Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth speaks at a funding announcement Tuesday morning in Abbotsford. He is joined by (from left) Abbotsford board of education chair Stan Petersen, superintendent Kevin Godden, Walter Mustapich of the Boys Club Network and Education Minister Rob Fleming. (Vikki Hopes/Abbotsford News)

Abbotsford among 12 districts getting total of $1.12 million in gang-prevention funds

Money in partnership with Boys Club Network for after-school programs and more

The provincial government announced on Tuesday that Abbotsford will be among 12 school districts receiving a total of $1.12 million for gang-prevention programming in partnership with the Boys Club Network.

The announcement was made at W. J. Mouat Secondary in Abbotsford by Education Minister Rob Fleming and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.

Farnworth previously announced the funding allocation in July 2018 but the specifics of how the money will be spent were detailed at Tuesday’s announcement.

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The other 11 participating communities are: Burnaby, Delta, Kamloops, Kelowna, Langley, Nanaimo, Prince George, Surrey, Vancouver, Victoria and Williams Lake.

The funding supports the new ERASE (Expect Respect and a Safe Education) school-based gang prevention program.

The communities selected to participate were identified by police and safety experts as those that could benefit from additional gang-prevention support.

Fleming said the funds will help support young people to stay out of gangs.

“We’re ensuring all B.C. students receive an education free from discrimination, bullying, harassment, intimidation and, most importantly, violence, for generations to come,” he said.

Through the partnership with the Boys Club Network – an organization that works to create safe spaces for boys aged 12 to 19 – after-school programs will be set up where they don’t already exist.

As well, new high school elective courses will be created that connect teen boys with positive adult role models and provide leadership and career development opportunities.

The funds will be administered by the B.C. School Superintendents Association (BCSSA).

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Approximately 2,200 students, 1,500 parents and 2,500 educators, law enforcement officials and those form community groups will have an opportunity to participate in gang-prevention and awareness education and training sessions.

The sessions will be provided by Safer Schools Together, the Ministry of Education’s partner for ERASE.

Topics will include an overview of the current B.C. gang landscape, how gang members are recruiting, myths and realities of gang membership, warning signs and how to help if someone is being recruited or is already involved in gang-related activity.

Safer Schools Together will also develop a new provincial learning resource for B.C. education professionals focused on gang prevention.

This will include videos and a teacher guide focused on helping all students develop healthy relationships, avoid unsafe or exploitive situations, and how to protect themselves from harm.

Localized monthly reports on public social media activity regarding gang activity will also be provided to school districts, along with support on how best to address any concerning online behaviour.

Farnworth said early-intervention and prevention programs like ERASE are vital to keeping young people out of gangs.

“Ending the gun and gang violence that’s taking young lives and threatening our communities will continue to require strong, strategic prevention and enforcement efforts,” he said.

Walter Mustapich, president and co-founder of the Boys Club Network, said young people benefit greatly from mentorship programs and other supports.

“If boys do not understand and value themselves and their human potential, and make enduring connections with positive adult male mentors and role models within their primary spheres of influence — family, school, extracurricular — they will seek connection elsewhere. Elsewhere can be dangerous, damaging, devastating,” he said.

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