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development of an aboriginal youth justice programme - Kwantlen ...

TAKING STEPS FORWARD:

DEVELOPMENT OF AN ABORIGINAL YOUTH JUSTICE

PROGRAMME

by

Stephen Dooley

Richard Floyd

Andrew Welsh

Kwantlen University College

SUBMITTED TO:

Vancouver Police Department

May 2005

This research was funded under the Justice Canada – Youth Justice Renewal Fund. As per the

funding agreements between (1) Justice Canada – Youth Justice Policy and the Vancouver Police

Department and (2) The Vancouver Police Department and Kwantlen University College, the

youth services section of the Vancouver Police Department retains copyright and ownership of

all work produced care of the funding agreements.


1 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Aboriginal youth in Canada are overrepresented at every stage of the Canadian criminal justice

system (LaPrairie, 1996). A considerable volume of research has accumulated over the last two decades

on Aboriginal adults in the Canadian criminal justice system. Recently, however, researchers and law

enforcement personnel have shifted their attention to focus on Aboriginal youth. Growing concerns about

Aboriginal youth and the persistence of their involvement in the justice system are warranted given that

Aboriginal youth represent one of the fastest growing demographics in Canada (Boe, 2000; 2003).

Moreover, statistical reports show that Aboriginal youth are overrepresented in sentenced custody

admissions, probation admissions, and alternative justice measures and are significantly more likely to be

affiliated with a gang.

A review of existing literature strongly suggests that efforts aimed at reducing Aboriginal

involvement in the criminal justice system must focus on the early diversion of Aboriginal youth. The

purpose of this study was to collect and summarize data for the Vancouver Police Department in the

planning and development of the Aboriginal Youth Justice Programme. Two separate approaches were

adopted to assist in this process:

1. In-Person Interviews: Interviews were conducted with 200 Aboriginal youth in Vancouver using the

Target Inclusion Model. The content of the interviews included both closed- and open-ended

questions focusing on several issues, including contacts with and perceptions of the police,

perceptions of family, community and neighbourhood support, community program use, and attitudes

towards illegal activity.

2. Focus Groups: Several focus group meetings were conducted with relevant service providers who

currently work with Aboriginal youth in Vancouver, Elders from the Aboriginal community, and

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members of the Vancouver Police Department. The Affinity Process was used to systematically

collect feedback from the groups with reference to specific questions.

The principle findings of the study were as follows:

• A large number of Aboriginal youth have had negative contacts with the police. Approximately 84%

of respondents reported that they have been stopped by the police. Sixty-two percent of respondents

have been detained by the police and 62.3% of respondents reported that they have been arrested

• Nearly two-thirds of Aboriginal youth reported that they have been stopped by the police after

midnight. Youth most commonly believed that they were stopped by the police because they were

engaging in suspicious activity and because they were with a group of young people.

• The majority of Aboriginal youth indicated that police could contact an available adult. Over threequarters

of Aboriginal youth cited their parents as the most readily available adult. In addition, 75.7%

of Aboriginal youth indicated that family members would be an acceptable alternative to police

custody.

• Aboriginal youth were asked to complete the following open-ended statement, “Police officers would

be better able to assist Aboriginal youth if they…” The most frequently cited comments reflected a

desire to see police become more culturally sensitive to Aboriginal culture and more approachable

and friendly. Of particular interest, respondents also expressed a desire for the police to engage in

more positive interactions in the community.

• Aboriginal youth were asked to identify three causes of Aboriginal youth overrepresentation in the

criminal justice system. Participants frequently cited “doing crime,” “criminality,” or, in some cases,

referred to specific crimes, as causes of overrepresentation. Moreover, Aboriginal youth frequently

referred to substance abuse and various social factors, including racism and poverty, as causes of

overrepresentation.

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• Three questions on the survey solicited respondents’ opinions about the role the Aboriginal

community, service-providers, and the police could play in reducing overrepresentation. With respect

to the community and service providers, Aboriginal youth frequently cited the need for increased

program availability and accessibility. Respondents also frequently requested a greater number of

leisure activities, such as dances and sports, be made available for Aboriginal youth.

• Aboriginal youth frequently expressed a general desire to see police be more approachable and

friendly. A number of respondents, for example, discussed how police were often rude or

disrespectful in their interactions with youth. Interestingly, despite largely negative perceptions of the

police, Aboriginal youth in the current study frequently discussed the need for police to come into

their communities for positive interactions, such as community events or celebrations.

• The current study identified several risk factors for arrest among Aboriginal youth. Consistent with

criminological literature, age and gender were significant risk factors – older Aboriginal males were

at an elevated risk for arrest. Urban residency also presented as a risk factor with respondents who

have lived in Vancouver for a longer period being at an increased risk for arrest. State custody with

the Ministry of Children and Family Services was also a risk factor for Aboriginal youth.

• Several protective factors were also identified in this study. A connection to traditional activities and

traditional land was a protective factor for Aboriginal youth, reducing the likelihood of arrest. In

addition, youth perceptions of clear family rules and regular supervision also reduced the likelihood

of arrest.

• Participants in the focus groups, both elders and service providers drew attention to historical factors.

Issues resulting from the residential school experience and other forms of discrimination, both

systemic and social were seen as the key to understanding the current circumstances. The

marginalization of Aboriginals through these processes is felt to have produced a particular set of

challenges for this population. These include overcoming the lack of experience and/or models

through which parenting skills and appropriate interpersonal dynamics are learned.

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• Focus group discussion also spoke to limitations within the existing educational system that impact

the ability of Aboriginal youth to integrate into mainstream society. Both the lack of sensitivity to the

special heuristic and cultural needs of Aboriginal youth are seen as shortcomings with consequences

far beyond the schooling experience, perhaps even having lifelong implications.

The principle recommendations of this report are:

1. That the goodwill and working relationships developed during the course of this research project be

fostered to become part of any long term initiative.

2. That the relationship between Aboriginal youth and the Vancouver Police Department be reframed so

that the primary impetus behind contact and interaction is constructive and positive rather than

enforcement-based. The research clearly indicated a sense of disconnect between youth and the

police, a function of the context of most of their interactions.

3. That the Aboriginal community undertakes initiatives to establish and encourage youth to identify

with and feel engaged by their traditions. This work should, in particular pay attention to creating a

sense of family to which youth can turn in times of difficulty—many youth expressed a desire to be

turned over to a member of their community as an alternative to police custody. It should also

facilitate a meaningful connection with culture and community. While the data show quite clearly that

those youth who spent time on their traditional territory were less likely to be involved with the law, it

also showed that most of the 200 youth interviewed were unable to either pronounce or spell the name

of their Nation.

4. Education programs for both police officers and Aboriginal youth that go beyond stereotypical

cultural icons—the making or explanations of dreamcatchers can only accomplish so much. In

addition to existing initiatives, it would be fruitful for all involved to be educated in the traditions of

Aboriginal justice. Programs meant to reflect these values can only be effective if those involved in

their implementation and use understand the guiding principles which underlie them.

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5. Substance abuse is a symptom rather than a discrete problem. Dealing with the consequences of

substance abuse in the Aboriginal youth population must be informed by a clear grasp of the

precipitators of the abuse.

6. Issues of accessibility to programs and resources are, as expected, critical. One recurring theme

revolved around the limited availability of facilities and personnel—youth complained about the

closing of the Friendship Centre at what they thought to be an unreasonably early hour, and the fact

that the Broadway Youth Resource Centre is not open on weekends. The benefit of this, at least in the

case of the Friendship centre, is that at a certain point in the evening, all the youth who have been

using the Centre, are moved out on the street with nothing to do. Understanding that there are

arbitrary limitations to resources, every effort should be made to provide access to alternatives to

“hanging out on the street.”

7. As might be expected, youth who described themselves as engaged in spiritual ceremonies, whether

in a private or public setting, were less likely to be involved with the police. While the voluntary

nature of this set of activities must be acknowledged, there may also be an opportunity of education

here.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The research team would like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their

extraordinary contributions to this project. The completion and value of this report was very much

dependant upon the goodwill and assistance of many people. Some members of the Committee and

research team made extraordinary contributions, without which the success of this study would have not

been possible. They are (in alphabetical order):

Preston Guno, Insp. John de Haas, Tamie Fennig

Kelly L’Hirondelle, Deana Michel

Others who were a significant part of the project are (in alphabetical order) :

Sylvia Chicas, Curtis Clearsky

James Cowpar, Sgt. Malcolm Cox

Cst. Dave Dickson, Tammy Dorward

Jessica Erickson, Det./Cst. Ciaran Feenan

Damielle Gurley, Sgt. Ed Eviston

David Green, Det./Cst. Brent Haines

Sarah John, Sarah Louie

Reg McGinty, Conrad Mark

Melanie Mark, Det./Cst. Mike Matheson

Darryl Moore, Wayne Nipshank

Det./Cst. Glenn Thomson, Michelle Wing

And David MacArthur (Bachelor of Arts, Community Criminal Justice)

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

1 Executive summary ...................................................................................... ii

Acknowledgements ......................................................................................................... vii

Table of Contents ........................................................................................................... viii

List of Figures.....................................................................................................................x

List of Tables ................................................................................................................... xii

2 Chapter One: Literature Review ................................................................1

2.1 Historical Context............................................................................................1

2.2 Introduction: ....................................................................................................2

2.3 Overrepresentation ..........................................................................................3

2.3.1 Defining Overrepresentation .......................................................................3

2.3.2 Adult Aboriginal Crime...............................................................................3

2.3.3 Aboriginal Delinquency...............................................................................5

2.4 Aboriginal Social Conditions ..........................................................................7

2.4.1 Population Demographics............................................................................8

2.4.2 Socioeconomic Status................................................................................11

2.4.3 General Health...........................................................................................11

2.4.4 Substance Use............................................................................................12

2.4.5 Family Violence.........................................................................................14

2.5 Criminal Justice Processing...........................................................................14

2.5.1 Police Contact and Arrest ..........................................................................14

2.5.2 Legal Representation and the Courts.........................................................15

2.5.3 Sentencing .................................................................................................16

2.5.4 Conditional Release...................................................................................18

2.6 Criminological Theory and Correlates ..........................................................19

2.7 Innovative Justice Approaches......................................................................22

2.7.1 Restorative Justice .....................................................................................22

2.7.2 Police Interventions ...................................................................................23

2.7.3 Court and Sentencing Interventions Interventions ....................................27

2.7.4 Correctional Interventions .........................................................................29

2.8 Summary and Present Study..........................................................................30

3 Method..........................................................................................................32

3.1 The Research Team .......................................................................................32

3.2 Instruments ....................................................................................................33

3.3 Population and Sampling...............................................................................34

3.4 Interview Process...........................................................................................35

3.5 Focus Group Process .....................................................................................36

4 Results...........................................................................................................39

viii


4.1 Youth Questionnaire......................................................................................39

4.1.1 Demographic Overview of the Sample......................................................39

4.1.2 Residency of Respondents.........................................................................43

4.1.3 Traditional Territory and Ceremonies .......................................................47

4.1.4 Personal Support Networks .......................................................................51

4.1.5 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Involvement in Illegal Activity ............56

4.1.6 Interactions with Service Providers...........................................................58

4.1.7 Interactions with the Police .......................................................................62

4.1.8 Aboriginal Youth and the Justice System..................................................71

4.1.9 Aboriginal Youth and Factors Related to Arrest .......................................77

4.1.10 Aboriginal Youth, 12 to 17 years of Age ..................................................90

4.2 Focus Group Results....................................................................................119

4.2.1 Causes of Aboriginal Youth Overrepresentation in the Justice System..119

4.2.2 Solutions to Aboriginal Youth Overrepresentation .................................124

5 Chapter Five: Discussion and Conclusion..............................................135

5.1 Recommendations .......................................................................................136

6 Appendices .................................................................................................138

Appendix 1 ...................................................................................................................139

Youth Questionnaire ....................................................................................................139

Appendix 2 ...................................................................................................................149

Focus Group Affinity Diagrams...................................................................................149

7 References ..................................................................................................160

ix


LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1 Age of Respondents ..........................................................................................42

Figure 2 Length of Residency in Vancouver...................................................................44

Figure 3 Place of Residency ............................................................................................45

Figure 4 Length of Residency in the Ministry of Children and Family Services............46

Figure 5 Visits to Traditional Territory ...........................................................................48

Figure 6 Purpose of Visits to Traditional Territory.........................................................49

Figure 7 Participation in Spiritual Ceremonies ...............................................................50

Figure 8 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Family Support ............................................52

Figure 9 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Neighbourhood Support...............................53

Figure 10 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Community Support.....................................54

Figure 11 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Community Involvement .............................55

Figure 12 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Illegal Activity .............................................57

Figure 13 Interactions with Service Providers ..................................................................59

Figure 14 Participation in Community-based Programs ...................................................60

Figure 15 Importance of Cultural Programming ...............................................................61

Figure 16 Types of Police Interactions..............................................................................63

Figure 17 Aboriginal Youth Contact with Police..............................................................64

Figure 18 Police Contact After Midnight..........................................................................65

Figure 19 Outcome of Police Contact after Midnight .......................................................66

Figure 20 Available Responsible Adult ............................................................................67

Figure 21 Acceptable Alternative to Police Custody ........................................................68

Figure 22 Police Assistance for Aboriginal Youth............................................................69

Figure 23 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Police ...........................................................70

Figure 24 Causes of Aboriginal Youth Overrepresentation ..............................................73

Figure 25 Aboriginal Community and Overrepresentation...............................................74

Figure 26 The Police and Overrepresentation ...................................................................75

Figure 27 Service Providers and Overrepresentation........................................................76

Figure 28 Gender and Arrest .............................................................................................80

Figure 29 Time Spent in State Custody and Arrest...........................................................81

Figure 30 Traditional Activities and Arrest.......................................................................82

Figure 31 Length of Residency in Vancouver, 12 to 17 Year Olds ..................................92

Figure 32 Place of Residency in Vancouver, 12 to 17 Year Olds.....................................93

x


Figure 33 Length of Residency in the Ministry of Children and Family Services, 12-17

Year Olds ..........................................................................................................94

Figure 34 Visits to Traditional Territory, 12-17 Year Olds ..............................................96

Figure 35 Purpose of Visits to Traditional Territory, 12 to 17 Year Olds ........................97

Figure 36 Participation in Spiritual Ceremonies, 12-17 Year Olds...................................98

Figure 37 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Family Support, 12-17 Year Olds..............100

Figure 38 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Neighbourhood Support, 12-17 Year Olds101

Figure 39 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Community Support, 12-17 Year Olds......102

Figure 40 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Community Involvement, 12-17 Year Olds103

Figure 41 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Illegal Activity, 12-17 Year Olds ..............105

Figure 42 Interactions with Service Providers, 12-17 Year Olds....................................107

Figure 43 Participation in Community-Based Programs, 12-17 Year Olds....................108

Figure 44 Importance of Cultural Programming, 12-17 Year Olds ................................109

Figure 45 Type of Police Interaction, 12-17 Year Olds ..................................................111

Figure 46 Aboriginal Youth Contact with Police, 12-17 Year Olds ...............................112

Figure 47 Police Contact after Midnight, 12-17 Year Olds ............................................113

Figure 48 Police Contact after Midnight, 12-17 Year Olds ............................................114

Figure 49 Available Responsible Adult, 12-17 Year Olds..............................................115

Figure 50 Acceptable Alternative to Police Custody, 12-17 Year Olds..........................116

Figure 51 Police Assistance for Aboriginal Youth, 12-17 Year Olds.............................117

Figure 52 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of the Police, 12-17 Year Olds.......................118

xi


LIST OF TABLES

Table 1 Demographic Overview of the Youth Sample..................................................40

Table 2 Demographic Factors Related to Arrest............................................................79

Table 3 Perceptions of Family Support and Arrest........................................................85

Table 4 Perceptions of Neighbourhood Support and Arrest ..........................................86

Table 5 Perceptions of Community Support and Arrest ................................................87

Table 6 Community Involvement and Arrest.................................................................88

Table 7 Perceptions of Illegal Activity and Arrest.........................................................89

Table 8 Summary of Affinity Diagrams ......................................................................122

xii


2 CHAPTER ONE:

LITERATURE REVIEW

“The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the

Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion.” Sir John A. MacDonald

(Montgomery, 1965, p. 13).

2.1 Historical Context

Aboriginal youth in Canada are overrepresented at every stage of the Canadian criminal justice

system (LaPrairie, 1996). To better understand Aboriginal overrepresentation, however, it is necessary at

the outset of this report to give mention to the historical treatment of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

Historically, Canadian law and its treatment of Aboriginal people have been characterized by a policy of

assimilation and colonization. The original Indian Act, passed in 1876, empowered the federal

government with control over every aspect of the daily lives of Indians on reserve, and even went so far

as to define who could be considered an “Indian” (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1993).

Undoubtedly, the policies that emerged from the Indian Act were premised on the belief that Aboriginal

people were uncivilized and incapable of governing themselves; the overarching goal of these policies

was to replace Aboriginal values and beliefs with a Eurocentric value system. Following the enactment of

the Indian Act, for example, the Department of Indian Affairs established residential schools. Aboriginal

children were removed from their families to these institutions, which were operated by the churches, and

prohibited from the use of Aboriginal languages and the observance of their customs and traditions (Bull,

1991). As a result of these historical policy initiatives, Aboriginal people have experienced cultural

dislocation and community breakdown across generations, which undoubtedly play a significant role in

their overrepresentation among Canadian jails and prisons.

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2.2 Introduction:

The Canadian legal system has a legacy of not meeting the needs of Aboriginal people. It has

long been observed that Aboriginal people are disproportionately involved in the justice system. As of

March 31, 2003, Aboriginal offenders represented 18.3% of the federal adult incarcerated population, but

accounted for only 2.7% of the Canadian adult population (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Canada, 2003). This phenomenon is also observed among youth justice statistics - Aboriginal youth are

overrepresented at all stages of the criminal justice system as compared to their non-Aboriginal

counterparts. According to research, Aboriginal youth experience a variety of significant problems, which

place them in the criminal justice system more often than other Canadians. For example, Aboriginal youth

are more likely to be involved in the child welfare system, they begin abusing illicit substances at earlier

ages, and, in the Prairie provinces, they are significantly more likely to have gang affiliations as compared

to non-Aboriginal youth (Nafekh, 2002; Oetting, Swaim, Edwards, & Beauvais, 1989; Quann &

Trevethan, 2001).

Growing concerns about Aboriginal youth and the persistence of their involvement in the justice

system are justified given that Aboriginal youth represent one of the fastest growing demographics in

Canada (Boe, 2000; 2003). As such, the purpose of this research project is to inform the development of

an Aboriginal youth justice programme in Vancouver aimed at decreasing Aboriginal overrepresentation

levels in local youth custodial facilities. To provide sufficient background for the current study, this

section of the report will compile and describe information pertaining to common demographic trends,

patterns of Aboriginal offending and treatment of Aboriginal people within the justice system, and current

approaches to crime prevention and reduction. The overall goal of these efforts will be to identify

common challenges and problems faced by Aboriginal people, which can subsequently be targeted by

specific criminal justice preventative strategies.

2


2.3 Overrepresentation

Numerous government reports and studies have described the disproportionate involvement of

Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system. For present purposes, it is only necessary to provide a

brief overview of the overrepresentation phenomenon. In what follows, the term “overrepresentation” will

be briefly defined and the general research findings pertaining to patterns of Aboriginal youth and adult

crime will be reviewed.

2.3.1 Defining Overrepresentation

The term, “over-representation”, is used frequently in the Aboriginal justice literature. LaPrairie

(1996) provides the simplest definition: over-representation refers to the proportion of Aboriginal people

incarcerated in Canadian correctional facilities as compared to their proportion in the general population.

Indeed the disproportionate representation of Aboriginal peoples has been frequently noted, in both the

past and more recently. In 1979, for instance, Aboriginal people represented 6.7% of the federal inmate

population, even though they only represented 1.3% of the Canadian population. These numbers have

changed very little over the last two decades. As previously noted, Aboriginal offenders comprised 18.3%

of the incarcerated male federal offender population, but accounted for only 2.7% of the Canadian adult

population (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, 2003). Overrepresentation is also

observed in provincial correctional facilities, and the rates of overrepresentation are highest in western

Canada, particularly the Prairie Provinces (Boe, 2003).

2.3.2 Adult Aboriginal Crime

There is a large body of existing research that suggests that there are substantial differences in the

criminal history of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal adult offenders. Incarceration rates and national crime

rates suggest higher rates of criminal behaviour among Aboriginal Canadians. In 1991, the national crime

rate was 92.7 per 1000 population, while the crime rate for Indian bands was 165.6 per 1000 population

(Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 1991). In 2001-2001, Aboriginal people accounted for 19% of

3


provincial and territorial admissions to sentenced custody, and 17% of federal sentenced custody

admissions (Statistics Canada, 2001).

In addition to higher crime rates, Aboriginal crime is quite different from non-Aboriginal crime.

Generally, research indicates that Aboriginal persons are charged with fewer property offences, and more

offences against the person (Welsh & Ogloff, 2000). The Cawsey Report (1991), for example, revealed

that between 1985 and 1987, 55.5% of the offences for which Aboriginal males were incarcerated in

Alberta federal institutions were crimes against the person and violent offences as compared to 39.9% for

male non-Aboriginal offenders. Hann and Harman (1993) reported that the most likely admitting offence

for non-Aboriginal offenders was property-related; by contrast, the most likely admitting offence for

Aboriginal offenders was against the person.

An examination of specific offences against the person further illustrates this point. Homicide

statistics suggest that Aboriginal people are disproportionately represented as both perpetrators and

victims. Jilek and Roy (1976), for example, found that 21% of the inmates incarcerated for murder in

British Columbia during 1974-1975 were Aboriginal offenders despite comprising only 2.4% of the

province’s population. The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics,

1989), in a review of homicide in 1988, reported that Aboriginal people constituted 22.2% of Canada’s

homicide suspects, and 17.6% of its victims. Doob, Grossman, and Auger (1994) examined homicides

involving Aboriginal people in Ontario from 1980 through 1990 and reported that Aboriginals comprised

9.8% of known suspects in homicides despite only constituting about 2% of Ontario’s population.

Similarly, in a sample of federal offenders who reached full parole eligibility in 1996, approximately 10%

of Aboriginal offenders were serving their current sentence for a homicide offence (Welsh & Ogloff,

2000).

One feature of this higher crime rate is a higher frequency of contact with the criminal justice

system among Aboriginal offenders. Simply put, the research findings suggest that, on average, federal

Aboriginal offenders are more likely to have a criminal history as compared to their non-Aboriginal

4


counterparts (Bonta, LiPinski, & Martin, 1992; LaPrairie, 1996). For instance, fewer Aboriginal (59.2%)

than non-Aboriginal (65.6%) incarcerated offenders were serving their first federal term, while twice as

many Aboriginal (7.6%) as non-Aboriginal (3.8%) offenders had three or more prior federal terms

(Solicitor General of Canada, 1998). Welsh and Ogloff (2000) reported that Aboriginal offenders in

federal custody had a more extensive history in the adult provincial system. Nearly three-quarters of

Aboriginal offenders had served at least one prior provincial term of incarceration (71.58%) as compared

to only 59.0% of non-Aboriginal offenders. Contrary to findings reported in the Solicitor General’s report

(1998), however, Welsh and Ogloff (2000) reported that Aboriginal offenders were not more likely to

have served a prior federal term of incarceration than non-Aboriginal offenders.

Finally, recidivism is a central issue to Aboriginal criminal involvement. Despite mixed findings

in the literature, there is growing indication that Aboriginal recidivism levels are higher than those for

non-Aboriginal offenders. In Canada, the likelihood of a male Aboriginal offender revoking his parole is

almost twice that of a male non-aboriginal (51% vs. 28%) (LaPrairie, 1996). Bonta, Lipinski, and Martin

(1992) found that for a sample of 282 Aboriginal offenders only 8% of those incarcerated were first

offenders, and the overall recidivism rate was 66%. Consistent with these findings, Hann and Harman

(1993) found that the recidivism rate for the non-Aboriginal group was 47% and for the Aboriginal group

66%. Comparatively, Bonta (1989) found little difference between the recidivism rates of Aboriginal and

non-Aboriginal groups released from three Northern Ontario jails. Welsh and Ogloff (2000) also reported

that an approximately equal proportion of offenders re-offended on conditional release.

2.3.3 Aboriginal Delinquency

A review of the existing literature shows that there is a relative paucity of research concerning the

involvement of Aboriginal youth in the criminal justice system. Prior to 1981, there was almost no

empirical research dealing with Aboriginal delinquency in Canada. Several consistent findings, however,

have been identified in the existing literature. First, there is some indication that Aboriginal youth become

involved with the criminal justice system much earlier than their non-Aboriginal counterparts (LaPrairie

5


& Griffiths, 1982; Nafekh & Welsh, 1999). Second, similar to what is observed among adult Aboriginal

offenders; there is a much higher rate of offending among Aboriginal youth. U.S. studies of Aboriginal

on-reserve delinquency have reported rates of offending ranging from three to six times higher than the

national average for young offenders (Armstrong, Guilfoyle, & Melton, 1996; Duclos, LeBeau, & Elias,

1994; Von Hentig, 1945).

Canadian studies have similarly noted that Aboriginal youth are overrepresented at all stages of

the criminal justice system (Canadian Research Institute for Law and Family, 1990). A recent statistical

profile prepared by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, “Aboriginal Peoples in Canada,” shows

that, in 1998-99, Aboriginal youth were overrepresented in sentenced custody admissions, probation

admissions, and alternative justice measures. Across Canada, for example, Aboriginal youth admissions

comprised 26% of the total admissions to remand. This figure is quite high given that Aboriginal youth

comprise only 7% of the total Canadian youth population. According to the 1996 census, Aboriginal

people constituted 3.8% of British Columbia’s population. In 1998-99, Aboriginal youth made up 22% of

the remand population and 23% of the secure and open custody populations. During the same period,

Aboriginal youth accounted for 14% of national probation admissions. In addition, Aboriginal youth

accounted for 15% of alternative measures cases in Canada (Note: Data unavailable for British Columbia)

(see Statistics Canada, 2001).

2.3.3.1 Patterns of Offending

Although Aboriginal young offenders commit a higher rate of offenses relative to other juveniles,

research suggests that the type of offenses they commit is consistent with that of non-Aboriginal youth,

that is, the offenses are predominately non-violent in nature. Early empirical research reported that the

pattern of Aboriginal delinquency was characterized in large part by status offences and other

“victimless” crimes (Forslund & Meyers, 1974; O’Brien, 1977). Consistent with these early findings,

recent U.S. studies of on-reserve Aboriginal youth have found that the majority of convictions are indeed

for minor delinquency or status offences (Bond-Maupin, Lujan, & Bortner, 1995). Interestingly, data

6


obtained from the FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs showed that serious crimes accounted for a

smaller proportion of arrests for Aboriginal youth than for Caucasian or African American youths (10.8%

versus 16.3% and 25.8%, respectively) (Armstrong et al., 1996). Similarly, Canadian research suggests

that there are no major differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth with regards to the

pattern of offences (LaPrairie & Griffiths, 1982).

2.3.3.2 Gang Affiliation

A particularly relevant area of research on Aboriginal youth and delinquency concerns gang

affiliations. Research by the Correctional Service of Canada (Nafekh, 2002) indicates that among young,

federal offenders (25 or under) Aboriginal offenders are significantly more likely to be affiliated with a

gang. In its Annual Report on Organized Crime, the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC) lists

Aboriginal-based Organized Crime (ABOC) as a nationally monitored issue. Among the predominant

Aboriginal gangs, the Indian Posse, the Manitoba Warriors, and the Native Syndicate comprise a

significant proportion of gang activity observed in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and, according to some

sources, have growing memberships in Alberta.

A survey of federal offenders by CSC suggests that gang affiliation among Aboriginal offenders

stems from both youth and socio-economic factors (issues to be discussed later in this report). Eighty

percent of all incarcerated offenders affiliated with a gang in the Prairie region were 25 years of age or

younger upon admission to a federal prison. Approximately 75% of this group was of Aboriginal descent.

In addition, Aboriginal gang members were more likely to have no employment history, to have used

drugs at an early age, and to have negative attitudes towards police and the law as compared to other

Aboriginal offenders with no gang affiliations (Nafekh, 2002).

2.4 Aboriginal Social Conditions

Considerable debate in the criminal justice forum has focused on the relationship between socioeconomic

disadvantage and involvement in crime and, though the extent of the relationship is unclear,

socioeconomic conditions undoubtedly play an important role (Arvanties, 1993). Nonetheless, few

7


authors have incorporated a discussion of the socioeconomic conditions experienced by Aboriginal

Canadians in their reviews of over-representation. An overview of the social conditions and problems

faced by Aboriginal Canadians is intended to provide a better foundation for understanding their

disproportionate involvement in criminal activity and their resulting overrepresentation in the criminal

justice system.

2.4.1 Population Demographics

First, it is important to stress at the outset of this section that there is a high degree of diversity

within the Aboriginal population. Various definitions of the Aboriginal population exist (Royal

Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996). The term “Aboriginal” arguably obscures the diversity within

the Aboriginal population in terms of history, language, and culture. Consider the number of distinct

groups or tribes that fall under the designation, “Aboriginal”; the federal government has traditionally

divided the Aboriginal population into four broad categories: North American Indians registered under

the Indian Act, North American Indians not registered under the Indian Act (non-status population), Metis

people and Inuit. In addition to these groupings, there are eleven major Aboriginal linguistic groups with

more than fifty languages spoken among Aboriginal Canadians. Recognition of this diversity is critical

when discussing and planning specific intervention strategies for reducing the involvement of Aboriginal

youth in the justice system.

Several demographic characteristics are strong correlates of criminal behaviour. Not surprisingly

then, correctional researchers have argued that population demographics may be an important contributor

to Aboriginal involvement in the criminal justice system (Boe, 2003). Generally, crime rates in Canada

are significantly correlated with age — that is, the population between the ages of 14 to 32 accounts for

the majority of violent and non-violent crimes reported by the police (Kong, 1998; Savoie, 2002). Crime

rates in Canada are also significantly correlated with geographic region. Crime rates for larger urban

centres are higher than crime rates observed in smaller towns or rural areas (Leonard, 1997). This

relationship is not observed for all types of crime; for example, the correlation between community size

8


and criminal activity is stronger for property crimes than for violent crimes (Hartnagel & Lee, 1990).

Nonetheless, large urban areas generally report higher rates of crime.

It is important to consider these demographic correlates in any discussion of Aboriginal

involvement in the justice system. First, in recent decades, the Aboriginal population has grown at higher

rates than the non-Aboriginal population, paralleling the “Baby Boom” generation seen decades earlier.

For example, Aboriginal birth rates are about 2.7 children per woman versus the current 1.6 children for

non-Aboriginal women (Boe, 2003). As a result, the Aboriginal population is much younger than the

general Canadian population. According to the 2001 census, for example, children 14 years of age and

under represented approximately a third of the total Aboriginal population (Statistics Canada, 2003).

Second, statistics indicate that a growing number of Aboriginal people reside in major urban centres. In

1966, approximately 80% of Aboriginal people in Canada lived on reserves but, by 1990, this number had

dropped to 60% (Nuffield, 1998). In short, this greater concentration of youth and urban residency may

increase the risk of contact with the justice system for a large number of Aboriginal people (Boe, 2000).

Consistent with this observation, research has shown that a large proportion of incarcerated

Aboriginal people in Canada were living in urban areas at the time of their offences (LaPrairie, 1994;

Nuffield, 1998). The Cawsey Inquiry (1991) reported that only 5.7% of Aboriginal persons charged with

a criminal offence in Alberta in 1989 were charged on reserve. In 1992, the Edmonton Inner City Violent

Crime Task Force (1992) found that 50-60% of incarcerated aboriginal offenders in Alberta came from

urban areas. A survey of Aboriginal inmates incarcerated in federal prisons found that found that only

19% had originally come from reserves or rural areas (Johnston, 1994). Finally, a one-day snapshot of

adolescent offenders in custody in Canada found that more than half (54%) of incarcerated aboriginal

youth lived in a city during the two years prior to the current admission (Bittle, Quann, Hattem, & Muise,

2002).

The disproportionate involvement of urban Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system may

result in part from socioeconomic disadvantage. McDonald, for example, found that Aboriginal people

9


living off-reserve are significantly younger, poorer, less well educated, and less likely to be employed as

compared to other Canadians. LaPrairie’s (1995) landmark study of urban Aboriginal people, Seen but

Not Heard: Native People in the Inner City, raises a couple of particularly salient points for this report.

Based on interviews with 621 inner city Aboriginal persons in four major Canadian urban centres,

LaPrairie noted that there is a significant amount of diversity within the Aboriginal urban population. She

identified three distinct sub-groups that differed from one another in terms of socio-economic

circumstances and lifestyles (Inner 1 group, Inner 2 group, and Outer group). LaPrairie also found that

differences in the socio-economic circumstances of these groups played a critical role in their experiences

with the justice system. That is, inner city Aboriginal people who were living lives characterized by

greater poverty were more likely to be involved in the justice system.

Subsequent studies have also reported that urban Aboriginal residents are not only a diverse

group, but also that the difficulties experienced by this group are different relative to problems

experienced by other Aboriginal groups. Simply put, socio-economic problems may be exacerbated

among urban Aboriginal residents. In Vancouver and Edmonton, for instance, twice as many Aboriginal

people live in poor neighbourhoods as compared to non-Aboriginal people (Richards, 2001). Nafekh and

Crutcher (2003) recently reported that Aboriginal offenders who had committed their most serious

offence (MSO) in a large city were more likely to have had difficulties acquiring and maintaining

employment as compared to those Aboriginal offenders who committed their MSO on reserves or rural

locations. In addition, offenders who committed their MSO in a large city were more likely to have gang

affiliations, associate with substance abusers and have drug abuse problems than those in the small cities

or rural communities.

These demographic trends are particularly significant for criminal justice personnel in Vancouver.

According to census data, in 2003, a total of 36, 855 people identified themselves as “Aboriginal” in

Vancouver. Of those individuals who identified themselves as Aboriginal, the breakdown was as follows:

North American Indian (n = 22, 700), Metis (n = 12, 505), and Inuit (n = 260). Consistent with

10


demographic trends observed for Aboriginal peoples across Canada, a large proportion of the Aboriginal

population in Vancouver is young. A total of 10, 660 Aboriginal persons in Vancouver were 15 years of

age or under in 2003, and an additional 3240 Aboriginal people were ages 15 to 19 years. Moreover, a

report by the Department of Justice, Canada, A One-day Snapshot of Aboriginal Youth in Custody across

Canada (Bittle et al., 2002), indicated that Aboriginal youth in British Columbia experienced most of

their conflict with the law in urban areas.

2.4.2 Socioeconomic Status

Many researchers have attributed Aboriginal involvement in the justice system to social and

economic disadvantages (Hylton, 1982; LaPrairie, 1983). A variety of socioeconomic indicators in fact

shows that Aboriginal peoples are among the most disadvantaged Canadians. Below are highlights taken

from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics report, “Aboriginal Peoples in Canada” (Statistics Canada,

2001):

- In 1995, the average income of Aboriginal people was $15, 700 as compared to an average income of

$25, 400 for non-Aboriginal people.

- In 1995, 46% of all Aboriginal people had incomes below $10, 000 as compared to 27% of non-

Aboriginal Canadians.

- In 1996, 68% of Aboriginal people aged 15-19 wee attending school on either a full-or part-time basis

as compared with 83% of non-Aboriginal people from the same age bracket.

- In 1996, 48% of Aboriginal males (15 years and over) were employed as compared to 66% of non-

Aboriginal males. A quarter of Aboriginal labour force participants was unemployed, whereas only

10% of the non-Aboriginal labour force was unemployed.

