15 March 2011
Surrey, British Columbia
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you to my introducer, Stockwell Day for your kind introduction.
This event does give me an opportunity to thank you publicly, for 25 years of truly exemplary public service. Such political longevity, and your tremendous legacy of achievements are all indicative of the qualities I have always seen: hard work, conviction in your ideas and integrity in the way you conduct yourself. It has been an honour and pleasure to serve with you, as a minister, as a colleague and as a friend.
I want to give greetings to my other Conservative parliamentary colleagues from British Columbia, Dona Cadman, Nina Grewal, Russ Hiebert, Ed Fast, Randy Kamp, and Alice Wong. Thank you very much for being here.
Greetings as well to Chief Chu of the Vancouver Police Department, and also to Assistant Commissioner Fraser McRae of the RCMP, and to Mayor Dianne Watts. Thank you for being here.
Special thanks also goes to our emcee Theresa Campbell, manager of Safe Schools for the Surrey School District, and to the leadership of WRAP: Superintendent Tom McCluskie, Shawn Wilson, Rob Rai and Constable John Wilson.
Thank you everyone for joining us for today’s important announcement about protecting our children from the terrible temptations of crime, and youth gangs.
This initiative reflects our Government’s unwavering commitment to supporting families and communities. This will be a key pillar of the Next Phase of Canada’s Economic Action Plan.
We’ve come to Surrey to announce it, because, in many ways B.C.’s second largest city represents the best of Canada. With its rich ethnic diversity, and strong community spirit, Surrey is a place of tremendous economic opportunity.
Families can flourish and prosper. Children can grow up safe and secure, get a high-quality education and a good start in life. There is much that is good in this community - a great deal in fact.
But on the fringes of this community there is a growing threat to the well-being of all its citizens. Like the dangerous currents that lurk beneath the surface of the beautiful Fraser River, organized criminal gangs suck people into their decadent, violent underworld.
They prey on young people, especially those already at risk because of social and economic circumstances. They offer a devil’s deal: the kids get easy money and status if they engage in criminality, slowly at first, but always escalating, for some, to the cost of their lives, and, of course, damaging many other lives in the process.
Of course, none of this is unique to Surrey. But the city knows the story all too well. You were shocked three years ago, when the gangland executions of six people in a Surrey high-rise made national headlines.
Two of the victims were innocent bystanders. They were simply in the wrong place, at the wrong time, a circumstance that, as it becomes more common, makes it impossible for anybody to say it’s somebody else’s problem.
Let us not delude ourselves: It is getting worse, not better. Between 2000 and 2008, the number of homicides in Canada attributed to gangs doubled, from one in eight to one in four.
But here’s the good news. The people of Surrey did not cower in fear.
They did not retreat into apathy. They did not just leave everything to the police. Instead, people here took action.
They knew the best way to defeat gangs is to starve them of new recruits. And the best way to do that, is to get to at-risk kids before gangs do.
One effective response is Wraparound Surrey, an initiative of the Surrey School District, in collaboration with the Surrey Community Action and Assessment Network.
Wraparound Surrey is a comprehensive, hands-on program, aimed at 11 to 17 year old students and their families.
It identifies kids leaning toward gangs and intervenes to rescue them.
It recognizes how cultural influences shape the choices young people make in a diverse community like Surrey. And it partners with numerous agencies that have a stake in fighting gang violence, including the City of Surrey, the RCMP, and the provincial Ministry of Public Safety.
I’m proud to say that our Government is also a partner of Wraparound Surrey.
Wraparound Surrey was one of 19 beneficiaries across Canada to receive financial support from our Youth Gang Prevention Fund, a five-year program that is part of our National Crime Prevention Strategy.
We have two graduates with us today.We’ll hear in a moment from one of them, Tanbir Uppal. His story illustrates the success of the program.
A few years ago, Tanbir was an angry young man on a destructive path. Surrey police and the Wraparound program identified him as a suitable candidate for intervention, and successfully helped steer him toward safer, healthier, positive choices. Now Tanbir is mentoring other young people, setting an example that there is another, better way than gangs and crime.
Another program beneficiary is the Eastside Aboriginal Space for Youth, which provides positive alternatives to gang involvement
for young high-risk native people in Vancouver.
In fact, in cities from coast to coast to coast, our Government has supported effective crime prevention initiatives to steer vulnerable youth away from the dangerous, dead-end life of gang crime.
That is, of course, because the personal security and protection of Canadians from violent crime has been one of our key priorities since we took office more than five years ago. And we are delivering.
We have brought in legislation to crack down on violent, repeat offenders, sexual predators, white-collar fraudsters, and guns, gangs and drugs. We have also provided law enforcement agencies with resources to put more police on our streets and to help them to do their jobs. And we have proposals before Parliament to strengthen the Youth Criminal Justice Act, Sebastien’s Law, to ensure that the public is protected from the most serious, repeat, violent young offenders.
Nevertheless, we understand that the scales of youth justice must be balanced between punishment and prevention. We recognize that some children are uniquely vulnerable to the seductive promises of gangs. And we know, from working with groups like Wraparound Surrey, that kids can be rescued from crime and gangs before they wind up in the justice system.
That is why, ladies and gentlemen, I am very pleased to announce that our Government is committed to renewing our support for the Youth Gang Prevention Fund for an additional five years.
Through our funding choices over the first five years, we have been very clear in expressing our support for groups and programs on the front line of youth crime prevention in Canada.
Today’s announcement affirms that our support for them will continue, for the sake of Canada’s communities, for the sake of Canada’s families, and for the sake of every Canadian’s expectation that he should not be a hostage to crime in his own backyard.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the main pillars of the next phase of our Economic Action Plan will be our commitment to supporting communities and families.
The details will be unveiled in next week’s budget. Communities like Surrey, and Canadians everywhere, want safer streets and safer communities, but, whatever they do, our Government will continue
to take action to protect young people against the lure of crime and gangs.
We will continue to crack down on serious, violent crime, and we will continue to restore the rights of law-abiding citizens back where they belong - above those of criminals.
I want to conclude by once again thanking Theresa Campbell and her colleagues for their work here at Wraparound Surrey, as well as
the countless, dedicated people like them across Canada.
Your efforts are making a difference, a difference in our communities today, and a difference in our children’s futures. You are making Canada better, and for that, we thank you.