HALIFAX—The federal government is sending $4.7 million to Nova Scotia for programs and training to alleviate violence, organized crime and sexual exploitation.
The investment comes through Ottawa’s Gun and Gang Violence Action Fund, which is dealing out more than $200 million to provinces and territories over a five-year period that started in late 2018.
At a Wednesday announcement, Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey said gun violence peaked in Nova Scotia in 2014 and has since declined, but remains a problem. In 2017, 40 per cent of homicides were gun-related. According to Furey, police know of 27 independent gangs around the province.
Bill Blair, the federal Minister for Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, said gangs are less common in Nova Scotia than other parts of the country. Because of regional differences in violent and organized crime, he isn’t restricting the way jurisdictions use the money.
“There is not one solution and you can’t just have a one-size-fits-all response,” said Blair, who was in Halifax for the announcement.
Furey said the province will use the money to develop a gun and gang violence strategy and train police. Part of it will be allocated to community organizations doing crime prevention and intervention work.
Furey addressed them directly, asking for continued collaboration with his department.
“These strong relationships are key to us in preventing crime,” he said.
Miia Suokonautio, executive director of the YWCA of Halifax, said human trafficking is a growing problem in Nova Scotia and her organization has been ramping up its efforts to combat it for the past three years. A boost from the federal action fund will allow the YWCA to continue adding social supports for survivors of trafficking, including an emergency housing program.
Suzy Hansen said her community group is also expecting to receive a cut of the funding to support violence intervention in the Halifax neighbourhood of Mulgrave Park.
Hansen and five other women respond to violence in their community by opening their doors to children and youth.
“All of us on the team are mothers, so our first reaction is to make sure that our kids in the community are out of the way,” Hansen told reporters.
Ultimately, Hansen said she’d like to do more preventative work. Funding would allow her group to complete more training on violence prevention and offer educational workshops to the community.
“As we know, funding only lasts for so long, so to empower your own community to do the work that they can do on their own is so much more beneficial than just doing it ourselves,” said Hansen.
The Mi’kmaq Legal Support Network is also counting on some of the federal money to support a new bail supervision program. Executive director Paula Marshall called it “wellness bail,” and said it allows Mi’kmaw offenders to serve bail in their communities with access to resources “to address the issues that brought them before the courts in the first place.”
Marshall said the program was piloted in 2017 and now has the resources to start offering it to clients in Cape Breton.
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