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McGuinty Government's Comprehensive Gun Violence Strategy

Archived Backgrounder

McGuinty Government's Comprehensive Gun Violence Strategy

Ministry of the Attorney General

The McGuinty government is committed to doing everything in its power to fight gun and gang violence in Ontario and it is calling on the federal government to give Ontario the authority to do more. 

Fighting gun violence requires being tough on crime, using strong enforcement and effective prevention, and taking aim at the causes of crime.

Today's announcement by Premier McGuinty follows on the June 6 announcement of the government's new anti-crime package, which included expanding Ontario's highly successful guns and gangs project to combat violence and build safer communities for Ontario citizens.

Today's announcement includes:

Increase in the complement of OPP officers by 200 - This is the largest increase in OPP officer strength in well over a decade. The additional officers will be assigned to a number of priority areas to target criminal activity and protect Ontario citizens.  Details on the deployment will be announced later.

Expansion of the Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit - The addition of 50 officers will expand the unit's ability to target domestic and international firearms trafficking, as well as to develop and coordinate intelligence-led, joint forces investigations targeting street gangs and other criminal groups with municipal, federal and American law enforcement partners.

Enhancement to the Chief Firearms Office (CFO) - This initiative will add three officers to the CFO to conduct investigations into the eligibility/suitability of certain individuals to possess firearms or a firearms license.

New Firearms Crowns - six new firearms Crowns will focus on stopping illegal guns from being smuggled into Ontario. The specialized firearms Crowns will be available provincewide to work with police from day one for better coordination and collaboration in investigating and prosecuting gun-runners, smugglers and thieves.

BEING TOUGH ON CRIME  

Calling on Federal Government  -- Ontario has called on the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to:

  • implement a handgun ban
  • implement mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes
  • impose a reverse onus for bail for all gun crimes.

The federal government has recognized the need to toughen sentences at Ontario's suggestion.  Proposed federal legislation would also create two new Criminal Code gun theft offences -- "robbery with intent to steal a gun" and "breaking and entering with intent to steal a gun," and impose a reverse onus for bail for all gun crimes. 

We continue to call on Ottawa to maintain the federal gun registry and move as quickly as possible to amend the Criminal Code to set more severe penalties for breach of bail conditions.

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 assist in preparing and conducting the prosecutions

The McGuinty government has expanded the task force three times since October 2005 for a total of 72 Crown prosecutors and their support staff, and 12 victim/witness service staff. This includes expert Crown prosecutors deployed to the province's six regions to work full-time as a resource to police and prosecutors on gun violence matters.

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.

Operations Centre -- The government has established a state-of-the-art operations centre that better allows for highly coordinated investigations and prosecutions of gun and gang-related offences.  The centre houses the 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. 

Major Crimes Courts -- The province is establishing major crimes courts designed to increase the criminal justice system's capacity to respond to large-scale, gun and gang-related prosecutions.  The first major crimes courtroom, located at 361 University Avenue in Toronto, is now ready for use.  The second, located at 2201 Finch Avenue West in Toronto, is expected to be ready this fall. The courts are equipped with higher levels of security and are capable of dealing with complex cases involving multiple defendants. Three new judges have been appointed to deal with the anticipated increase in the volume of work. 

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.

Bail Teams -- The province has established 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 working at College Park Courthouse and Old City Hall Courthouse in Toronto and at the Ottawa Courthouse.

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. 

STRONG ENFORCEMENT

The Safer Communities - 1,000 Officers Partnership Program -- This $37.1 million program is a key part of the government's plan to foster safer and stronger communities in Ontario.  Half of the 1,000 new police officers are assigned to crime community policing, including school visits, street patrols and increased traffic enforcement. The remaining 500 new officers are assigned duties related to six priority areas:

  • Guns and gangs
  • Youth crime
  • Organized crime and marijuana grow operations
  • Dangerous offenders
  • Domestic violence
  • Protecting children from Internet luring and child pornography.

All 1,000 officers have been hired and trained.  

Funding for Policing in High-Priority Areas - In January 2006, the McGuinty government provided $5 million to the Toronto Police Service to support its offensive against gangs in high-priority areas of the city. This effort included the establishment of the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS)  - three rapid response teams each consisting of 18 highly trained police officers, specializing in drugs and guns interdiction to work on TAVIS.

To date, Toronto police have seen tremendous results following the implementation of this program, including more than 7,800 arrests and the seizure of more than 490 guns. 

The McGuinty government recognizes that the TAVIS program has shown positive results. In June 2007, the government announced a one-time payment of $5 million to the Toronto Police Service to continue and expand the TAVIS program to the Entertainment District.

