Ontario extends funding for anti-violence program
Published Monday, July 23, 2012 6:35AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 23, 2012 10:37PM EDT
After a week in Toronto marred by a string of shootings, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has promised to extend funding to the Toronto Police Service to support a city-specific program to reduce violence.
The Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy, known as TAVIS, will have continued funding, Mayor Rob Ford announced Monday after coming out of a closed-door meeting with police Chief Bill Blair and the premier.
The province currently gives $5 million per year to TAVIS, which is able to deploy 72 police officers into communities that are at a high-risk for violence, or where violence has occurred.
But that money was set to run out at the end of this fiscal year.
Ford called the premier’s commitment to ensuring funding for the program a win for the city.
“TAVIS is doing a great job of getting the guns and gangs off the street and the premier has said he is going to continue funding TAVIS,” Ford said. “That’s exactly what I asked for and that’s exactly what we got.”
Ford is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper Tuesday to further discuss gun violence.
Prior to the meeting, Ford had declared war on street criminals, claiming he will throw anyone convicted of a gun crime out of the city.
On Monday, Ford told a Toronto radio station he would demand the province provide funding to hire extra police officers.
“I will be asking for a minimum of $5 million, or as much as $10 million, something that is realistic. I can’t go in asking for $20 or $25 (million) because I know they don’t have it,” Ford told AM 640.
After the morning meeting, Chief Blair said stable funding for TAVIS was “an important commitment.”
It will allow for better planning for the program, which also helps pay for in-school police officers and anti-victimization programs in targeted communities, he said.
Leaders at the meeting also discussed how the Ontario Provincial Police and Toronto Police Services could work together, Blair said.
The premier confirmed, after the meeting, that the province will commit an additional $500,000 to help OPP, Toronto and GTA police forces further co-ordinate their guns and gangs initiatives.
With more than 200 shootings in Toronto so far this year, highlighted by a public Scarborough shootout that killed two and injured 23 others, the city’s gun problem has garnered the attention of the provincial and federal governments.
McGuinty met with Scarborough community leaders last week, but those leaders were not at Monday’s meeting.
Community activist Dwayne Morgan said a lack of representation could leave people in crime-affected neighbourhoods doubting whether a solution will come from the gun summit.
“People in the community are usually very weary of these sorts of things, because they don’t actually believe anything positive is going to come of them,” Morgan told CTV Canada AM on Monday.
Attorney General John Gerretsen, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Madeleine Meilleur and Minister of Children and Youth Services Dr. Eric Hoskins joined the discussion at Queen’s Park on Monday.
McGuinty said that in addition to the extended funding for TAVIS, he would fast-track $500,000 to support Toronto community groups.
He said he has asked Meilleur and Hoskins to review existing programs and report back in 30 days on which programs could use future investment.
“We are using the next 30 days to see if we can do something else, for our part, as the provincial government,” McGuinty said.
McGuinty said he also asked Ford to think of how the municipality could add some of its own funding to address the problem, pointing out that the province has already found money in its tight budget for crime reduction.
“When these kinds of things happen, when communities have their confidence shaken, when children and young people are victims of violence, I think we have to give these kinds of things a re-think,” McGuinty said.
McGuinty has said there are no quick-fixes to Toronto’s gun problem. He agrees that more police resources would help, but added that more and better social programs are needed to steer youth away from gangs.
Ford, meantime, has said he will lobby for more funding for police, but has turned his back on what he calls “hug-a-thug” programs.
Ford was the only member of city council to vote against accepting $350,000 in federal funding for a gang intervention program last month.
In recent days, several African-Canadian leaders have called for a long-term strategy to addressing the culture behind youth violence.
Margaret Parsons of the African-Canadian Legal Clinic said the community does not want politicians to offer “stop-gap measures.”
Alvin Curling, a former MPP and house Speaker, has also claimed that recommendations outlined in a report he co-authored for the province in 2008, titled “The Roots of Youth Violence,” had not yet been addressed.
The report recommended that government focus its resources on improving poverty, reducing racism and the lack of jobs and decent housing in Toronto’s most disadvantaged communities.
On AM 640, Ford dismissed the report and said the problem needed less talk and more action.
“Money talks and B.S. walks. I’m not going to listen to some B.S. in some reports and yada yada. I’ve got a busy city to run,” Ford said.
After last week’s deadly shooting, Ford claimed that he would throw criminals out of the city and promised to speak with Prime Minister Stephen Harper about using “immigration laws” to remove criminals from Toronto.
Ford later tried to clarify the statement, explaining that he did not mean to imply that foreigners were responsible for Toronto’s gun problem.
The premier and other politicians and community leaders have also appealed to the federal government to ban handguns. McGuinty said the ban would send an “appropriate signal” in changing the country’s gun culture.