Quebec unveils $90-million strategy to combat rise in gun violence
MONTREAL -- Calling it an "unprecedented strike force," Quebec unveiled a new multi-million dollar strategy on Friday to fight the rise in gun violence in the province.
With more than a dozen uniformed officers standing behind her, Public Safety Minister Geneviève Guilbault announced more than $90 million to fight organized crime and gun trafficking, and to hire 107 more officers police services across the province.
"It's enough," said Guilbault of the worrying trend of gun violence in cities like Montreal.
"We are sending the message to criminal people that this is enough. Wherever you are, whoever you are, you'll find a police officer on your way."
Guilbault made the announcement about "Operation Centaur" alongside Minister for Montreal Chantal Rouleau, as well as Johanne Beausoleil, acting director general of the Sûreté du Québec, Montreal Police (SPVM) Chief Sylvain Caron, and Pierre Brochet, president of the Association of Quebec Police.
Overall, the new strategy comprises four main objectives: deploying specialized "rapid intervention" teams against people using firearms, disrupting the trafficking of illegal guns, sharing of intelligence with other police services, and preventing crime through community outreach initiatives.
Locally, Montreal police will get $911,000 over two years to support teams working on "rapid intervention with individuals at risk."
"We have worried and stressed-out people here in Montreal because of all those gun conflicts and violence in our streets at any time, any day," the minister said.
"So, what we are doing today is sending a one voice, [a] strong message."
'THESE FUNDS ... WILL HAVE AN IMPACT': LAVAL MAYOR
Laval police will get $5.2 million over five years to hire five police officers in the organized crime squad, while Longueuil police are receiving $3 million over five years to hire four police officers to beef up their "multidisciplinary intervention brigade."
Laval's mayor, Marc Demers, a retired police officer, welcomed the announcement, saying in a statement that it is perfectly aligned with his city's plan to tackle gun violence, including a prior $1.4-million committment for projects in after-school activities and youth centres.
"These funds will quickly have an impact on the ground," Demers said.
In the fight against organized crime, the minister said 78 new officers across Quebec will work on dismantling criminal networks alongside policing partners, including the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency Canada, Ontario Provincial Police, Montreal police, police services in Indigenous communities, as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
According to the ministry of public safety, between 2016 and 2020 attempted murders and and gun-related crime increased nearly fourfould, with an especially marked increase between 2019 and 2020.
When asked if the funding might be better spent in social programs to prevent people from joining gangs and getting their hands on guns, Guilbault said she is trying to do both, without giving specific details.
She said her plan includes measures to address gun violence in a short-term as well as long-term basis, and that "we will be acting on the prevention part" to tackle the root cause of the problem.
Québec Solidaire's public security critic Andrés Fontecilla said the party believes prevention is key to addressing the root of the gun violence problem on the street.
"It is incomprehensible. Repression is one thing, but without prevention, these efforts will be in vain and they may even aggravate profiling and tensions between police forces and racialized communities," he said Friday.
RISING GUN CRIME IN MONTREAL
Montreal is already on track to surpass the number of gun crimes involving a firearm, according to data provided to CTV News by the SPVM. By the end of August, there have been 39 gun-related crimes. By this time in 2020, there were 38, and 33 in 2019. The data covers all types crimes in which a firearm was present, whether real or fake and whether it was used or not.
Last year, there were 443 reported crimes against a person involving a firearm, while in 2019 there were 383.
Eight months into 2021, there have already been 307 reported cases.
With files from The Canadian Press