The City of Coquitlam is set to receive a $2.24 million grant from the federal government as part of a broad program to decrease gun and gang violence.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart and Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam MP Ron McKinnon made joint statements at the Pinetree Community Centre on Monday.
“Being tough on crime is not enough. We also need to get to the roots of the problem. And that’s at the community level addressing the social determinants of crime,” McKinnon said. “Those conditions can lead to people getting drawn into violent behaviors and criminal activity.”
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The federal government’s Building Safer Communities Fund (BSCF), announced in March 2022, is distributing $250 million to cities across Canada.
The funds are to be used to support local initiatives to prevent stop violence before it starts, according to a release from Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada.
The money is meant to address underlying conditions that give rise to crime, and be directed toward community-led projects that prevent violence amongst youth involved with gangs, or at risk of joining them.
“We’ve long said the best way to tackle crime is to prevent criminality, and the social determinants of criminality – the social determinants of gang involvement, for example,” Stewart said. “Let’s tackle crime before it’s crime. Let’s tackle criminality … before it affects our young people and draws them into a life that has a very short timeline.”
Municipalities which meet the criteria for the BSCF have been identified by Public Safety Canada, and agreements are being finalized.
The amount of funding each community receives is based on two factors: crime severity (homicides by firearms, firearms offenses, and activity of organized crime/street gang violence), and population density.
When asked how the money will be spent locally, Stewart said city staff will provide recommendations to council at a later date.
The BSCF is building on the prior Initiative To Take Action Against Gun and Gang Violence, which provided $358.8 million over five years since 2018.
Other initiatives recently taken by the federal government to address gun violence include adding resources for border security to stop gun smuggling from the U.S., a ban on assault-style rifles like the AR-15 and an upcoming buyback program, a national freeze on hands through an amendment to the Firearms Act.
Bill C-21 was also introduced in late 2022, which Public Safety Canada says has significant provisions to combat gun violence in both organized crime and domestic violence.