Feds will spend $7.1M to tackle youth gang violence in Toronto

Toronto Mayor John Tory and Bill Blair, the federal minister in charge of organized crime reduction, are announcing new funding to stop young people from joining gangs.

Funding comes as Toronto deals with troubling spike in shootings, homicides

Bill Blair, the federal minister tasked with tackling organized crime, announced new funding to deal with a surge of gang violence in Toronto on Thursday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Toronto Mayor John Tory and Bill Blair, the federal minister in charge of organized crime reduction, are announcing new funding to stop young people from joining gangs.

Blair said the federal government will send $6.7 million to the city over a five year span for a program that aims to address the root causes of youth violence. That program, dubbed the Community Healing Project, will include funding to have 250 youth work with other young people who are vulnerable to joining gangs.

"The sad reality is that our youth are the perfect, vulnerable targets to enter this type of life when they seek out recognition and self-worth," said Blair, who previously served as Toronto's police chief.

Blair added this issue is not just prevalent in big cities, noting some 7,000 Canadian youth are involved in gangs across the country.

Ottawa will also provide $400,000 to the Toronto Police Service as the force transitions to more neighbourhood-level policing. 

"I believe most sincerely that cops count and make a difference," Blair said.

More on this issue from CBC Toronto:

Blair was also pressed on whether or not the federal government will ban handguns, something the city has called for. Blair didn't make a firm commitment, instead saying the government is looking at all options to tackle violence.

This summer, Ottawa started reviewing that idea following a mass shooting on Danforth Avenue.

Toronto has been dealing with a surge in shootings and senseless killings in 2018.

Toronto has set a grim new homicide record in 2018. (CBC)

In the span of 48 hours this week, two people were shot to death while police also investigated eight shooting incidents, including one possible drive-by attack near an elementary school in the city's northwest.

Mayor decries level of violence on Toronto's streets

Tory called that violence "completely unacceptable" and said governments need to do everything they can to keep youth on the right path.

Tory said the city has applied for some $30 million in funding to address this issue, adding he's hoping there will be more announcements in the near future.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said the funding will help address the root causes of violent crime.

"We know that we can't arrest our way out of this," he said. 

Both Blair and Tory maintained the programs will be monitored closely to see whether they're succeeding or not. 


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