Our Justice System: Discussed
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Please watch the following video: 

Naomi Nichols: Intersectoral Dimensions

For example, a lack of appropriate housing and supervision for youth leaving custody or detention increases the likelihood they will re-enter the community via a homeless shelter or the streets.

Additionally, all of the inter-institutional challenges associated with re-entry are connected to the gendering and racializing experiences youth have had with other institutional authorities prior to incarceration, and that they will continue to have – in one way or another – when discharged back into their communities – particularly communities that are characterized by an antagonist relationship with the police. 

These cultural and inter-personal barriers to re-entry are magnified by persistent inter-organizational and cross-sectoral gaps, which make it difficult to coordinate resources and services for youth in community. For example, youth who grow up in Toronto Community Housing and/or one of Toronto’s neighbourhood improvement areas see themselves and their neighbourhoods as unfairly stigmatized. Youth report particularly intense and fraught relations with the police:

“the police deal with you according to what they believe that you are. It’s the same in metro housing – in any priority neighbourhood. Its how they’ve [the police] grown up to see you. They [the police] don’t deal with you as a person … they come to us and judge us [based] on the neighbourhood’s history, not who you are.”

We asked young people in Canada’s largest youth jail how often they had interactions with the police outside, the general response was something like, “not too much – maybe a couple of times a day.”

Toronto Police Services and Toronto Community Housing have a contract that grants Agent of the Landlord status for all Toronto Community Housing properties, as well as a range of other information sharing agreements (Nichols & Braimoh, 2016). Where youth live in families that cant afford market rents and must rely on Toronto Community Housing, they are subject to more non-crime related stops than people who live in other environments. Interactions with the police do not just occur on the streets, but also in their homes.

For those families who are evicted from social housing environments or who decide to leave voluntarily, the increased financial burden of market housing can reduce their choices or freedoms in other areas – some parents pick up more shifts at work, limiting the time they are able to spend in the home; other families experience food insecurity; while others turn to the streets to generate income.

Due to elevated crime and call for service rates in some neighbourhoods, there is also extensive police activity in the neighbourhood more generally – that is, not simply on social housing properties. Police are actively present in the neighbourhood gathering intelligence and doing what they describe as “community outreach.” They are also involved in high schools as School Resource Officers and in the data gathering activities, associated with initiatives like Toronto’s Anti-violence Prevention Strategy or TAVIS.

Of the 48 young people I interview in one of Toronto’s North-West neighbourhoods, all but a couple described unwanted interactions with the police. A few of the encounters they talked about took place in school; most took place in the neighbourhood. All of the 15 youth we interviewed in a youth justice facility reported daily or weekly encounters with the police in their neighbourhoods.

Most young people’s first encounters with the police are non-crime related. When I say that a stop is “non-crime related,” I mean that the police stopped them – and often searched them – asked for ID and recorded the information into their data bases through the production of contact cards, but the young people were not actually breaking any laws at the time of the encounter. Many youths we have spoken with will go on to describe subsequent interactions that lead to involvement with the youth justice system and then later repeated “administration of justice offences” like a break of probation. Other simply describe repeated non-crime related interactions throughout their adolescents.

These encounters with the police are fraught with tension for the youth. Young men, in particular, describe being treated like “little bitches” by the police. On the other hand, these same youth, describe the police as “the boydom,” in comparison to their own groups of friends and associates, who they call “the mandom.” Young men I worked with as co-researchers talked about all the effort they out into being “fierce” and level-headed on the streets – where one must deal with the politics of the ‘hood and continuous encounters with the police.’ This work, they explain is stressful and part of the reason why they are quick to snap – on each other, on teachers, on parents, and any adult in a position of authority.

 

Please check back with us next week as we continue to unpack Our Justice System: The Story of the Impossible?

As always, we encourage you to share, comment and tell us your thoughts and learnings!

