Ontario's Anti-Gun Strategy Gives Police and Prosecutors the Tools They Need
The Ontario government is on the side of Ontarians who are concerned about crime and safety. That is why it is committed to doing everything in its power to get guns off our streets and make our communities safer.
Fighting gun violence requires being tough on crime, using strong enforcement and effective prevention, and taking aim at the causes of crime. Ontario is creating healthy neighbourhoods by targeting investments in better housing, safe schools, after-school activities, and programs for at-risk youths and adults. As part of its anti-gun strategy, the McGuinty government will continue to work with all levels of government and members of the community to find legislative changes and community-based initiatives to help end gun violence.
Gun Violence Reduction Initiatives:
BEING TOUGH ON CRIME
- Provincial Operations Centre -- The government is establishing a state-of-the-art operations centre that will better allow for highly co-ordinated investigations and prosecutions of guns and gang-related offences. The Centre participants will include the newly expanded Guns and Gangs Task Force, which includes several police services including the Toronto Police Service, Ontario Provincial Police, a team of specialized Crown prosecutors, support staff, probation and parole officers, and a victims unit. Federal participation in the Operations Centre is currently being discussed.
- Expanded Guns and Gangs Task Force -- The task force includes police officers, Crown prosecutors and staff from the Victim/Witness Assistance Program who work together from the first day of an investigation. The Crown prosecutors provide early legal advice to police, especially on search warrants or other issues arising in an investigation. They also, where appropriate, get legal authorization for the police to conduct wiretaps. After charges are laid by police, Crown prosecutors prepare and conduct the prosecutions. The McGuinty government has expanded the task force twice since October 2005 for a total of 64 Crowns and their support staff, and 12 victim/witness service staff. In addition, Ontario and federal officials will continue discussions with a view to creating teams of dedicated provincial and federal prosecutors working together to take action on gun and related drug crimes.
- Expanded Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit (PWEU) -- In January 2006, the McGuinty government announced an additional 15 OPP officers would be assigned to the PWEU for a total of 58 officers in the Unit.
- Funding for Policing in High-Priority Areas -- $5 million in funding has been provided to the Toronto Police Service to intensify its offensive against gangs in high-priority areas of the city. This effort includes the establishment of three rapid response teams each consisting of 18 highly-trained police officers, specializing in drugs and guns interdiction to work on the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy. To date, police have seen tremendous results including more than 2,220 arrests, the seizure of more than 150 guns from the streets and establishing more than 8,290 business and community contacts. $2 million has also been provided for the installation of security cameras at targeted locations, as well as the expansion of the capacity of the police to obtain wiretap and search warrants.
- Major Crime Courts -- The province is establishing Major Crime Courts designed to increase the criminal justice system's capacity to respond to large-scale prosecutions. The first major crime courtroom will be located in Toronto and will be operational in fall 2006. The courtrooms will be equipped with higher levels of security and be capable of dealing with multiple defendants. Three new judges are also being appointed in order to deal with the anticipated increase in the volume of work.
- 1,000 Additional Police Officers -- The hiring and training of the remaining 1,000 new officers is being fast-tracked so that they can be on the streets by the end of 2006.
- Additional Probation and Parole Officers -- The government is hiring 12 new probation and parole officers to conduct risk assessments on individuals accused of offences related to guns and gangs.
- The Centre of Forensic Sciences -- The government has increased funding to the center to expand its capacity to perform ballistic testing and forensic analysis.
- Bail Blitz Teams -- The province is establishing bail blitz teams which consist of police, Crown prosecutors and duty counsel working together to expedite the bail court process at certain sites for criminal cases, including those involving guns. Teams are currently working at College Park Courthouse in Toronto and at the Ottawa Courthouse.
- Calling on Federal Government -- The Ontario government has called on the federal government to change the Criminal Code to make the prosecution and enforcement of gun crimes more effective, including mandatory minimum sentences for all gun-related crimes and the creation of two new Criminal Code gun theft offenses - "robbery with intent to steal a gun" and "breaking and entering with intent to steal a gun". On May 4, 2006, the federal government introduced legislation that would, if passed, enact many of these changes. We continue to call on the federal government to move as quickly as possible to amend the Criminal Code to:
- impose reverse onus bail for all gun crimes
- implement a handgun ban; and
- set more severe penalties for breach of bail conditions.
- No Deals for Gun Offenders -- Ontario Crown prosecutors are instructed not to withdraw or plea-bargain firearms-related offences unless there are exceptional circumstances. The Crown must also seek appropriate sentences that will act as a deterrent and, in appropriate cases, consider seeking sentences higher than the mandatory minimum.
- Gun Amnesty -- The Project PEACE gun amnesty was implemented by the Toronto Police Service and supported by the Ministry of the Attorney General from November 7-30, 2005. A total of 261 guns, including 33 handguns, and 1,554 rounds of ammunition were collected.
