Hamilton gets $4M for local organizations to tackle root causes of gun violence

Councillor John Paul Danko, Liberty For Youth's Abubakar Kayiranga, Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi, Mayor Fred Eisenberger, MP Matthew Green, and Chief Frank Bergen stand behind Public Safety Minister Marco Mendocino during an announcement at Westmount Recreation Centre. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

The federal government is allocating $4 million to the city of Hamilton to help reduce gun violence by taking aim at its root causes.

It’s part of the feds’ $250-million Building Safer Communities fund, and will support local organizations that work directly with youth who are at risk of getting involved with gangs and guns.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendocino made the announcement at Westmount Recreation Centre on Friday and said it’s been important to listen to those who actually work with youth in the city when rolling out the funding.

“We need to tackle the root of the problem, the conditions that spur someone – especially sometimes a young person – to join a gang or to go down the wrong path,” said Mendocino. “No kid, no matter where you’re born, wakes up and says, ‘I want to get possession of a gun.’ And yet that happens.”

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The money will be distributed among multiple agencies, including Liberty For Youth, a non-profit that mentors disadvantaged, marginalized and at-risk youth who face negative social circumstances or challenges poverty, substance abuse, unsafe home environments, escaping gang involvement or influence, or functioning while on probation.

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Abubakar Kayiranga, a program facilitator with Liberty For Youth, said there’s a lot that they’re already doing in the community but the organization is sometimes limited by a lack of funding, so Friday’s announcement is expected to make a significant difference.

Of the nineteen homicides that happened last year, Hamilton police chief Frank Bergen said there were cases that involved teens having access to guns.

“The reality is I’m at those incidents far too many times. What we do need … is risk intervention and prevention. It is that ability for us to catch somebody, to (give them) an opportunity to find a different path in life.”

The Hamilton-based announcement came on the same day that the federal government’s handgun ban came into effect.

Individuals and businesses are no longer able to import restricted handguns into Canada, with limited exceptions.

The Liberal government announced a plan in May to implement a freeze on importing, buying, selling, or otherwise transferring handguns to help quell firearm-related violence.

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