The federal government has announced a major boost in funding to tackle guns and gangs amid escalating gang conflict in the Lower Mainland and across Canada.
“Our number one priority is to stop the flow of illegal hand guns and assault weapons into our communities,” federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in Surrey on Friday.
To that end, Ottawa will spend $327.5 million over five years to target gang crime. The government plans to spend $100 million annually after that, however that funding could depend on the Liberals winning the 2019 federal election.
Exactly how the money will be spent remains unclear. Goodale said funding plans will be influenced by a national summit on gang and gun crime that’s expected to be held next spring.
“We want to hear from key stakeholders, including law and border enforcement agencies, Indigenous groups, women’s advocates, and community and mental health organizations,” he said.
“We want to give a voice to victims, and to those who have been sucked into the gang vortex and somehow managed to escape and recover.”
However, while a more detailed breakdown of spending isn’t available, Goodale said the government does have several key priorities.
They include boosting enforcement, both through integrated gang task forces like B.C.’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) and border services.
Oct. 2017: Funding stabilized for B.C. youth anti-gang program
Ottawa is also looking to add more stable funding to youth early intervention, through initiatives like Surrey’s Wrap Program.
Concern about guns and gangs has been growing in B.C. in recent years, particularly in the Lower Mainland, which has been home to low-level gang conflict.
Back in August, Surrey RCMP said that city alone had seen at least 31 shots fired calls in the first eight months of the year.
The growing opioid crisis and associated drug trafficking has also raised new concerns.
In September, B.C.’s NDP government announced $322 million in new funding of its own to fight that crisis, much of it directed to law enforcement in an effort to stem the flow of drugs and increase public safety.