Gang Violence In Saskatchewan

I was looking forward to a breakfast conversation with Stephen, Rob and Dean this morning, but my plans changed rather quickly. At about 2am this morning, I got a phonecall that my wife’s brother had been jumped by several youths and stabbed multiple times. Luckily, he made it through his surgery, and he’s doing OK … but not after some very scary moments.

I often think of the great positives but forth by the wisdom of crowds mentality, by the same social premise that gives us open source software, social software and artefacts/services like Wikipedia. Sure, in my online world, I worry about innappropriate content, the commodization of knowledge, cyberbullying, the domination of proprietary mediums, etc. … really big and important issues. And, by routine, I am guilty of placing more emphasis on developing, improving and sustaining my online environment than I do on my temporal world.

Last night’s wakeup call was literally that … a wakeup call to pay more attention to my local community. Before working at the University of Regina, I was employed as a social worker in a youth detention facility. The work was very difficult as I came to know many young individuals who had fallen into a lifestyle of crime, in many cases by circumstance and little fault of their own. The work was literally heart-breaking at times.

I remember the time when I transported a boy named Marcel to a northern Saskatchewan community, to attend the funeral of his Grandfather. Marcel was a week shy of his 18th birthday, and he had been institutionalized, due to mostly petty crimes, since he was 14 years old. His father was a “lifer” at a federal penitentiary. When we got to the funeral, I uncuffed Marcel out of respect, although as far as I knew, I was breaking the rules. I remember him then telling me, “Don’t worry, I won’t run on you. I know you’re not permanent (I was casual at the time), so you might lose your job. But I will run next week. I have to run, or I won’t have anywhere to go (for the winter), and it’s getting too cold.” And even though I reported this to the other staff, Marcel did run. And several months after that (once he turned 18), Marcel committed a much more serious crime, and I remember the reports stating his rationale. Supposedly, he did it so that he could finally be with his dad. Absolutely heart-breaking stuff.

In Saskatchewan, violent crime is continuing to be a serious issue. Although there are policing initiatives like the Safe Communities program, it’s simply not enough. Gang violence affects us all, and it’s no longer something that occurs in low-income neighborhoods. It’s no longer something that we can pretend doesn’t exist. Think to yourself, “what can I do to help?” Then, act!

Update: Thanks to Jim for alerting me to a related story posted by Chris Lehman. He points to the story of Terrell Pough, an 18 year highschool senior and father of a two-year old daughter, who was killed through senseless violence last Thursday. A notable quote from Lehman’s post reads:

And I worry. I worry that we are losing a generation of young men in our cities. I worry that so many of them want the best for themselves but don’t see a path ahead of them to achieve that. I worry that we lose kids like Terrell to the violence around them. I worry that we have a generation of young men and women who see the violence around them as a too real part of their every day lives.

And I think of the enormous task we have in front of us, as educators… as a whole society… to repair the damage that has already been done.

And if the words on the page are not enough to remind us of what we are losing, here is a picture of Terrell and Diamond at a Sixers game a few weeks ago.

15 thoughts on “Gang Violence In Saskatchewan

  1. Think then act.Do my best.
    Leader Mao told us “Good good study,and day day up”(好好学习,天天向上).Sorry to introduce myself,I’m a Chinese boy.
    “and he’s doing OK ” Good luck~

  2. Alec, I know this must be a very frightening time for you and your family. I’ll contact you privately about this, of course, but your note about paying attention to your local community/family is very compelling. Oddly enough, and not for nearly as powerful reasons, I’ve been thinking the same thing lately.

  3. Thanks Rick. Thankfully, he’s OK, yet the perpetrators are still on the street. I remember one of those email forwards that went around a while back … something like “signs you live in the digital age”. One point was, “you communicate more with someone from Australia than you do with your neighbours next door”. This point has always resonated with me … and now, even more so.

  4. Pingback: Rick’s Café Canadien » Blog Archive » Real violence, real communities

  5. Very sorry to hear it. Good luck and best wishes for a speedy recovery!

    You’re right of course and today’s posting by Chris Lehmann is a tragic reminder that global thinking is all well and good but our local roots determine our world.

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  7. Hi. I am just trying to come to grips with an act of violence that has affected my whole family. This past Thursday, April 6/06, my 18 year old nephew was accosted and beaten IN our neighbourhood grocery store. This happened during the lunch hour in a crowded place, in plain view of the store security cameras. The lack of compassion displayed by the police force and the insinuation that this was somehow his fault is something I just cannot comprehend.

