Brenda Longman-Jaeger is still struggling to understand why her 14-year-old grandson was killed in Regina a few weeks ago, in what she calls a “senseless death”.
Jake Longman was killed and found in an alley on Rae Street in Regina’s North Central neighborhood on June 29. He was discovered alongside a 32-year-old woman who was taken to hospital.
Three teenagers have been charged with first degree murder, none of which can be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
“It’s just become a really big problem here in the city,” Longman-Jaeger said, referring to security issues, especially for young people.
That’s why Longman-Jaeger started a women-led group called Matriarchs and Warriors Uniting Against Violence, to focus on issues and gangs and to try to help young offenders in Regina.
“It’s because of my grandson that this is coming out. I don’t want his death to be in vain,” she said.
“I would like to include these other families who have experienced the same loss.”
One of his concerns is that adults are tricking young people into joining gangs and inciting them to commit dangerous and violent crimes.
“It’s sickening and we’re just sick of it as a community,” Longman-Jaeger said.
Band member Janna Pratt said: “It’s not even safe for my kids to walk to school.”
From 2015 to 2020, Saskatchewan had the highest rate of Indigenous deaths by homicide among the provinces, with an average rate of 17.57 per 100,000 population, according to a Statistics Canada reportcompared to a national average of 8.65 per 100,000.
Meanwhile, the non-Indigenous victim rate in the province during this period was 1.38 per 100,000 people, nearly identical to the national average of 1.39.
The difference between the two rates means that from 2015 to 2020, Indigenous people in Saskatchewan were about 13 times more likely to die by homicide than non-Indigenous people. This is the largest disparity in these rates in the country.
It is important that our people, our elders… get involved in protecting young people, protecting young people too,– Kim Beaudin, National Vice-Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples
Although gang violence is not a leading killer of Indigenous people, according to the report, Longman-Jaeger said the threat of gang violence intimidates the community.
“We live hand to mouth, having them running around our neighborhood, pulling out guns and threatening people, and that has to stop,” she said.
Promoting the education of young people
Part of the group’s mantra is to reclaim the traditional role of matriarchs as leaders and caregivers, Pratt said. Men are also in the group for more comprehensive support and to help provide a positive male influence.
The Matriarchs group aims to provide young people with a stronger cultural connection to powwows and ceremonies and other alternatives to gang life.
The same Statistics Canada report noted that more than one-third of Aboriginal people in Canada have witnessed violence by a parent against another person.
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It connects some of these issues, such as domestic violence, to the history of colonization, intergenerational trauma, and economic deprivation.
By comparison, about one in five non-Aboriginal people have witnessed the same type of violence.
But that data (along with the rest of the report) needs to be viewed with the right lens, said Robert Henry, an assistant professor of Indigenous studies at the University of Saskatchewan who specializes in Indigenous criminology.
While the report provides context for Indigenous victimization, Henry said the data, without context, doesn’t account for why violent crimes are committed.
“We don’t look at issues around mental health and addictions, issues around poverty,” he said.
Without a background, he can make a lot of suggestions: for example, Aboriginal people are violent or children are unsafe at home.
He is concerned that Indigenous children should not be with their families, dangerous rhetoric that he brings back to the Sixties Scoop, when Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in government care.
Instead, people need to understand how a whole story has created experiences that lead to higher crime rates, he said.
The province needs to look at crime rates through a public health lens rather than a public health issue, Henry said.
Community group “just right”
Evan Bray, Chief of the Regina Police Department, linked crime rates to socio-economic issues, saying 90-95% of crimes are motivated by social issues.
“Rather than waiting for the police to respond to the 911 call, let’s do something that prevents that child from even needing to call 911 or being involved in a traumatic situation,” he said. declared.
This organization, which aims to solve social problems by helping young people find alternatives to violence, is “exactly what is needed”.
The lack of trust between Indigenous groups and the police is a significant issue that needs to be addressed and the force working together with the community group is a step in that direction, Bray said.
According to Statistics Canada reportIndigenous people in Saskatchewan had the lowest level of trust in officers of any province and the largest population gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who trusted police forces.
Kim Beaudin, national vice-chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which represents off-reserve status and non-status First Nations, Métis and southern Inuit, said he was not surprised and noted that he had often heard of youths being accosted by officers.
Beaudin was discouraged, but not surprised, by the high homicide rate and praised the group’s commitment to reducing it and helping young people avoid dangerous lifestyles.
“I have always said that it is important that our people, our elders and our elders get involved in protecting young people, protecting young people too,” said Beaudin.