Our Justice System: Discussed
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Please watch the following video: 

Naomi Nichols: The Failed Promise of Re-Integration (cont.) & Intersectoral Dimensions

Darren, a youth advocate, explains how he gets “calls from everywhere” for him to help youth navigate a highly fragmented system of supports during re-entry:

I get a call from the courts, from the Crown attorney, from the probation officer and sometimes, believe it or not, police officers who’ve seen my card. And community leaders, community social workers, school social workers, principals, vice principals, teachers, etc. I get calls from all of these places and they say, “We have a youth who we think might benefit from your mentorship, doing what you do. Right now, the youth is in incarceration and needs you to come out,” or “right now we’re trying to have a bail for a youth. He has nowhere to go, so we think you might be able to help him navigate the shelter system because he can’t go home.”

Ideally, the re-integration process would be coordinated, targeted, and planned. Unfortunately, it is just as likely that a youth will go to court one day and simply not return to custody (field not, RM school staff). Darren’s description of his work suggests an ad-hoc system where the degree to which a young person experiences a sustained transition from custody may depend on whether or not the youth is able to connect to someone like him.

Further, while many re-entry programs focus on addressing problems within the individual – e.g., anger management or drug and alcohol rehabilitation – there remains insufficient attention paid to the structural issues young people will face during re-entry. Youth continue to be discharged into homeless shelters or into communities that have been negatively impacted by poverty, racism, and ongoing police surveillance. And they continue to be discharged without any clear sense of how they will navigate re-entry.

Almost every young man we spoke with at an Ontario youth justice facility said that when he “hit roads,” he would stay out of trouble, by making better choices. Even when probed to talk about their re-entry plans, none of the youth could speak to these documents or seemed to know that they exist. It blows my mind that we prepare young men and women for community re-entry, by suggesting they should make better decisions.

The mantra – I will make better choices – is what young people have learned to say to judges. This is what they have learned to say to you and their probation officers. But it is an empty promise for youth who will transition back into neighbourhoods shaped equally by criminality and criminalizing institutional processes.

What choices are actually available to young people who are met by their “bosses” upon re-entry, puffed up for their great work and then given a new mission or bunch of drugs to move. Youth who fail to comply with these requests are threatened with violence – towards themselves and their families. Going to the police only represents further risk to their safety.

Youth who transition back into acute poverty, family conflict, and/or housing instability or homelessness similarly have very few actual choices available to them. The desire to “make better choices” is quickly replaced by a need to take care of one’s most basic requirements for food, shelter, and safety.

Upon release from custody, youth are returned to these same neighbourhoods. Some youth return to neighbourhoods with endless opportunities for street work, few opportunities to enter the official labour market, and considerable police presence – on the streets and in their homes. These interactions with the police – and their criminalizing impacts – are the ordinary backdrop to some people’s childhoods. Youth talk about how they learn to recognize under-cover officers at a distance and find new routes in and through their neighbourhoods. The feeling that one will be treated like a criminal no matter what one does influences the decisions one makes when faced with opportunities to make little money on the street.

 

Please check back with us next week as we continue to unpack Our Justice System: The Story of the Impossible?

As always, we encourage you to share, comment and tell us your thoughts and learnings!

Our Justice System: Discussed
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Please watch the following video: 

Naomi Nichols: The Failed Promise of Re-integration

Planning for re-integration is meant to start when a youth enters custody, is assigned a Youth Services Officer or (YSO), and begins to engage in rehabilitative services, including case management, pursuit of education, and participation in incentive structures and behaviour modification programs. The re-integration process ends in community, where ideally the youth is assigned a probation officer, and seamlessly transitions into community programming, including education and training.

But the youth in custody or detention we interviewed in Canada’s largest youth jail had no sense of what re-entry would look like for them.

When youth transition out of custody, youth workers and advocates discover that wait lists and narrow eligibility requirements (e.g., education minimums for participation in job-readiness programs) make it difficult to engage youth in suitable programming in community environments. Some youth are unable to return home, and as such, simultaneously find themselves navigating the province’s social assistance system and social housing resources – as well as any number of community sector organizations – as part of their re-entry process. The public and community sector organizations that a youth may be required to navigate are not organized to provide a cohesive system of care for youth.

 

Please check back with us next week as we continue to unpack Our Justice System: The Story of the Impossible?

As always, we encourage you to share, comment and tell us your thoughts and learnings!

Our Justice System: Discussed
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During the month of April, we paid attention to Our Justice System: The Story of the Impossible? By taking thirteen young people’s realities over the last thirty years, collecting and joining them to create a video mini-series. All of the statements used in each video are real accounts of how young people have experienced the Canadian Criminal Justice System. For the month of June, we are revisiting this mini-series. The Listening Project is excited to welcome a guest researcher, Naomi Nichols, McGill University. Naomi is a friend of The Listening Project who has worked closely with young people in Ontario and Quebec. Over the next several weeks, you will see Naomi’s research connected with the videos we created for the series to demonstrate the vast similarities in experience that young people are having across Canada. In doing this, we hope to unpack Our Justice System: The Story of the Impossible? and answer the question: what can we do to change this reality?  

 

To begin, we are sharing Naomi Nichols introduction and her policy background. As always, we encourage you to share, comment and tell us your thoughts and learnings:

 

Recently, I had the tremendous good fortune to hear a young woman, who had been in conflict with the law, struggled with addictions, and experienced homelessness during adolescence, speak about her experiences as a research assistant on a project about services for homeless youth in her city. As a consequence of listening to other young people share their experiences with the youth criminal justice and the street-involved youth serving systems – and seeing the lines of convergence across their stories – she came to the astute conclusion that there was a systemic basis to their shared experiences. It wasn’t coincidental that their paths through labyrinthine youth “care” systems took similar turns (Charlotte Smith, Coming Up Together, Ottawa Canada, Key Note Panel, 2018)

 

This was the same feeling I had as I engaged with The Doorway’s The Listening Project audio and text-based stories about young people’s experiences with the youth criminal justice system. It is not coincidental that young people in Alberta describe relations with the police and the youth criminal justice system that echo those described by youth in Ontario. In part, this is a function of the Youth Criminal Justice Act being Canadian legislation. But the similarities are a result of more than a shared legislative backdrop: the provision of correctional programs and services for youth is a provincial and federal responsibility. So, you’d imagine there may be striking differences in experiences across two provincial contexts.

 

But what stands out are the similarities - namely that despite the mandate to rehabilitate and re-integrate youth who have offended, the youth criminal justice system designs and delivers public safety interventions, which undermine young people’s safe and stable integration into housing, community, educational and labour market opportunities. The sheer number of court-dates and conditions (e.g., being unable to learn at the same institution as a co-accused) make continuous education and/or labour market participation nearly impossible. Furthermore, insufficient coordination of housing and socio-economic supports upon re-entry increases the likelihood that a young person – particularly those re-entering poverty – will re-offend.

 

For the last 10 years, I’ve been doing research – anchored in the experiences and insights of young people and the institutional and social contexts shaping young people’s experiences of exclusion in their neighbourhoods, in our public institutions, and community-level organizations. The research has similar objectives to The Doorway’s The Listening Project – it seeks to amplify young people’s knowledge of the systematic and structural conditions of exclusion and neglect, inclusion and opportunity, which give shape to their lives. But I also seek to add to what we understand about the precise policy and practice mechanisms that shape the outcomes young people describe.

 

In this blog post – in responses to the poignant stories shared by young people in The Listening Project and the young people’s I’ve interviewed over the years in Ontario and Quebec – I highlight a few (of many) points of rupture in young people’s re-entry from detention or incarceration.

