Last week Justice Minister Allison Redford announced nearly $2 million in funding to help immigrant families adjust to life in Alberta.
Most of the cash will go to Edmonton’s Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, which will host a 10-week program to help parents better understand what their kids face in Canadian society.
The money will also go toward after-school programs to help children with their studies and to give them recreational opportunities.
But some members of Alberta’s Somali community say Redford should spend the money on a task force to investigate more than two dozen slayings of young Somali men in the province over the past five years.
They accuse the police of not putting enough effort into solving these homicides, nearly all of which are linked to the drug trade.
But here’s the thing: the police already have specialized teams working on these crimes. They have homicide detectives, gang detectives and drug detectives all lending their expertise to the investigations.
Most of these young men died, not because they’re Somali, but because they got tangled up in the drug business.
Most of their killings remain unsolved because cases linked to organized crime are notoriously difficult to crack.
Witnesses are either criminals themselves or too afraid of the criminals to cooperate with cops. That’s the biggest barrier to solving these homicides.
Redford feels in this situation, it’s best to let the police do their job, and we agree. She has decided to focus on what has caused so many of these young men, who are either immigrant themselves or the children of immigrants, to get mixed up in gangs and drugs.
The pattern is a familiar one. It’s affected different groups if immigrants for generations.
It’s easy for new arrivals to be overwhelmed when they arrive here. Language difficulties, culture shock and even unfamiliarity with our laws can lead to confusion, isolation and a fear of assimilating into the mainstream.
Kids are more adaptable, but in many cases they find themselves caught between two worlds, that of their parents and that of their friends.
They can feel rootless, not belonging or fully accepted to either.
That makes them vulnerable to the lure of gangs and the drug trade, where they can be seduced by the lure of finally belonging and making easy money.
That’s what this new money is supposed to help address. By helping families adapt, hopefully fewer Somali youth — and kids from other immigrant families, for that matter —will be drawn into a lifestyle that puts them at risk of being killed.
It’s an ounce of prevention that in the long run, will save lives.