2.4.3 General Health

Relative to non-Aboriginal people, Aboriginal Canadians experience a number of significant

health problems. According to national statistics, Aboriginal Canadians have higher mortality rates as

11


compared to non-Aboriginal Canadians. The life expectancy of the average Aboriginal male is

approximately 7 years shorter than the average non-Aboriginal Canadian; the life expectancy of

Aboriginal women is 6.5 years less than non-Aboriginal women (Zimmerman, 1992). Despite gains in

life expectancy, a gap of approximately 6.4 years remains between the Registered Indian and Canadian

populations in 2001 (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 2004). Aboriginal mortality is also more likely

to result from accidents, suicide, and homicide and less likely from physical diseases such as heart disease

and cancer (Jarvis & Boldt, 1982). According to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1995),

the suicide rate among Aboriginals of all age groups is three times higher than that of non-Aboriginal

people (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1995).

The 2000/01 Canadian Community Health Survey, The Health of the Off-Reserve Aboriginal

Population, found that natives living away from reserves were more likely to have chronic health

conditions, long-term activity restrictions and depression than their non-Aboriginal counterparts

(Statistics Canada, 2002). For example, it was reported that 60.1% of off-reserve Aboriginal Canadians

reported having at least one chronic condition, compared with 49.6% of their non-Aboriginal

counterparts. The three most prevalent conditions were arthritis (26.4%), hypertension (15.4%) and

diabetes (8.7%), with diabetes being twice as common as in the non-Aboriginal population (Statistics

Canada, 2002). Aboriginal people are also particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. According to

epidemiological estimates, the incidence of HIV has been rising steadily among First Nations, Inuit and

Métis peoples for the past decade (Health Canada, 2001).

2.4.4 Substance Use

There is a strong association between alcohol use and criminal behaviour. A Correctional Service

of Canada survey (1991) revealed that 52 percent of a sample of federal inmates reported that they were

under the influence of alcohol and other drugs when they committed their current offence. It is well

documented that Aboriginal Canadians have particularly high rates of substance abuse (Scott, 1997).

According to the survey, Indian Conditions, approximately 50 to 60 percent of Indian illnesses and deaths

12


were alcohol related (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 1980). Compared to non-Aboriginal teens,

Aboriginal youth report that they begin drinking earlier and that they drink more heavily. They also abuse

other substances more heavily than non-Aboriginal youth (Oetting et al., 1989). In the First Nations and

Inuit Community Solvent Abuse Survey and Study, almost half (48.81%) of surveyed Aboriginal

communities considered solvent abuse to be a community-wide problem (Kaweionnehta Human Resource

Group, 1994).

Difficulties with substance abuse in turn contribute to other problems including unemployment,

family violence, criminal behaviour, accidents, and suicide. Trott, Barnes, and Dumoff (1981) found

higher rates of drug-related mortality among Aboriginal Canadians than non-Aboriginal Canadians in

Manitoba. There is also some indication that Aboriginal people may experience higher rates of Fetal

Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS results from maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and is

characterized by several physical and behavioural difficulties including prenatal and/or postnatal growth

delay, hyperactivity, attention deficits, learning disabilities, and poor impulse control (Boland, Duwyn, &

Serin, 2000). Although there are no national data for the prevalence of FAS in Canada, provincial and

community studies have reported higher rates of FAS among Aboriginal peoples (Bray & Anderson,

1989; Robinson, Conry, & Conry, 1987; Sandor, Smith, MacLeod, Tredwell, Wood, & Newman, 1981).

Studies of Canadian prison admissions also indicate that substance abuse is a factor in many of

the crimes committed by Aboriginal people. Hagan’s (1974) study of offenders in Alberta correctional

institutions found that 48% of Aboriginal offenders had drinking problems, whereas only 25% of non-

Aboriginal offenders reported difficulties with alcohol. Welsh and Ogloff (2000) found that over 90% of

federal Aboriginal offenders in their sample had been identified upon admission as having a substance

abuse problem. Similarly, a notable 82% of incarcerated Aboriginal women, as compared to, 37% of non-

Aboriginal women incarcerated have identified difficulties with substance abuse (Dell & Boe, 2000).

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2.4.5 Family Violence

Domestic breakdown and violence are a significant concern in many Aboriginal communities.

According to the 1999 General Social Survey, approximately 20% of Aboriginal people who reported

having a current or ex-spouse in the past five years, reported being assaulted by their spouse as compared

to 7% of non-Aboriginal people (Statistics Canada, 2001). The most cited study of Aboriginal women, a

survey conducted by the Ontario Native Women’s Association (1989), found that 80% of Aboriginal

women had personally experienced family violence. Of this total, 87% had been abused physically and

57% had been sexually abused. Based on a survey of Aboriginal people residing in four major Canadian

cities, LaPrairie (1996) reported that 88% of the entire sample had been a victim of childhood and/or adult

violence.

2.5 Criminal Justice Processing

Aboriginal people in prison, as well as in various Aboriginal communities, have consistently

reported that prejudice against Aboriginal peoples exists at all stages of the criminal justice system

(Cawsey, 199; Morse & Lock, 1988). Similar reactions by Aboriginal people have been expressed in the

U.S. (Bahr, Chadwick, & Stauss, 1972). Bonta (1992) has also suggested that differential treatment of

Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples may occur at different points in the criminal justice system. What

follows is a brief examination of the separate components of the criminal justice system – the point of

police contact and arrest, the availability of legal representation, sentencing, and conditional release – to

serve as a possible framework for understanding the influence of these factors on Aboriginal involvement

in the criminal justice system.

2.5.1 Police Contact and Arrest

Many have suggested that the police treat Aboriginal peoples in a differential fashion. However,

there is little empirical research testing this hypothesis, and the few studies that do exist are outdated. For

example, Hylton (1982) found that a minority of police officers surveyed in Regina held substantially

more negative attitudes toward Aboriginal peoples than did the public. Although most police officers

14


surveyed in the Regina Police Department agreed with the statement, “Most Natives respect the law,” a

quarter of officers expressed disagreement (N = 278). According to the 1999 General Social Survey,

Aboriginal people reported being less satisfied with the police as compared to non-Aboriginal Canadians

(Statistics Canada, 2001).

Given the importance of discretionary decisions in police work, the question arises whether this

negative stereotype translates into discriminatory treatment of Aboriginal peoples. To date, the findings

have been mixed. Early Canadian studies suggested that Aboriginal people in fact were charged more

often than non-Aboriginal people for minor offences (Bienvenue & Latif, 1974; Hagan, 1974; Schmeiser,

1974). Comparable findings have been reported in the U.S. In an analysis of 195 police encounters with

people who were publicly drunk, Lundman (1974) observed that 53% of Native American offenders as

compared with 33% of African American offenders and 26% of Caucasian offender. In contrast to these

findings, an analysis of police data in one western Canadian city reported little difference in charging

levels for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples alike (LaPrairie, 1996). Comparisons between these

studies are difficult due to the use of different dependent variables (e.g., arrest vs. charge rates).

2.5.2 Legal Representation and the Courts

The propensity of Aboriginal accused to plead guilty more often than non-Aboriginal accused and

lack of legal representation often are presented as major factors in over-representation (LaPrairie, 1996).

There are limited data, however, to support these claims. Hartnagel (1975) looked at cases from the files

of a Canadian Prairie city and found that plea negotiation occurred in 28% of the cases – 29% of non-

Aboriginal accused but only 16% of the Aboriginal Canadians. Comparatively, LaPrairie (1991) found

little difference in the proportion of guilty pleas for Cree accused in James Bay, Quebec in comparison to

overall rates elsewhere in the province. Comparable Canadian data in other provinces and territories are

not available.

The lack of adequate legal representation for Aboriginal offenders has also been raised in several

reports as a possible factor in explaining the disproportionate representation of Aboriginal people in the

15


criminal justice system (Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, 1991). Common criticisms of Legal Aid in these

reports include deficiencies in the availability or awareness of the availability of legal aid, and cultural

and language barriers between legal aid representatives and Aboriginal clients. On the other hand,

existing empirical research suggests that Aboriginal people do receive adequate legal representation. The

Alberta Cawsey Report (1991), for example, noted that funded lawyers were readily available to those

who were eligible for legal aid, and the James Bay research project found that virtually all adults and

youth appearing in James Bay courts from 1986-1989 were represented by lawyers (LaPrairie, 1991).

2.5.3 Sentencing

There has been a great deal of controversy substantiated by rhetoric and anecdotal evidence

concerning overt racism and unwarranted disparity in the conviction and sentencing of Aboriginal people.

Among criticisms of criminal justice processing of Aboriginal people, it has been suggested that

Aboriginal accused are more likely to receive a term of incarceration. Canadian research findings,

however, are mixed. In the first published Canadian study of disparity in sentencing in Winnipeg,

Dubienski and Skelly (1970) found relatively fair treatment of Aboriginal accused in most areas except in

the area of regulatory offences where fines were disproportionately imposed. In a subsequent study in

Winnipeg, Bienvenue and Latif (1974) found that although Aboriginal people comprised only three

percent of the urban population, 27.9% of all male offenders convicted were Aboriginal, and 70.6% of all

female offenders convicted were Aboriginal. Interestingly, examination of disposition type suggested that

Aboriginal offenders in fact received lighter sentences. However, consistent with Dubienski and Skelly’s

(1970) findings, Aboriginal offenders were significantly more likely to receive a fine (74.9% vs. 67.0%).

The authors suggested that the disproportionate use of fines with Aboriginal accused was itself a form of

discrimination as the Aboriginal offenders were less able to complete payments.

Contrary to these findings, however, other studies have found instances of reverse differential

treatment based on Aboriginal status. In the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Project,

Moyer (1987) compared sentences for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people accused of homicide for the

16


period of 1962-1984. Surprisingly, Moyer’s analysis revealed that Aboriginal offenders in fact were less

likely to be convicted of first- or second-degree murder, and more likely to be convicted of manslaughter

as compared to non-Aboriginal offenders. Specifically, only 4.0% of Aboriginal men in the study cohort

were convicted of first-degree murder as compared to 13.5% of non-Aboriginal men. In contrast, 76.3%

of Aboriginal male accused were convicted of manslaughter as compared to 45.6% of non-Aboriginal

male accused.

Other Canadian research has found that Aboriginal status may have an indirect effect on

sentencing outcomes that is mediated by both demographic and criminal history variables. In a study of

sentencing in western Canada, Hagan (1975) reported that prior criminal history and lower socioeconomic

status were directly associated with sentencing outcome and, as a result of differences on these factors,

Aboriginal offenders were more likely to be incarcerated. A second study by Hagan (1977) found no

effect of Aboriginal status on disposition type in urban areas, but in rural areas, Aboriginal offenders were

more likely to be incarcerated. An examination of pre-sentence reports and sentencing decisions in the

Yukon found that Aboriginal offenders were more likely to be incarcerated than non-Aboriginal accused

(40% versus 30%) (Boldt, Hursh, & Johnston, 1983). However, this difference was accounted for by two

factors – the Aboriginal accused had more prior convictions and had committed crimes that are more

serious. Similarly, Lewis (1989) found that Aboriginal offenders with prior criminal convictions were

acquitted less often and found guilty more often than non-Aboriginal offenders in B.C. summary

conviction courts. However, Aboriginal offenders with no prior criminal convictions were granted stay of

proceedings more frequently as compared to non-Aboriginal offenders.

Although the research on disposition outcomes is mixed, the majority of research suggests that

those Aboriginal offenders who are incarcerated may receive shorter sentences as compared to non-

Aboriginal offenders. As of July 2 nd , 1995, non-Aboriginal offenders in federal correctional facilities had

an average sentence length of 5.2 years as compared to 4.2 years for Aboriginal offenders. Even when

comparing sentence length by type of offence for federal offenders, Aboriginal offenders still had shorter

17


sentences. These findings held for the following offences: attempted murder, assault causing bodily harm,

robbery, and trafficking (LaPrairie, 1996).

2.5.4 Conditional Release

To date, there is little empirical research investigating racial disparities in the granting of

conditional release in Canada. One element of the recent Alberta Cawsey Report (1991) was a review of

the treatment of Aboriginal offenders in respect to the Temporary Absence (TA) program in Alberta

correctional centres. Statistics gathered from 1989 indicated that at the earliest opportunity, fewer

temporary absences were granted to Aboriginal inmates (30.5%) than to non-Aboriginal inmates (69.5%).

Contrary to this report, Grant and Porporino (1992), in the only empirical study of the granting of TA’s,

found that Aboriginal offenders received more than the expected number of compassionate and family

and community contact TA’s given their proportion of the inmate population. These findings, controlling

for violence and criminal history variables, suggest that Aboriginal offenders are not being given more

negative treatment in the granting of TA’s, and may even be receiving preferential treatment.

Two recent investigations of offenders released on day parole have examined factors associated

with day parole releases. The results of both studies indicate that Aboriginal offenders are slightly less

likely to receive day parole than other offenders. Specifically, although Aboriginal offenders account for

approximately 12% of the on-register offender population, they only account for 9% of the day parole

population. In addition, both studies revealed that day parole use has declined for Aboriginal offenders at

a rate slightly higher than for non-Aboriginal offenders (Grant, 1998; Grant & Gillis, 1998).

Similar differences in full parole release rates have also been observed between Aboriginal and

non-Aboriginal offenders. In 1996/1997, for instance, the full parole grant rate for Aboriginal offenders

was 34%, while it was 41% for non-Aboriginal offenders – a 7% difference. Of the 609 federal

Aboriginal offenders who were on day, full, or statutory release supervision in 1996/1997, 48% (n = 292)

were statutorily released in comparison to 29% (n = 1826) of non-Aboriginal offenders. When released on

full parole, Aboriginal offenders are granted parole later in their sentences than non-Aboriginal offenders.

18


Almost twice as many Aboriginal (20.7%) as non-Aboriginal (11.5%) full parolees served between six

months and one year beyond their parole eligibility date (PED). Furthermore, Aboriginal offenders are

more likely to be released at their warrant expiry date (12% of Aboriginal offenders compared to 6% of

non-Aboriginal offenders) (Solicitor General of Canada, 1998).

In short, these data demonstrate that Aboriginal offenders are serving a greater portion of their

sentence due to lower day and full parole release rates. However, the extent to which Aboriginal status

alone explains the proportionately larger Aboriginal institutional population and the greater non-

Aboriginal supervision population is still unclear. A study by Welsh and Ogloff (2000) suggests that other

factors, including differences in criminal history, explain the disparity in full parole rates. Briefly, the

study included all federal offenders in Canada who reached their full parole eligibility in 1996, and

examined the full parole application rate and the Parole Board decisions for these offenders up until June

1999. Contrary to expectation, Aboriginal status did not significantly predict who was granted or denied

full parole. In contrast, variables pertaining to the index offence, criminal history, and risk and need

factors transcended Aboriginal status. That is, the offenders most likely to be denied full parole were

those incarcerated for having committed offences against the person (e.g., robbery) and those with an

extensive criminal history (e.g., prior provincial or federal term). Interestingly, Welsh and Ogloff also

found that less than half of Aboriginal offenders applied for full parole upon reaching eligibility.

2.6 Criminological Theory and Correlates

Delinquency is a diverse phenomenon and, not surprisingly, adolescent offenders are a

heterogeneous group. The pattern of involvement of one youth in the criminal justice system will not

necessarily mirror the involvement of peers. To date, a large body of research has examined the

developmental trajectories of delinquency. An exhaustive review of the literature is beyond the scope of

this report, so what follows is a brief highlight of the field.

Moffit’s (1993) developmental model of delinquency, which emphasized the stability of

antisocial behaviour across the lifespan and the age at which it emerges, is particularly relevant. Briefly,

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Moffit (1993) distinguishes between two distinct developmental trajectories of delinquency: (1) the lifecourse

persistent (LCP) model, and (2) the adolescence-limited (AL) model. In the LCP model, antisocial

behaviour begins at an early age and persists across the lifespan. LCP delinquent experience both early

neuropsychological dysfunctions (e.g., temperament problems, attention deficit problems) and an adverse

child-rearing environment. Due to early childhood problems, LCP offenders miss opportunities to acquire

and practice prosocial and interpersonal skills at each stage of development. Comparatively, AL

delinquency begins in adolescence and desists in late adolescence. According to Moffit, the

developmental histories of AL offenders do not demonstrate the early and persistent problems

experienced by LCP delinquents. The AL delinquent is generally involved in offences that symbolize

adult privilege and demonstrate autonomy from parental control (e.g., vandalism, drug & alcohol

offences). In addition, AL delinquents have the ability to abandon delinquent activities when prosocial

styles become available because, during childhood, the AL youngster has developed a satisfactory

repertoire of social, academic, and interpersonal skills that enable them to “get ahead.”

Moffit’s model has important implications for youth justice initiatives. Her conception of LCP

delinquency suggests that there are early warning signs or correlates associated with serious, persistent

forms of antisocial behaviour. This model has support in the empirical literature. In a longitudinal study

of 1037 children born in New Zealand from 1972 to 1987, White, Moffit, Earls, Robins, and Silva (1990)

found that early antisocial behaviours identified at the age of three years were significant predictors of

antisocial behaviour at the age of 15 years. These findings suggest that it may be possible to identify “atrisk”

youth and implement preventative or supportive measures that reduce the likelihood of involvement

in the criminal justice system.

Generally, these warning signs or correlates of criminal behaviour are grouped into static or

historical factors (i.e., factors that are not amenable to change through interventions) and dynamic factors

(i.e., those that are amenable to change through interventions) (Andrews & Bonta, 2004). A large number

of correlates of delinquency have been identified (see Moffit (1993) for a more comprehensive review). In

20


general, the correlates identified within the literature include negative school attachment, association with

anti-social peers, early substance abuse, victimization (e.g., physical and sexual abuse), early aggression,

and negative parenting (Latimer, Kleinknecht, Hung, & Gabor, 2003).

