provide more classroom time and, ultimately, help them stay engaged as they find their educational pathways.”
Ontario’s Attorney General and York-Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney agreed, saying it’s important that youth receive support and encouragement as they continue their journey through the education system.
Mulroney also provided an update on the province’s action plan to combat gun and gang violence with the already established "firearm bail support team." This group of crown attorneys and case management coordinators have so far been involved in 150 bail hearings in Toronto courthouses to make a strong case for detention when circumstances allow it.
“This work extends beyond the courts and across the province, where the influence of gangs remains a growing threat,” Mulroney said. “ We’re working to boost local crime prevention, enforcement and prosecution approaches to justice and crime that will have meaningful impacts at the community level.”