Toronto receives more than $7M from federal government to tackle gun violence
In the midst of a violent year in Toronto that saw gun-related crime rise in the city, the federal government announced Thursday it is spending more than $7 million to tackle the root cause of gun and gang activity.
“I am confident that the programs we are funding today will make a real, lasting and positive difference in these kids’ lives,” Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair told reporters during a news conference at Toronto city hall.
“It will increase a life-long resiliency, self-efficiency and ultimately reduce gang violence and gang activity that will help keep our communities safe.”
Blair said $6.76 million over five years will go toward the city’s Community Health Project for Crime Prevention and Intervention with the hope of reaching over 1,350 youth over that time span.
The goal of the peer-support initiative will be to empower youth and direct them away from a life of crime. The project also aims to certify 250 young people as “peer healers” to deliver workshops on mental health to other youth vulnerable to gangs and violence.
The federal government has also allocated $400,000 over two years to the Toronto Police Service to enhance its neighbourhood policing program.
“The funds that are going directly go to Toronto Police Service will have a direct effect on at least 350 of our young men and women in those neighbourhoods that have high crime, that are looking for solutions, that are asking for solutions,” Chief Mark Saunders said.
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The funds will go toward a life skills project administered by neighbourhood officers to at-risk youth in eight priority communities.
“We know through research that looking at proactive measures reduces crime, specifically violent crime,” Saunders said.
“By having opportunities of putting things in place before young men have decisions to make and even think about using a firearm as a means of a solution, these tools will help give the knowledge and wisdom and opportunities so that better decisions can be made at the forefront.”
Police officials say the pilot project will enable officers in those priority neighbourhoods to offer youth opportunities to develop life skills such as relationship building, gang avoidance, financial literacy and career planning.
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According to the latest Toronto police numbers, there have been 396 shootings in the city so far this year resulting in 559 victims being shot. The statistics show a 28 per cent increase in deaths resulting from gun violence and an 18 per cent increase in injuries.
The shooting occurrences represent a six per cent increase compared with the same period last year.
“The rise in shootings we’ve seen in 2018, right up until this day, is simply not acceptable,” Mayor John Tory said.
“The number of deaths in 2018 from gun violence should never be repeated and we are committed to working together and to doing everything we can to stop the loss of life and address the root causes of the violence.”
Blair said the federal government is still in the process of studying a handgun ban and a report on the proposal will be released next year.
“I am looking at whatever measures will be effective in keeping those guns out of the hands of criminals and that can include up to a handgun ban,” the minister said.
“But even if that’s all we did and nothing more, we would not be completely successful. So we’re prepared to look very comprehensively at any and every measure that can be effective at keeping those handguns out of the hands of criminals.”
Both Toronto and Montreal city councils voted earlier this year to urge Ottawa to ban the sale of guns.
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