Posted on May 13, 2010

Program Aims to Keep Young Somali-Canadians out of Gangs

Canadian Broadcasting Centre, May 11, 2010

The Alberta government is spending $202,000 to keep Somali-Canadian youth in Edmonton away from gangs and drugs, Justice Minister Alison Redford announced Tuesday.

The money goes towards after-school programs and academic support in school.

Another $1.3 million will be spent on integrating immigrants and refugees into the community and $400,000 more towards a mentoring initiative to keep immigrant youth from drug trafficking and gang activity.

“Whenever we talk about safe communities, we’re talking about a whole spectrum of issues that need to be dealt with,” Redford said Tuesday.

“I’ll tell you in the past what we haven’t focused on sufficiently is the piece we are talking about today, which is mentoring, support for kids, support for parents . . . to make sure that people are feeling connected to the communities they live in and the wider community at large.”

The projects are funded through the Safe Communities Innovation Fund.

More than 23 young Somali-Canadian men have been slain in Alberta in the last five years.

While a few of the victims were not involved in crime, more faced charges or convictions for drugs and weapons. Police believe many were involved in gangs. Many grew up in Ontario but moved to Alberta in recent years.

Task force still needed

Mahamad Accord, president of Edmonton’s Alberta Somali Community Centre, said while the money will benefit the community, a task force is still needed.

Community members have signed a petition calling on the Alberta government to form a task force to find ways to solve the cases and prevent more deaths.

So far, the Alberta government has rejected the idea, believing it would cost too much and take too long to show results.

Accord told CBC News that Tuesday’s announcement doesn’t deal with crime prevention–something the Somali-Canadian community desperately needs.

“I am not diminishing the work my community has built here but what we are looking for is diversion,” Accord said.

“So if they really want to do something for the community they have to look at the bigger picture, which is who is killing the 30 youth and why.”