Pubdate: Wed, 12 Sep 2007
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2007 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Pamela Cowan
Cited Report:


Gang recruitment is rampant in Regina.

That's one of the findings in Hard Times: A Portrait of Street Level Social
Problems in Western Canada. The Canada West Foundation report notes that in
Regina: "Gang recruitment is rampant and children as young as nine years old
are recruited to become drug runners."

Researchers surveyed community associations, health centres, outreach
workers, police, social workers and academics about homelessness,
street prostitution, gangs, street drug activity, panhandling and
graffiti in the Greater Vancouver region, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina,
Saskatoon and Winnipeg.

Fifty-nine face-to-face interviews and electronic surveys were done in
Regina, said foundation director Robert Roach.

The growing problem with gangs is multifaceted, Roach

"We know that part of it is issues with poverty and fitting in," he
said. "Young people are attracted to gangs because it provides a sense
of belonging and it seems a way to make life better, but of course it
doesn't turn out that way."

Street gang activity was reported to be a large challenge in Regina,
Saskatoon and Winnipeg and, although it was identified as less of an
issue in the other cities, it was seen as a growing problem. Drugs are
also a major issue in Regina.

"It was thought to be more of a problem now than five years ago,"
Roach said. "They did point out that Regina doesn't have an obvious
drug market like in Vancouver or Calgary. It tends to take place in
these problem houses in Regina whereas in Vancouver you can go into
the Downtown Eastside and see a lot of drug dealing right on the
street or in Calgary, in some parts of the downtown, it's an open thing."

Homelessness is less of an issue in Regina than in cities such as
Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. The report notes it's more common to
have two or three generations living in the same house in Regina than
it is to find someone sleeping on the street.

All six cities stressed the visible problems are the "tip of the
iceberg" and the problems tend to be concentrated in older inner-city
neighbourhoods. Regina's problem areas are North Central and the Core,
but Roach noted that the people working in those areas feel positive
change is possible.

"They feel there is a strong sense of community and they haven't given
up, but there's also a sense of frustration with the Core
neighbourhood and North Central, that the problems, in the past at
least, would be addressed in one of those neighbourhoods and it'd get
pushed to another one," he said. "Now there seems to be some optimism
that they're addressing it more holistically so it's not just pushing
it back and forth."

The article published in Maclean's in January labelling Regina's North
Central as "Canada's worst neighbourhood" didn't help Regina's image,
Roach said.

"That's tough to live down," he said. "They're hard at work, progress
is being made and there are some tough issues but that perception is
probably not helping. On the other hand, it might be a spur to address
these things."

Mayor Pat Fiacco agrees social issues, such as addiction, must be

"A number of years ago, we created the Regina and Area Drug Strategy
and that has made a big difference," he said. "We've got a long ways
to go, but it's there and it's forcing the provincial government to
pay attention and to make sure that we have the proper facilities to
deal with young people who are facing these addictions.

"The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, which the provincial
government put in place, and the Housing Standards Enforcement Team
that the City of Regina put in place, in conjunction with the Inner
City Community Partnership -- those are all making positive

He noted that crime has decreased by 25 per cent in North

When Sandy Wankel began working as the North Central Family Centre's
executive director seven years ago, she was appalled that many gang
members were "just children."

"A lot of times it's in the same families -- especially in the gang
recruitment," Wankel said. "And the gangs are behind the prostitution
and keeping the girls hooked on drugs. You even see spouses putting
their wives and girlfriends on the street. That's why it's so
important that we have preventative programs that they can get into
and mentoring and people coming into their lives to steer them
straight and tell them that they're on the wrong path ... There should
be a place on every street corner."

Since the Maclean's article, Wankel said many corporate people have
gotten involved in the centre. Fiacco believes the article angered the
corporate community and spurred them into action.

"I'm not giving Maclean's credit for anything, but I'll give credit to
citizens of our community, to the corporate community, to the Sandy
Wankels of this world," Fiacco said. "To those individuals who have
stepped up to the challenge and have said that we have an obligation
to make sure that everybody is able to live a great quality life. It's
not going to happen overnight but we've got to be part of it."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek