The City of Nanaimo will work with RCMP, Snuneymuxw First Nation and non-profit organizations to develop a program that addresses gun and gang violence in the city.
During the July 4 city council meeting, Lisa Bhopalsingh, director of community development, presented a staff report that noted a funding opportunity available to do just that.
As per the report, the Ministry of Public Safety Canada announced earlier this year that $250 million was available through the Building Safer Communities Fund to address community safety.
As one of the communities identified by the ministry – based on crime analyses related to firearms, homicides and street-level offences – Nanaimo could be allocated $1.85 million over a four-year fiscal period through BSCF.
Bhopalsingh said city staff would use the first year of funding to build a three-year plan with pilot programs.
“We would work in partnership with the RCMP, Snuneymuxw First Nation, non-profits and others to come up with a range of activities,” she said. “The interesting thing about this is that the funding is directed specifically to municipalities, not to law-enforcement agencies. However, we have, of course, a great partnership with the RCMP and other entities that we know are interested in working with this and looking at this as a preventative and resilience-building opportunity.”
As per the staff report, the funding could be used to develop and deliver initiatives that include mentoring, counselling, skills development and recreational opportunities. The report also indicated the pilot program could involve hiring program coordinators.
“I think think this is way too much, personally,” said Coun. Sheryl Armstrong. “If you partner with the RCMP, you will find that all of these are already done. There is probably at least 100 different plans that I’m aware of … that address gun violence and gang activity.”
She said she also didn’t see the need to have a qualified consultant since a consultant was already a part of community policing.
“This is money that is coming unsolicited to us … to implement programs that we know engage youths and others that are at risk and prevent them from entering into the realm where they’re pulled in through social media and other strong draws, and building on existing programs that we know work and trying them out in our communities,” Bhopalsingh said.
Council voted unanimously in favour to accept the city’s allocation from the BSCF.