Ottawa pledges $2.3M to combat gun, gang violence in Manitoba

The federal government is giving approximately $2.3 million to Manitoba over the next two years as part of a strategy to address gun and gang violence in the province, it announced Friday.

Funding will be given over 2 years for intelligence sharing, specialized equipment, community mobilization

Winnipeg police seized these guns during a one-week span in 2018. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

The federal government is giving approximately $2.3 million to Manitoba over the next two years as part of a strategy to address gun and gang violence in the province, it announced Friday.

The bulk of that money will go to the Winnipeg Police Service, with $1.3 million slated to support its guns and gangs unit, which focuses on identifying, arresting and dismantling gangs — particularly those involved with illegal firearms and drugs.

The funds will also support other policing and criminal justice initiatives, including the creation of a new gang intelligence database, specialized equipment for the Manitoba First Nations Police Service, gang awareness training for police agencies outside of Winnipeg, gang exiting efforts and training for Crown attorneys in prosecuting organized crime and firearm offences.

Must include community groups: minister

Bill Blair, federal minister of organized crime reduction, says an approach that also includes support for community groups is important for a strategy that effectively combats gang violence.

More than $80,000 of the federal funds announced Friday is earmarked to support the expansion of community mobilization programs in Manitoba.

"We know that much of that violence is driven by a number of social conditions, but in particular drug trafficking and drug addiction," Blair said. "You can't simply arrest your way out of these very complex social problems."

A 2017 Public Safety Canada report on youth gangs in Canada found community involvement is essential in identifying and targeting the roots of gang violence.

"The best results in addressing the youth gang problem come from the community working together," the report said.

"Failure to adequately assess the nature, characteristics and size of the issue may lead to not focusing on the right youth, not choosing the appropriate initiatives, and not employing the proper level of resources."

Blair says he's seen the impact community groups can have on youth on a national level.

"Community organizations and youth workers in our towns and cities right across this country do an extraordinary job of helping young people make better, safer choices," he said.

"We recognize the important of investing in those kids, supporting those community organizations, and also addressing some of the social determinants of violence in our communities by making investments in housing and education and jobs."

Federal funds part of broader anti-gang strategy

Over the next five years, Blair says, the federal government has allocated $214 million to support gang and gun violence initiatives across the country, with $13 million going to Manitoba.

Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen called Winnipeg a "nexus of gang activity," and said the money is needed to address mounting violence in the city.

In 2018, Cullen says, the Winnipeg Police Service's street crime unit arrested 411 people — including 161 known gang members or associates. Cullen says the unit also seized more than $2.4 million in illicit drugs, more than $1 million in cash and 144 weapons, including knives, firearms and explosives.

The province says year-to-date statistics for 2019 show Winnipeg is on par for similar results this year.

"Guns and gangs are a challenge that affects so many communities across Manitoba," Cullen said.

"We're excited about the announcement here this morning to try and deal with some of those situations that affect so many Manitobans."


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