Surrey: a funding announcement by the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, the Honourable Bill Blair, along with the Minister of Defence, the Honourable Harjit Sajjan was made at Surrey City Hall to unveil the $7.5M Surrey Anti-Gang Family Empowerment (SAFE) Gang Intervention Program. Up to 4,730 high-school aged young people in the City of Surrey will benefit from this project. This innovative partnership with the Government of Canada is being lead by Surrey’s Municipal Government. Mayor Doug McCallum said “We created the SAFE Program to empower our youth, families and their neighbourhoods so we can all look forward to a positive future free from the harmful impact of gangs. I want to thank the Government of Canada for their financial support in curbing gang activity in Surrey”.
Developed from Surrey-specific findings on preventing violent activity, the new program uses a coordinated approach to address youth gang violence. It will provide at-risk youth with alternatives to joining gangs, help them develop social skills, and restore and build positive relationships with their parents and the community.
DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society (www.dcrs.ca) will be providing Clinical Counselling Services to vulnerable youth who are at risk of being recruited into gangs, and their families, in the Surrey area. Clinical Counselling Services through cultural and first language supports will be provided to at-risk youth. A consortium of partners including Surrey RCMP, Surrey School District, SFU, and other local Surrey based partner organizations will be working together to address issues at the local community level.
Mayor Doug McCallum gave kudos to the community organization partners “these organizations that will receive this money, work with our youth. They work with our communities; they are our grassroots. They know more about it than any of us…We look forward to the work you are going to do in this program to help our youth and to prevent our youth from joining gangs.” This partnership is unique in that this is the first time a city in Canada has received funding from this level of government.
While the SAFE Program is focusing on intervention strategies, the consortium is well aware that prevention and enforcement are areas still needing additional funding. “The safety of our youth and families is a very sensitive and complex issue within our rapidly growing city” says Neelam Sahota, CEO of DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society. “Youth in our community face a myriad of challenges and issues. Coordinated programs such as SAFE provide the wrap around supports by community organizations and public partners that each have well honed experience so we can ensure that we can assist our youth and their families in finding new paths and build positive relationships with their families and the community” says Sahota.
The SAFE Program will start immediately both in the community and at the SAFE Centre which is a partnership with Kwantlen Polytechnic University to create a collaborative hub.