There are numerous criminological theories that are relevant to a discussion of Aboriginal

overrepresentation. Although an exhaustive review of this literature cannot be provided in this report, a

brief summary of some of the major theoretical orientations is presented below (see F.P. Williams, 2004):

- Strain or Structural Theories: This theoretical stream focuses on the impact of structural

disadvantages in society, such as poverty and inequality, on crime. From this perspective, Aboriginal

overrepresentation is best explained by examining the economic and social disadvantages experienced

by Aboriginal peoples. Crime prevention strategies should focus on increasing educational and

employment opportunities, supporting social independence, and reducing poverty.

- Conflict Theory: Conflict Theory incorporates a broad range of hypotheses concerning criminality.

Generally, however, Conflict Theory posits that there is little consensus in society about what is

“illegal” and “criminal.” However, some groups are able to control the law-making process and, as a

result, have their value systems legally enforced over minority groups. Illegal activity then reflects a

“conflict” of values and access to law-making as opposed to a particular deviant quality. From this

perspective, Aboriginal overrepresentation may be best explained by the conflict between the values

of Aboriginal culture and the dominant Euro-Canadian culture, which has dominated Canadian lawmaking.

Crime prevention strategies informed by Conflict Theory would focus on both incorporating

Aboriginal values into criminal justice system processing and increasing Aboriginal representation at

all levels of law-making.

- Labelling Theory: According to Labelling Theory, the act of processing an individual through the

criminal justice system applies a negative label to the individual, thereby limiting access to legitimate

opportunities. Crime prevention strategies should focus on diverting individuals from formal criminal

justice processing.

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- Social Control Theory: This class of theories posits that individuals do not become criminals because

they do not want to jeopardize their attachments or bonds with conventional society. From this

theoretical perspective, strengthening ties to family, school, religion and/or tradition would form the

basis of preventative crime measures.

2.7 Innovative Justice Approaches

The purpose of the following section is to provide an overview of current approaches to working

with Aboriginal youth that have been employed in various criminal justice systems. A discussion of

existing approaches may highlight common factors or trends that are associated with effectively reducing

the involvement of youth within the justice system. To provide a sufficient review of current approaches,

several topics are reviewed, including: (1) Restorative Justice; (2) Police interventions; (3) Court

interventions; and (4) Corrections interventions.

2.7.1 Restorative Justice

Perhaps in response to the acknowledged shortcomings of the traditional crime control model, the

criminal justice system has begun incorporating traditional Indigenous philosophies into a “model” or

approach to crime and justice. Over the last two decades, restorative justice has come to the global

forefront of criminal justice approaches. Although the term “restorative justice” has no single, universally

accepted definition, it can generally be understood as a holistic approach to dealing with crime

(McLaughlin, Fergusson, Hughes, & Westmarland, 2003). That is, restorative justice does not describe a

single program or method, but rather refers to an “approach” to justice that involves the victim, the

offender, and the community affected by the crime. Whereas the mainstream criminal justice system

focuses on the control of crime through detection and deterrence, restorative justice approaches seek to

restore harmony in the community by repairing, as much as possible, damages to the victim and assisting

in the re-integration of the offender back into the community (Cormier, 2002; Zehr, 1990).

At present, restorative justice practices are applied in Canada at every stage of the criminal justice

system from police diversion to sentencing hearings (Department of Justice, 2000; Latimer, Dowden, &

22


Muise, 2001). Generally, restorative justice programs have been categorized under three core models:

victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing and sentencing circles (Department of Justice,

Canada, 2000). For a detailed discussion of each of these approaches, please see the Solicitor General of

Canada’s report, Restorative Justice: Directions and Principles (Cormier, 2002).

2.7.2 Police Interventions

A review of the literature reveals that a number of preventative strategies and interventions may

be implemented by the police or at the stage of police intervention. In the next section, we will briefly

review several approaches that have been adopted in various jurisdictions. We will begin with a review of

Braithwaite’s principles of reintegrative shaming, which forms the theoretical basis of several approaches.

Next, we will discuss diversion programs with a particular emphasis on restorative cautioning. This

section will then conclude by reviewing two approaches to conferencing.

2.7.2.1 An Overview of Reintegrative Shaming

In Shame and Modernity, Braithwaite (1993) argued “nations with low crimes, and periods of

history where crime is more effectively controlled, are those where shaming has the greatest power” (p.

1). Contrary to the more common understanding of “shame,” Braithwaite’s definition of shame focuses on

the expression of disapproval with the goal of invoking remorse on behalf of the guilt individual. Further,

Braithwaite distinguished between two approaches to shaming: stigmatic shaming and reintegrative

shaming. Whereas stigmatic shaming focuses on condemning the offender, reintegrative shaming focuses

on condemning the offence and reintegrating rather than rejecting the offender. The effectiveness of

reintegrative shaming, according to Braithwaite, depends upon the extent of interdependency within a

community. In short, reintegrative shaming, or an expression of disapproval, is most effective when it is

coming from people that the offender cares about, such as family or community members, as opposed to

the police or judges.

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2.7.2.2 Restorative Cautioning

Diversion programs aim to divert people from formal processing in the criminal justice system.

Initial diversion “programs” were represented by informal attempts to protect youth from the unnecessary

stigma or labeling effects associated with more extensive involvement in the criminal justice process.

Restorative cautioning, which was developed by the Thames Valley Police in the United Kingdom

during the 1990s, provides a good illustration of diversionary program.

Conventional police cautioning is a formal process that is generally used for adolescent offenders

who accept responsibility for the offence. The process, which can take between thirty and forty minutes,

involves a discussion about the offence and its consequences, and concludes with a stern police caution or

warning issued in place of formal adjudication in court. Comparatively, the Thames Valley Model for

cautioning integrates aspects of family group conferences and Braithwaite’s theory of reintegrative

shaming. Briefly, restorative cautioning programs are police-led conferences, which aim to involve the

victim and the offender, and to elicit an apology and possibly an offer of reparation (Ashworth, 2003). An

evaluation of the Thames Valley Restorative Cautioning program found that recidivism rates of program

participants declined over a three-year period, however, the reduction in recidivism did not significantly

differ from rates observed in traditional police cautioning programs (Wilcox, Young, & Hoyle, 2004).

There are a number of obstacles, however, for the implementation of diversionary programs that

must be mentioned in this report (Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council, n.d.). Of particular concern, there

are often no clear standards or rules about the use of diversion and, as a result, there may be a lack of

consistency by some courts and police in referring people to diversionary programs. In short, some critics

have expressed concerns that members of minority groups may be excluded from diversionary programs

due to discriminatory decision-making. Carrington and Schulenberg’s (2003) recent study of police

decision-making with youth found that a record of prior convictions or prior contacts with the police and

offence seriousness most strongly influenced police discretion in referring individuals to diversionary

24


program. Aboriginal status did not significantly influence police officers’ decisions to formally charge an

adolescent offender.

Australian studies of police decision-making, however, have found evidence for discretionary

practices. Cunneen (1988) found that Aboriginal youth in certain communities were significantly underrepresented

at the more informal stages of police intervention (i.e., cautioning) and over-represented in

formal processing through criminal charges. Gale and her colleagues (1990) also found that Aboriginal

children have a lower chance of receiving a formal caution than do non-Aboriginal people. They also

have a higher chance of being charged rather than given a court attendance notice and have a higher

likelihood of being refused bail. Without clear guidelines and regular evaluation, the potential benefits of

diversionary programs may be lost.

2.7.2.3 Family Group Conferencing

The family group conferencing model, which grew out of the traditions of the Maori people of

New Zealand, has been adopted and further developed in Australia, the United Kingdom, and North

America (Cormier, 2002). Conferencing embraces both the holistic approach of restorative justice and

Braithwaite’s social rituals of shaming. The conference is a structured, voluntary, mediated meeting

between offenders, victims, and both parties’ families and friends (Van Ness & Strong, 2002). A neutral

party who sets out the procedure for participants at the outset facilitates conferences. As part of the

conference process, the offender begins by explaining what happened, followed by input from the victim

and, finally, comments from other conference participants. The facilitator then solicits discussion from the

conference participants regarding what should be done to repair injuries caused by the crime. This

discussion continues until all conference participants arrive at a mutually agreed upon plan. In

comparison to other mediation processes, the conference facilitator plays a passive role in the procedure;

the facilitator does not steer conference participants toward a specific outcome (Van Ness & Strong,

2002).

25


This Family Group Conferencing approach was adopted and modified by the Royal Canadian

Mounted Police (RCMP). The RCMP Community Justice Forums follow the same basic principles

outlined above with a couple of notable exceptions. In contrast to the original conferencing model,

Community Justice Forums (CJF) have expanded the definition of conference “participant” to include

community group representatives also impacted by the crime. Further, a neutral party does not facilitate

the CJF approach – an RCMP officer moderates the process. Currently, CJFs are used for youths and

sometimes for adult offenders, and the types of offences, which are being commonly dealt with, include

theft, assault, vandalism, “bullying”, property damage, drug use and possession, shoplifting, and breaking

and entering. The model has since been applied by other police forces in Canada including the Edmonton

Police Services and the Ontario Provincial Police. A preliminary evaluation of CJFs showed high levels

of satisfaction with the procedure among offenders, victims, and facilitators (Chatterjee, 1999). To date,

however, no study has formally evaluated the effectiveness of Community Justice Forums at reducing

involvement in the criminal justice system.

2.7.2.4 RISE Project

Another approach to conferencing developed and implemented in the Australian capital,

Canberra, is the Reintegrative Shaming Experiment (Sherman, Braithwaite and Strang 1994). Based

heavily on Braithwaite’s theory of reintegrative shaming, the conferencing process utilized in the RISE

program involves bringing the offender together with members of his or her nuclear family, friends, and

other groups that he or she may respect and with the victim of the crime and some supporters of the

victim. The "conference" is coordinated by a police officer in the case of the New Zealand and Australia

programs. The "identities" of all participants are challenged during the conference (e.g., the offender as

"tough guy" or as "mindless hooligan"). The goal of the conference is to confront and denigrate the crime

and its harm and to rebuild and reintegrate the offender as a productive member of the community.

Several studies have evaluated RISE programs in Australia. Evaluations of RISE in Canberra

have reported several interesting findings. First, offenders reported greater procedural justice in RISE

26


conferences than in court. Second, offenders reported higher levels of restorative justice (defined as the

opportunity to repair the harm they had caused) in RISE conferences than in court. Third, offenders who

participated in RISE conferences reported higher levels of respect for the police and the law than those

offenders who were adjudicated in courts. Finally, victims who participated in RISE conferences reported

higher levels of restorative justice as compared to those victims whose cases were prosecuted in court

(Daley & Hayes, 2001; Strang, 1999). Program evaluations have provided mixed results, however, with

respect to this approach to conferencing and recidivism rates. The RISE evaluation in Canberra found

reductions in recidivism rates for both young property offenders and young violent offenders, but reported

a 6% increase in recidivism for drinking-and-driving adults.

2.7.3 Court and Sentencing Interventions Interventions

2.7.3.1 Youth Justice Committees

Youth Justice Committees are groups of community volunteers, including Elders, working in

partnership with justice system officials to deal with young offenders in their communities. In particular,

Elders serve as a liaison between the Aboriginal community and the justice system. The youth justice

committee meets with the offender, the victim, and their supports, to help identify both the offender’s and

community’s needs, before making a recommendation to the court. These committees assist courts with

sentencing recommendations and may operate as diversion measures for first-time young offenders

(Fisher & Jantti, 2005).

The Edmonton Native Youth Justice Committee, which was formally created in March 1997,

illustrates this approach. Comprised of Native elders and Aboriginal community members, the committee

works with the justice system in dealing with Aboriginal youth, and makes recommendations to

Edmonton judges after examining the background and circumstances of the offenders and their offences.

Monthly meetings and hearings are held at the Canadian Native Friendship Centre. Consistent with

Braithwaite’s theory of reintegrative shaming, this process focuses on establishing, or, in some cases, reestablishing,

relationships between the youth and the Aboriginal community. That is, this process places

27


control and ownership over Aboriginal youth crime back within the community (Griffiths & Verdun-

Jones, 1992).

2.7.3.2 Healing or Sentencing Circles

Healing or sentencing circles, which is based on traditional Aboriginal customs, has been

incorporated into the Canadian criminal justice system in recent years. According to Van Ness and

Heetderks-Strong (2002), circles are “facilitated community meetings attended by offenders, victims,

their friends and families, interested members of the community, and representatives of the justice

system” (p. 63-64). Following a finding of guilt in court, an offender may elect to have his or her

sentencing hearing in a sentencing circle where the offender, the victim, community members, and justice

officials discuss ways the offender can make reparation and be re-integrated into the community

(Cormier, 2002).

One such example of this process is the Community Holistic Circle Healing (CHCH) Process in

the Hollow Water First Nation, which focuses on sexual abuse offences (Couture, Parker, Couture, &

Laboucane, 2001). Evaluations of the CHCH process have been very encouraging. Interviews with

participants have shown improvements in general community health and wellness, an increased sense of

safety, improved parenting, children staying in school longer, and reductions in reported substance abuse

problems (Hanson, 2001). In addition, Hanson (2001) also reported that only 2 of the 107 offenders who

had participated in the program over a period of ten years subsequently re-offended.

2.7.3.3 Restorative Resolutions

The Restorative Resolutions project, implemented by the John Howard Society of Manitoba

(JHSM), is a community-based sentencing project. Operated in conjunction with Community and Youth

Corrections, Adult Corrections, the Crown's office, and the Aboriginal community, the program provides

a community-based alternative sentencing plan to the court, with input from victims. An empirical

evaluation of the program has also provided encouraging results. Specifically, program participants in

28


Restorative Resolutions have lower recidivism rates than a matched group of probationers and inmates

(Bonta, Wallace-Capretta, & Rooney, 1998).

2.7.4 Correctional Interventions

Given the prevalence of Aboriginal people in corrections and the impact of cultural differences,

there has been ongoing debate about the appropriateness of, and need for, culturally relevant treatment

programs for Aboriginal offenders. To date, little research has examined the efficacy of non-Aboriginal

specific programming with Aboriginal offenders involved in institutional and community-based

correctional programming. The small body of existing research has mainly focused on treatment benefits

for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal offenders participating in sex offender programming and, thus far, the

findings have been mixed (Ellerby, 1994).

2.7.4.1 Corrections and Conditional Release Act

In recent years, however, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has made significant efforts

to develop and implement programs for Aboriginal offenders. Sections 79 to 84 of the Corrections and

Conditional Release Act (CCRA; 1992), for example, have set the stage for Aboriginal inmates to benefit

from the inclusion of traditional approaches to healing. The CSC Commissioner's Directive, Aboriginal

Programming (1995), and Section 80 (CCRA) set out the requirement for culturally sensitive

programming in correctional facilities. According to a survey federal correctional jurisdictions in Canada,

these provisions have led to the development of 23 Aboriginal-specific programs (13 federal programs

and 10 provincial programs), the majority of which are located within the Prairie region (Epprecht, 2000).

The CCRA provisions also invite Aboriginal communities to participate in an offender’s release

plan from a correctional facility and allow Elders to play a more active role as service providers and

advisors on both policy formulation and policy implementation (Wilson, 2000). The inclusion of

Aboriginal Elders has also been the feature of a recent innovation introduced by the National Parole

Board (NPB). Elder-assisted Parole Board hearings were implemented in the Prairie Region in 1992 and,

currently, all regions are in the process of implementing the same concept. The Elders assist Board

29


members with understanding and considering cultural perspectives of Aboriginal offenders and the role of

Aboriginal programs, ceremonies, and rituals (National Parole Board, 2001).

In addition to the inclusion of Elders in the parole process, the NPB has introduced the concept of

“Releasing Circles” or “Community-Assisted hearings” as an alternative or an adjunct to the more

traditional Parole Board hearing. Briefly, a community-assisted hearing is a NPB hearing, which is held

in an Aboriginal community rather than in the correctional facility. The circle, which includes the victim

and community members, participates in the decision made by the Parole Board on the timing and

conditions of release an offender as a law-abiding member into the community. The underlying principle

being that by including all parties that have been affected by the offence, or concerned with the offender’s

return to his or her community, the most effective and “just” decision will be made. This principle stems

from a broad theoretic approach to justice, described below – restorative justice.

2.7.4.2 The Youth Criminal Justice Act

The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), which replaced the Young Offenders Act in 2003, is the

formal Canadian criminal legislation pertaining to youth aged 12 to 17 years. While the new YCJA has

not introduced specific new programs for Aboriginal youth, the legislation can be viewed as an attempt to

modernize youth justice legislation and incorporate non-traditional approaches, such as restorative justice

initiatives in the treatment of youth. The YCJA, for example, encourages the involvement of victims and

community members in the justice system. In addition, the YCJA refers to the use of non-judicial

measures, conferences, and community reintegration programs.

2.8 Summary and Present Study

Although Aboriginal youth are overrepresented at all stages of the criminal justice system

(Statistics Canada, 2001), most criminal justice policy initiatives to date have focused on reforms for

adult Aboriginal offenders. This is concerning given that Aboriginal youth experience significantly higher

rates of socio-economic disadvantage, which adversely affects every stage of the criminal justice process,

from initial police contact to sentencing. These problems include low levels of education, high rates of

30


alcohol and drug use, lower family incomes and employment rates, and higher rates of family violence.

The literature reviewed in this report points to an overwhelming need to address the overrepresentation of

Aboriginal peoples in Canadian correctional facilities at a much earlier stage. Efforts at reducing

Aboriginal involvement in the criminal justice system must focus on the early diversion of Aboriginal

youth.

The purpose of this study was to collect and summarize data to be used by the Vancouver Police

Department in the planning and development of an Aboriginal Youth Justice Programme. Two separate

approaches were adopted to assist in this process:

1. In-Person Interviews: Interviews were conducted with 200 Aboriginal youth in Vancouver using the

Target Inclusion Model. The content of the interviews included both closed- and open-ended

questions focusing on several issues, including contacts with and perceptions of the police,

perceptions of family, community and neighbourhood support, community program use, and attitudes

towards illegal activity.

