MONTREAL — Quebec announced $52 million in new funding geared towards the province's youth on Sunday in a bid to stem a rising tide of gun violence and crime.
Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault announced the funding on Sunday at a morning press conference, along with Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière and Montreal's mayor and police chief, among others.
The new funds, they said, will be spread out over the next few years to support six different initiatives meant to guide young residents away from criminal activities.
Guilbault said the money is necessary to help youth discover positive alternatives to violent crime.
"We see on social media things that are astonishing," Guilbault said. "Young people with guns who are proud of that, who basically use them live on camera. This is worrying. We cannot do anything miraculous today, but we have to act and that's when prevention comes in."
Guilbault said the government aims to finance close to 40 organizations each year that are using either arts, sports or cultural programs to keep youth away from crime through better social integration .
She said $20 million of the new funding will go toward a program aimed at supporting social workers focused on working directly in the streets over the next four years.
Guilbault said the move comes in response to a long-standing request from community organizations.
"We talked with workers, they tell us they share their daily lives with ... youngsters, and they will say, 'kids on the news that are either injured or those who shot someone, we know them,'" she said.
During the press conference, Lafrenière also stressed the need to improve relationships with First Nations and Inuit communities.
Lafrenière said $366,000 of the new funding will go toward hiring an Indigenous community development adviser over the next three years. That person, he said will be tasked with working with Montreal police to help better address the needs of people in vulnerable situations.
"As a father, as an ex-police officer, my first thoughts go to the families of the victims who went through hard moments recently and I hope that police forces, community organizations and citizens can work together to achieve great things," he said.
The news followed recent announcements from the provincial government meant to combat gun violence. In September, Quebec announced $90 million to hire more than 100 police officers and experts across the province to fight gun-related crime in an initiative called Operation Centaur.
Half of the new funding, however, will be directed toward the city of Montreal where more than 500 illegal firearms were seized since January 2021.
The city has seen a spate of shootings in recent months, and the killings of four teenagers this year have prompted calls for more to be done to end the violence.
"Montreal is a secure city, but we understand people are extremely troubled by what has been happening," Guilbault said as she offered her condolences to the family and friends of a 20-year-old man who was shot Thursday evening.
His death marked the 32nd homicide reported on the Island of Montreal this year.
In mid-November, Thomas Trudel, 16, was shot in the city's St-Michel district, where Sunday's conference was being held, as he walked home. No arrests have been made.
Jannai Dopwell-Bailey, 16, died after being stabbed outside his school in October. Two people have been arrested in his death. And in February, Meriem Boundaoui, 15, was killed in a drive-by shooting.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said authorities must act to improve socio-economic conditions and community infrastructures that affect young people in order to keep them away from crime.
"Maybe criminal groups are changing, but we are changing too," Plante said, adding Montreal's gun culture is nothing like what's happening in the United States.
"We are not stuck in the past. We are adjusting so we can efficiently fight the changes in the criminal scene."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2021.
Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said three teens had recently been killed in gun-related incidents in Montreal. The number is, in fact, four.