Opposition questions purpose, plans for federal funds against P.E.I. gun violence

·2 min read

A Green MLA wants to know how funding to reduce gun and gang violence on P.E.I. is being spent and how it will affect Islanders.

"Can you describe the problem and prevalence of gun and gang violence on P.E.I.?" Stephen Howard asked Justice Minister Bloyce Thompson during question period at the P.E.I. legislature on April 20.

Last week, it was announced that about $1.5 million in federal funds will be supporting P.E.I. organizations, such as municipal police, toward combatting illegal guns and gang violence.

Thompson noted every other province took advantage of the funding this year. P.E.I. has been the only province to opt out of it in the past, but the federal government worked to create a "made in P.E.I." agreement that's catered to the Island's needs this year, he said.

"Fortunately, we do not have a huge problem of guns and gangs on Prince Edward Island, but we're not immune to crime either."

Much of the funding will go toward supporting preventative and rehabilitative measures, as well as raising awareness. It will also create 3.5 new positions for municipal police services spread out between Charlottetown, Summerside and Kensington, Thompson said.

Howard was concerned about one of the measures being for police to provide crime prevention education in schools to students.

"Across the country, concerns have been raised about the inclusion of police in schools – specifically about the relationship between police and marginalized communities," he said. "The success of law enforcement hinges on public trust and confidence."

He asked whether Thompson's department or the municipal police facilitated public engagement or included community stakeholders when making this decision. Thompson outlined that in his department's dealings with municipal police, community safety and well-being are the top consideration for every decision.

"We will encourage presentations in schools. (They'll) be part of the ongoing approach to preventative measures when we're dealing with crime."

He plans to table the funding agreement in the legislature at Howard's request.

"(But) you should probably get a little more proactive and make sure certain stakeholders are definitely at those tables when those conversations are happening," Howard said.

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Daniel Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian