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VIDEO: Federal funding aims to steer young people away from gun crime and violence

Parliamentary Secretary Pam Damoff was in Kelowna this morning to announce nearly $7 million dollars in funding for programs in the BC interior that discourage youth from following a path toward gangs, guns and violence.

But she began her remarks, with a defence of the Federal government's moves on gun control, last October's national freeze on handguns and Bill C-21.

"Because having a gun in the home leads to more gun deaths," said Damoff, who is the MP for Oakville North.

"It leads to more suicides, it leads to more femicides, and yes it leads to more gun crime."

In her parliamentary secretary role, she works under Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino.

With the playground outside Parkinson Recreation Centre as the backdrop, Damoff announced $6.9 million in funding for the BC Interior, including $2 million for Kelowna.

"There are incredible organizations here working with youth and I look forward to hearing how the funds will be used to support them to divert them from a life of crime," she said.

Exactly what the programs will look like isn't entirely clear, but the purpose is.

"The funding will tackle the root causes of gun crime," she added.

The money is part of the federal government's $250 million "Building Safer Communities" fund.

Damoff made the announcement flanked by Vernon mayor Victor Cumming and Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas.

Dyas welcomed the federal boost and suggested that planning is already underway.

"I am pleased to share that we have a youth gang prevention and reduction strategy currently under development," said Dyas.

"The program seeks to interrupt the pathways that can lead to high-risk, vulnerable youth toward gun and gang involvement."

It's expected that programs in Kelowna will be delivered through its Parks and Recreation department.

They will also roll out in partnership with the Central Okanagan School District.

"All of these plans are still under design," said Superintendent of Schools Kevin Kaardal.

There may be a situation table," he suggested. "Where we're identifying youth at risk and then wrapping around supports for those youth."

The federal funds are to be delivered over the next four years.

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