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Report seeks $100-million for youth programs Add to ...

Creation of a special youth commissioner, an enhanced role for schools and a $100-million allocation of funds will head the recommendations of a long-awaited provincial report on youth violence to be released today.

"This will mark a framework for the future of young people in this province," said a source familiar with the report by former Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry and former Liberal MPP Alvin Curling.

Created in June of last year after the shooting death of 15-year-old Jordan Manners at a Toronto high school, the review panel lists a range of factors that contribute to delinquency, from poverty to underfunded school recreational facilities, and urges stepped-up community and parental responsibility.

"They didn't have a lot of options about calling for more money," said a second source who tracked the review's consultation process, which encompassed often-protracted public hearings.

"This is what they were hearing all through, so they could either whitewash this thing, or they could do more, which can only mean resource development."

The panel's work was overseen by Children and Youth Services Minister Deb Matthews, but its findings will also be directed to the ministries of Education and Health.

Some of the requested $100-million would be new money, but more would be redirected from current government budgets, and, in all, at least a dozen different ministries would be affected.

"This is a pro-active approach," the first source said.

"The main part of it asks the question, 'How do we properly co-ordinate the resources in this province, whether it's from government and social agencies, to really focus on the issues? How do we reorganize ourselves as a society?'

"The other component is the concept of the school as a hub - getting the schools to build bridges with the community - because a key element in all this is engaging young people, who if they do get engaged, are statistically less inclined to commit crime."

A Toronto District School Board official, however, questioned where the money would come from.

"In this climate, that's going to be rather difficult," he said, noting that the weakening economy will leave the government with a deficit this fiscal year.

Others were more enthusiastic.

"We see the release of this report as an opportunity to encourage the province to think about youth as a whole - all the services that affect youth, and co-ordinate them better," said Matt Wood, executive director of the Ontario Association of Youth Employment Centres.

The panel's call for a youth commissioner is akin to a recommendation by the parallel Falconer report, also spurred by the Jordan Manners shooting.

Its author, lawyer Julian Falconer, urged the Ministry of Education to establish a provincial school safety officer as a "central repository for the reporting of serious issues of student safety."

The McMurtry-Curling report was to have been submitted to Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty by May, but encountered delays and is now estimated to have cost at least $2-million.

Since its inception, the committee and its half-dozen full-time staff have held meetings in eight communities and commissioned six different academic reports.

Its two helmsmen have long been in the public eye.

Mr. McMurtry is counsel at the law firm Gowlings, while Mr. Curling, who stepped down as Speaker of the Legislature in 2005 to become Canadian ambassador to the Dominican Republic, is a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo.

A spokeswoman for Ms. Matthews said earlier this year that Mr. McMurtry and Mr. Curling were each being paid about $10,000 a month for their part-time work.

The McMurtry-Curling report alludes briefly to the death of Jordan Manners, who was shot at North York's C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute, where a serious stabbing also occurred this week. It was the latest in a series of recent school-related violent incidents in Toronto:

On Oct. 28. an argument over a pair of gloves at Don Mills Collegiate Institute prompted a stabbing that left a 15-year-old badly injured and a 17-year-old under arrest.

On Sept. 16, a 16-year-old was shot outside Scarborough's Bendale Business and Technical Institute.

And on July 11, a 13-year-old Toronto boy was stabbed in the stomach at Henry Hudson Senior Public School, also in Scarborough. Another boy, aged 13, was charged with assault.

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