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Thunder Bay area MP's Marcus Powlowski and Patty Hajdu are joined by Director of Recreation and Culture Leah Prentice and Thunder Bay Mayor Ken Boshcoff for an $1.9 million announcement in funding (Adam Riley / Acadia Broadcasting)

Federal dollars flow to counter youth gangs in city

By Adam Riley Dec 19, 2023 | 11:58 AM

$1.9 million in federal funding is coming to Thunder Bay as a means of combating youth gang involvement.

Minister of Indigenous Affairs Patty Hajdu made the announcement Monday on behalf of her colleague Minister of Public Safety Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic Leblanc.

While the funding is similar to other federal funding announcements around the country which have focused on both gun and gang violence seen across the country, there is no policing aspect attached to the money, Hajdu says while enforcement plays a component in addressing the issue, prevention is a high priority.

“The other components are equally important and so that is what today’s announcement is about, today’s announcement is about the actual prevention of ongoing problems and supporting young people to have different pathways and different alternatives in their lives.”

Mayor Ken Boshcoff says the money will be a big help as the city works to chip away at the issue of gangs in Thunder Bay.

He notes how it is a national issue which has unfortunately become a local one.

“Here in Thunder Bay our police have identified at least 17 national scoped gangs operating in our city.”

Staff with the city submitted a funding application which was accepted in November of last year, with the past 12 months spent on understanding and building an effective model which would work for the city.

The idea of the funding is to provide upstream supports to prevent them from falling victim to gang life, and will tackle the issue on a number of fronts according to the city’s Recreation and Culture Director Leah Prentice.

“It will provide some on the ground staffing that will navigate and support youth and their families towards the supports they need to be successful in their homes, in their lives and in this community.”

Community organizations which provide after school supports and those in the mental health and substance use support field will also be able to access some of the funds.

The three year program being established will address several risk factors including, but not limited to:

  • mental health and substance use health challenges
  • negative influences in youth lives
  • limited attachment to the community
  • over-reliance on anti-social negative peer association
  • limited parental supervision
  • poor school attendance
  • need for recognition and belonging

Thunder Bay – Rainy River MP Marcus Powlowski likens the money and what it is capable of doing to his experience in medicine.

“As with preventative health, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’, similarly with respect to crime if you can divert people from getting involved in crime, sometimes that is a lot more efficient than waiting until after they’ve been in jail.”

In his remarks Powlowski noted of a $390 million fund from the federal government being released over a course of five years to address guns and gangs from a policing angle.

However that money is provided to provincial governments which is allocated to funding various ongoing and new programs established by those provinces.

“So the province has kind of the lead in making that announcement,” says Powlowski. “We are looking for that announcement,  my understanding is, again don’t count your chickens before they hatch, but my understanding is that there is some federal money will be coming to Thunder Bay.”