 

Policy Background:

The introduction of the Youth Criminal Justice Act in 2003 was meant to address high rates of youth incarceration by:

·      Providing alternative, community-based options in lieu of incarceration,

·      Limiting the use of detention, prior to sentencing (i.e., pre-trial detentions), and

·      Improving re-integration and rehabilitation efforts in order to limit repeat offences.

 

The re-integration process is one of several reforms meant to improve public safety, while also reducing youth incarceration rates. The focus on community re-entry is presented as a developmentally appropriate and rehabilitative response to youth justice issues.

 

But key to our understanding of the efficacy of any of these reforms is the inter-dependence between the youth justice sector and the various other institutional settings impacting the lives of children, youth and families.

 

Please check back with us next week as we continue to unpack Our Justice System: The Story of the Impossible?

As always, we encourage you to share, comment and tell us your thoughts and learnings!

The Street Situation
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The Street Situation

Many teens and adults live on the streets. I am also one who has had an experience being on the streets; it is not a fun situation to be in. Many people living on the streets have to worry about where they are going to sleep and where their next meal is going to come from. For some street people, they turn to drugs and alcohol as a way out! Some can’t handle or survive on the streets and commit suicide or die a slow death. Before I was living on the streets, I used to ignore the street people, now I know how it feels to be ignored. There is nothing but poverty, hopelessness, rejection, anger, hate, and no love. If you could look into the hearts of these special people, your heart would be broken. Where hopelessness grips your heart and squeezes the life out of you. Where depression literally controls your mind, there is that thought of suicide, which after a while gets deep down into your mind and then suicide becomes death. These street people need love, think about it.            

This was a story about some street life situations... 

Mental Awaken
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Mental Awaken!

There’s a place so deep that the light can’t reach and all you can do is pray. Hope you can sleep without anything to eat and hope to wake up not there. The ground starts to shake, you become awake and there’s the door right there! I too lived in this hole and I thought there was no hope. Then I too woke up and looked for the door. Once it was there, I became scared not knowing if anyone would care. I went through the door only to find that there are people that care. They helped to restore my hope in life and taught me how to talk to the people that I was afraid of. Thanks to this I have goals and I can fulfill dreams.

- Anonymous

 

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Our Justice System: Story of the Impossible?: Reading List
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Tylers Troubled Life: https://bit.ly/2rfNZdv

School to Pipeline: https://bit.ly/1JIHIf7

Canada’s criminal Justice System Report Card – Alberta Rating: https://www.facebook.com/listeningprjct/photos/a.1871197116247853.1073741828.1698813483486218/1926821304018767/?type=3&theater

Connecting Listening Projects: Bringing your attention back to Our Son’s Story from our Overdose Awareness Project: https://bit.ly/2fP7k3m

The Listening Project: The Word Correction is in its Name: https://bit.ly/2Kxx2nx

The Listening Project: Not Anymore, Never Again: https://bit.ly/2qDp03k

The Listening Project: Just a Number in the Judicial System: https://bit.ly/2HLqELS

The Listening Project: Downward Spiral: https://bit.ly/2I7nGAM

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Tell the Story: Reading List
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Closing the Gap: https://www.facebook.com/listeningprjct/photos/a.1871197116247853.1073741828.1698813483486218/1877013525666212/?type=3&theater

Canada’s Indigenous Water Crisis: https://bit.ly/2JNZRLl

Indigenous Knowledge to Close Gaps in Indigenous Health: https://bit.ly/2IcfBuo

Listening Project: I am Proud to be an Indian:  https://bit.ly/2FNdtYS

Listening Project: Peace and Meditation https://bit.ly/2IC4zfl

Listening Project: Dear World: https://bit.ly/2G5ophi

Listening Project: Lack of Understanding Indigenous Youth: https://bit.ly/2IPQXgR

Listening Project: Did you learn about Residential School?: https://bit.ly/2Gt2hAX

