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Anti-gang funding 'to be cut'

Federal funding for programs that aim to keep at-risk youth out of gangs – including the Surrey school district’s Wraparound Project – is being cut, Surrey North NDP candidate Jasbir Sandhu has claimed.

But while the district’s safe school’s co-ordinator confirmed the project’s initial three-year contract expires March 31, Theresa Campbell said Monday she has no reason to believe her request for another two years’ funding will be denied.

“It’s not necessarily that it’s being cut. The project funding is scheduled to end March 31,” Campbell said. “Based on some of the unbelievable success and results we’ve had… I’m very optimistic the support will continue.

“In any event, the students and the families in the program are going to continue to be supported until the end of the school year.”

More than $888,000 in funding from the $33.6 million Youth Gang Prevention Fund was announced for the Wraparound Project in January 2009. The project – a partnership between the school district and Surrey RCMP – provides a personalized network of support to 11- to 17-year-old students deemed at risk of getting involved in gang-associated behaviour.

Designed to service 60 students a year, Wraparound currently has a waiting list of about 70 students, she added. It would “definitely” be concerning if funding wasn’t renewed as requested, she said.

But Sandhu said he is confident that will be the case. He cited documents obtained through an Access to Information request last week by the NDP’s public safety critic, Don Davies.

“The documents show that, basically, the Conservatives have no plan to renew that funding,” Sandhu said. “I also confirmed it with the school board in Surrey that they have been told to wrap up the program.”

According to the documents, which Sandhu shared with Peace Arch News, “no decision has been made on continuing this program past March 31, 2011.”

Sandhu criticized the move as a “huge mistake in the fight against crime.”

Such programs are vital to address issues with crime and gang violence, such as those being seen in North Surrey, he added.

While Sandhu challenged Surrey North Conservative MP Dona Cadman to take a stand against the decision, she is “nowhere to be heard” on the issue, he said.

Cadman did not respond to a request for comment by Peace Arch News’ press deadline.

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