A Winnipeg neighbourhood group questions the Harper government’s commitment to crime prevention.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon where Conservative MP Shelly Glover announced applications will be accepted to fund community-based youth gang prevention programs on a nationwide basis, Jamil Mahmood said the available funding is so low it raises the question of how serious the federal government is committed to combat youth gangs.
"I didn’t mean to rain on (Glover’s) parade," Mahmood said to reporters following the news conference. "The last funding was pretty high, like $40 million across Canada, and it was targeted for urban areas only.
"For it to turn out to be $7.5 million a year across the whole of Canada, it’s not going to mean very much," Mahmood said. "This ($7.5 million) is just scratching the surface."
Mahmood, executive director of the Spence Neighbourhood Association, said the $7.5 million that Glover said will be available represents a drastic reduction from previous years.
When Glover invited community representatives to speak about the work the national crime prevention strategy has done in helping their organizations, Mahmood stepped forward and questioned why the funding had been reduced.
Mahmood said federal funding in the past has made it possible for the Spence group to run a mentoring program with young people and help steer them away from crime and gangs. He speculated that with the new, lower level of funding, only one program will be funded in Manitoba in the future when five programs received funding in the past.
Funding "is significantly less than the last one. I was wondering what the rationale is for less funding."
Mahmood said successful anti-gang programming requires a strong financial commitment over several years, adding the Harper government is allowing successful programs across the country to lapse while it forces neighbourhood groups to find new funding.
Mahmood said the Spence Neighbourhood Association will apply for new funding but added that will likely mean it will be close to a year before a decision is made and the good work done by its program over the last four years will be jeopardized.
Glover said the national crime prevention strategy funded 138-community based prevention programs across the country in 2011, where 16,000 at-risk youth participated.
Glover said applications from community groups are being accepted now until April 9.