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Developing leadership in Aboriginal youth will help with crime prevention
One of the recommendations from the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Safety is helping to create young Aboriginal leaders in Edmonton.
The fifth recommendation of nine that came from the REACH Report, the result of the Mayor’s task force, calls for the city’s Aboriginal leaders to foster prevention solutions from a uniquely Aboriginal perspective.
“This approach is one of those which will allow First Nations, Inuit, and MÈtis people to do what they need to do to mentor their young people,” said Mayor Stephen Mandel.
“We’re learning how to better engage the Aboriginal community in crime prevention in a cultural context and that’s what’s important about this in terms of the initiative. This is hugely significant. No where else in Canada is there an initiative quite like this,” said Kate Gunn, executive director for REACH Council for Safe Communities.
REACH Aboriginal Leadership Circle was launched on April 14 in a special ceremony at Edmonton City Hall. The ceremony included a smudging by Elder Francis Whiskeyjack, drumming and fiddling, and ended with a round dance that included Mandel. It was a visible testament to what REACH is all about.
REACH is a catalyst for bringing together Aboriginal partners, securing funding and providing expertise which will give young people the support and guidance they need to become leaders. Half of Edmonton’s Aboriginal population is under the age of 25 years.
“We’re…teaching (young people) respect for their families, their Elders, their community, and most of all for themselves. . . . We’re helping them take a path in life that does not include crime, gangs or drugs and that family violence is not the norm,” said Rachelle Venne, CEO for the Institute for Advancement of Aboriginal Women.
As one of the partners in the venture, IAAW is delivering a leadership development program, aimed at helping Aboriginal men and women find positions on committees and boards of directors to give Aboriginal voice to decision-making. Also partnering in the program are the Canadian Native Friendship Centre, the Wicihitowin Circle, and the city’s Office of Diversity.
Twice a week, adults, children and families join in a powwow, dance and regalia program at the friendship centre and celebrate.
“We’re connecting young people to their roots, letting them know they come from a strong community,” said Venne.
Mandel struck the task force in fall 2008 with a series of meetings hosted the following year.
“This report is a beginning . . . . There is a long journey. The journey will work as we work together,” said Mandel.
The concerns facing Edmontonians are not new, said Gunn, but the approach to dealing with them is.
“This is new thinking, new solutions, engaging new voices to challenges that have been with us for generations,” said Gunn.
Edmonton has the second largest urban Aboriginal population in the country.
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