The City of Whitehorse is getting almost $1 million from the federal government to spend on programs that will keep young people out of crime.
What those programs might be is still unclear, but it’s completely up to the city to decide.
“We’re going to start off just doing some engagement and trying to determine how best we would use that money,” Mayor Laura Cabott told the Star Thursday afternoon.
The city’s goal is to help young residents make healthy choices and avoid criminal activity, she added.
“Things like counselling, supports, recreational opportunities, cultural endeavours, all those sorts of things, to help them avoid that difficult path.”
Cabott said none of the money will go toward policing.
It will likely be distributed to community organizations to offer programs and initiatives for young people, she said.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino made the funding announcement Thursday morning, alongside Cabott and Yukon MP Brendan Hanley, at a news conference at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre.
“My number-one priority as minister of Public Safety is keeping Canadians safe,” Mendocino said in a release.
“Investments in grassroots efforts in Whitehorse are essential to addressing the social conditions that lead youth and young adults to get involved in a life of crime.”
Whitehorse will get $929,500 over four years for this purpose.
“It’s huge,” Cabott said. “I don’t think we’ve ever had funding for this type of a program before.
“We get (similar) funding for housing, for infrastructure, but for this, it is significant.”
In an email, city spokesperson Oshea Jephson gave a general timeline for how the funding will be used.
“Year 1 of funding is approximately $125K and will allow the City to conduct a needs assessment of the programs and services currently in the community, and identify any new opportunities for programming or supports.
“From this work, a project plan will be created which will guide how the remaining funding is spent over the subsequent years.”
The money comes from the $250-million Building Safer Communities Fund (BSCF) launched last March.
The BSCF supports local initiatives that prevent crime.
According to a Public Safety Canada release, Whitehorse’s fund will “support community-led prevention, education and outreach projects – assisting young people who may be at risk, and helping them set themselves up for success in life.”
Financial support from the BSCF is being doled out to municipalities and communities around the country.
The amount of money a community receives from the fund is based on the severity of crime in the region – the number of gun deaths, incidents of firearms offences, gang-related violence – and population density.
“We’re facing some issues around vandalism, graffiti, guns, drug use,” Cabott pointed out.
“And so our focus is to be using this money to focus on the youth so that they don’t even get down into that stream.”
Cabott said gang violence and organized crime aren’t big concerns in Whitehorse.
However, a study conducted for the RCMP released last summer confirmed that several organized crime groups are part of the territory’s drug trade activities, with most based in British Columbia.
North Vancouver also received BSCF money Thursday: $1.8 million over three years.
Canada’s Department of Public Safety measures youth crime rates across the country by calculating a Crime Severity Index (CSI).
In a 2012 study on Canadian youth at risk, the department said Youth CSIs were highest in the North; Yukon had the third-highest in the country.
The department reported last year that the Youth CSI dropped 50 per cent between 2011 and 2021.
The CSI tracks changes in the severity of police-reported crime by accounting for both the amount of crime reported by police in a given jurisdiction and the relative seriousness of these crimes.
It tells how much crime is coming to the attention of police and how serious those crimes are.
The Department of Public Safety acknowledges it’s “virtually impossible for any one statistic or source of information to adequately address all aspects of (crime).”
“This funding from the Building Safer Communities Fund will help support at-risk youth to make healthier choices and better set themselves up for success in life,” Hanley said.
“I look forward to seeing the difference it will make for young people across Yukon.”
Mendicino was scheduled to speak to the Star this afternoon.
See Monday’s edition for coverage of the roundtable on proposed federal firearms law changes he and Hanley hosted early Thursday evening.