The Ontario government is investing $75.1 million over the next three years to fight gun and gang violence in the province.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement in Etobicoke on Tuesday afternoon, saying that he hopes the funding will “disrupt the drug supply chains and help investigative supports.”
“This is about keeping our community safe. This is about keeping our children safe,” Ford told reporters. “These initiatives will disrupt gang activities and the drugs and human trafficking that fund these criminal elements.”
The funding will be used to establish an Office of Illicit Drug Intelligence to prevent cross-border human trafficking and the trafficking of drugs and guns as well as a new Gun and Gang Mobile Prosecution Unit that will “prosecute major gun and gang cases from the moment charges are laid in priority regions across the province.”
“We’re also investing money to assist with firearms analysis and tracing, allowing for the timely identification of gun traffickers, their networks and smuggling routes,” Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said.
The funding will also be used to enhance support for gun and gang specialized investigations, create a provincewide joint analytics working group, increase the presence of Border Enforcement Security Teams in Ontario, support joint operations across jurisdictions and create a provincial database of gun and gang activity.
The premier touted the funding on Tuesday, saying it will make a “huge difference” in enforcement.
“We need more police officers on the ground. They’ve been stressed out, their budgets are always under review, always being chopped, we need to put money back in there,” he said. “We need to go out there aggressively after these gangs and hold them accountable.”
None of the new funding appears to be going to community outreach or grassroots organizations working to address the root cause of guns and gangs in the province.
In 2019, the Ford government slashed the budget of Legal Aid Ontario by 30 per cent, leading to a reduction of about $133 million that fiscal year. The Progressive Conservatives had planned to further cut their budget by $31 million by 2021-22, but altered course following a consultation process.