Liberals will spend $86 million to tackle rise in gang and gun violence

The Liberal government is spending $86 million to boost efforts to block smuggled guns at the border and try to stop the scourge of gun violence in the United States from creeping into Canada.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Bill Blair, the minister of border security and organized crime reduction, announced Thursday that $51.5 million will be spent over five years for the Canada Border Services Agency to build an all-weather detector dog training facility, deploy more sniffer dog teams and expand X-ray technology at postal centres and air cargo facilities. More training on detecting concealed items in vehicles entering Canada is also planned.

Another $34.5 million will go to the RCMP to enhance investigations, training, inspections, technology and intelligence.

The money comes from a $327-million pot to tackle gangs and gun violence announced last year. From that, $200 million will go to provinces and territories to address their regional needs.

Blair said because gangs have different origins across the country and vary in rural and urban areas, it’s critical to give the provinces money to address specific needs.

No ‘blanket solutions’

“Blanket solutions and a one-size-fits-all approach does not work,” he said.

Thursday’s announcement comes as the US reels from another mass shooting incident, this one at a Southern California bar that left 13 dead.

Blair said Canada has a “fundamentally different” culture and approach to firearms, but Canadians are increasingly worried about the spike in domestic incidents.

“What we are seeing is an increase in gun violence across our country, a greater influence, and Canadians are quite concerned, and have told us they’re very concerned about the level of gun violence taking part in their communities,” he said.

Rise in gun crimes

Blair said border officials had 467 seizures of firearms last year, a 19 per cent increase from the previous year. The rate of gang-related homicides spiked in 2016, and violent firearm offences also increased for the third year in a row in 2017.

Goodale said the Liberal approach to gang and gun violence is to find smart solutions that work and that include addressing the root causes by investing in housing, job creation, post-secondary education and building cohesion in communities.

“It really is important to get past the rhetoric and the inciteful language and really focus on the practicalities of how you change things,” he said.

Blair is carrying out a public consultation on gun control, which includes a possible ban on handguns. That process is expected to be complete by the end of the year, he said.

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