Expanded guns and gangs and anti-violence intervention program -  On June 6, 2007, the premier announced the government's $12 million investment to further combat guns and gangs, organized crime, and illegal drugs in Ontario, including: $6.3 million to expand a successful guns and gangs anti-violence intervention program to Brantford, Halton, Hamilton, Niagara, Essex County, Durham, Kenora, London, Ottawa, Peel, Thunder Bay, Waterloo and York.  The expansion included $1.4 million in additional support for Crown Attorneys.

Crime Stoppers - The province has made funding for the Ontario Association of Crime Stoppers permanent by investing $200,000 annually to maintain the Crime Stoppers     24-hour, toll-free telephone tip line. In 2006, the Ontario Association of Crime Stoppers received over 19,000 tips.  This resulted in 3,297 arrests, the recovery of more than $11 million in property and the seizure of close to $200 million in illegal drugs.

Task Force on Marijuana Grow Operations - The community safety hazards of marijuana grow operations call for dedicated resources.  The new advisory group will develop methods to reduce the risks to public safety from marijuana grow operations.  Through additional resources, the Office of the Fire Marshal will provide increased training to help reduce the risks to health and safety for police and fire services arising from marijuana grow operations.

Crystal Methamphetamine Labs - Illicit methamphetamine (crystal meth) labs pose health and safety risks to Ontario citizens.  Since June 2006, six super labs have been dismantled in Ontario (Durham, Peel, Sault Ste. Marie area, Stokes Bay and Haliburton).  A new team of 10 specially trained officers will supplement the Ontario Provincial Police Drug Enforcement Section by providing expertise in dismantling crystal meth labs and targeting the criminal organizations that operate them.  The Office of the Fire Marshal is also being given additional resources to meet the increasing demands for fire and explosion investigationsand for the training and education of police and fire services that is needed because of the spread of crystal meth labs.

Expanded Ontario Provincial Police Asset Forfeiture Unit - This will enhance the capacity of the Ontario Provincial Police working with municipal police to identify, locate and seize the illegal gains from criminal organizations, and seek their forfeiture through the courts.

EFFECTIVE PREVENTION

Additional Probation and Parole Officers - The government has hired a manager, two support staff and 12 new probation and parole officers working at the Operations Centre conducting risk assessments on individuals accused of offences related to guns and gangs and providing enhanced supervision and enforcement of court ordered conditions (probation and conditional sentences) for identified guns and gang members in the city of Toronto.

Correctional Institutions - A new Intelligence Unit will help identify gang members and reduce the potential for criminal activity in Ontario.

Gun Amnesty - The government's $270,000 investment in Project PEACE (Public Education And Crime Eradication), a prevention, education and enforcement initiative of the Toronto Police Service allowed police officers to work closely with communities, schools and young Torontonians to keep guns out of the hands of youth and youth out of the reach of gangs.

A 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 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 admission to the program and receiving a new identity.  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.

TAKING AIM AT THE CAUSES OF CRIME

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, has been expanded to 46 communities across the province.  More than 80 per cent of the participants have had no further contact with the justice system within one year of completion.

Youth Intervention Centres -- Since April 2006, the government has established an additional 17 youth intervention centres for a total of 32 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 reintegrate them into their communities.

African Canadian Youth Justice Program -- In May 2006, the government, in partnership with the African Canadian Legal Clinic, launched an innovative new program to reduce youth offending and help youth in conflict with the law, aged 12 to 17, achieve better outcomes through appropriate community-based, culturally-sensitive services and referrals. Operating out of four Toronto-area youth court locations, the program offers both court workers and reintegration social workers to assist youth in accessing community supports and resources, including counselling and mentorship opportunities.

Youth Opportunities Strategy -- The government is investing $28.5 million over the first three years of the strategy to improve outcomes for youth in under-served communities.  In 2006, the strategy was implemented primarily in Toronto and Durham neighbourhoods.  In 2007, the government provided $11 million to expand the strategy to additional under-served communities in municipalities across the province, including Windsor, Ottawa, London, Hamilton and Thunder Bay.

The strategy includes the following five components:    