- "Blitz" Inspections of Gun-Licensed Businesses in Toronto -- The government funded a blitz inspection of 32 gun-licensed businesses in Toronto in September 2005, to ensure gun storage and safekeeping standards were being met. The Chief Firearms Office is now incorporating unannounced inspections of gun-licensed businesses across the province into its regular procedures. Previously, most inspections were scheduled in advance.
- Ontario's Witness Protection Program -- The program has been improved to encourage more community members to come forward when they have witnessed a serious crime. The Ministry of the Attorney General has improved short-term protection, and reduced the red tape involved in obtaining a new identity and with admission to the program. The Attorney General will continue to work with his federal counterpart to improve the federal witness protection plan so that it can work in a coordinated manner with Ontario's program.
- Community Impact Evidence -- The Ministry of the Attorney General is implementing new and innovative ways for Crown prosecutors to seek tougher sentences by developing and presenting evidence to the court about the devastating impact of gun violence on individuals and communities.
BEING TOUGH ON THE CAUSES OF CRIME
- Youth Challenge Fund -- A $15 million challenge fund will sponsor local programs, training and jobs for at-risk youth. Chaired by Toronto Argonauts Head Coach Mike "Pinball" Clemons, the fund will target 13 Toronto at-risk neighbourhoods. It will support ideas for communities that come directly from people living in the neighbourhoods. Community members will be able to apply to the fund to cover the costs of new or existing local programs to help keep kids off the streets. The Premier challenged the private sector and private contributors to match the government's $15 million investment. The government will then match private sector contributions up to an additional $15 million, for a potential total investment of over $45 million over the next three years.
- Down with Guns Program -- $3 million is being directed to a community-designed initiative which is to be led by the Toronto Community Foundation in partnership with the Coalition of Christian Leaders. The strategy has four goals: to strengthen families, focus on education, create employment options and opportunity, and encourage youth to know their civic rights and responsibilities.
- Youth Justice Committees -- The Youth Justice Committee program, an alternative to the formal court process that holds low-risk young offenders accountable and addresses issues that may lead to re-offending, is being expanded to a total of 46 communities across the province.
- Youth Intervention Centres -- In April 2006, the government established an additional 12 youth intervention centres for a total of 27 across the province. The centres provide structured and closely supervised programs where youth in conflict with the law accept responsibility for their actions, and develop anger management, learning, employment and other life skills to help re-integrate them into their communities.
- Youth Opportunity Strategy -- $28.5 million will be invested over the next three years to help young people in at-risk communities with local initiatives, such as mentorship, job-readiness, employment, skills training and youth leadership programs. These include:
- Summer Jobs For Youth Program -- This program will help 750 youth from high-risk neighbourhoods in Toronto get summer jobs this year. In summer 2007, the program will be expanded to serve 1,650 youth in communities across the province.
- Youth Outreach Worker Program -- This program better connects young people from at-risk communities with services and supports that address their needs and build on individual strengths. This year, the program will provide funding to community agencies in Toronto to enable the hiring of 39 youth outreach workers. In 2007, the program will grow to support the hiring of an additional 23 outreach workers in other at-risk communities for a total of 62 outreach workers across Ontario.
- Youth in Policing Initiative -- This program provides youth in at-risk neighbourhoods with the opportunity to find summer employment with the Toronto Police Service. This summer, the initiative will provide up to 100 job placements. In the summer of 2007, the initiative will be expanded to serve an additional 65 youth in at-risk communities outside Toronto.
- Community Use of Schools -- The Province has created the $20 million Community Use of Schools program, which encourages increased use of schools by not-for-profit groups at reduced rates to break down financial barriers and to promote participation in a range of community activities (such as recreation and physical activity programs).
- Safe Schools Action Team -- The McGuinty government has appointed a special Safe Schools Action Team to implement new measures to protect students. These measures include province-wide school safety audits, funding for new security devices, funding for a bullying prevention program in all schools, bullying prevention training for principals and reviewing the Safe Schools Act.
- Leave Out Violence (LOVE) -- A special project grant was provided to LOVE to provide outreach and support to school children and youth in high risk neighbourhoods. Youth leaders will be trained to become peer mentors and will conduct presentations in schools to help empower youth and children to take a stand against the violence that has penetrated their communities and prevent re-victimization.
- Learning to 18 -- To improve students' achievement in high school and dramatically reduce the unacceptably high drop-out rate, the government launched its $1.3 billion Student Success Strategy. It included the introduction of legislation that would, if passed, ensure students keep credits learning to age 18 or graduation, new Specialist High-Skills Major within the high school diploma, opportunities for students to earn dual credits through apprenticeship training and postsecondary courses that count toward the OSSD, and expanded co-operative education choices. As a part of the strategy, students are also benefiting additional teachers dedicated to student success in every secondary school, innovative lighthouse programs, class size limits in key courses and upgraded technological education equipment.
- Apprenticeship Training -- Through the Pre-Apprenticeship Programs For At-Risk Youth, approximately 100 at-risk youth will learn practical skills that will help them find gainful employment in the skilled trades.