Listening Project: What Stan Taught Me: https://bit.ly/2GfKMoL

Listening Project: I am a young Aborginal Woman:  https://bit.ly/2In75FA

Listening Project: Dislocation: https://bit.ly/2rigbNy

Listening Project: Can You Live in the World Today:  https://bit.ly/2JihKCB

Can you live in the world today?
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The world today
The world we live today
Peace & love are far away
When hate & greed reign supreme
Equality is but a dream
Tides of justice shift and sway
There had to be another way
For all the people who have died
To the tears in a child’s eye
Let me ask you if I may
Can you live in the world today?
- Anonymous

 

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Dislocation
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Dislocation: I came into the office the other day, as per usual, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but the biggest, most beautiful Dream Catcher I do believe I have ever seen. It was grand. Willow entwined with Sage, fringed with horse hair and moose hide leather. The feathers, symbolizing the hope that each had become “friendly, almost affectionate” with. The beads were of wood and bone, a west coast traditional style, and the web of sinue served as the main focal point to a truly exotic expression and impression. I have never met the Creator of this magnificent work of brilliance, but I do know his people.

I am a treaty Aboriginal myself, registered with a Cree band in Northern Alberta, Saddle Lake it’s called and I have never even been there. I’m what they call an “urban Indian” or “Inner City Kiddie,” whatever. I will go there someday, when things are smoothed over real nice and stable. When I think about it, a lot of what people say is true, I would lose it living in the country and to top it off I’m a stranger in my own land. Sure, I know the culture, I spent six years of my adolescence trying to drown it in the name of “fun.”

I believe in many things but what I have a really hard time with is the fact that I see far too many of my people (I mean A LOT of people), that just refuse to drop the blinders and get up off their knees. Oppression, suppression, separation and desperation. All I see is dislocation. And for all I care, it’s pitiful. I for one will not stand by and watch it continue.

The true grace of this heartland, is in its people. The nature of our nature is Nature itself. Therefore why not make the best use of today’s knowledge, skills and training, to do what we know is wise in the way of respecting our mothers and fathers. That is all I can say for now, but you’ll be hearing from me in the future, count on it. Thank you.

- N.L

 

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I am a young Aboriginal woman
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I am a young Aboriginal woman. I am from the Siksika Nation Reserve in Alberta. Two years ago, I went through a life changing experience, which made me move to Calgary, Alberta. When I came up, I had absolutely no where to go. I didn’t know how to pick myself up from getting knocked down. So, I just went with the flow; started hanging out with the wrong crowd, started doing things that I wouldn’t normally do, just to fit in. Little did I know, I had walked myself into an addiction. I really didn’t have support up here to help me out of it. For two years, I was a crystal meth and heroin addict. That was the lowest, saddest time of my life. For our younger generation: we can easily get sucked into an addiction. I don’t regret everything that I have been through because it’s made me who I am today. I am now seven months clean and sober, taking it one day at a time. I am just putting it out there for the younger generation to make sure you have a strong support system when you come to Calgary. Make the right choices. It is not fun hitting rock bottom on the streets. There doesn’t have to be a first for everything. 

- Anonymous
February 2018

 

What Stan taught me
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Stan taught me a lot, he taught me to be patient and let people approach when they are ready. For several months I was just there. He acknowledged me only to others, and only to make it known he wasn’t that fond of me.

But over time he grew to like me and we grew close. And from this relationship I learnt a lot. He was blunt. DUH was one of his favorite words. We laughed a lot.

I don’t know where he is today. We haven’t spoken in years and there was no formal goodbye. I try to live by the rule “no news is good news” so I trust he finally went home and he just doesn’t want to remember the ‘shit ol days’.

I thought I knew Stan through the shittiest years of his life, because he spoke of his foster mom a lot. All the recipes she taught him and life on the farm. I guess I assumed at some point he was taken from his family but had been one of the lucky ones. I might be wiser now, or just more cynical?

