Hold up on money for youth diversion

Pitt Meadows delays on request for support.

Funding to help keep youth out of the criminal justice system is still waiting approval from Pitt Meadows council.

The Ridge Meadows Youth Diversion program has been answering funding questions from council, and program coordinator Ranjit Kingra admits “we do have concern.”

She has already received a commitment of $20,000 per year for three years from Maple Ridge, approved during the summer. But four months after her request, she is still waiting on approval of $6,500 per year, for three years, from Pitt Meadows.

Kingra said the last correspondence from Pitt Meadows asked whether her group, formed in 1994, has tried to access funds from the Justice Ministry, or through the Civil Forfeiture program.

Kingra has informed Pitt Meadows that her group has a $2,500 grant through the Minister of Justice, and does apply for grants through civil forfeiture. She said the diversion program will continue to apply for such grants, but most are one-time offerings.

“Sustainable funding is an area in which we continue to struggle,” she wrote to council.

Pitt Meadows was the first city to get involved with the diversion program, which takes youth from the court system and assists them through restitution and mentoring.

Kingra said the program has value and would hate to see the city stop participating.

In its 21 years, the organization has diverted 2,200 youth in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows from the courts.

“It would be a shame for them to lose that service in Pitt Meadows,” said Kingra.

Ridge Meadows Youth Diversion is about to be taken under the umbrella of Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Community Services, but secure funding is an issue.

“That would mean stability for the program and lots of other resources to access,” Kingra said of the move.

Pitt Meadows Coun. Bill Dingwall, a retired RCMP officers, has spoken in favour of funding youth diversion, but the matter was deferred to council’s budget discussions.

He called the money “peanuts” to a $23 million budget.

“They do great work. They’ve helped a lot of people – not only young offenders, but the victims, as well. They’re doing a ton of really good work, for a small investment.”

He said a letter from Kingra was coming before council Tuesday, and his intention was to push for approval of the funding as soon as possible.

Mayor John Becker asserts the provincial government, not city halls, should be paying for the service.

“The funding model is completely inadequate,” said Becker.

He doesn’t question the value of youth diversion.

“From all sorts of analysis, it’s a cost benefit.”

However, Becker, a lawyer, asks why local government is being asked to pay for what he calls a probation service.

He thinks it should be a provincial responsibility, and called the current funding model “classic downloading.”

Still, he expects council will ultimately approve the funds, for three years.

“I’ve always been uncomfortable with the funding model, but it’s not a lot of money. It does a lot of good, and it’s part of the fabric of the community,” said Becker.

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