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Province expands program to keep youth away from gang life

Vanderhoof Omineca Express - 7/12/2018

The Government of British Columbia is providing $1.12 million in additional funding to expand the Expect Respect and a Safe Education (ERASE) anti-bullying program, to ensure that youth are being educated on how to fight lure of gangs and gang violence in British Columbia's communities.

The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General made recently made the additional funding announcement in a press release, stating that with gang and gun violence seeping into communities across British Columbia, the Province is committed to help put an end to gang life.

Although the news release states that enforcement measures have been relatively successful, enforcement on its own is not enough to curb gang violence across the province. This is exactly why the government is taking action to better equip youth on how to resist getting involved in gang-related activity.

"Programs that address the circumstances that lead to gang involvement help to create positive community connections and a better way of life," said Mike Farnworth, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. "We're ensuring we provide the resources necessary for our youth, by partnering with the Ministry of Education to expand on their very successful province-wide ERASE program, to include new training modules focused on gang and gun violence prevention."

B.C.'s ERASE Strategy is designed to help identify, stop and prevent harmful behaviours, whether they are occurring at school or online through social media platforms.

According to the news release, the expanded version of this anti-bullying program will feature new training models, where school and district staff, law enforcement and community partners will be able to offer further educational support for youth.

Furthermore, the expanded program will also provide specific training for communities where gang-affiliated behaviours have been identified and for youth who would benefit from the additional support. The program is also reported to be available to a culturally diverse audience.

"Education is crucial to keeping our children connected to their community and on the road to success," said Rob Fleming, the Minister of Education. "This funding will give teachers and community partners more tools to help students avoid gang life, transition to higher learning and lead successful lives."

Per the news release, preventative measures, such as the ERASE program, ensure that youth around B.C. are given the knowledge to develop a true resiliency against a potential gang lifestyle. The program also strives to guarantee that youth have the right resources to make the right choices and avoid criminal and gang activity.

Per information provided by the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General ,the expanded ERASE program aims to train over 14,000 school/district staff, law enforcement members and community partners to prevent and respond to safety issues involving gang-related behaviour, guns and illicit drug use.

As of 2018, more than 18,000 educators, law-enforcement members, probation officers, child and youth mental-health workers and other community partners have received extensive training through B.C.'s ERASE program.

Additionally, the Province has stated that they are providing an additional an additional grant of $239,000 to the End Gang Life Exiting and Outreach Pilot Program, a program dedicated to supporting those seeking to leave the gang lifestyle behind.

To date, the program has seriously helped 40 individuals successfully leave the gang lifestyle, while reaching over 425,000 community members through community engagement initiatives.

This particular program, which supports young adults who have become entrenched in the gang life who are committed to making a serious change, is currently being evaluated to identify the best practices and strongest lessons learned. The aforementioned additional funding will support the pilot program until the end of its evaluation phase.

Ultimately, these funding announcements are a step in the Province's effort to create larger attention to gun and gang violence that has plagued certain communities. By disrupting and targeting gun and gang violence head-on, the citizens of B.C. will be safer.

The Government of British Columbia hopes that these actions will also stimulate discussion on the topic, which eliminate misconceptions about gangs and gang lifestyle.