British Columbia

Popular Surrey anti-gang program dealing with long wait-list — again

A program created to help keep Surrey students away from gangs and crime is still dealing with a long wait-list despite a substantial infusion of money just last year.

Rapid population growth means demand for anti-gang Wrap Program continues to outstrip available spots

Buren Brar says Surrey's anti-gang Wrap Program helped turn his life around. (Jared Thomas/CBC)

A program created to help keep Surrey students away from gangs and crime is still dealing with a long wait-list despite a substantial infusion of money just last year.

Rob Rai, manager of Safe Schools for the Surrey School District, says rapid population growth in Surrey is one reason there are 31 students waiting to get into the Wrap Program, an anti-gang initiative which aims to catch at-risk youth before it's too late.

"It's at capacity," siad Rai. "So, you can put in tons and tons of resources, but for a school district that grew by 1,200 kids in the last five days, resources that match the growth [are] exactly what we need."

Last year, the federal government committed $3.5 million over five years to the program, which was enough to wipe out the 30-person wait-list that existed then.The provincial government also kicked in another $270,000.

Surrey has been plagued by gun and gang violence for years, due to ongoing turf wars by armed drug dealers.

'They got me back into high school'

Wrap Program participant Buven Brar says he could have easily become one of those gangsters, if not for the program. 

"They got me back into high school and helped me with my work," he said. "I had a tutor. I had a liaison that would take me to the gym three days and help me with my homework."

Brar has now graduated from high school and hopes to go to college and become an electrician.

B.C Solicitor Genral Mike Morris says he would like to see the current wait-list eliminated but did not announce any specifics around additional funding.

"The wait-list is indicative of how successful this program is," he said. "So we're going to ensure that we do everything, through [community] grants and other possible funding mechanisms that we have, to eliminate that waiting list."

The Surrey School District launched the Wrap Project in 2009.

With files from Jesse Johnston