Quebec invests $52 million in gun violence prevention
MONTREAL -- With the number of gun-related incidents in Montreal on the rise, the Quebec government announced Sunday that it will invest $52 million to step up prevention efforts.
The funds will be distributed to several projects, including $11.3 million over five years to the Prevention of delinquency through sport, arts, and culture (PDSAC) program. Another $20.2 million will go to a new program, over four years, for “community ‘travail de rue’ organizations in crime prevention,” according to a press release.
In the past year, four teenagers have been shot and killed in Montreal.
“We understand that people are worried and extremely upset,” said Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault, who said the announcement comes on top of an earlier promise to hire 107 police officers and experts to combat gun violence.
But crackdowns are not the answer to everything, according to Guilbault.
“We could have all the police officers in the world, but the day a gun arrives in the hand of a 15-year-old, it’s because something has been dropped before,” she said.
Quebec wants to prevent young people from being “seduced by unscrupulous delinquents” and recognizes that ‘travail de rue’ — efforts organized within a community — is a “major” prevention tool.
The program to fund the missions of community organizations represents a new way of doing business for the government, which usually funds projects. This method, Guilbault said, will help “eradicate the constant spectre of service discontinuity” that hangs over some communities.
At the press conference held in the St. Michel neighbourhood, where many shootings have taken place, some of them fatal, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said she believes that “social, economic and urban conditions” must be improved.
The aim is to improve quality of life and allow for “winning conditions for living environments that are stimulating, interesting, and that keep young people away from organized crime.”
It is necessary “more than ever” to take “very concrete” actions to put a stop to the wave of violence, added Chantal Rouleau, Minister responsible for the Montreal region.
“We are facing a new phenomenon, especially because of the use of social networks that are too often used to glorify and trivialize the possession and use of firearms. And there, it is necessary to tackle it head on,” she said.
Among the measures funded, Quebec will provide $366,000 to Montreal police (SPVM) to create a position for an Indigenous community development advisor.
Specialization in this area of intervention represents a “considerable addition” to the police force, said SPVM Chief Sylvain Caron.
The Minister responsible for Indigenous Affairs, Ian Lafrenière — himself a former police officer in Montreal — said he knows “how important it is to build better mutual understanding and trust.”
Gun violence is currently “the priority of the department,” noted Caron, who said he has deployed “all the manpower required” to tame it.
Caron is asking young people who know of gun-related events taking place to confide in a trusted adult or community police officer so that authorities can intervene “upstream, rather than in response.”
The lion’s share of the funds announced Sunday will be spent in Montreal, where the problem is most prevalent, but money will also be available in other major urban centers.
“We don’t want to wait until it’s acute,” said Guilbault.
—This report was first published in French by The Canadian Press on Dec. 5, 2021.