B.C.’s public safety minister wants to create an in-house program to better support and protect witnesses testifying against gangsters and violent offenders.
Mike Farnworth said Thursday the program would build on the existing federal witness protection program.
“People with intimate details of the most serious crimes, or the activities of gangs and organized crime on our streets, should not feel their life will be in danger if they do the right thing and tell police,” he said.
There are delays when applying to the federal program and “stringent” requirements that can cause low witness retention, a release said – frustrating for police and prosecutors who have often worked for months securing the witness.
If passed, the proposal will help witnesses safely attend trial, offer treatment services for mental health challenges and addiction, and help with identity changes and job training. It would be launched within the next two years.
Kevin Hackett, assistant commissioner of BC RCMP Criminal Operations, said the program would be “one more tool” to help police destabilize gangs.
“It reinforces the fact that there can be a successful way for those who choose to exit the gang lifestyle, do the right thing and change their life,” he said.