Premier vows to eliminate wait-list for youth anti-gang program

The B.C. government says it will spend $500,000 annually on the Surrey-based Wrap Program

Province says it will spend $500,000 a year on Surrey-based Wrap Program

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Premier John Horgan work out with students at Princess Margaret Secondary School in Surrey, following an anti-gang funding announcement. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

The B.C. NDP says any young person currently waiting to be accepted into the Wrap Program — a successful initiative aimed at keeping youths away from gangs — won't have to wait much longer.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth appeared with Premier John Horgan at a Surrey high school Friday morning to announce the province will spend $500,000 annually on Wrap.

"The wait-list, to my understanding, is down to about 12," Farnworth said.

"That's something that we're going to work to get down to zero, as soon as possible."

Wrap has helped hundreds of families in Surrey, but there hasn't been enough funding in the past to accommodate all of the at-risk youths in the city.

"At the end of summer, we had 48 kids on the wait-list," said Rob Rai, the Surrey School District's director of school community connections.

"With this infusion of new resources, it means that we're servicing 121 families currently."

How it works

The WRAP Program identifies young people from Surrey who have had negative contacts with police.

It then connects the youths and their families with counselling and mentoring services to help steer them straight.

Premier John Horgan says the Wrap Program will receive $500,000 a year from the province for as long as his government is in power. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Former gang member Jordan Buna — who now makes presentations to high school students about the risks of gang life — is one of Wrap's mentors.

"You can bring a kid — and I'm talking serious criminality, where a 13-or 14-year-old kid being in places where there are firearms present — and turn them around," he said.

"They're back in school, trying to get their studies in order and their negative police contacts are way down.

Buna says if there was a similar program when he was in high school, his life might have turned out differently.

"That's the one thing I've noticed working in this program is that the kids you work with, as you mentor them and as you work with them, they almost feel like they're accountable to you," he said.

"They feel like they don't want to disappoint you by messing up. That's a lot of what I was missing, when I was growing up."

Rai says the program's success has schools, police and politicians from all over wondering if they can introduce a similar program.

"I understand there's a lot of interest, especially at the provincial level of expanding the program," he said.

"I've actually personally met with a number of cities, and we're working to support them."