CeaseFire Halifax to receive provincial funds but future still uncertain

CeaseFire Halifax will continue to operate until at least the summer thanks to temporary funding from the province, but the community group that works to prevent violence still faces an uncertain future.

Program manager says organization has been promised roughly $125,000 from Department of Justice

Ceasefire Halifax, a violence-reduction group, loses its federal funding at the end of March. (Steve Berry/CBC)

CeaseFire Halifax will continue to operate until at least this summer thanks to temporary funding from the province, but the community group that works to prevent violence still faces an uncertain future. 

Program manager Mel Lucas confirmed at a Halifax regional council meeting on Tuesday that the Department of Justice is stepping in with roughly $125,000.

The group is set to lose its federal funding at the end of March, and the municipality has been debating whether to fund the $2.34-million program or roll it into existing city youth programs.

"I understand what they're doing and I understand that we're looking for a solution … but our credibility, it would be devastated if we move in the direction that the regional municipality wants to go," Lucas told reporters after Tuesday's meeting. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice didn't confirm the amount but said it's providing "bridge funding" until July 15.

"This will provide time for the completion of the evaluation of the program and will also give CeaseFire time to work on a sustainability plan that identifies funding resources," Sarah Gillis said in an email to CBC News. 

CeaseFire works with young men between 16 and 24 who are at risk of being involved in gang violence. It works within their communities to build trust one-on-one and convince clients to use alternatives to violence.

It's modelled after a similar organization in the U.S.

Councillors weigh in

Coun. Lisa Blackburn said because CeaseFire was a federally funded program, the municipality has had little say on how it operates.

"We can use that as the foundation but let's have the community help us shape what this is going to look like going forward, instead of seeing this as a lose situation, I really see this as a wonderful opportunity to better service the community that it's meant to serve," she said.

Coun. Lindell Smith said most of the people he's spoken to don't think it's right for the city to fund the program. 

This work can't be measured by stats and numbers.- Coun. Lindell Smith

But he also said the staff report's conclusion that the program wasn't effective doesn't paint an accurate picture. 

"This work can't be measured by stats and numbers," said Smith. "This type of work in communities that are having these problems, you can't go out with a ruler and measure how something is being effective. It's really what happens on the ground and people that are living these experiences that give you that insight if something is working or not."

In addition to seeing whether CeaseFire's work could fall under existing programs, council agreed to help find more funding from other sources, including the federal government. 

With files from Pam Berman and Shaina Luck