The federal government is dedicating $86-million over the next five years to detection dogs, X-ray technology, ballistics testing and other measures to stifle rising gun violence.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the funding, announced on Thursday, is part of a $327.6-million commitment the government made last year to combat gun and gang violence. Another $200-million is being made available to provinces and territories to finance community guns and gangs programs.
The lion’s share of the $86-million will go toward keeping illegal guns from crossing the border, a major source of firearms that end up in criminal possession. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will receive $51.5-million to spend on building a training facility for sniffer dogs, dispatching new dog teams to key highway crossings, training border guards to better detect smuggled goods and buying more X-ray machines for postal centres and air-cargo facilities.
“Detector dog teams are highly effective at detecting drugs, guns, money and other items and help officers to quickly screen people and goods in the least intrusive manner possible,” said Bill Blair, Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction.
The RCMP will get $34.5-million for its Integrated Criminal Firearms Initiative, designed to improve the collection and sharing of gun intelligence across the many arms of Canada’s law-enforcement community.
Portions of the money will go toward increasing firearms inspection capacity, improving intelligence on street gangs, co-ordinating ballistics testing on high-priority gang cases and boosting anonymous online investigations of smuggling networks.
Mr. Goodale said the money would start to flow before the end of the year.
The funding announcement comes as governments at all levels are grappling with rising gun violence across the country. Across Canada, the rate of gun violence rose 33 per cent between 2013 and 2016, according to the most recent Statistics Canada data.
This year, the bullets haven’t let up. Toronto Police Service data show the number of shootings so far in 2018 – 352 – is more than double what it was at this time in 2014.
On Halloween, Toronto police and CBSA officers seized 25 handguns from the gas tank of a Nissan Rogue as the driver tried to enter the country at the Fort Erie, Ont., crossing near Buffalo.
In 2016, nearly two-thirds of all gun crimes involved a handgun. Certain handgun models are legal in Canada, but owners must register their guns and face tight restrictions on storage and transportation.
The Liberal government is proposing to tighten those restrictions. If enacted, its Bill C-71 would require gun vendors to keep detailed records of all sales and require enhanced background checks for licensees.
Despite regulations, domestic firearms frequently end up in the hands of criminals. In 2017, Toronto police seized 148 crime guns that were traced to domestic sources, up from 107 the previous year, but down slightly from 152 in 2015.
Following the mass shooting along Toronto’s Danforth Avenue earlier this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tapped Mr. Blair to lead a consultation into the viability of a national ban on handguns and assault-style rifles. An online questionnaire on the issue will close on Nov. 10.
Meanwhile in Brampton, Ont., Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer announced his own plan to combat gun and gang crime on Thursday. He promised to end automatic bail eligibility for gang members, introduce new mandatory minimum sentences for gang members, revoke parole for convicts who affiliate with gangs and enshrine in law a list of known criminal organizations, such as the Hell’s Angels and MS-13.