TSUUT’INA FIRST NATION, ALBERTA – A southern Alberta First Nation is to receive funding to help deal with a sharp increase in crime and develop anti-gang programming.
Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino joined Chief Roy Whitney from the Tsuut’ina Nation on Tuesday to announce more than $1 million in funding from the Building Safer Communities Fund.
The sprawling reserve on the edge of Calgary has seen an explosion in construction, including shopping centres and restaurants, as well as an additional 35,000 vehicles a day on its roads.
“One of those challenges is living beside a population of 1.4 million people. With a population that large, there comes crime,” said Whitney.
“Unfortunately with that, crime comes to our small community, which includes guns and gangs. With this funding, the Tsuut’ina police can take new initiatives, such as gun control and gang prevention.”
Mendicino said it’s not just a problem at Tsuut’ina — it’s happening in communities across the country. He said the program is taking direct aim at the root causes of gun crime by boosting local community initiatives.
“It’s helped young people who are most at risk of being exposed to crime and making the wrong choices to instead make the right choices,” he said.
“The nation will distribute this money to community-led projects that tackle the root causes of crime, initiatives that help young people who are involved in gangs or are at risk of joining them.”
Whitney said the police service has been underfunded, despite additional support from the band itself. But it has had to only focus on responding to calls and not working to prevent young people from taking the wrong path, he said.
Police Chief Keith Blake said the severity of the crime has not increased, but the volume has.
“We’re seeing about three times the amount of calls for service in the last three months that weren’t like that the three months previously.”
He said there needs to be a full analysis of the root problems and what kind of approach is needed.
“The three years of funding will help us understand the analytics of what we’re seeing,” Blake said.
“It will help us understand what prevention opportunities are there, what programming can occur, as well as how we can steer people who may be going toward that path of crime away from it.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 11, 2023.