2. Focus Groups: Several focus group meetings were conducted with relevant service providers who

currently work with Aboriginal youth in Vancouver, Elders from the Aboriginal community, and

members of the Vancouver Police Department. The Affinity Process was used to systematically

collect feedback from the groups to specific questions.

31


3.1 The Research Team

3 METHOD

The research team was comprised of three senior members, faculty members at Kwantlen

University College, and a collaborator from the Vancouver Police Department. The balance of the team

was assembled using the Target Inclusion Model (TIM), an action process developed by Stephen Dooley

and Richard Floyd over a decade ago. The Model’s most distinct feature is the recruitment of individuals

from a study’s target group for participation as paid, working members of the research team. Whereas

most action research relies on critical comment from stakeholders, it occurs post facto, coming after

project priorities have been identified, the research team has been assembled, and instruments have been

designed. With TIM, however, members of the population to be studied are included from the very earlier

stages of design.

In the current study, leaders within the community as ideal candidates for the research team

identified fourteen Aboriginal youth. Subsequently, two of these young people, Deana Michel and James

Cowpar, were chosen as field coordinators, two others, Jessica Erickson and Wayne Nipshank, were hired

as senior interviewers and backup field coordinators, and the remaining ten were trained as interviewers.

Five were given “senior” status, serving as mentors to the “junior” interviewers. The senior interviewers

were Karen Osachoff, Sarah John, Reg McGinty and David Green. The junior interviewers were Sarah

Lavalle, Jenny Louie, Darryl Moore, and Conrad Mark. They came from a variety of Nations from across

British Columbia and Alberta. All of these were paid positions. The field coordinators were paid on an

hourly rate, while the interviewers were paid by the completed questionnaire. The field coordinators were

trained in the specifics of the survey instrument, and as well they were introduced to the basics of safety

and scientific rigor. Since all four coordinator candidates were either graduates of or about to graduate

from the undergraduate program at Simon Fraser University, they had a solid knowledge base on which to

32


uild. The interviewers received training which included familiarization with and understanding of the

instrument as well as the overarching purpose of the study. They were instructed in the basic of interview

techniques, and spent several hours engaged in mock interviews. This orientation combined with the

oversight of the field coordinators provided the reliability required of the data.

Stephen Dooley, the senior researcher on the team, conducted all the focus groups. This was a

deliberate choice made in the planning process as a means of ensuring continuity and reliability in the

data. The dialogue process was facilitated by the presence of a note taker who recorded the exchanges

among participants, and was also responsible for transcribing the output from brainstorming sessions.

3.2 Instruments

Several tools were used to gather data in this study. There were two structured instruments: an

interview questionnaire and a set of focus group topics. In addition, Aboriginal youth, who were members

of the research team and the project steering committee, were given an opportunity to provide input.

These groups were involved in the initial stages of choosing a methodology. The youth researchers and

the steering committee critically examined both the Focus Group questions and the in-person interview

instrument for youth. In the case of the questionnaire, nine draft versions were created to reflect critical

comment, and lessons learned as part of the pilot testing. In end, the questions asked of youth and service

providers reflected the priorities and the sensibilities of stakeholders.

The Youth Questionnaire (see Appendix 1) was designed to capture demographic as well as

experiential characteristics of Aboriginal youth between the ages of 12 and 24 who were living in

Vancouver. The questionnaire sought to gather some demographic data such as age and living

arrangements, but went beyond the mundane to try to establish a profile of youth social patterns and ties

to traditions of Aboriginal life and culture. It also asked about contact with law enforcement in both

formal and informal circumstances.

33


Five focus groups were convened for this study, two with community Elders, two with service

providers, and one with members of the Vancouver Police Department. The focus group questions

reflected the project team’s commitment to action research. Even though all focus sessions addressed the

same core issues as identified by the steering committee, the discussion in each session reflected the

priorities and areas of expertise of the particular participants. For example, the conversation with Elders

was substantially different in both tone and content from those involving front line service providers.

In each case, the discussion was started with two questions. The first asked about perceptions of

Aboriginal youth issues from the perspective of the focus group member’s affiliation. The second asked

what role they felt their group could play in addressing those issues. Of the five focus groups, the two

comprised of elders were the most vocal in insisting that the discussion go beyond the relatively narrow

focus of the initial questions.

3.3 Population and Sampling

The study was initiated to examine the relationship between Vancouver’s Aboriginal youth

community and various elements of mainstream justice. Accordingly, Aboriginal youth were the source

of the bulk of the data used in this report. Other information about the Aboriginal youth experience was

collected from service providers and community leaders familiar with the context and history which

frame the current situation. Estimates of the Aboriginal youth population are difficult to reconcile,

however, there is certain to be several thousand Aboriginal youth living within city boundaries, with the

greatest concentrations occurring in East Vancouver, particularly in the area around Commercial Drive.

The majority of respondents were recruited through organizations operating in this section of the city. The

researchers recognized the special circumstances facing homeless Aboriginal youth, and made the

decision, given the limited time and resources available, to not include this sub-group as a specific cohort

in the sampling process. Nonetheless, Field Coordinators and interviewers reported that some homeless

youth were captured in the respondent group.

34


Respondents were self selecting as a function of using a modified snowball technique. The study

was promoted within the target through posters and other media announcements. However, the intimate

nature of the communications networks within the Aboriginal youth group led to significant “word-ofmouth”

recruiting. Two hundred interviews were conducted at several youth venues including schools,

program sites, and drop-in locations. Sites used to conduct the interviews included: the Knowledgeable

Aboriginal Youth Association, wherein the cooperation and contributions of the organization’s leaders

facilitated the largest turnout of respondents at any of the sites, Arrows to Freedom, the Broadway Youth

Resource Centre, the Native Education Centre, the Urban Native Youth Association, Aries, Bladerunners,

the Youth Action Centre, and Britannia Drop-in. The physical separation of these locations and the

distinctness of each mandate made it reasonable to assume that the youths at each site constituted a

different segment of the target population.

3.4 Interview Process

The interviews were conducted at the sites mentioned above during a six week period from the

middle of February until the middle of March 2005. While most of the sessions were held in the evening,

Saturday sessions were also scheduled for those young people unable to attend during the week. The

interviews were conducted in a closed environment which excluded anyone who was non-Aboriginal and

non-youth. In discussions with the Aboriginal members of the research team as part of the planning

process, it was decided that it was essential to create an interview environment that was as familiar and

non-threatening as possible. To do this, it was felt that the integrity of the spaces to be used had to be

maintained. This meant restricting any unusual presence from disrupting the normal, expected sense of

place.

There were three levels of responsibility within the process: the Field Coordinators had overall

authority for this segment of the study. They scheduled the interview venues and made the logistical

arrangements for each event. There were responsible for collecting consent forms and qualifying potential

respondents, matching them with interviewers, monitoring the interview process, and paying the

35


espondents. The Senior Interviewers administered the questionnaire often dealing with respondents

whom the Field Coordinators had identified as the more challenging interviews. Aside from this, the

Senior people, all of whom had completed at least some university, were given responsibility for

monitoring the Junior members of the research team as they conducted their interviews, and reviewing

those questionnaires once finished.

The interviews were held in large rooms, with each respondent/researcher pair sitting apart from

each other to provide some level of comfort and privacy. In discussions while the data gathering was

ongoing and after it was completed, in the debriefing meeting, interviewers and field coordinators were

unanimous in their opinion that the respondents had been sincere in their participation, and thoughtful in

determining their responses. The senior researcher responsible for this segment of the project shared this

impression. In times he was able to observe the process, he was impressed with the serious mood that was

pervasive among the respondent group.

3.5 Focus Group Process

Seven focus groups were conducted with homogeneous groups of stakeholders, with no more

than eight participants at a time. In all, more than 40 community members participated in the process.

Most of the focus groups were convened at the Native Friendship Centre on Hastings Street in

Vancouver.

A list of possible focus group participants was developed in consultation with the Project’s

Steering Committee. As well, after a presentation to the Vancouver Aboriginal Council (VAC), the

coordinators of this committee mailed a letter of invitation, to participate in a focus group, to every

organization on the VAC mailing list. The groups included elders representing the various Nations whose

members comprise they youth population, service providers who cater to the system-based needs of

Vancouver’s Aboriginal youth, professionals from the educational programs which provide Aboriginalspecific

programming, and members of the Vancouver Police Department. All participation was

voluntary, and self-selecting.

36


All of the participants who attended the focus group were given a gift of one form or another

including carrying bags and pens. In addition, a special gift was provided at each focus group for the

person who did the welcome at the beginning of the meeting. The Office of the President at Kwantlen

University College provided the gifts.

At each meeting The ‘Welcome’ was conducted by one of the focus group participants to

acknowledge the territorial land on which the meeting was taking place and to ask the Creator to guide us

towards productivity and helping the kids in the community. This part of the meeting took place in a

circle and participants, including the researcher, held hands. Two research questions, each with a different

methodology, were used during the meetings.

The first question asked was as follows:

“As service providers, what are the main issues we are dealing with that lead to the overrepresentation

of Aboriginal youth in the criminal justice system? What are the problems?”

The first question was addressed using the Affinity Process, wherein participants identify and

explore the connectedness of individual ideas. The technique requires each member of a group to address

the question on their own, independent of other members of the group. Here focus group participants were

asked to provide as many possible answers to the question using Post-it notes to write down their ideas.

In the next phase of the process individuals come together as a group and share their ideas. Working as a

team, the group next classifies the Post-its which they thought contained similar ideas, into groups. Once

this was completed, each group of ideas was given an overall heading or name. For example, several

categories which repeatedly appeared in the focus sessions mentioned issues around “Culture sensitivity”,

“Alternative justice”, and “Residual effects of the residential school experience.”

The research team then collected the large sheets on which the Post-its had been grouped away,

and their contents were transcribed verbatim so the data could be analysed. A summary of issues and

frequency of occurrence can be found in Appendix 2.

37


The second research question asked during each focus group was:

“What can service providers do to effectively decrease the rate of imprisonment among

Aboriginal youth offenders? What are the solutions that involve service providers?”

To address this question, an individual and group brainstorm process was used. Using letter-sized

lined paper, individuals worked independently to formulate a response to the question. Each individual

was then given the opportunity to outline his or her experiences and impressions, in a roundtable format.

Subsequently, the group went on to discuss the challenges which they saw service agencies facing, and

what solutions they viewed as feasible.

The format outlined above was not used for the meeting with Aboriginal Elders as it was deemed,

in consultation with the Steering Committee, to be too structured. In keeping with oral traditions of

discourse, the Elders were asked to provide verbal commentary to each of the research questions. They

were encouraged to tell the research team stories that they thought might be relevant to the project. At the

beginning of the Elders’ Focus group, the participants were offered a traditional gift of tobacco.

38


4 RESULTS

The results of the current study are presented in two sections. Part I details the responses to the

Youth Questionnaire provided by 200 Aboriginal youth in Vancouver. This section begins with an

overview of descriptive statistics detailing participants’ responses for the entire sample, followed by an

examination of factors differentiating youth who have been arrested from those youth who have not been

arrested. Next, a brief statistical overview will be presented that focuses on participants aged 12 to 17

years. Part II of the Results section presents the material collected from the Focus Group sessions.

4.1 Youth Questionnaire

4.1.1 Demographic Overview of the Sample

Table 1 presents some of the major demographic characteristics of the sample. There was a

roughly equivalent distribution of males and females in the sample. Approximately 54% (54.8%, n = 108)

of the Aboriginal respondents were male, and 45.2% of the respondents were female (n = 89). The

majority of respondents identified themselves as Aboriginal (91.9%, n = 181) with an addition 7.1% of

the respondents indicating that they were of Métis descent (n = 14). Only 2% of the sample identified

themselves as being Inuit (n = 2). In the questionnaire, participants were also asked to indicate which

Nation they were a member. As shown in Table, over 40 Aboriginal nations were represented in the

sample, with the Cree Nation being the most heavily represented (15%, n = 30).

39


Table 1

Demographic Overview of the Youth Sample

VARIABLE FREQUENCY PERCENTAGE

Gender of the Respondent

Male 108 54.8

Female 89 45.2

Aboriginal Status

Aboriginal 181 91.9

Métis 14 7.1

Inuit 2 1.0

Aboriginal Nation

Ahousaht 2 1.0

Blackfoot 4 2.0

Carrier 5 2.5

Coast Salish 6 3.0

Cree 30 15.0

Gitanmaax 1 0.5

Gitxsan 6 3.0

Gwa’sala-nakwaxda’xw 1 0.5

Haida 11 5.5

Haisla 2 1.0

Heiltsuk 13 6.5

Hesqut 1 0.5

Kitamaat 1 0.5

Kitkatla 2 1.0

Kwagiutl 2 1.0

Kwakiutl 5 2.5

Lil’wat 1 0.5

Mamalilikulla 1 0.5

Moricetown 1 0.5

40


VARIABLE FREQUENCY PERCENTAGE

Aboriginal Nation

Musqueam 2 1.0

Nisga’a 14 7.0

Nlaka’pamux 1 0.5

Nuu-chah-nulth 5 2.5

Nuxalk 5 2.5

Ojibway 4 2.0

Ochapawacees 1 0.5

Okanagan 1 0.5

Old Masset 1 0.5

Onishinabe 2 1.0

Paipot 1 0.5

Peguis 2 1.0

Quawisnau 1 0.5

Salteau 2 1.0

Secwepemc 1 0.5

Sekani 1 0.5

Shuswap 6 3.0

Sioux 1 0.5

Sleaman 1 0.5

Squamish 3 1.5

Stellat’en 1 0.5

Tsimshian 16 8.0

Tungarik 1 0.5

Wet’suwet’en 6 3.0

41


Figure 1 Age of Respondents

10.5%

36%

22.5%

11-13 years

14-16 years

17-19 years

20-24 years

31%

- As shown in Figure 1, the average age of respondents in the study was 18 years (M = 17.98, SD =

3.32), with respondents ranging from 11 to 24 years of age. The majority of respondents in the study

were between 17 and 24 years of age. A third of participants were between 17 and 19 years of age

(31%, n = 62) and an additional 36% (n = 72) of respondents were between 20 and 24 years of age.

42


4.1.2 Residency of Respondents

On average, respondents in the study have resided in Vancouver for approximately 120 months

(M = 119.86, SD = 83.29), or 10 years, with the length of residency in Vancouver ranging from 1 month

to 288 months. As shown in Figure 2, approximately a third of respondents (28%, n = 56) have resided in

Vancouver for 16 to 24 years. Less than 10% of participants (n = 18) have resided in Vancouver for less

than a year. To calculate the proportion of time each respondent has lived in Vancouver, the number of

months the respondents indicated living in Vancouver was divided by the respondent’s age.

Approximately 40% of respondents (40.5%, n = 81) have resided in Vancouver for at least 80% of their

life. Comparatively, a quarter of respondents (24.5%, n = 49) have only lived in Vancouver for less than

20% of their life.

Figure 3 shows the percentage distribution of respondents’ current residency status.

Approximately half of the youth in the current study indicated that they currently live with a parent

(49.5%, n = 99). Nearly 20% of respondents (19.5%, n = 39) indicated that they had an alternate living

arrangement (e.g., common-law partner). An additional 18% of respondents currently live on their own (n

= 36). In addition to current living situation, respondents were also asked if they had ever spent time in

the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Services (MCFS). Half of the respondents in the sample

stated that they had in fact spent some time in the care of the MCFS (51.5%, n = 103). Of those

respondents who had spent time in the custody of MCFS, the average of duration of time in state custody

was 48 months (M = 48.54, SD = 59.91). Figure 4 shows that approximately a third of respondents spent

less than a year in the care of the MCFS (30.8%, n = 28). A number of Aboriginal youth, however, have

spent a significant proportion of their life under the care of the MCFS. Five percent (5.5%, n = 5) of

respondents reported that they were under the care of the MCFS for 16 to 19 years.

43


Figure 2 Length of Residency in Vancouver

9%

28%

18.5%

Less than 1 year

1 to 4 years

4 to 8 years

8 to 12 years

12 to 16

16 to 24 years

17.5%

15.5%

11.5%

44


Figure 3 Place of Residency

4%

3%

6%

18%

49.5%

Parent

Other

I live on my own

Other legal guardian

Grandparent

Friend

19.5%

45


Figure 4 Length of Residency in the Ministry of Children and Family Services

6.6%

5.5%

30.8%

9.9%

9.9%

Less than 1 year

1 to 4 years

4 to 8 years

8 to 12 years

12 to 16 years

16 to 19 years

37.4%

46


4.1.3 Traditional Territory and Ceremonies

Aboriginal youth were presented with several questions pertaining to their traditional territory and

ceremonies. Approximately half of respondents indicated that they had visited their traditional territory in

the past two years (51%, n = 102). On average, these respondents visited their traditional territory five

times a year (M = 5.08, SD = 21.375). As shown in Figure 5, of those respondents who have visited their

traditional territory in the last year, approximately three-quarters made one to two visits each year (74.5%,

n = 73). Further, of those respondents who have visited their traditional territory in the past two years, the

majority indicated that they stayed with relatives (68.6%, n = 70). A quarter of respondents stayed with

their parents during visits (24.5%, n = 25).

Generally, respondents reported spending an average of 34 days each year on their traditional

territory (M = 34.09, SD = 47.05). With respect to the purpose of their visit, the majority of Aboriginal

youth interviewed in the current study returned to their traditional territory for specific activities (71.8%,

n = 74). The most frequently cited purpose for visits was a funeral (51.4%, n = 38). Approximately fortyfive

percent of respondents returned to their traditional territory for family events (45.9%) or annual

celebrations (45.2%). Almost three-quarters of respondents in the current study indicated that they

participated in spiritual ceremonies (73%, n = 146). On average, these respondents participated in

approximately 3 spiritual ceremonies per month (M = 3.40, SD = 4.95). As shown in the Figure 7, the

majority of respondents who participated in spiritual ceremonies, engaged in 1 to 2 ceremonies per month

(65.4%, n = 85).

