Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay announces funding for a gang intervention program in Weston-Mount Dennis.
The federal government is giving a local youth organization half a million dollars to launch an intensive gang intervention program.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay made the announcement Thursday at For Youth Initiative, the agency that will run the three-year project to reintegrate and support youth who have been involved in the criminal justice system or in gangs in Weston-Mount Dennis.
“This organization is making a real difference in the community,” MacKay said of FYI, which mentors and supports at-risk youth. “It takes leadership, commitment and tremendous personal effort.”
FYI will provide mentoring, educational tutoring and organize parent meetings for the 20 youth who go through the program in the first year. Canadian Youth Business Foundation, a non-profit organization, will give business and financial counselling.
Canadian youth courts process 50,000 cases annually and the most common sentence is probation, said FYI executive director Lekan Olawoye, explaining Thursday why it was so important to run an integration program.
It’s about “transforming the way young people think and the way young people act,” he said.
The program will have a small cohort in the first year and only be expanded to 30 youth and then 40 in the two years following. Olawoye stressed the need for accountability and said the project would be evaluated during that time period and not at the end of the three years.
Mike Sullivan, New Democrat MP for York South—Weston, welcomed the announcement, but said the temporary funding is a “stop-gap” measure.
“This is a really good organization and he’s really committed,” Sullivan said of Olawoye, adding “the thing the riding still needs, and hasn’t materialized, is a good focus on creating opportunity, creating jobs. We’re still not there yet.”
The federal government has funded a number of gang-intervention programs but the money is only temporary. Programs are evaluated to see if they are successful, but there’s no ability to build on them after evaluation because the money has run out.
Redemption Reintegration Services, one of the city’s most successful anti-gang programs, received additional funding last week from the provincial government.
Redemption had a 3-per-cent recidivism rate and helped about 400 youth over a five-year period. The non-profit organization was run by Victor Beausoleil, who recently left to join FYI as director of programs. He and Olawoye will oversee the reintegration program.
Beausoleil said the federal funding could be long-term, “if we can build a relationship with youth justice to steward a sustainable model.”
Original Source: Toronto Star