Allocate funding wisely for gun reduction strategy: Dale
By Tony Poland, AdvocateDaily.com Associate Editor
The federal government’s pledge to provide $54 million over three years to support Ontario’s Guns, Gangs and Violence Reduction Strategy (GGVRS) will not amount to much if the money is not allocated to the right resources, says Toronto criminal lawyer Laurelly Dale.
“The best thing that this money could possibly do is go toward the word ‘prevention,’ which is littered throughout the announcement,” says Dale, principal of Dale Legal Firm.
“That provides me with a sense of relief that maybe the money for the GGVRS will go toward preventative measures and targeting youths on the cusp of entering into the lifestyle of criminal activity,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.
The money will be used to expand a dedicated team of firearms bail prosecutors in Peel Region and establish a guns and gangs fund for policing projects in the Greater Toronto Area and the Greater Golden Horseshoe region, Global News reports.
A new guns and gangs team in Eastern Ontario will also be established, and there will be funding provided to increase intelligence-gathering in jails and to support victims of human trafficking, according to the report.
“This funding pertains specifically to the GGVRS for Ontario, but everyone knows that if you’re trying to target the increase in gun violence, you’re talking about the GTA,” says Dale. “I think that’s where the resources are needed.”
She says she wasn’t surprised the funding was pledged shortly before the federal election was called.
“There’s a very clear strategy here. It’s not just out of the blue that this money is coming. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs Ontario to vote for him, and this is a winnable strategy. This puts him in a good light,” Dale says.
“I don’t think it should go unnoticed that this is very much tied to the Trudeau political platform strategy.”
She says, as a criminal defence lawyer who has studied the problem, “Issues of gun violence are very close to me personally and on a professional level.
“Gun violence is the number one concern among people living in the GTA,” Dale says.
She adds that simply increasing prison time for gun use will not make the problem disappear.
“Gun laws are made for purely political purposes. They are generally reactionary after a mass or public shooting, and they’re generally ineffective,” Dale says.
Mandatory prison sentences may help politicians get elected, but they won’t keep criminals from using guns, she says.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous. The only people that mandatory sentences win over are the voters,” Dale says.
The “causes of criminality are sociological, biological, environmental and economic,” so it is vital to reach youth at an early stage and “open their eyes to options other than entering into a criminal life that sometimes they are destined to become a part of,” she says.
However, the vagueness of the funding announcement concerns her, and Dale says more detail on how the money will be spent is needed.
She suggests allocating the money towards “preventative measures to see if that makes a difference.”
“Preventative measures can work in conjunction with the Toronto Police Guns and Gangs Unit, and target at-risk youth,” Dale says. “I’m not trying to take money away from police forces but to make sure that it’s a targeted approach. If you really want to prevent someone from becoming a criminal, target them in their youth and make sure that the funds are allocated toward those actual goals.”
Dale says another effective measure to combat the problem is a gun buyback program such as the one instituted in Australia after a mass shooting left 35 dead in April 1996.
The National Firearms Agreement (NFA), was drafted a month after the murders and restricted legal ownership of firearms in Australia. The government also introduced a gun buyback program that offered gun owners a fair price for weapons that had been declared illegal.
Studies found that suicide and murder rates dropped significantly after the program was introduced, Dale says, adding the Canadian government should consider a similar nationwide initiative.
“What do criminals respond to? Money, and if you offer them money for their illegal firearms, they will hand them over, and that’s exactly what happened in Australia,” she says.
“Why not try it? You wake up every morning and see all of the reports of gun violence in the city. The situation in Toronto is frightening,” Dale says.