    After a trip to the emergency room, my nephew was released. He was with 2 friends who were held while he was pummeled. None of the boys knew anyone who was involved. At first the officer stated that this sounds like a gang related initiation, where an prospected gang member is told to assault someone who is not known to them. My nephew is 6 foot 5 and weighs about 300 pounds so is a very big target. ( I might add that he is Aboriginal but does this really matter?)

    My nephew has never been in trouble, has been taught to try to talk people down, and to not strike out unless forced to do so to protect himself. He took four direct blows to his head before he struck back, (then subsequently he was knocked to the floor and stomped on…tread marks from their boots have scarred his head) this is now what the police are having problems with. I cannot believe this goes on… cant anything be done?

    I fear that now he will be frightened to go to school, he is in grade 12 and a good student. He truly is a “gentle giant”, and this is so unfair. The police did not even bother to take photos until we complained. I know that no-one except the store manager even attempted to intervene (I cant say that I blame them either, this was such a violent act), I doubt that anyone will come forward and help to identify these animals.

    Any suggestions?

  8. Hi Linda,
    Thanks so much for sharing, and my thoughts are with you, your nephew and your family.

    I guess this is an issue that didn’t “come home” to me until it happened to someone I knew well. When we are not affected, we can be complacent about this issue, and of course, with so few people recognizing the problem, there is little that will be done.

    My only suggestion is that now that you have been directly affected, do everything you can to spread the word and make others know that this is a *real* problem. As I teach, I make sure that students in my class know that this is something that affects is all, and isn’t just happening in the context of large urban centres in the U.S. This is happening HERE! In whatever capacity you have (just like this comment to the blog), do what you can to make others aware of this, and put pressure on law enforcement, and law makers to see that there can be changes made. We can change things, but people need to be persistent.

    As for your comment “I might add that he is Aboriginal but does this really matter?” … in some ways it does. Aboriginal youth are more typically targetted victims of gang members, and his size was also likely (ironically) something that made him a favorable target. Gang “cred” is not usually gained by beating up small, elderly white women.

    In the mean time, take care. Perhaps your nephew can also speak of his experiences in ways to enlighten others. If it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone.

    All the best, and thanks again for commenting.

  9. I think gang violence is very very very very very very BAD

  10. In the article above…Linda is my sister and she’s describing what had
    happened to my son. It’s now 13+1/2 months later, and the police
    have really done nothing. I have filed a complaint against the officer
    that was suppose to have investigated this crime. That complaint was
    investigated and concluded in December/06 and we’ve still yet to
    hear back of the results of that investigation. All we want is some
    officer, that is interested in actually fighting crime, to investigate this
    crime. This whole gang assault took place (about 3 minutes of video)
    in a grocery store on Broadway Avenue in Regina in front of an
    anti-theft surveillance camera, and was witnessed by about 50 people. I am still eternally grateful to the one shopper (a former EMT) who was able to provide First Aid to my son until I was able to get him into the Emergency Department at the hospital.
    The police interviewed one person, over a month later, and only
    after I complained that they’d done nothing…My son, for the last
    thirteen months now, has been training hard with a heavy bag and is
    now doing huge numbers of (60lbs/arm) butterfly curls every day as
    he waits to run into one of the many gang members that stomped his
    head into that concrete floor in that grocery store at noon on a school day. He’s still 6’5″ tall but is now about 325lbs with much of that now being muscle. I know that he could kill the average person in a single blow and I don’t want to see him in prison because of the lack of interest by the City of Regina Police officer (I use the term loosely) that was assigned to investigate this crime, and just didn’t. My gentle giant isn’t as gentle as he one was. For that I’m very sad, but such is life now in our city. As a sign of the times now, I don’t leave my yard unless I’m in my car, or I’m walking with my 135lb dog and have a 3ft length of fence in my other hand. Thus is life now in our neighborhood. My son has graduated from school now, but the gang situation for those still in the school system has only gotten worse. The police that still try to do something are overwhelmed, while others have given up. Their hands are tied with legislation. In the few minutes that I’ve been typing this, I’ve watched several drug deals take place through my picture window. The time is way past due for legislation and funding that will enable a real solution to this issue of gangs and gang violence. The Safer Communities and Neighborhoods Act is a good beginning, but what is really needed is a flying squad (like Elliot Ness in Chicago many years ago) that is better armed and funded than the average gang member; that can effectively come in; in force; several times each week; and clean out these drug houses and residential gang houses and other such pest holes…The current liberal and social programs are just not effective and are at best a Band-Aid on a gaping wound that grows larger every day. We need a proactive enforcement solution, in addition to the reactive enforcement by our legislatively bound local police force. I’m a law abiding citizen and therefore do not carry a firearm, but the gangs are not bound by the laws that the rest of us follow. Gang members are basically cowards or they wouldn’t be in a gang in the first place. They need to have the numbers advantage of 5:1 or 500:1 to be brave. An armed flying squad (Law Enforcement based like a gang focused S.W.A.T. team? Or a Military based Enforcement group with very modified rules of engagement to deal with this issue) would quickly level the playing field, and with gangs members being basically cowards, they would fade away without their numbers advantage.

  11. Saskatchewan has rated the worst in the crime statistics most
    years, for many years. People need to contact other people who’ve
    had to deal with being a victim of crime, and a victim of the system
    that’s in place that suppose to deal with crime (police, prosecutors,
    court, prison, etc…).
    We’ve had our experience, and have had our experience with what
    seems like a very disinterested police officer, a broken prosecutorial
    system that dismissed a Victim Impact Statement as irrelevant and
    didn’t bother bringing it’s existence to the judge, an experience with
    the broken system in place with respect to police complaints…and
    have come out the back-end empty handed and just plain dirty. The
    term I was labeled with by this broken system was “vexatious” by
    the Public Complaints Commission which is worse than nothing
    happening at all. I know that we simply can’t be the only one’s who’ve
    had this experience. I, myself, need to know that we’re not alone. Many
    others must be in the same boat and we need to get in touch with one
    The system is broken, and change to a monstrous bureaucracy will
    not come from isolated victims of that system. A blog site that will put
    these people in touch with each other, though, doesn’t seem to exist.
    This one blog site is one of the only ones I can find that isn’t a sanitized
    government site quoting statistics that enable them to pat themselves
    on the back. Our “reported” crime rate has dropped 8% or 9%??? I can
    believe that; but not because of effective policing, or an effective court
    system. I believe the crime statistics for “reported” crimes are dropping
    in Saskatchewan due to the average person just not reporting most
    crimes anymore. People avoiding higher insurance premiums for insurance
    due to another bicycle (or BBQ, or TV, etc…) being stolen, or another
    garage break in, or another car stereo being stolen. People avoiding the
    system that victimizes them again with disinterested public officials
    who may treat them like the criminals. It happens. I’ve been through it.
    People stop reporting crimes when they know the police are generally
    ineffective, but the gangs are on the streets in our neighborhoods, and
    are very effective. Yes, the “reported” crimes statistic has declined, but
    for entirely all the wrong reasons.
    Victims of crime, and the families of victims of crime, need to share
    their experiences to discover that they are not alone. A solution will not
    come from our individual silence.

  12. I have lost the love of my life to gang violence…due to his involvement in the gangs…he was brutally murdered by 3 young men..His lifestyle attributed to this violent attack..and it took something so tragic like this to open my eyes and see where our children (roy and I) were heading… i believe the problem lies in our teachers and role models..they seem to have deteriated through the years…as too many people have an attitude of “well i cant make a difference…why bother” its takes a community to raise kids!!! that hasnt and will never change..more parents, reformed gang members and teachers need to stand up and fight for their future..its uneducated.
    These kids feel the need to represent/stand for something just as everyone should..the age limit to abtain a social insurance number should be 13 not 16..cause thats what they need to represent is an S.I.N not a gang symbol that in reality offers nothing but a block number in the correctional.