47


Figure 5 Visits to Traditional Territory

3.1%

7.1%

15.3%

1-2 visits

3-4 visits

5-6 visits

7+ visits

74.5%

48


Figure 6 Purpose of Visits to Traditional Territory

Hunting

28.4%

Fishing

44.6%

Annual celebrations

45.2%

Family events

45.9%

Funerals

51.4%

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

49


Figure 7 Participation in Spiritual Ceremonies

2.3% 10%

22.3%

1 to 2 times

3 to 4 times

5 to 6 times

7+ times

65.4%

50


4.1.4 Personal Support Networks

Aboriginal youth in the current study were asked to indicate their level of agreement with a

number of questions pertaining to personal support networks (Questions 9-30, see Appendix 1).

Respondents indicated their level of agreement or disagreement on a six-point Likert scale (1= Totally

Agree to 6 = Totally Disagree). For the purposes of this report, the Likert scale responses have been recoded

into dichotomous variables reflecting simple agreement or disagreement with the statements (1 =

Agree, 2 = Disagree). Results in the following sections have been organized as follows – Perceptions of

Family Support, Perceptions of Neighbourhood Support, Perceptions of Community Support, and

Perceptions of Community Involvement.

51


Figure 8 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Family Support

My family keeps

track of me

80.3%

My family provides

clear rules

80.3%

My parents/guardian

and I communicate

well

83.5%

My family provides

love and support

92.5

I feel safe at home

95

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

• Five statements gauged Aboriginal youths’ perceptions of family care and support. As shown in

Figure 8, Aboriginal youth reported perceiving an overwhelming sense of support from their family.

Ninety-five (95%) of respondents reporting feeling safe at home, and an additional 92.5% of

respondents believe that their family provides them with love and support.

52


Figure 9 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Neighbourhood Support

My neighbours care

about me

47.7%

Adults are aware of

youth activities in my

neighbourhood

I have friends who

are positive role

models

75.6%

81.2%

I feel safe in my

neighbourhood

79%

I have at least two

adults I can call

83.5%

I have positive adult

role models

86.3%

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

• Six statements gauged Aboriginal youths’ perceptions of neighbourhood support. Although the level

of agree was not quite as strong for these statements as previously observed with statements

concerning family support, Figure 9 indicates that Aboriginal youth still perceive a strong level of

support within their neighbourhoods. Over 80% of participants believe that they have positive adult

role models (86.3%) and at least two adults, besides their parents, that they can call for help (83.5%).

53


Figure 10 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Community Support

I have influence in

decision-making

within the

community

82.5%

School is a

caring/encouraging

environment

82.5%

I could seek

help/support from a

teacher

85.5%

Vancouver

Aboriginal

community supports

its youth

90.4%

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

• Four statements questioned respondents about their perceptions of support within their community.

Consistent with their perceptions of family and neighbourhood support, over 80% of Aboriginal

youth surveyed in the study perceived strong support available to them in their communities. As

shown in Figure 10, 90.4% of Aboriginal youth believe that the Aboriginal community in Vancouver

supports them.

54


Figure 11 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Community Involvement

I belong to

community

organizations

62.9%

I participate in

spiritual ceremonies

69%

I help out in my

community

70.2%

I hang out and do

nothing (at least 2

nights/week)

98%

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

• Four statements measured Aboriginal respondents’ perceptions of community involvement. Figure 11

shows that high levels of agreement were again generally observed among Aboriginal youth

pertaining to involvement in the community. Over 60% of participants indicated that they belong to

community organizations (62.9%) and over two-thirds of Aboriginal youth participate in spiritual

ceremonies (69%) and volunteer within their community (70.2%). Comparatively, the overwhelming

majority of youth agreed with the statement, “I hang out with friend and do nothing in particular two

or more nights in a week.”

55


4.1.5 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Involvement in Illegal Activity

In addition to measuring perceptions of personal support networks, the Aboriginal respondents

were asked to indicate their level of agreement with a number of questions pertaining to involvement in

illegal activity (Questions 31-41, see Appendix 1). Respondents indicated their level of agreement or

disagreement on a six-point Likert scale (1= Totally Agree to 6 = Totally Disagree). For the purposes of

this report, the Likert scale responses have been re-coded into dichotomous variables reflecting simple

agreement or disagreement with the statements (1 = Agree, 2 = Disagree). Results to these statements are

presented in Figure 12.

The results indicate that Aboriginal youth perceive financial needs, substance use, and peer

factors as strong precursors to involvement in illegal activity. Over 80% of respondents agreed that illegal

activity provides money for material things (85.9%), drugs (82.5%), and alcohol (80.4%). Consistent with

these findings, three-quarters of respondents agreed that illegal activity among Aboriginal youth often

results from drug or alcohol use (75.0%. In addition, 77.9% and 55.6% of respondents, respectively,

agreed that negative peer associations (77.9%) and the desire to build a desirable reputation (55.6%)

played a role in Aboriginal youth criminality.

Several statements also measured respondents’ perceptions of the role of self-control and

judgment in illegal activity. Three-quarters of respondents agreed that bad judgment played an important

role in the involvement in illegal activity (74.5%), and an additional 70.0% of respondents agreed that

illegal activity often resulted from anger. Two-thirds of respondents indicated that “events beyond one’s

control” produced illegal activity among Aboriginal youth (66.3%). Only a third of participants attributed

illegal activity to fun (31.2%) or excitement (31.2%).

56


Figure 12 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Illegal Activity

Illegal activity is fun

Ilegal activity is exciting

31.2%

32.7%

Build reputation

Events beyond one's control

Result of anger

Bad judgment

Using drugs/alcohol

Peer association

Money for drugs

Money for alcohol

Money for other things

55.6%

66.3%

70%

74.5%

75%

77.9%

82.5%

80.4%

85.9%

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

57


4.1.6 Interactions with Service Providers

Questions 43 to 49 asked Aboriginal youth about their interactions with service providers in the

Lower Mainland (see Appendix 1). Figure 13 shows how often participants acknowledged using various

programs within their communities. Generally, participants surveyed in the current study use available

programs. Nearly every participant acknowledged that they have participated in a community-based

program (90.5%, n = 181). As shown in Figure 14, sports activities (70.7%, n = 130) and cultural

programs (53.8%, n = 99) were the most frequently used community-based programs. In addition to

community-based programs, participants frequently used facilities or programs at one of the Aboriginal

Friendship Centres in the Lower Mainland (72.5%, n = 145). Over half of the respondents also indicated

that they had participated in a school-based program for Aboriginal youth (57.6%, n = 122).

Comparatively, only 42.7% of the participants have used other facilities and/or programs available to the

Aboriginal community (n = 85).

Participants who indicated that they did not use facilities or programs available at one of the

Aboriginal Friendship Centres or within the Aboriginal community were asked whether a lack of funding

prevented them from participating in these programs. Approximately a third of participants indicated that

a lack of funding prevented them from using the facilities or programs at the Aboriginal Friendship

Centres (33.3%, n = 17). Similarly, 38.2% of participants who have not used program available to the

Aboriginal community stated that a lack of funding was an obstacle for them (n = 42). Furthermore, over

half of the sample indicated that they were unaware that there was assistance available to help cover the

cost for them to use local programs or facilities (57.6%, n = 114).

58


Figure 13 Interactions with Service Providers

Community-based

programs

90.5%

School-based

programs

57.6%

Aboriginal

programs/services

42.7%

Aboriginal

Friendship Centres

72.5%

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

59


Figure 14 Participation in Community-based Programs

Mentoring

25.5%

Leadership program

40.2%

Employment

preparation

45.1%

Cultural program

53.8%

Sports

70.7%

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

60


Figure 15 Importance of Cultural Programming

Not important at all

0.5%

A little important

8.6%

Very important

52.5%

Essential

38.4%

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

• Participants were asked how important they thought it was that services offered to Aboriginal youth

be sensitive to their culture on a four-point Likert scale (see Appendix 1). As shown in Figure 15, the

majority of participants believed that cultural sensitivity was an important consideration for youth

programming. Over half of participants thought cultural programming as “very important” (52.5%, n

= 104) and an additional 38.4% (n = 76) of participants thought it was “essential.”

61


4.1.7 Interactions with the Police

Questions 50 to 57 in the questionnaire surveyed respondents about their interactions with and

attitudes towards the Vancouver Police Department. The responses to these questions are displayed in

Figures 16 to 23. The responses to Questions 50 to 55 are discussed beneath the corresponding figures on

the following pages. Question 57 asked respondents to provide one word that would describe their

perception of the relationship between the Vancouver Police Department and the Vancouver Aboriginal

community. Participants’ responses were coded into three categories – Positive Statements, Negative

Statements, and Neutral Statements. As shown in Figure 23, the majority of Aboriginal youth had a

negative perception of the relationship between the police and the Aboriginal community (59.8%, n =

101). However, over a quarter of participants had a positive perception of this relationship (27.8%, n =

47).

Negative responses to Question 57 were further categorized to reflect the nature of the Aboriginal

respondents’ perceptions of the police-Aboriginal community relationship. Of those participants who had

a negative perception of the police relationship with the Aboriginal community, over half described this

relationship as generally “bad” or “poor” (56.4%, n = 57). Approximately 20% of negative perceptions

reflected an angry or hateful attitude toward the police, including derogatory and inflammatory comments

about the police (19.8%, n = 20). Only 7.9% (n = 8) of these respondents, however, mentioned racism

when asked to describe the police-Aboriginal community relationship. Interestingly, 8.9% (n = 9) of

respondents stated that there was no relationship or that a relationship between the police and the

Aboriginal community was non-existent.

62


Figure 16 Types of Police Interactions

Other social event

13.2%

Sports/Leisure

14.2%

Educational

27.7%

Reported crime

34.2%

Arrested

63%

Stopped by police

73.5%

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

• The majority of respondents in the current study have had some interaction with the Vancouver Police

Department (VPD) (77.5%, n = 155). Figure 16 illustrates that the majority of these interactions have

been negative. Of those respondents who have had an interaction with the VPD, nearly three-quarters

report that they have been stopped by the police (73.5%, n = 114). Sixty-three percent (63%, n = 97)

of respondents who have interacted with the VPD also stated they had been arrested. A minority of

respondents indicated that they have had educational contacts with the VPD (27.7%, n = 43).

63


Figure 17 Aboriginal Youth Contact with Police

Arrested by police

62.3%

Detained by police

62.1%

Stopped by police

83.9%

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

• As previously mentioned, the majority of respondents in the current study have had some interaction

with the police and, for the most part, these interactions have been negative. As shown in Figure 17,

approximately 84% (83.9%, n = 167) of respondents reported that they have been stopped by the

police. Sixty-two percent (62.1%, n = 121) of respondents have been detained by the police and

62.3% (n = 124) of respondents reported that they have been arrested.

64


Figure 18 Police Contact After Midnight

Illegal activity

12.7%

Because I'm Native

15.1%

I don't know

15.9%

With a group of

young people

27%

Suspicious activity

31.7%

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

• Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63%, n = 126) reported that they have been stopped by the police

after midnight. Among those respondents, the majority believed they were stopped by the police

because they were engaging in suspicious activity (31.7%, n = 40). Twenty-seven percent (27%, n =

34) of respondents believe the police stopped them because they were with a group of young people.

Only 12.7% (n = 16) of respondents believe they were stopped because they were engaging in illegal

activity. When provided the opportunity to give an open-ended response to this question, a total 19

participants (15.1%) responded that they believe the police stopped them because they are Native.

65


Figure 19 Outcome of Police Contact after Midnight

Detained briefly

3.2%

Asked questions and released

3.2%

Driven out of town and told to walk home

7.1%

Someone called to pick up

17.5%

Taken home or to another safe place

23%

Arrested

28.6%

Let go

64.3%

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

• Respondents who were stopped by the police after midnight were asked about the outcome of that

contact. As shown in Figure 19, the majority of Aboriginal respondents stopped by police were let go

without being arrested or charged (64.3%, n = 81). In addition, a quarter of these respondents were

taken home or to another safe place (23.0%, n = 29). Approximately a third of these respondents,

however, were arrested (28.6%, n = 36) and under five percent were detained briefly (3.4%). Of

particular concern, a small number of these respondents indicated that they had been driven out of

town and told to walk home (3.2%).

66


Figure 20 Available Responsible Adult

Grandparent

22.9%

Other relative

39.8%

Friend

44%

Sibling

45.2%

Parent

77.7%

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

• In addition to questions regarding police contacts, respondents were asked whether there was a

responsible adult they could be taken to if stopped by the police late at night. The majority of

respondents indicated that there was an available adult that police could contact late at night (84.3%,

n = 167). Respondents most frequently cited their parents as the most readily available adult (77.7%,

n = 130). A sibling (45.2%, n = 75) or a friend (44%, n = 73) were also cited frequently as available

adults that police could contact late at night.

67


Figure 21 Acceptable Alternative to Police Custody

Someone from

Social Services

10.8%

Streetworker

21.6%

A responsible peer

from the Aboriginal

community

23.8%

An Elder from the

Aboriginal

community

25.4%

A family member

75.7%

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

• Respondents were asked to provide an acceptable alternative to police custody when circumstances

allowed. Figure 21 shows that respondents overwhelmingly would prefer that police seek out a family

member (75.7%, n = 140). Members of the Aboriginal community were the next most frequently

cited alternatives to police custody. A quarter of respondents indicated that an Elder (25.4%, n = 47)

or a responsible peer from the Aboriginal community (23.8%, n = 44) would be an acceptable

alternative.

68


Figure 22 Police Assistance for Aboriginal Youth

Diverse

4.1%

Assisted youth

9.5%

Were less

judgmental

20.1%

Were more

approachable and

friendly

21.3%

Had more positive

interactions in the

community

Had more

education and

training 7.1%

Were more

culturally sensitive

21.3%

18.9%

• Aboriginal respondents were asked to complete the following open-ended statement, “Police officers

would be better able to assist Aboriginal youth if they…” There were 169 valid responses to this

question, and responses were organized into seven categories. Figure 21 illustrates that the most

frequently cited comments reflected a desire to see police be more culturally sensitive to Aboriginal

culture (21.3%, n = 36) and more approachable and friendly (21.3%, n = 36). Respondents also

frequently commented on a desire to see police be more open-minded and less judgmental when

dealing with youth (20.1%, n = 34). Of particular interest, respondents also expressed a desire for the

police to engage in more positive interactions in the community (18.9%, n = 32).

69


Figure 23 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Police

59.8%

Positive

Negative

Neutral

27.8%

12.4%

19.8% Racist

No relationship

6.9%

56.4%

Conflict/Power

Differential

Hateful/Angry

8.9%

Bad

7.9%

70


4.1.8 Aboriginal Youth and the Justice System

Statistics indicate that Aboriginal youth in Canada are overrepresented at every stage of the youth

justice system. To gain an understanding of the causes underlying this overrepresentation and potential

solutions to the problem, Aboriginal youth in the current study were presented with four open-ended

questions (see Appendix 1). A maximum of three responses were coded for each question. This approach

identified a substantial number of responses. As such, for the purposes of analyses, the individual

responses to each question were grouped into dichotomous variables indicating whether a particular

category of responses was “cited by the respondent” or “not cited by the respondent.”

Participants were first asked to identify three causes of Aboriginal youth overrepresentation in the

criminal justice system. Responses to this question were organized into 11 separate categories. The

frequency of responses for each category is presented in Figure 23. The largest category of responses

referred to Aboriginal criminality (n = 83). For instance, participants frequently cited “doing crime,”

“criminality,” or, in some cases, referred to specific crimes, as causes of overrepresentation. Consistent

with research showing that Aboriginal offenders have significant problems with substance use,

respondents frequently referred to substance abuse (n = 56) as a cause of overrepresentation. Participants

also frequently discussed the role of various social factors in Aboriginal overrepresentation. Racism (n =

33), poverty (n = 24), and conflicts between the contemporary justice system and Aboriginal conceptions

of justice (n = 15) were frequently cited by participants. In addition, a small number of responses reflect

upon the history of colonization assimilation as a cause of overrepresentation (n = 9).

Respondents were then asked to identify three things that the Aboriginal community could do to

change the rates of overrepresentation. Responses to this question were organized into 8 categories (see

Appendix 6). As shown in Figure 24, the largest category of responses referred to program availability

and accessibility (n = 67). Participants frequently discussed both the need for more programs and

increased accessibility (i.e., longer hours) to existing youth programs. Consistent with this response,

respondents also frequently requested a greater number of leisure activities, such as dances and sports, be

71


made available for Aboriginal youth (n = 34). A number of responses also reflected a desire for stronger

ties in the Aboriginal community. In fact the second most frequently cited category of responses cited a

need for the community to build better relationships with youth (n = 41). Moreover, respondents felt that

teach youth about their Aboriginal culture would reduce rates of overrepresentation (n = 22).

Respondents were also asked to identify three things that the police could do to change the rates

of overrepresentation. Responses to this question were organized into 9 categories. The number of

responses for each category is displayed in Figure 25. The most frequently cited responses reflected a

general desire on the behalf of youth to see police be more approachable and friendly (n = 46). A number

of respondents, for example, discussed how police were often rude or disrespectful in their interactions

with youth. Interestingly, despite largely negative perceptions of the police, Aboriginal youth in the

current study frequently discussed the need for police to come into their communities for positive

interactions, such as community events or celebrations (n = 43). Furthermore, respondents frequently

expressed the importance of cultural sensitivity on the behalf of the police (n = 36).

Finally, participants were asked to identify three things that service providers in the community

could do to change the rates of overrepresentation. Responses to this question were organized into 7

categories (see Appendix 8). The number of responses for each category is displayed in Figure 26. The

availability of and accessibility to programs for youth were the most frequently cited recommendations

put forth by respondents (n = 43 and n = 35, respectively). Participants also expressed a strong desire to

see an increase in the number of leisure activities, particularly sports, available to Aboriginal youth (n =

30). As previously discussed, a large proportion of respondents in the current study reported that they

were involved in community activities and programs. Not surprisingly then, only a small number of

responses cited the need for increasing awareness about available programs in the community (n = 18).

