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Gun violence prevention program in works 

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The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake’s (MCK) Public Safety Unit will soon be rolling out programming aimed at preventing gun violence among youth in the community. The project will be led in collaboration with the Kahnawake Peacekeepers, with the funding for it to come from the federal government. 

“The project is aimed at combating gun and gang violence and providing education and awareness around it,” said Robyn Montour, the general manager of Public Safety. 

The funding for the project will come from Public Safety Canada’s Building Safer Communities Fund, created in 2021 to support community-led projects aimed at combating gun and gang violence in First Nations communities. The new program was approved following a vote at a Council of Chiefs meeting on Monday.  

Though the funding is aimed at gun and gang violence, Montour emphasized the programming will focus on much more than that. The hope is also to build a better relationship between youth in the community and the Kahnawake Peacekeepers so they know where they can turn if they need support. 

“It’s going to target youth in the community in an effort to provide education and awareness around firearm safety, as well as life skills,” she said. “We’re really tying in cultural practices and a sense of respect and responsibility within the community.” 

With the project still in its early days, Montour wasn’t able to go into depth about the content of the workshops Public Safety will be hosting, but said more announcements about it are coming. 

“We’re looking to get the program started as soon as possible,” said Montour, who added the funding they’ll receive must be used within the next two years. 

She said she’ll also be reaching out to schools and community organizations like the Kahnawake Shakotiia’takehnhas Community Services (KSCS) in the hope of getting them on board too. 

An agreement setting out how much Public Safety Canada will commit to the project is expected to be signed soon, Montour said. Until then the MCK is being tight-lipped regarding the exact amount they hope to see approved. 

Kahnawake isn’t a community with a reputation for gun violence or gangs, she said, and the program isn’t being launched to respond to a trend of gun violence or gangs among youth in the community, but rather is acting as a proactive and preventative approach. 

“I think any program that we can provide to the youth is important and it will help either way to help us promote cultural practices within the community, and just have our youth living a healthier lifestyle,” Montour said. 

BOLDSTARTSHEREGun-related incidentsBOLDENDSHERE 

Last spring, there were multiple instances of youth being caught with BB guns and similarly dangerous weapons. 

On May 7, 2023, a 10-year-old girl was shot in the arm with a BB gun from a car close to a park near the New Development. Two minors and one youth over 18 were among those in the car, the Peacekeepers said then. One of the minors was later sent to youth detention after being charged with use of an imitation firearm. 

School administrations were also shocked last spring after BB guns, paintball guns, and a laser gun – all indistinguishable from real guns – were found on Kahnawake school buses transporting highschoolers, and in one instance, elementary school students.  

There have been six police files so far this year that mentioned a firearm or multiple firearms, said Peacekeepers spokesperson Kyle Zachary. They’re not all strictly related to gun violence where a trigger was pulled – they also could include any instances where guns were turned in to police or threats were made, he said.  

In late April, a shotgun and two airsoft imitation firearms were found in the back seat of a vehicle after an impaired driver crashed into a pole on Marina Road, the Peacekeepers’ noted in a recent crime blotter.  

In late February, a business on Old Chateauguay Road was the subject of a firearm raid conducted in collaboration with Montreal police. No guns were found then, however.  

The statistics show gun-related crimes in Kahnawake are decreasing. There were 17 police files mentioning firearms last year, Zachary said, compared to 22 in 2022, 30 in 2021, and 37 in 2020. 

miriam@easterndoor.com 

This article was originally published in print on May 24 in issue 33.21 of The Eastern Door.

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Miriam Lafontaine is a reporter with the Eastern Door. Her work has appeared in Le Devoir, CBC Montreal, CBC New Brunswick as well as the Toronto Star.

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Miriam Lafontaine is a reporter with the Eastern Door. Her work has appeared in Le Devoir, CBC Montreal, CBC New Brunswick as well as the Toronto Star.