  13. Paula, good for you for stepping forward with your story!
    So many people have been affected by gang violence, yet so
    few step forward. Something has to be done, and what little is
    currently being done doesn’t seem to be working.
    I don’t even pretend to have the answers, but I don’t like
    what I see. I am a resident of the Core area of Regina, and I
    am out on foot, usually 4-5 nights a week (weather permitting)
    for a couple of hours at a time (walking miles each time with
    our dogs) and things don’t seem to be getting any better.
    My family has been touched by gang violence as you can
    read above. Now we’re just going forward with our lives as there
    is no justice in the “Justice” system, which seems to be set up
    so that nobody will ever report a physical crime twice…
    I’m not a vigilante, and I believe in the law, even with the
    very broken system that is supposedly enforcing it. We all have
    to do our part though I’m not really sure what mine even is. The
    part that I am doing though is simply being out there on the street
    walking my dog’s (60lbs & 155lbs), being respectful and polite to
    those that are reciprocating those same things. On that same note,
    we do NOT empower the Gangs when they block the sidewalks,
    but wade right through the middle and out the other side. Same
    with the hookers, and pimps, drug dealers, and so forth…They
    have to know that their behavior is not acceptable and that they
    do NOT own the streets, but as members of society, they can
    share them as we all have to do to get along.
    I expect that some day I’ll be another statistic, but it feels
    like I’m doing the right thing. We wont start anything, and we’ll
    walk away when it feels right to do so, but we’ll never be helpless
    victims ever again. God forbid the day that one of those cowardly
    Gang Bangers ever crosses the path of my Son without having a
    half a dozen other criminals with him to make him feel brave, as
    I don’t want to see my Son in a prison for doing what the “Justice”
    system was too disinterested to do in the first place. They may
    not remember my Son, but I know my Son will remember them.

  14. Tonight I got to deal with the Police again…and I know that every time that a member of the Public ever has to deal with the Police, it’s always a potentially fatal situation for that member of the Public. I relearned a lesson tonight that I must have somehow forgotten. Only call the Police for File numbers after the fact and for
    insurance purposes only, and that’ll minimize your contact with them, which may very well extend your life. I will not ever forget that again. Tonight is Tuesday August 19th, 2008. In hindsight, I guess the Baby-bonus
    must be out. After supper tonight, I was taking my garbage out to the can in the alley, and out behind my garage (leaning up against my buddy’s travel trailer) are
    four Native peoples (three males and a female) dressed in the MTV version of Ghetto with the white ball caps worn at a 45 degree angle, etc…smoking Crack. I asked them to please move alone. They said, “Stop being so white, Whitey! F**k Off! We’re not doing nothing (double negative, yeah, I know)!” So I asked them to move on up the alley to continue their doing nothing. Things started to get ugly. In an effort to convince them to move along, I called my Dog and my Son as I was outnumbered four to one. As my Son was distracting them, I quickly called the Police(at 7:56pm) and got right back before my Son got jumped or stabbed. It took us over ten minutes to get the Crackheads to leave. I called the Police back (at 8:17pm) and told them that it was all over and that we’d gotten the Crackheads to finally leave, but like cowards, I fully expect (when I’m not home) to have broken windows in our home and cars and slashed tires and such, so
    is there a file number I can get (even thought the Police didn’t show up) to tie back to the near future damage I expect. I was told that all there is, is an RA# for the call and that is RA0804968.

    After that, a cat got out of the house and it took about an hour to get it out from under the deck on the back of the house, and then we assembled and installed a ceiling fan downstairs as it got up to +33c today…and where sitting out on the deck cooling off at about 10:30pm when the dogs started barking at someone out in our front yard in the dark. The dogs where barking at the front gate, and all I could see was the silhouettes of at least two people. Because we where sitting out on the deck at the back of the house, I didn’t have the motion light on at the front of the house. I did have a 3ft piece of pipe in my hand as I though the Crackheads where back, as the Police never did show up. Once I was at the gate I was able to see that it was the Police, so I told them to step back from the gate (due to the dogs) so I could come

    I came through the gate backwards so I could keep the three dogs in the yard and was telling the dogs, “No!” (as in, “get down,” in the limited vocabulary that a dog would understand) when the female office yelled “Put down the pipe!” and then grabbed me and attempted to throw me to the ground. Being a law abiding citizen, I dropped the
    piece of fence and just went with the motions while asking her, “just what the hell was she doing?” She was yelling that she’s the authority and I should have
    listened to her and she claimed she almost pulled her gun and shot me. nice…I told her to get off my back (literally) and get the hell out of my yard. Things really became ugly at that point, and my Son and his Wife where coming down the front steps, and my Buddy was coming out of the side gate. To keep my Son out of the mix, I told him to “Go inside and call our Lawyer, Now!” and he did. Both officers (I’m using the term very loosely) proceeded to throw out F-bombs and threats to myself, my Son, my Friend, and the male officer threatened that he’d shoot our dogs through our fence and then claim that they got out. It was surreal. All the while I’m telling them that over two hours ago, there was a crime they could fight, but not now and please leave. Go. Go away. Get off my property. Repeatedly over and over.

