Politics

NDP pledges investment in sports, after-school programs to steer youth away from violence

Leader Jagmeet Singh committed to invest $100 million over five years to fund after-school programs, sports and drop-in centres for youth across the country in an effort to keep them from joining gangs. 

Singh also said new RCMP money-laundering unit would be created

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh attends a campaign event in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The NDP announced their plan to tackle gang violence in Canada on Sunday morning from British Columbia. 

Leader Jagmeet Singh committed to invest $100 million over five years to fund after-school programs, sports and drop-in centres for youth across the country in an effort to keep them from joining gangs. 

"All the experts that I've met with have said we need to invest directly in youth," Singh said during a news conference in Burnaby, B.C.

"So we're making a commitment to help out those families that have lost loved ones, those families that are worried about the future, they want to see some change, they want to see young people have a brighter future."

"Young people who've been left behind need someone on their side," he said. 

"We want to massively inject funding specifically into youth-targeted programs at the federal level, give them funding so they can run those programs with more access to resources and they can deliver better programs."

The party would also create an RCMP unit to deal with money laundering in an effort to de-fund organized crime. 

The plan was developed through consultations with experts, he added. This announcement is the first step and Singh said the party would have more details over the coming weeks. 

The number of gang-related homicides in Canada has increased over the past four years, from 82 in 2014 up to 157 in 2018, according to Statistics Canada. 

Several major cities in the country have seen a spike in shootings and gang-related violence in the same time period.

Gang violence has rocked Surrey in recent years. The ensuing outrage prompted citizens in the Sikh community to create a group called Wake Up Surrey in June 2018 to help confront gang violence.

Founding member Gurpreet Singh Sahota was at the town hall Sunday and said representatives have met the NDP leader and appreciate his election promises — demands they have also made of the Liberals and Conservatives — as long as they lead to action.

Sahota said the Liberals promised $327 million in funding during a byelection campaign two years ago to combat gang violence, but the group has not seen any money. And he's skeptical that anything will be forthcoming after the election, regardless of the victor.

"People want to know what the parties are going to do," he said. "We're not sure if they'll deliver. It's easy to make promises."

The Liberal government created a minister for organized crime reduction in July 2018, charged with working to reduce gun violence and aiding the fight against organized crime. Bill Blair now fills that role.

The Conservatives have also proposed measures to address gangs in Canada.

Singh also hosted a town hall on youth violence Sunday night in B.C. It was Singh's sixth straight day campaigning in the province, where he is running for re-election in the Vancouver-area riding of Burnaby South.

Corrections

  • This story has been edited from a previous version that incorrectly stated the numbers of gang-related homicides as rising from 523 in 2014 to 651 in 2018. In fact, those are the overall homicide numbers; gang-related homicides were 82 and 157 respectively in those years.
    Sep 29, 2019 2:53 PM ET

with files from The Canadian Press

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