TORONTO — The federal government is giving Ontario $54 million over the next three years to combat illegal gun and gang activity, with the funds earmarked for specialized prosecutors, policing projects and intelligence-gathering efforts in jails.
Federal Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair, who made the announcement Monday, said the funding is aimed at preventing further violence.
“Unfortunately, we have recently seen across the country, and in particular in the Greater Toronto Area, an increase of violent gun crime and gang activity,” he said at Peel Regional Police headquarters in Mississauga, Ont. “It is affecting our communities and it is affecting how Canadians live their lives.”
Watch: Tracking Toronto’s deadly history with gun violence. Story continues after the video.
The province said it will use the cash to expand a dedicated team of firearms bail prosecutors in Peel Region, west of Toronto, and to establish a guns and gangs fund for policing projects in the Greater Toronto Area and the Greater Golden Horseshoe region, which stretches from the Niagara Region to the Durham Region.
It will also use the funds to create a new guns and gangs team in Eastern Ontario that will be made up of four assistant Crown attorneys working with Ottawa police.
The money will also be used to increase intelligence-gathering in jails and to support victims of human trafficking, said Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey.
“It will broaden the benefits available to these survivors ensuring their unique and most urgent needs are met,” Downey said of the funds that will be used to help human-trafficking victims.
The funds from Ottawa come as the federal and provincial government have clashed over a number of issues, including carbon pricing and infrastructure funding, ahead of the federal election in October.
Blair said, however, that all levels of government must work together to combat violent crime.
“This is significant new funding and it will focus on prevention, intervention, enforcement and prosecution related to gun and gang violence in communities,” he said.
285 shootings in Toronto
The announcement also comes as Toronto grapples with a recent increase in gun violence.
According to Toronto Police statistics, there have been 285 shootings this year so far with 430 victims, which includes those killed and injured. That compares with 272 shootings at the same time last year, with 364 victims.
By late-August of 2014, when Toronto had seen 120 shootings with 148 victims.
On Friday, the Ontario government said it was spending $3 million to more than double the amount of closed-circuit TV cameras for Toronto. The three-year investment will expand Toronto’s CCTV system from 34 cameras to 74.