Monday, May 31, 2010
Panel set to tackle youth crime and its root causes
Without much fanfare and no political grandstanding, the Selinger government has launched what's intended to be one of the biggest social projects to reduce gang crime in Manitoba.
In a week in which one teen was killed and three children were injured by gunfire, Premier Greg Selinger unveiled his 29-member Advisory Council on Education, Poverty and Citizenship.
It's co-chaired by former Winnipeg Regional Health Authority head Dr. Brian Postl, now incoming dean of the University of Manitoba faculty of medicine, and Doris Young, assistant to the president of aboriginal affairs at the University College of the North.
Selinger said Friday the main goal of the council is to find ways to increase high school graduation rates among aboriginal people living in the north.
"There is a very high correlation between young people completing high school and a reduction of crime," Selinger said. "The more young people stay in school and get skills and access to decent job opportunities, the less the attraction of a more criminal-oriented lifestyle."
Selinger added while high school graduation rates have increased from 72 to 80 per cent, more can be done. "This is getting behind the daily struggle to keep neighbourhoods safe and to provide long-term alternatives to young people who might not otherwise continue in school."
Selinger said the council will be introduced at a later date, which will include the participation of aboriginal elders.
It's modelled after the Premier's Economic Advisory Council, set up by former premier Gary Doer, and brings together Manitobans from public and post-secondary education and training, community development, First Nations, Métis and aboriginal organizations, and immigrant and refugee organizations.
MEMBERS of Premier Greg Selinger's Advisory Council on Education, Poverty and Citizenship:
Lloyd Axworthy, president of the University of Winnipeg;
Jordan Bighorn, youth counsellor at Southeast College;
Serge Carrière, principal at École Aurele-Lemoine;
Pauline Clarke, chief superintendent of the Winnipeg School Division;
Sharon Conway, provincial education consultant at the Manitoba Métis Federation;
Arnold Dysart, area superintendent at the Frontier School Division;
Marti Ford, dean of indigenous education at Red River College;
Pat Isaak, president of the Manitoba Teachers' Society;
Bob Kriski, vice-principal at Portage Collegiate Institute;
Wayne Mason, of the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre;
Suni Matthews, principal at Dufferin School;
Rebecca Ross, education director at Cross Lake First Nation;
Delores Samatte, co-ordinator of Brandon University Northern Teacher Education Program;
Jerry Storie, dean of the faculty of education at Brandon University;
Eleanor Thompson, founder and director of the Urban Circle Training Centre;
John Wiens, dean of the faculty of education at University of Manitoba.
Omar Adan, case manager at New Directions;
Doreen Demas, executive director of the First Nations Disability Association;
Denise Everett, resident in William Whyte neighbourhood;
Rick Frost, CEO of the Winnipeg Foundation;
Geraldine Langford, of the HeadStart Program at the Andrews Street Family Centre;
Susan Lewis, CEO of the United Way of Winnipeg;
Shauna Mackinnon, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives;
Diane Roussin, executive director at the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre;
Bintou Sacko, manager Accreil Franchophone du Manitoba;
Sister Maria Vigna, co-director at Rossbrook House;
Jennie Wastesicoot, health director at Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak.
I completely support this panel and its work to prevent gang and youth crimes in Manitoba. We need more of these prevention programs and initiatives. Here are some of my ideas for the prevention and reduction of youth and gang crime::
- Monetary incentives for at-risk youth in inner cities and northern communities and reserves to complete high school.
- Employment assistance and resources to youth of inner cities, aboriginal reserves and northern communities.
- Gang desistance and prevention programs
- Youth mentor and tutor program to provide positive role models
- More recreational facilities, community centres and activities
- Parenting programs and education and family violence programs and counseling
- Substance abuse programs and resources
- Better access and resources for mental health programs, treatments and services
- Education in schools about the dangers and consequences of joining gangs and how to get out of them
- Programs which teach life skills, coping skills, communication skills, and problem solving
- Develop support networks and mentoring programs for youth
- Emphasizing life skills preparation in schools
- Revitalize impoverished communities and neighbourhoods and upgrade buildings, etc.
Prisons are not long term solutions and fail at addressing the root causes of crime and gangs among youths. Alternatives to incarceration need to be considered more often for youths and aboriginal youth, as opposed to an over-reliance on imprisonment.