York receives funds to prevent gun, gang violence

York Region will receive $7.3 million to help stop gun and gang violence before it starts by tackling its root causes.

The money comes from the federal government’s $250-million Building Safer Communities Fund (BSCF) announced by Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino in Markham on March 16.

“The BSCF addresses the root causes of crime by creating safe spaces and empowering young people and communities to drive solutions that set them up for success,” Mendicino said. “Building community resilience through prevention is one of the key pillars of our plan to take action on gun violence, along with banning and buying back assault-style firearms and cracking down on illegal guns coming across our borders.”

Shooting has become the most common form of homicide, surpassing homicide by stabbing and beating, according to a background report released by the federal government. The largest increases in the number of gang-related homicides committed with a firearm were reported in Ontario and B.C. In Canada, most victims of crime know the person who committed the crime but that isn’t the case for gun crimes, which are typically committed by strangers. Gun crime often involves young offenders and young adults.

Public Safety Canada will enter into BSCF agreements this year with municipalities and communities that have been identified through the evidence-based criteria and meet program requirements. The amount of support a community will receive is based on two major elements: crime severity (homicide by firearm, incidents of firearms offences, organized crime/street gang-involved crime) and population density.

Municipalities will distribute funds to local organizations that focus on children, youth and young adults who are involved in or at risk of joining gangs.

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti says the Greater Toronto Area Mayors Group has been calling on the federal and provincial governments to take meaningful action against gun violence.

“Our communities have had enough, and our residents are demanding action be taken,” Scarpitti said. “I applaud the federal government for the multidimensional approach, ramping up efforts at the borders, banning assault-style firearms and for creating this significant investment where it’s needed most in preventive programming for our youth.”

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