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Politics

NDP promises $100M fund aimed at keeping youth out of gangs

WATCH ABOVE: Experts say after-school programs will help fight gang violence: Singh

SURREY, B.C. — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh promised a $100-million fund Sunday dedicated to helping keep young people out of gangs, but the head of a parent-led group that has called for action says he’ll wait to see if any of the federal parties are willing to go beyond their campaign rhetoric.

Singh told a packed town hall Sunday that he announced the funding in response to roundtables he’s attended with experts, community organizers and front-line workers involved with youth in Surrey and Toronto.

“One of the things they’ve identified is that there’s not enough programming for young people,” Singh said, adding the funding would be used for after-school and mentorship programs.

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“We want to massively inject funding specifically into youth-targeted programs at the federal level, give them funding so they can run those programs with more access to resources and they can deliver better programs.”

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Gang violence has rocked Surrey in recent years, and the ensuing outrage prompted citizens in the Sikh community to create a group called Wake Up Surrey in June 2018 to help confront the increasing gang violence — as well as what they consider inaction by the RCMP in prioritizing public safety and diversity training.

The city’s mayor was elected last fall with a promise to replace the Mounties with a municipal police force, an idea endorsed by the group.

Founding member Gurpreet Singh Sahota was at the town hall Sunday and said representatives have met with Singh and appreciate his election promises _ demands they also plan to make of the Liberals and Conservatives — as long as they lead to action.

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Sahota said the Liberals promised $327 million in funding during a byelection campaign two years ago to combat youth gang violence, but the group has not seen any money. And he’s skeptical that anything more will be forthcoming after the election, regardless of the victor.

“This is a hot issue in Surrey,” he said, just one day after another shooting death, this one outside a Surrey gas station that police are calling a targeted hit. It’s a symptom of a “gang war” in the community, he added.

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“People want to know what the parties are going to do,” he said. “We’re not sure if they’ll deliver. It’s easy to make promises.”

Sahota said he’s calling on whichever party is elected next month to support the city of Surrey in transitioning to a municipal police force.

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Singh spent his sixth straight day in British Columbia, where he also promised on Sunday to create a dedicated RCMP anti-money laundering unit, with half of its $20-million funding for B.C.

He is running for re-election in the Vancouver-area riding of Burnaby South, and the party is also trying to fend off the Greens in the province.