Closer to the end of my time knowing Stan he wrote a memoir and I learned otherwise … his life has pretty much been shit forever. But he had finally cleaned his life up and one of his final hurdles was trial. He served his time and there in jail he wrote his life story. I think it gave him strength. To see on paper just how much he had been through. He hoped other young people on the street could read it and find hope in it. I hoped people could read it and learn form it. But unfortunately most couldn’t. It was just too much.

“drunken bitch mother, asshole father”
Abuse, Foster home, abuse, foster home, children’s mental health treatment, abuse, rape, group home, sexual abuse… all by 9.
A social worker driving him half way here, another social worker driving him the rest.  
Finally a good home. “I think they took pity on …”
Then a downturn in adulthood… life on the streets
The part "no one needs to hear”

I learnt just how horrible a person’s life can be.
And just how many small, seemingly unrelated people, places and things could all interconnect into one very hurt and broken person.
And maybe because I know him I can get thru this memoir or maybe its cause I read it right in front of him.
But…. I often wonder how do we stop this?

Stan taught me about exclusion.
He never used that term… I’m not even sure he really even understood it himself.
But when I listened it’s what I learnt.

I often tell people about Stan’s boat analogy
He explained society is this nice little island
And he floats his boat in the water alone.
Sometimes he rows over to society and sets foot on their land.
But only for so long, then he rows back
And he tips his boat over his head to protect and recover.

This is better than before, before he consistently had his boat parked on a different shore.
Living on the outskirts of society
Not giving a fuck… drugs, alcohol, sex and jail

When we last spoke Stan lived in his boat in the middle of the water.
Often with his boat over his head protecting him.

His job once suspended him for fighting with a co-worker who for weeks had called him a “fag” and a “drunken Indian”
Then the job after that accused him of stealing… they felt really bad when the cook was caught the week later.
I think they said sorry.
But his middle finger was already in the air and he and resume were out pursuing other options.

Over the last few weeks, as more young Indigenous people’s stories are being shared.
I’ve thought a lot about Stan and his memoir
The graphic story…

It’s a story much like Tina’s.
A CHILD failed, over and over.


The message needing to be delivered.
Not one family, person, system or historical event failed Stan.
And Tina.
And who knows however many.

Society is failing them.
And it’s time we stop.

Click here to read more…

Lack of Understanding Indigenous Youth
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I believe that Natives from all over the world are different in their own ways, especially the generations of my people. I find that a lot of Natives in Alberta are struggling with addictions, are not straight (bi or gay) and many Aboriginals don’t have a Grade 12 level. I feel like it’s only because the government had something to say back in my Grandparents day. Native kids were getting taken out of their homes and brought to places where some wouldn’t survive to make it out of the residential schools. Getting raped and getting told that they had to speak English or get punished. My ancestors were just kids that didn’t know they would be brought into this world to just live a horrible life. The ones that did make it out of residential schools only passed on what they had learned from being in residential school most of their life. Natives/Aboriginals started to lead into generations of all kinds of abuse. Hurting each other in their families with the drinking and gambling. The drugs became a big factor by the 80’s. The murder rate went up because of gangs. It’s only because the homes on the reserve were all broken down and the poverty; you would be lucky to get raised in a perfect home with the proper love and care that you needed and to get an education. You were lucky if your parents didn’t drink or any of the bad stuff. You were blessed but then most cases even if you were blessed it was easy to talk a Native into partying or taking off from home and getting into trouble.
Now a-days there are a lot Natives are in jail facilities. You see them drunk at every train station and it’s because many Indigenous people are homeless. Having no where to go to is normal for these individuals. There is a lot of cases these days of mental illness in the city and on the reserve. I believe that there are many Indigenous people that have a mental illness who aren’t getting the proper help that they need because they just don’t care about their well-being. They continuously booze and do drugs. This makes them more incapable to strive to move forward. The Natives who are moving forward in life and doing what they need to do to create a healthy life and to break that cycle, have an even bigger battle against them because they deal with the high egos of the public and how the public sees all Native people the same way. This is because of the Natives that sit at every corner panning for drinks or drugs, the Natives that steal from the liquor stores, the Natives that are pulling fraud from banks or the Natives that just gave up trying because they keep ending up back in jail. They are making the other Natives that wont give up look bad. The ones that keep praying for better days and never give up on themselves. The ones that are trying no matter what society says or does. They keep moving forward to better themselves to make a better life for themselves and their families. Which I call breaking the bad cycles of unhealthy lifestyles. In any culture on mother earth, there are same cases different stories. It’s always harder doing the right thing and it’s always easier doing the bad things. But I believe if you stick to doing good in life, you will succeed in having a long healthier life, with 99% breaking the cycle of crimes, suicide, drugs, alcohol, and abuse in the Indigenous world. Striving for the healthier change in my people and for a better future and healthier generations to come means to deal with mental health issues for the Indigenous people in the communities and on the reserves and to seek counselling if you feel like giving up on living a healthier lifestyle.

- Anonymous
February 2018 

 

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Dear World,
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Dear World, OK, look, I am one person. I will not even attempt to say that I have all the answers. But I do believe that actions speak louder than words. Words however are the foundation for action. Therefore, the clearer we are about what is being said, the easier a time we will have taking action and the more effective that action will be. On Saturday, March 28, 1998 the Calgary Herald published a “Statement of Reconciliation: Learning from the Past”. It was written by the Honourable Jane Stewart P.C (Progressive Conservative) M.P (Member of Parliament) and the Honourable Ralph Goodale P.C, M.P on behalf of the Canadian Government. The main focus was to deal with the legacies of the past affecting Aboriginal Peoples of Canada. The letter itself is specific in its text regarding the process of reconciliation and renewal of relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. First of all however, the statement is written in English that most people would need university experience to understand. I was asked once why Native people have an accent. “Well”, I said, “maybe it’s because English is not their first language”. Someone raised on a reservation speaking Sioux or Blackfoot is obviously not likely to have a good command of English. Hence the accent. Just as the same as I have absolutely zero knowledge of any Native languages, including my own. That’s right, I am an Aboriginal myself and I don’t know one syllable of Cree, my own mother tongue. Did you find that interesting? I was adopted by a set of loving parents, white folk, very middle class, and all academic scholars. I grew up in the suburbs, went to public schools, and had a generally average childhood. My parents were always a very open with me in regards to my adoption and biological heritage. I was never actually exposed to my culture, until I was moved into a group home. Nekinan, an aboriginal group home in Calgary was my first experience with my “own kind”. I fell in love with the vibrant culture and even pursued traditional dance as a hobby. I can say with the strongest conviction that the First Nations are beautiful people, truly gifted with the strength and virtues only possible by generations and generations of life and love of oneself, one another, and ones environment. I consider myself uniquely blessed.

As in everything, there are good and bad and I have lived both and so have you. Beat this one: I’m homeless. I meet a lot of Natives. Every day, because I live in a city with a reservation on all four borders. Four different bands. Three treaties. And of course, social turmoil prevalent in all. It’s obviously most disturbing, given my position. My position? What does that mean? Really? It means I stand here, in the rain, head hung, and staring deep into this “Statement of Reconciliation”. Do I dare accept this? This Jane Stewart, of The Overground. For sure dude, why not? Sounds like she might just be my type. Well, except for the politics, of course. For me, objectivity is a personal power tool. Not a weapon. To remain healthy I must remain in constant fluidity, like water. Thus, I am invincible. For her, candidness is the name of the game. And it’s a game. I play it everyday. I play for keeps, I win.

- N
March 1998

 

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Peace and Meditation
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Peace and meditation
Healing of the Nation
Stopping discrimination
And needless retaliation
End of procrastination
Now love and admiration
Respect and toleration
Always being patient
This is defining
Peace and meditation

 

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