  • Summer Jobs For Youth Program -- In 2006, this program provided summer jobs for 800 youth from under-served neighbourhoods in Toronto.  The program includes pre-employment readiness and post-employment supports as well as employment placements in a variety of fields including business, recreation and youth leadership.  In summer 2007, the program expanded to include 1,650 youth from under-served communities across the province.
  • Youth Outreach Worker Program -- In 2006, t his program employed 39 youth outreach workers (35 in Toronto and four in Durham Region) to work at building relationships with hard-to-reach youth, providing advice and connecting them to appropriate services in their communities. In 2007, an additional 23 outreach workers were hired to work in other under-served communities across the province, bringing the total to 62 outreach workers in Ontario.
  • Youth in Policing Initiative -- In summer 2006, 100 youth from under-served communities in Toronto worked with the Toronto Police Service in a range of areas to develop skills relevant to a possible future career in policing.  Five additional youth worked with the Durham Regional Police in a similar program.  In summer 2007, the initiative will expand to enable at least 60 more youth to work with other police service organizations across the province.
  • YouthConnect.ca -- The government's new website, YouthConnect.ca, provides a forum for young people to access information, services and resources that will help them make good choices, achieve success and contribute positively to their communities.
  • School-based Prevention/Diversion Program -- This partnership among schools, school boards, community-based agencies and police helps high school students under 18 years of age, who are at risk of becoming involved or are already involved in offending activity, increase their chances of school success. Trained peer mediators and school and community staff work together with students to address issues leading to offending behaviour, develop new skills, increase school attachment and take on leadership roles. The program is being delivered in 12 communities across the province in 2006-07. In 2007-08, the program will be offered in six additional communities bringing the total to 18 communities. 

Down with Guns Program -- The government has directed $3 million in grants to a community-designed initiative that is being led by the African-Canadian Christian Network in partnership with the Toronto Community Foundation. This youth anti-violence strategy is focused on four key areas: family, education, employment and crime prevention.

Four volunteer action committees are involved in ensuring these goals are met.  Parents, educators, artists, law enforcement officials and many other expert volunteers are also involved in this initiative.  On December 11, 2006, 10 community organizations received a total of $533,000 to support their work helping young people lead lives free of violence.

Youth Challenge Fund -- The Youth Challenge Fund (YCF) is an innovative public and private sector initiative that makes investments in community projects that offer positive opportunities for young people growing up in Toronto's most under-served neighbourhoods. YCF makes direct, grassroots investments in youth-based initiatives that are aimed at building great ideas, creating youth spaces and providing opportunities for education, employment and leadership.

YCF took an important step forward on December 14, 2006 by announcing a total of $3.5 million in its first round of investments for youth-based projects. The funding will support youth initiatives led by 19 organizations working in the city's 13 priority neighbourhoods.

Safe Schools Strategy -- The Safe Schools Action Team was established by the McGuinty government as part of its commitment to review a full range of school safety policies and practices, including the safe school provisions of the Education Act.  The government has committed $26.2 million in funding to help make schools safer.  A portion of this included funding of $7.83 million to school boards for bullying-prevention programs: $1,500 per elementary school and $2,000 per secondary school, along with $3 million in funding for security access devices.

Kids Help Phone -- The government entered into a three-year, $3-million partnership with Kids Help Phone, which will double the help line's capacity to provide anonymous counselling to students in Ontario who are dealing with bullying issues.  In 2006 alone, Kids Help Phone counsellors received and responded to 2,868 phone calls related to bullying from Ontario youths. This is an increase of 10 per cent over 2005.  Kids Help Phone is Canada's only 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, toll-free, anonymous referral and counselling service. Services are available to children and youth in English and French by calling the toll-free phone number or through online web counselling. Information materials, including posters and wallet cards to inform students about the Kids Help Phone, have been provided to school boards.

Multi lingual Pamphlet on Bullying Prevention -- The Ministry of Education has translated its parent resource pamphlet on bullying prevention into 20 languages (including 3 aboriginal) for distribution to all school boards. The pamphlet describes different forms of bullying, how parents can spot the signs of bullying, tips on dealing with a child that is being bullied or bullying others, and ways for the student to get help from the school.  The pamphlet also addresses bullying and sexism, racism and homophobia.

Learning to 18 -- To improve students' achievement in high school and increase graduation rates, the government launched its $1.3 billion Student Success Strategy.  It included the introduction of legislation that would ensure students continue to learn to age 18 or graduation; new Specialist High-Skills Majors within the high school diploma; opportunities for students to earn dual credits through college, apprenticeship and postsecondary courses that count toward the Ontario Secondary School Diploma; and expanded cooperative education choices.  As part of the strategy, students are benefiting from additional teachers dedicated to student success in every secondary school, innovative lighthouse programs, credit recovery programs, a strategic high school transition plan for struggling Grade 8 students and upgraded technological education equipment and facilities. 

Apprenticeship Training -- Pre-apprenticeship projects for at-risk youth total approximately $1.5 million over three years.  Approximately 140 at-risk youth will have learned practical skills to help them become eligible for apprenticeship programs in the skilled trades.

Community Use of Schools -- Since 2004, the province has provided $20 million annually for the Community Use of Schools program. The program encourages increased use of schools by not-for-profit groups at reduced rates during non-school hours to promote participation in a range of community activities such as recreation and physical activity programs. Additionally, school boards are helping community groups access school facilities more easily by providing application forms, rate schedules and contact information online.

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 are being 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.

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