Premier McGuinty Joins Faith Groups In Tackling Gun Crime
Government Providing $3 Million To Support Community-Designed Programs
The Ontario government is supporting a new, community-designed program to offer kids positive alternatives to guns and gangs, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced today.
"Our government is committed to doing its part to stop gun crimes and make our communities safer -- but it's going to take all of us, working together," said Premier McGuinty.
"We're pleased to join with faith-based groups because they bring so much to this effort -- people with expertise, strong values, a background in the community and a commitment to building a brighter future for our kids and our families."
The "Down With Guns" program is a community-designed initiative 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. Four volunteer action committees will make sure these goals are met.
"Young people -- especially those who do not enjoy access to strong community supports -- have told us that they need more opportunities to help them overcome the significant challenges they face," said Minister of Children and Youth Services Mary Anne Chambers. "Our government's investment today will provide additional opportunities so more youth can look forward to a rewarding future."
Several community leaders joined Premier McGuinty today at the official launch of the program.
"We applaud the provincial government for recognizing and acting on the need to help our youth find alternatives to violence, build self esteem and realize their full potential," said Pastor Michael Morris, co-chair of the Coalition of Christian Leaders.
"We want to bring hope to our young people and their families, and healing for our city," said Coalition co-chair, Pastor Alvin Nicholson. "We look forward to working with the government and church-based and community partners, including youth, to help improve the quality of life for Black youth in Toronto."
"We applaud the Coalition of Christian Leaders for its leadership in creating this new partnership of churches to help young people lead lives free of violence," said the Toronto Community Foundation President and CEO Anne Swarbrick.
"We appreciate Premier McGuinty's wisdom in calling on the faith community to play this leadership role and for recognizing the importance of investing in community safety through this plan," added Swarbrick. "The Toronto Community Foundation is pleased to assist the leadership of Toronto's Black community in their efforts to stop youth violence and to promote a safer community for all residents of Toronto."
The program builds on government efforts to help keep kids safe and prevent them from making the wrong choices, including:
- Hiring 800 student success teachers to help struggling students
- Introducing legislation to keep kids learning to age 18
- Expanding schools for community use
- Creating a $15-million Youth Challenge Fund and challenging the private sector to match the government's investment. If the $15 million is matched, the government will contribute up to an additional $15 million, for a potential total investment of $45 million over the next three years
- Investing $28.5 million for the first three years of a Youth Opportunities Strategy to create more opportunities and improve outcomes for youth
- Unveiling a $51-million package to give police and prosecutors more tools to work with neighourhoods in the fight against guns and gangs.
"Our young people need to know that we're counting on them to make good choices and that they can count on us for support, guidance and opportunities to succeed," said Premier McGuinty. "It's going to take time and it's going to take all of us, but working together we can have the strong, safe communities we want for ourselves and for our families."