    The Female Officer told me I was going to be arrested (she didn’t say why) and I kept telling her that she could leave my property and go fight some crime somewhere. They where not needed or wanted hours after the fact, and someone somewhere might actually need or want some kind of Police response. These Officers just wouldn’t leave, though the little one (the male) did back into the vacant lot beside my house but seemed hell bent on trying to pick a fight with my Buddy. It was stupid.

    It took my Lawyers wife arriving (turns out our Family lawyer is out of town) for these officers to start behaving like non-antagonistic criminals. The Female says, “We have a dangerous and stressful job, and if you don’t like our response time, call your City Councilor and request more funds for more Police.” Huh??? This city already has a Gang problem with crime stats at the bottom of Canada, and this Officer wants me to fight for more Gang members (with badges) to come out an assault the public (hours after a response would have even been relevant) after the Police knew full well we’d run off the Crackheads off our own, as we had no choice without a (even remotely) timely Police response. We really don’t need more Police like these two. We need real Police!!!
    How about we get ride of the incompetent cops, and the ones that are left can do their jobs instead of assaulting the public like this goat rodeo tonight. The officers that responded where a petite female and a small male, who I believe where compensating for their physical short comings with HUGE CHIP’s ON THEIR SHOULDERS and violence against the public. Honest to God, the time they wasted as we tried to just get them to leave, they could have gone out and responded to an actual crime that might actually require a response in a still relevant time
    frame. They might actually get to deal with a real criminal then. Actually, in hindsight, by stalling
    and trying to pick a fight with my Friend (I kid you not), they ensured that they’d show up long after any danger for their next call. They where worse to get rid of than the Crackheads. We actually managed to convince the Crackheads that the Police where coming, and even criminals are answerable (in a lenient fashion) to the Law. Not so for the Police it seems….

    If a complaint is ever filed, the Police Police the Police, and then have something that I believe is now called the “Public Complaints Commission” (formerly the Police Complaints Commission) to rubber stamp it. This process will be drawn out over about a year and a half,
    at the taxpayers expense, when everyone knows in advance that the Police will Police the Police and find the Police innocent. “Thanks for Coming” sort of thing. The Public in Montreal is shocked and outraged to recently discover that this is how complaints are dealt with out there. Here, it is business as usual. I license my car, and I license my dog. I don’t speed or steal or pimp or prostitute myself on a corner near the Police Department.
    I cross in the crosswalks, and pay my taxes, and mow my lawn, and pick up discarded needles in the school grounds and parks and such and dispose of them in the garbage before some kid finds them….and I was assaulted and threatened tonight by the Police. If my Lawyers wife (God bless her) didn’t arrive when she did, I would be in jail tonight and who knows what the story would have been. It would have kept these two sorry excuses of Police officers out of harms way for another baby bonus by ruffing up a non-criminal who wouldn’t have fought back against them, instead of going out and actually fighting crime. I believe that I have learned tonight just why Regina has the highest crime rates, year after year after year…it’s the Police that we have, instead of the real
    Police that we need. I am so thoroughly disgusted. I know that filing a complaint is a useless gesture, and thus the reason this Constable wanted me to file a complaint. She seemed to be trying to dare me to file a complaint, as both she and I know how that (or almost any) complaint
    would turn out. I didn’t even see any sense in accepting her business card, but my Lawyers wife did accept it.

    “Protect and Serve,” but protect and serve whom? In Saskatchewan, between April 1,2007 and March 31, 2008 a total of TWO complaints where found substantiated out of the 142 that where filed. The previous year, less than 14% of the complaints filed in Saskatchewan where found substantiated. Why where the other 86+% even filed when the Public knows what a long and drawn out process (with zero personal gain whatsoever) the complaints process really is? The Police seem to be out to protect and serve the Police, but not the Public. The truly ironic thing is that the Police are still members of the Public, but just in an elite class where the Laws that most of us have to follow; because it’s the right thing to do; only apply if there are enough witness’s and video that reaches YouTube and the Media before the Police can claim and hide it. Who’s going to Police the Police? It seems to not be the Police. No wonder Saskatchewan has the crime rate that it does. Ironically, if someone else was to tell me the story above that I’ve just shared, I’m not sure
    that I’d believe them, and would be thinking in the back of my mind that they must have somehow provoked or incited the whole incident. In this case, that’s just not the case.

    In the USA, I bet the Police would have identified themselves before I was about six feet from
    them in the event that I was better armed than they where. That sure didn’t happen here…

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