Funds to Counter Violent Extremism
At a news conference at police headquarters on September 6, Marco Mendicino, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, announced $1,048,000 in funding over three years from the Community Resilience Fund (CRF) to help TPS support their FOCUS Furthering Our Community by Uniting Services) partners with violence prevention training and other capacity building projects.
The CRF supports the efforts of the Canada Centre for Community Engagement & Prevention of Violence to deliver on Public Safety of Canada’s commitment to prevent radicalization to violence.
Mendicino said the investment will advance the important work of the Toronto Police Service in implementing a collaborative program that draws on the support, expertise and advice of practitioners and civil society.
“As events have shown, and history teaches us, Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism nor are we immune to the danger posed by those who are radicalized to violence,” the Eglinton-Lawrence Member of Parliament said. “So, it is increasingly important to focus on prevention and intervention directed at individuals that are at-risk of adopting dangerous ideologies. In Canada, in fact, we are striving to be a global leader in this area. We want to become among the best in the world at understanding and dealing effectively with all types of radicalization before they lead to violence.
“That will be absolutely essential in order to retain Canada’s character as an open, inclusive and compassionate society and one that is also safe and secure. We also know that Canada’s strength comes from its diversity and we will not be intimidated by those who seek to divide us or promote fear.”
Launched five years ago, FOCUS is an innovative approach led by Toronto Police, the City of Toronto and United Way Toronto & York Region, that aims to reduce crime and victimization and improve community resiliency and well-being.
The model brings together the most appropriate community agencies at a weekly situation-table model to provide a targeted, wrap-around approach to the most vulnerable individuals, families and places that are experiencing heightened levels of risk in a specific geographic location.
Chief Mark Saunders said the Service believes that enforcement isn’t always the answer.
“When it comes to radicalization of any kind, the key to success is involving our communities who we are serving and all levels of government,” he said. “Today is an example of that, when we talk about enhancing our partnerships to enhance community safety.”
Mayor John Tory, also a Toronto Police Services Board member, said the investment is “worthwhile and important.”
“I have had the experience of going to the FOCUS Toronto table and watching them work,” he pointed out. “I can tell you, it is something to behold. What you have there is the smartest, most dedicated, most sensitive and most informed people from all walks of professional life, focusing themselves on individual cases, person by person, in a sensitive and professional way.”
Sergeant Brian Smith, a FOCUS situation table co-ordinator, welcomed the new funding.
“One of the big ways we are going to use this money is for training in violence prevention,” said Smith, a Service member since 1990, who is attached to the Community Partnerships & Engagement Unit. “The training we are doing is Violence Threat Risk Assessment and it’s basically the gold standard in Canada for all forms of violence prevention. It will very much help the trainees in relation to understanding the radicalization type of violence.”
The FOCUS groups are in Rexdale in 23 Division, which was the first to be launched in January 2013, North Scarborough (42 Division), Downtown East (51 Division) and Downtown West (14 Division).
The weekly meetings bring police, health and housing, social workers, as well as legal experts and school board representatives, to review cases put before them to assess how they can help.
The CRF provided $2.4 million in funds for existing and new projects in 2017-18 and $4.4 million in 2018-19. For 2019-20 and beyond, this fund will have $7 million available annually for existing and new projects.