The B.C. government is committing close to $500,000 to keep students out of the gang lifestyle.
In a press release, the public safety ministry announced $486,000 to be distributed through the School District Mentorship Grant Program, allowing 24 school districts to create programming for students who are in danger of being recruited by gangs. Coaching and mentoring, emphasizing building stronger and positive connections in the community, will be offered to students, the ministry said.
Examples in the press release included the Delta School District, which will receive $100,500, for intervention and counselling with youth at risk and families. The Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district will see $8,000 to provide one-on-one mentorship and cultural support to help youth at most risk of being recruited by gangs. Peace River North School District’s initiatives include youth care workers, who will mentor and counsel at-risk youth and for positive group activities, funded by $13,198.
Programming will be delivered by the districts, in conjunction with non-profit groups, Indigenous Elders and counsellors, the press release said.
“We need to work together to make sure young people are knowledgeable and resilient,” said Mike Farnworth, public safety minister and solicitor general. “By supporting our schools and investing in early intervention and prevention programs, we’re addressing the root of the issue and diverting vulnerable youth from joining gangs in the first place.”
Jennifer Whiteside, education minister, said the government is committed to working together with education and community partners to offer youth “brighter futures” and a way to “end the gang violence threatening our communities.”
“These important new mentorship programs are another way government is working to ensure all B.C. students receive an education free from discrimination, bullying, harassment, intimidation and, most importantly, violence, for generations to come,” Whiteside added.
The mentorship program was developed by public safety and education ministries, said the press release, as part of an anti-gang educational program, Erase, which seeks to carry out analysis of concerning risky student behaviour and educator training.
In an e-mail, the Ministry of Public Safety told Black Press Media that other districts receiving money are Vernon ($19,500), Central Okanagan ($6,295), Cariboo-Chilcotin ($10,000) and Chilliwack ($25,500), Langley ($16,500) Surrey ($10,500), New Westminster ($9,900), Burnaby ($10,500), Powell River ($10,500), Prince George ($21,000), Nicola-Similkameen ($10,000), Peace River South ($10,500), Greater Victoria ($28,250), Sooke ($10,500), Saanich ($10,460), Gulf Islands ($10,000), Okanagan Skaha ($21,000), Alberni ($78,679), Fraser-Cascade ($18,160), Cowichan Valley ($10,500) and Vancouver Island North ($16,290).