72


Figure 24 Causes of Aboriginal Youth Overrepresentation

Colonization

9

Conflict with CJS

15

Attitudes/Judgment

15

Poverty/SES status

24

Peer factors

24

Community factors

26

Racism

33

Family factors

37

Violence

39

Substance use

56

Criminality

83

0 20 40 60 80 100

Number of Responses

73


Figure 25 Aboriginal Community and Overrepresentation

Advocacy

19

Be positive role

models

19

Crime prevention

20

Teach culture

22

Increase

opportunities

27

More activities

34

Build better

relationships with

youth

41

Increase program

availability and

accessibility

67

0 20 40 60 80 100

Number of Responses

74


Figure 26 The Police and Overrepresentation

Diversity

12

Education and

training

14

Respect youth

16

Less judgmental

22

Crime prevention

23

Assist youth

32

Cultural sensitivity

36

Positive community

interactions

Approachable and

friendly

43

46

0 20 40 60 80 100

Number of Responses

75


Figure 27 Service Providers and Overrepresentation

Advocacy

17

More funding and

resources

17

More awareness

about programs

18

Build partnerships

19

Sports and leisure

activities

30

Increase

accessibility

35

More programs and

services

43

0 20 40 60 80 100

Number of Responses

76


4.1.9 Aboriginal Youth and Factors Related to Arrest

As previously discussed, 63.0% of Aboriginal youth interviewed in the current study have been

arrested (n = 97). In the following section, analyses were conducted to examine the factors related to

being arrested. Two types of statistical tests were conducted: t-tests for ordinal variables and chi-square

tests for categorical variables. The statistical tests provide an indication of whether there is a real

relationship between each variable and arrest, or whether the relationship can best be described as due to

chance.

4.1.9.1 Demographic Characteristics and Arrest

Statistical comparisons of Aboriginal youth who were and were not arrested on several

demographic characteristics are presented in Table 2. Consistent with general criminological literature,

male Aboriginal youth were significantly more likely to report being arrested by the police, χ 2 (1, n =

196) = 8.62, p = .003. As shown in Figure 27, over two-thirds of male Aboriginal youth reported being

arrested (71%, n = 76) as compared to 50.6% (n = 45) of female respondents. Correlational analyses show

that the relationship between gender and risk for arrest was weak (φ = 0.21, p = .003). In addition, older

Aboriginal youth in the sample (M = 18.78, SD = 2.82) were significantly more likely to report being

arrested than younger Aboriginal youth (M = 16.63, SD = 3.68), t (126.19) = 4.36, p = .000. In addition

those respondents who have lived in Vancouver for a longer period (M = 132.29, SD = 86.27) were

significantly more likely to report being arrested than those respondents who have lived in Vancouver for

a shorter duration (M = 100.87, SD = 74.01), t (174.65) = 2.72, p = .007.

A large proportion of Aboriginal youth in the current study reported that they had spent time in

the custody of the Ministry of Children and Family Services (MCFS) (51.5%, n = 103). Not surprisingly,

time spent in state custody was significantly related with the likelihood of being arrested. As shown in

Figure 28, Aboriginal youth who reported spending time in the care of the MCFS than those youth who

had not been removed from their families (76.3% vs. 49%), χ 2 (1, n = 199) = 15.75, p = .000. The

relationship between state custody and risk for arrest was weak-to-moderate (φ = 0.28, p = .000). Youth

77


who spent longer periods in the care of the MCFS (M = 54.21, SD = 60.87) were significantly more likely

to report being arrested than youth who spent shorter durations under state care (M = 28.56, SD = 51.11), t

(30.1) = 2.047, p = .049.

Approximately half of Aboriginal youth interviewed in the current study indicated that they had

visited their traditional territory in the past two years (51%, n = 102). Figure 29 shows that those

Aboriginal youth who have visited their traditional territory in the past two years were significantly less

likely to report being arrested than Aboriginal youth who have not visited their traditional territory (52.%

vs. 72.4%, respectively), χ 2 (1, n = 199) = 8.45, p = .004. According to correlational analyses, this

relationship was weak (φ = 0.21, p = .004). Comparatively, analyses indicated that respondents who

participated in spiritual ceremonies were more likely to report having been arrested than those

respondents who did not participate in spiritual ceremonies (66.2% vs. 51.9%). However, as shown in

Table 2, these differences were not statistically significant, χ 2 (1, n = 199) = 3.45, p = .063.

78


Table 2

Demographic Factors Related to Arrest

VARIABLE ARRESTED NOT ARRESTED TEST

Age of Respondent M = 18.78 years M = 16.63 years t (126.19) = 4.36***

Gender of Respondent χ 2 (1) = 8.62**

Male 71.0% 29.0%

Female 50.6% 49.4%

Vancouver Residency M = 132.29 months M = 100.87 months t (174.65) = 2.72**

Time in Care of the MCFS χ 2 (1) = 15.74***

Yes 76.3% 23.7%

No 49.0% 51.0%

Time in Care of the MCFS

(Length)

M = 54.21 months M = 28.56 months t (30.1) = 2.047*

Visit to Traditional Territory χ 2 (1) = 8.45**

Yes 52.5% 47.5%

No 72.4% 27.6%

Engage in Spiritual Events χ 2 (1) = 3.45

Yes 66.2% 33.8%

No 51.9% 48.1%

Note: *p < .05, ** p < .01, ***p < .001.

79


Figure 28 Gender and Arrest

100

80

71%

60

50.6% 49.4%

40

29%

Arrested

Not arrested

20

0

Male

Female

Gender of Respondent

80


Figure 29 Time Spent in State Custody and Arrest

100

80

76.3%

60

49% 51%

40

Arrested

Not arrested

23.7%

20

0

Yes

No

Time in Care of Ministry of Children and Families

81


Figure 30 Traditional Activities and Arrest

100

80

72.4%

60

52.5%

47.5%

40

27.6%

Arrested

Not arrested

20

0

Yes

No

Visited Traditional Territory

82


4.1.9.2 Perceptions of Family Support and Arrest

Table 3 depicts comparisons between Aboriginal youth who were and who were not arrested on

those variables pertaining to respondent perceptions of family support. As shown in Table 3, Aboriginal

youth who indicated that their parents kept track of them, or supervised them closely, were significantly

less likely to report being arrested (M = 1.73) than those youth who did not perceive much parental

supervision (M = 2.79), t (119) = 3.99, p = .000. Similarly, Aboriginal youth who perceived their family

providing clear rules were less likely to be arrested (M = 1.65) than those youth who did not perceive

such parental guidelines (M = 2.81), t (119) = 4.12, p = .000. This relationship was moderately positive.

Perceptions pertaining to family communication, love and support, and feelings of safety at home were

not significantly related to the likelihood of being arrested.

4.1.9.3 Perceptions of Neighbourhood Support and Arrest

Table 4 depicts comparisons between Aboriginal youth who were and who were not arrested on

those variables pertaining to respondent perceptions of neighbourhood support. Results indicate that

Aboriginal youth who were arrested were significantly less likely to believe that they had at least two

adults, besides their parents, that they could call for help (M = 2.15) than those Aboriginal youth who

were not arrested (M = 1.67), t (197) = 2.27, p = .024. In addition, Aboriginal youth who were arrested

were less likely to agree that they had positive adult role models (M = 2.19) than Aboriginal youth who

were not arrested (M = 1.73), t (194) = 2.26, p = .025. The remaining variables measuring perceptions of

neighbourhood support were not significantly related to the likelihood of being arrested.

4.1.9.4 Perceptions of Community Support/Involvement and Arrest

Comparisons of Aboriginal youth who were and were not arrested on variables pertaining to both

perceptions of community support and community involvement are presented in Tables 5 and 6,

respectively. Four measures describing perceptions of community support were analyzed and, as shown in

Table 5, none of these variables were significantly related to risk for arrest among Aboriginal youth.

83


Similarly, none of the variables related to community involvement significantly distinguished between

Aboriginal youth who were arrested and those who were not arrested.

4.1.9.5 Perceptions of Illegal Activity and Arrest

Table 7 shows comparisons between Aboriginal youth who were and were not arrested on those

variables pertaining to respondent perceptions of illegal activity. Results indicate that Aboriginal youth

who were arrested were significantly more likely to perceive illegal activity as fun (M = 3.87) than those

Aboriginal youth who were not arrested (M = 4.97), t (196) = -4.82, p = .000. Consistent with this finding,

Aboriginal youth who were arrested were also more likely to perceive illegal activity as exciting (M =

3.98) than Aboriginal youth who were not arrested (M = 4.77), t (196) = -3.21, p = .002. Lastly,

Aboriginal youth who were arrested were more likely to perceive illegal activity as providing money for

other material goods (M = 1.98) than Aboriginal youth who were not arrested (M = 2.38), t (196) = -2.01,

p = .046. The remaining variables measuring perceptions of illegal activity were not significantly related

to the likelihood of being arrested.

84


Table 3

Perceptions of Family Support and Arrest

VARIABLE ARRESTED NOT ARRESTED TEST

My family keeps track of me M = 2.79 M = 1.73 t (119) = 3.99***

My family has clear rules M = 2.81 M = 1.65 t (119) = 4.12***

My parents and I

communicate well

My family provides love and

support

M = 2.46 M = 2.11 t (197) = 1.67

M = 1.77 M = 1.51 t (197) = 1.64

I feel safe at home M = 1.53 M = 1.31 t (197) = 1.58

Note: *p < .05, ** p < .01, ***p < .001.

85


Table 4

Perceptions of Neighbourhood Support and Arrest

VARIABLE ARRESTED NOT ARRESTED TEST

Neighbours care about me M = 3.89 M = 3.45 t (196) = 1.585

Adults are aware of youth

activities

I have friends who are

positive role models

I feel safe in my

neighbourhood

I have at least 2 adults I can

call for help

M = 2.55 M = 2.43 t (194) = 0.59

M = 2.70 M = 2.41 t (194) = 1.31

M = 2.46 M = 2.24 t (197) = 1.06

M = 2.19 M = 1.73 t (194) = 2.27*

Positive adult role models M = 2.19 M = 1.73 t (194) = 2.26*

Note: *p < .05, ** p < .01, ***p < .001.

86


Table 5

Perceptions of Community Support and Arrest

VARIABLE ARRESTED NOT ARRESTED TEST

I have influence on decisions M = 2.64 M = 2.47 t (197) = 0.90

School is a caring environment M = 2.50 M = 2.19 t (197) = 1.52

I could seek help from a

teacher

Supportive Aboriginal

community

M = 2.22 M = 2.04 t (197) = 0.88

M = 2.07 M = 2.09 t (195) = -0.17

Note: *p < .05, ** p < .01, ***p < .001.

87


Table 6

Community Involvement and Arrest

VARIABLE ARRESTED NOT ARRESTED TEST

I belong to community groups M = 1.40 M = 1.37 t (182) = 0.38

Participate in spiritual events M = 2.84 M = 3.19 t (197) = 1.35

I help out in my community M = 2.89 M = 2.77 t (195) = 0.49

I hang out and do nothing M = 2.48 M = 2.40 t (197) = 0.35

Note: *p < .05, ** p < .01, ***p < .001.

88


Table 7

Perceptions of Illegal Activity and Arrest

VARIABLE ARRESTED NOT ARRESTED TEST

Illegal activity is fun M = 3.87 M = 4.97 t (196) = -4.82***

Illegal activity is exciting M = 3.98 M = 4.77 t (196) = -3.21**

Illegal activity results from

anger

Illegal activity results from

bad judgment

Illegal activity results from

life events beyond control

Illegal activity builds a

desirable reputation

Friends get them involved in

illegal activity

Illegal activity provides

money for drugs

Illegal activity provides

money for alcohol

Illegal activity provides

money for other things

Illegal activity is result of

substance use

M = 2.82 M = 2.73 t (197) = 0.40

M = 2.68 M = 2.59 t (197) = 0.40

M = 3.13 M = 2.96 t (193) = 0.77

M = 3.35 M = 3.58 t (193) = -0.91

M = 2.39 M = 2.79 t (196) = -1.93

M = 2.33 M = 2.55 t ( 196) = -1.16

M = 2.35 M = 2.35 t ( 196) = 0.02

M = 1.98 M = 2.38 t (196) = -2.01*

M = 2.77 M = 2.57 t (193) = 0.77

Note: *p < .05, ** p < .01, ***p < .001.

89


4.1.10 Aboriginal Youth, 12 to 17 years of Age

On February 4, 2002, the House of Commons passed Bill C-7, the Youth Criminal Justice Act

(YCJA). The new law replaces the Young Offenders Act (YOA), and is in force as of April 1, 2003,

following a period of preparation for its implementation. The YCJA builds on the strengths of the YOA

and introduces significant reforms that address its weaknesses. The YCJA provides the legislative

framework for a fairer and more effective youth justice system. Less than half of the sample of Aboriginal

youth interviewed in the current study were between the ages of 12 and 17 years (41.2%, n = 82). On

average, this younger cohort was 14 years of age (M = 14.71, SD = 1.70).

4.1.10.1 Residency of Respondents

On average, respondents in the 12 to 17 age cohort have resided in Vancouver for approximately

105 months (M = 105.80, SD = 64.24), or 9 years, with the length of residency in Vancouver ranging

from 1 month to 288 months. As shown in Figure 30, nearly half of respondents (43.9%, n = 36) have

resided in Vancouver for 12 to 17 years. Less than 10% of participants (n = 6) have resided in Vancouver

for less than a year. To calculate the proportion of time each respondent has lived in Vancouver, the

number of months the respondents indicated living in Vancouver was divided by the respondent’s age.

Nearly half of the respondents aged 12 to 17 years of age (43.9%, n = 36) have resided in Vancouver for

at least 80% of their life. Comparatively, less than 20% of respondents (15.9%, n = 13) have only lived in

Vancouver for less than 20% of their life.

Figure 31 shows the percentage distribution of respondents’ current residency status. Over threequarters

of respondents aged 12 to 17 years indicated that they currently live with a parent (79.3%, n =

65). Nearly 10% of respondents (7.3%, n = 6) lived with another legal guardian. Not surprisingly, given

the younger age of this cohort, only 3.7% of respondents currently live on their own (n = 3). In addition to

current living situation, respondents were also asked if they had ever spent time in the care of the Ministry

of Children and Family Services (MCFS). Approximately half of respondents aged 12 to 17 years

indicated that they had spent some time in the care of the MCFS (53.7%, n = 44). Of those respondents

90


who indicated they had been in the custody of MCFS, the average of duration of time spent in care was 46

months (M = 26.66, SD = 38.08). For those respondents that spent time in the care of the MCFS, Figure

32 demonstrates the proportion of their life that was spent under state care. The majority of respondents

spent less than 20% of their life under the care of the MCFS (81.1%, n = 30). Figure 32, however, does

show that a number of Aboriginal youth have spent a significant proportion of their life under the care of

the Ministry. Approximately 8% of Aboriginal youth aged 12 to 17 years have spent 40 to 60% of their

life under the care of the Ministry (8.1%, n = 3).

91


Figure 31 Length of Residency in Vancouver, 12 to 17 Year Olds

7.3

18.3

43.9

18.3

Less than 1 year

1 to 4 years

4 to 8 years

8 to 12 years

12 to 17

12.2

92


Figure 32 Place of Residency in Vancouver, 12 to 17 Year Olds

1.2

7.3

4.9

3.7

Parent

I live on my own

Other legal guardian

Grandparent

Friend

79.3

93


Figure 33 Length of Residency in the Ministry of Children and Family Services, 12-17 Year Olds

5.3

5.3

5.3

36.8

Less than 1 year

1 to 4 years

4 to 8 years

8 to 12 years

12 to 17 years

47.4

94


4.1.10.2 Traditional Territory and Ceremonies

Approximately half of respondents indicated that they had visited their traditional territory in the

past two years (51.2%, n = 42). On average, these respondents visited their traditional territory two times

a year (M = 1.90, SD = 2.02). As shown in Figure 33, of those respondents who have visited their

traditional territory in the last year, over three-quarters made one to two visits each year (81.0%, n = 34).

Of those respondents who have visited their traditional territory in the past two years, the majority

indicated that they stayed with relatives (78.6%, n = 33). Nearly 20% of respondents stayed with their

parents during visits (19.0%, n = 8).

Respondents reported spending an average of 35 days each year on their traditional territory

(M = 35.79, SD = 57.56). The majority of respondents indicated that the purpose of the visit to traditional

territory was for specific activities (71.4%, n = 30). Nearly half of respondents who visited their

traditional territory in the past two years were visiting for family events (43.4%, n = 13) or annual

celebrations (40%, n = 12). In addition, Almost three-quarters of respondents in the current study

indicated that they participated in spiritual ceremonies (72%, n = 59). On average, these respondents

participated in approximately 3 spiritual ceremonies per month (M = 3.71, SD = 5.44). As shown in the

Figure 35, the majority of respondents who participated in spiritual ceremonies, engaged in 1 to 2

ceremonies per month (66.1%, n = 37).

95


Figure 34 Visits to Traditional Territory, 12-17 Year Olds

4.8

14.3

1-2 visits

3-4 visits

5-6 visits

7+ visits

81

96


Figure 35 Purpose of Visits to Traditional Territory, 12 to 17 Year Olds

Hunting

10%

Funerals

10%

Fishing

26.7%

Annual celebrations

40%

Family events

43.3%

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

97


Figure 36 Participation in Spiritual Ceremonies, 12-17 Year Olds

3.6

10.7

19.6

1 to 2 times

3 to 4 times

5 to 6 times

7+ times

66.1

98


4.1.10.3 Personal Support Networks

Aboriginal youth in the 12 to 17 age cohort were also asked to indicate their level of agreement

with a number of questions pertaining to personal support networks (Questions 9-30, see Appendix 1).

