Nanaimo has been identified as a priority community for a new program designed to keep school-aged children away from the lure of gang life.
The province this week announced a pool of $1.1-million in funding for programs in 12 priority communities. The goal is to create a wide range of initatives, including training for teachers to create a curriculum on the impacts of gang violence.
Education Minister Rob Fleming said the focus is on preventing gangs from taking hold and making schools unsafe.
"We want to make sure there are no incidences of gun and gang violence in B.C. schools because unfortunately we have had young students get involved in gangs and sometimes pay the ultimate price with their lives. And that's intolerable," Fleming told NanaimoNewsNOW.
He explained why Nanaimo was chosen as one of the priority communities for the programs and funding.
"These are communities where there has been drug activity, some gang activity, even if it's from the outside of the community coming in. It's based on police assessments and the best intelligence available to both police and school safety experts."
Drugs are often at the root of gang involvement and violence, Fleming said, adding one of the most important features of the initiative is to simply put the topic out in the open.
"This is really a conversation about how to be aware if somebody is trying to lure you into the gang life and also how to keep your community safe...to make sure kids are empowered to say no to gangs and communities are made safer by having these kinds of discussions."
The announcement comes less than a month after Nanaimo RCMP revealed a lengthy investigation involving drug trafficking and guns which created a direct link between a Lower Mainland gang and a former Nanaimo student.
Among the accused in that bust was Dover Bay Secondary alumnus, 34-year-old Chad Michael Kirk. He faces five charges, including drug trafficking, firearm offences and possession of stolen property. None of the allegations against Kirk have been proven and he is expected to head to trial late this summer.
Police said the raid of a Linley Valley home was linked to a drug line controlled by the Red Scoprions.
At the time, RCMP Sgt. Rob Christenson, head of the detachment's Projects Unit, told NanaimoNewsNOW there are multiple gangs doing business in Nanaimo linked to a more visibly violent Lower Mainland culture.
“We've been fortunate that we're not seeing that direct level of violence here in Nanaimo, the potential always exists, particularly in drug investigations,” Christenson said.
On Twitter: @domabassi
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