A municipal committee has recommended that Calgary apply for federal funding aimed at preventing gun violence.
Between January and June, there were 63 shootings in Calgary; double the five-year average over the same period, according to data from the Calgary Police Service.
In a unanimous vote, the city’s Community Development Committee recommended that the city apply for the federal government’s Building Safer Communities Fund.
According to the federal government, the $250 million fund is intended to support community organizations that address the root cause of gun and gang violence.
A city report says Calgary is eligible for a share of up to $7.7 million over four years if the application is successful.
How Calgary is tackling shootings and gang activity
The committee heard that the city must send its application to Public Safety Canada by the end of the year so that the money can be allocated to community organizations in early 2023.
Although the money passes through the city of Calgary, the federal government will have the final say on the organizations and initiatives funded by the money.
“This is the first step in that commitment to fund a very local, very specific, very municipal response that understands our own context better than the federal government ever could,” Ward 8 Coun. said Courtney Walcott. “This is an important vote of confidence from the federal government that municipalities actually know how to respond to security. We just need the support of all levels of government to do this.
The city said it would rely on the findings of a report by the Community Public Safety Task Force.
The task force was formed in February 2020 and tasked with engaging with the community to provide advice and recommendations to identify and address public concerns about violence on city streets.
Some of the report’s findings include the need for communication and information sharing between the city and community organizations, as well as the need to connect programs with at-risk populations to help them navigate gang-specific programs.
“What the task force identified is a lot of what we see,” Noël Bahliby, youth program manager for the Center for Newcomers, told Global News. “It has a lot to do with some of these immediate challenges that families face, a lot of basic needs, the need for counselling, the need for language support.”
Public Safety Task Force presents plan to prevent violence in Calgary
The Real Me Gang intervention program is for first and second generation immigrant youth considered to be at high risk of gang involvement.
The program provides support through the Center for Newcomers Youth Program by connecting them and their families to different resources available in the city.
It was identified in the task force report as a target group for existing programs in Calgary for at-risk populations and gang members.
“If we get this kind of funding, it will really hit the town at a time when everyone is aware, everyone is thinking about this issue and they are really ready to work together and collaborate,” Bahliby said.
According to Doug King, professor of justice studies at Mount Royal University, the findings identified in the report show that the problem of violence goes much deeper than social disorder.
“It’s social displacement, it’s social decadence. It’s all of those things that are happening… And the report is going to help as long as it’s funded,” King said. “They asked for funding, maybe for four years, but it’s a request for long-term funding, 15, 20, 25 years; then the federal government has to intervene here.
The recommendation to apply for the Builder Safer Communities Fund has yet to get the green light from City Council as a whole.
“I am confident that with our very smart and talented administrative team and the many frontline organizations, we will be able to come and use these funds for a solution in Calgary,” Ward 11 Coun. said Kourtney Penner.
–with files from Tracy Nagai and Adam Toy of Global News
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