Respondents indicated their level of agreement or disagreement on a six-point Likert scale (1= Totally

Agree to 6 = Totally Disagree). For the purposes of this report, the Likert scale responses have been recoded

into dichotomous variables reflecting simple agreement or disagreement with the statements (1 =

Agree, 2 = Disagree). Results in the following sections have been organized as follows – Perceptions of

Family Support, Perceptions of Neighbourhood Support, Perceptions of Community Support, and

Perceptions of Community Involvement.

99


Figure 37

Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Family Support, 12-17 Year Olds

My family keeps

track of me

87.8

My family provides

clear rules

92.6

My parents/guardian

and I communicate

well

93.9

My family provides

love and support

93.9

I feel safe at home

97.6

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

- Five statements gauged Aboriginal youths’ perceptions of family care and support. As shown in

Figure 36, Aboriginal youth reported perceiving an overwhelming sense of support from their family.

The majority of respondents (97.6%, n = 80) of respondents reporting feeling safe at home, and an

additional 93.9% (n = 77) of respondents believe that their family provides them with love and

support.

100


Figure 38 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Neighbourhood Support, 12-17 Year Olds

My neighbours care

about me

54.3

Adults are aware of

youth activities in my

neighbourhood

86.6

I have friends who

are positive role

models

75.6

I feel safe in my

neighbourhood

78

I have at least two

adults I can call

86.6

I have positive adult

role models

89

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

- Six statements gauged Aboriginal youths’ perceptions of neighbourhood support. Figure 37 indicates

that Aboriginal youth aged 12 to 17 years also perceive a strong level of support within their

neighbourhoods. Nearly 90% participants believe that they have positive adult role models (89.0%)

and at least two adults, besides their parents, that they can call for help (86.6%). Moreover,

Aboriginal youth overwhelmingly supported the statement that “adults are aware of youth activities

in my neighbourhood” (86.6%).

101


Figure 39 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Community Support, 12-17 Year Olds

I have influence in

decision-making

within the

community

87.8

School is a

caring/encouraging

environment

87.8

I could seek

help/support from a

teacher

90.2

Vancouver

Aboriginal

community supports

its youth

91.5

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

- Four statements questioned respondents about their perceptions of support within their community.

Consistent with their perceptions of family and neighbourhood support, over 80% of Aboriginal

youth surveyed in the study perceived strong support available to them in their communities. As

shown in Figure 38, for example, 91.5% of Aboriginal youth believe that the Aboriginal community

in Vancouver supports them.

102


Figure 40 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Community Involvement, 12-17 Year Olds

I belong to

community

organizations

65.2

I participate in

spiritual ceremonies

73.2

I help out in my

community

72.5

I hang out and do

nothing (at least 2

nights/week)

86.6

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

- Four statements measured Aboriginal respondents’ perceptions of community involvement. Figure 39

shows that high levels of agreement were again generally observed among Aboriginal youth

pertaining to involvement in the community. Over 60% of participants indicated that they belong to

community organizations (65.2%) and nearly three-quarters of Aboriginal youth participate in

spiritual ceremonies (73.2%) and volunteer within their community (72.5%). Comparatively, the

majority of youth agreed with the statement, “I hang out with friend and do nothing in particular two

or more nights in a week.” (86.6%).

103


4.1.10.4 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Involvement in Illegal Activity

In addition to measuring perceptions of personal support networks, Aboriginal youth were asked

to indicate their level of agreement with a number of questions pertaining to involvement in illegal

activity (Questions 31-41, see Appendix 1). Respondents indicated their level of agreement or

disagreement on a six-point Likert scale (1= Totally Agree to 6 = Totally Disagree). For the purposes of

this report, the Likert scale responses have been re-coded into dichotomous variables reflecting simple

agreement or disagreement with the statements (1 = Agree, 2 = Disagree). Results to these statements are

presented in Figure 40.

Consistent with results obtained with the overall sample, Figure 40 shows that Aboriginal youth

perceive financial needs, substance use, and peer factors as strong precursors to involvement in illegal

activity. Over 80% of respondents agreed that illegal activity provides money for material things (85.2%),

and approximately three-quarters of Aboriginal youth agreed that illegal activity provides money for both

drugs (74.4%) and alcohol (75.3%). In addition, respondents also strongly agreed that negative peer

associations (74.4%) and the desire to build a “desirable” reputation (57.7%) played a role in Aboriginal

youth criminality.

Several statements also measured respondents’ perceptions of the role of self-control and

judgment in illegal activity. Approximately three-quarters of Aboriginal youth agreed that bad judgment

played an important role in the involvement in illegal activity (76.8%). In contrast to results obtained with

the older sample, 12 to 17 year olds were less likely to agree that illegal activity often results from anger

(62.2%) but more strongly agreed that illegal activity results from “events beyond one’s control” (75.9%).

Less than a quarter of participants attributed illegal activity to a need for fun (22.0%) or excitement

(23.2%).

104


Figure 41 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of Illegal Activity, 12-17 Year Olds

Illegal activity is fun

Ilegal activity is exciting

22

23.2

Build reputation

57.7

Events beyond one's control

75.9

Result of anger

62.2

Bad judgment

76.8

Using drugs/alcohol

Peer association

Money for drugs

Money for alcohol

67.1

74.4

78

75.3

Money for other things

85.2

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

105


4.1.10.5 Interactions with Service Providers

Questions 43 to 49 asked Aboriginal youth about their interactions with service providers in the

Lower Mainland (see Appendix 1). Figure 41 shows how often participants acknowledged using various

programs within their communities. Generally, participants surveyed in the current study use available

programs. The majority of participants indicated that they have participated in a community-based

program (85.4%, n = 70). As shown in Figure 42, sports activities (80.8%, n = 59) and cultural programs

(54.8%, n = 40) were the most frequently used community-based programs. In addition to communitybased

programs, participants frequently used facilities or programs at one of the Aboriginal Friendship

Centres in the Lower Mainland (81.7%, n = 67). Over half of the respondents also indicated that they had

participated in a school-based program for Aboriginal youth (61.0%, n = 50). Comparatively, only 34.6%

of the participants have used other facilities and/or programs available to the Aboriginal community (n =

28).

Participants who indicated that they did not use facilities or programs available at one of the

Aboriginal Friendship Centres or within the Aboriginal community were asked whether a lack of funding

prevented them from participating in these programs. Of those participants who have not used the

facilities or programs at the Aboriginal Friendship Centres, 41.2% (n = 7) indicated that a lack of funding

was an obstacle. A smaller proportion of participants who have not used program available to the

Aboriginal community stated that a lack of funding was an obstacle for them (29.4%, n = 15). Over half

of youth in the 12 to 17 age cohort indicated that they were aware that there was assistance available to

help cover the cost for them to use local programs or facilities (64.2%, n = 52).

106


Figure 42 Interactions with Service Providers, 12-17 Year Olds

Community-based

programs

85.4

School-based

programs

61

Aboriginal

programs/services

34.6

Aboriginal

Friendship Centres

81.7

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

107


Figure 43 Participation in Community-Based Programs, 12-17 Year Olds

Leadership program

37.7

Employment

preparation

24.7

Cultural program

54.8

Sports

80.8

Mentoring program

21.9

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

108


Figure 44 Importance of Cultural Programming, 12-17 Year Olds

Not important at all

0

A little important

14.8

Very important

56.1

Essential

28.4

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

- Participants were asked how important they thought it was that services offered to Aboriginal youth

be sensitive to their culture on a four-point Likert scale (see Appendix 1). As shown in Figure 43, the

majority of participants believed that cultural sensitivity was an important consideration for youth

programming. Over half of participants thought cultural programming as “very important” (56.1%, n

= 46) and an additional 28.4% (n = 23) of participants thought it was “essential.”

109


4.1.10.6 Interactions with the Police

Questions 50 to 57 in the questionnaire surveyed respondents about their interactions with and

attitudes towards the Vancouver Police Department. The responses to these questions are displayed in

Figures 16 to 23. The responses to Questions 50 to 55 are discussed beneath the corresponding figures on

the following pages. Question 57 asked respondents to provide one word that would describe their

perception of the relationship between the Vancouver Police Department and the Vancouver Aboriginal

community. Participants responses were organized into three categories – Positive Statements, Negative

Statements, and Neutral Statements (see Appendix 3). As shown in Figure 51, the majority of Aboriginal

youth had a negative perception of the relationship between the police and the Aboriginal community

(50.0%, n = 33). However, over a third of participants had a positive perception of this relationship

(36.4%, n = 24).

Negative responses to Question 57 were further categorized to reflect the nature of the Aboriginal

respondents’ perceptions of the police-Aboriginal community relationship (see Appendix 4). Of those

participants who had a negative perception of the police relationship with the Aboriginal community, over

half described this relationship as generally “bad” or “poor” (54.5%, n = 18). Approximately a third of

negative perceptions reflected an angry or hateful attitude toward the police, including derogatory and

inflammatory comments about the police (33.3%, n = 11). As compared to older youth sampled in the

current study, no Aboriginal youth aged 12 to 17 years made reference to racism. Interestingly, 9.1% (n =

3) of respondents stated that there was no relationship or that a relationship between the police and the

Aboriginal community was non-existent.

110


Figure 45 Type of Police Interaction, 12-17 Year Olds

Other social event

6.8

Sports/Leisure

8.5

Educational

27.1

Reported crime

30.5

Arrested

54.2

Stopped by police

66.1

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

- Nearly three-quarters of Aboriginal youth aged 12 to 17 years have had some interaction with the

Vancouver Police Department (VPD) (72.0%, n = 59). Figure 44 illustrates that the majority of these

interactions have been in enforcement circumstances. Of those respondents who have interacted with

the VPD, 66.1% report that they have been stopped by the police (n = 39). Over half of respondents

have been arrested (54.2%, n = 32). A minority of respondents indicated that they have had

educational contacts with the VPD (27.1%, n = 16).

111


Figure 46 Aboriginal Youth Contact with Police, 12-17 Year Olds

Arrested by police

47.6

Detained by police

45.6

Stopped by police

74.4

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

- As previously mentioned, the majority of respondents in the current study have had some interaction

with the police and, for the most part, these interactions have been in enforcement circumstances. As

shown in Figure 45, approximately three-quarters (74.4%, n = 61) of respondents reported that they

have been stopped by the police. Forty-five percent (45.6%, n = 36) of respondents have been

detained by the police and 47.6% (n = 39) of respondents reported that they have been arrested.

112


Figure 47 Police Contact after Midnight, 12-17 Year Olds

Illegal activity

4.7

Because I'm Native

18.6

I don't know

14

With a group of

young people

27.9

Suspicious activity

27.9

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

- Over half of respondents (52.4%, n = 43) reported that they have been stopped by the police after

midnight. Among those respondents, the majority believed they were stopped by the police because

they were either engaging in suspicious activity (27.9%, n = 12) or with a group of young people

(27.9%, n = 12). Only 4.7% (n = 2) of respondents believe they were stopped because they were

engaging in illegal activity. When provided the opportunity to give an open-ended response to this

question, a total of 8 participants (18.6%) responded that they thought the police stopped them

because they are Native.

113


Figure 48 Police Contact after Midnight, 12-17 Year Olds

Detained for brief

period

3.4

Someone called to

pick up

4.7

Taken home or to

another safe place

34.9

Arrested

9.3

Let go

60.5

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

- Respondents who were stopped by the police after midnight were asked about the outcome of that

contact. As shown in Figure 47, the majority of Aboriginal respondents stopped by police were let go

without being arrested or charged (60.5%, n = 26). In addition, 34% of these respondents were taken

home (34.9%, n = 15) and, in 4.7% (n = 2) of cases, someone was called to pick them up.

Approximately ten percent, however, were arrested (9.3%, n = 4) and under five percent were

detained briefly (3.4%).

114


Figure 49 Available Responsible Adult, 12-17 Year Olds

Grandparent

18.7

Friend

32

Other Relative

36

Sibling

44

Parent

90.7

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

- In addition to questions regarding police contacts, respondents were asked whether there was a

responsible adult that they could be taken to if stopped by the police late at night. The majority of

respondents indicated that there was an available adult that police could contact late at night (92.7%,

n = 76). Respondents most frequently cited their parents as the most readily available adult (90.7%, n

= 68). A sibling (44.0%, n = 33) or another relative (36.0%, n = 27) were also cited frequently as

available adults that police could contact late at night.

115


Figure 50 Acceptable Alternative to Police Custody, 12-17 Year Olds

Someone from

Social Services

11.3

A responsible

Aboriginal peer

15.5

A street worker

22.5

An elder from the

Aboriginal

community

22.5

A family member

78.9

0 20 40 60 80 100

Percentage

- Respondents were asked to provide an acceptable alternative to police custody when circumstances

allowed. Figure 49 shows that respondents overwhelmingly would prefer that police seek out a family

member (78.9%, n = 56). An Elder from the Aboriginal community (22.5%, n = 16) or a streetworker

(22.5%, n = 16) were the next most frequently cited alternatives to police custody.

116


Figure 51 Police Assistance for Aboriginal Youth, 12-17 Year Olds

Diverse

3.2%

Assisted youth

14.5%

Were less

judgmental

19.4%

Were more

approachable and

friendly

24.2%

Had more positive

interactions in the

community

Had more

education and

training

12.9%

Were more

culturally sensitive

9.7%

16.1%

- Aboriginal respondents were asked to complete the following open-ended statement, “Police officers

would be better able to assist Aboriginal youth if they…” There were 62 valid responses to this

question, and responses were organized into seven categories (See Appendix 2). Figure 50 illustrates

that the most frequently cited comments reflected a desire to see police be more approachable and

friendly (24.2%, n = 15) and less judgmental and more open-minded (19.4%, n = 12). Respondents

also frequently commented on a desire for the police to engage in more positive interactions in the

community (16.1%, n = 10).

117


Figure 52 Aboriginal Youth Perceptions of the Police, 12-17 Year Olds

50%

36.4%

Positive

Negative

Neutral

13.6%

33.3%

3%

9.1%

54.5%

Racist

No relationship

Conflict/Power

Differential

Hateful/Angry

Bad

118


4.2 Focus Group Findings

The following discussion is based on the thoughts, knowledge, and experiences gleaned from the

respondents who participated in the seven focus groups: three group sessions with Aboriginal youth

service providers, one session with Vancouver school board staff (including teachers, a principal, and

Aboriginal support workers), one group comprised of members of the Vancouver Police Department, and

one session with Aboriginal Elders.

4.2.1 Causes of Aboriginal Youth Overrepresentation in the Justice System

The seven focus groups provided an abundance of information on the problems or issues that

affect the over-representation of Aboriginal youth in the criminal justice system. Out of great respect and

tradition, we begin the review of the focus groups with the wisdom offered by the Elders.

Although several of the Elders in the small focus group grew up in a northern, coastal, remote

community that was less accessible to the police, experienced less imposition of western systems, and

enjoyed more harmonious relations with the European settlers, they shared a variety of stories that painted

a picture of systemic racism and discrimination quite vividly:

In town though, I feel discrimination. An example. If I walk into a store, I am watched. I could be

doing something wrong. I am dressed very nice. Better than my husband. But I am the one who

gets watched because I have dark skin and I look like an Indian. The clerk follows me around

because I am an Indian. I tell him to get lost. My daughter looks white. I have to get her to take

stuff [that needs to be returned] back for me to avoid the hassle (Elder: Focus Group, March 15,

2005).

She extended her experience to conclude that the young people who “look Indian” will also be

watched more closely by police. Similarly, another Elder noted that “we live in a society that wants to put

people into categories. You are either white or Native”. The Elders talked about the importance of the

community as a place to learn and take pride in culture, and gain social support. However, they also noted

that if the youth spend a lot of time on the reserve, they pick up an accent because they are talking with

Elders for long periods of time. They wondered if this accent was a cause for further discrimination once

the youth returned, or migrated to the city.

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Another Elder had recently moved to Vancouver from a northern community to follow and take

care of her grandson, who had been living with his father. At some point the grandmother became aware

that the father could not take care of his son, due to a substance misuse problem that was quickly getting

out of control. Since taking him into her care, she has experienced a number of problems in getting her

grandson the kind of support he needs. She relies on welfare support to survive. The welfare office will

not give her any direct support for her grandson because they feel the father should be making support

payments on behalf of his son. She feels that some organizations do not value or recognize her status as a

grandmother who is providing primary care for her grandson.

Another member of the Elders’ group, a survivor of the residential schools, spoke of her

childhood. As a young girl, she had experienced several sexual assaults, and had her first abortion when

she was 13. She talked of how those with power not only abused her, but systematically swept things

under the carpet through forced abortions, among other strategies. After she left the school she felt alone,

and abandoned. She questioned the only spirituality she was taught. She said that the experience still

haunts her, and that using alcohol helps to ease her pain. She takes pride in her children (5 in total) and

grandchildren (17 in total) and indicated that she tries to protect them from her story. To this day, she said

she blames herself for the abuse, and the effects that it has had on her self-destructive behaviour, and in

turn, her children. Upon hearing her story, another Elder commented, “residential school survivors didn’t

get the healing…they didn’t get the family life”.

As noted in the Methods section, the Affinity Approach was used to organize responses to the

first research question. The approach yielded a total of seven separate diagrams each of which offers a

systematic collection of individual and group responses that identify common themes about factors that

lead to overrepresentation of Aboriginal youth in the Criminal Justice system.

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Table 8 below provides an at a glance summary of the most common themes generated across all

focus group meetings. The far left column describes, in broad terms, the themes with some example

comments provided in the far right column. The middle two columns quantify the frequency of each

theme where ‘times mentioned per # of groups’ reflects the number of times the theme was a major

header in the diagrams and ‘Total comments’ equaling the number of times the theme was reflected in

individual Post-it notes.

As shown in Table 8, Aboriginal service providers who participated in the research generated a

comprehensive list of issues to account for the overrepresentation of Aboriginal youth in the criminal

justice system. Clearly, the legacy of the systemic issues of colonization and oppression emerged as major

themes in the discussion. Across seven focus groups, this theme emerged as a major heading 13 times

with 69 comments. Cultural identity and family issues were next in terms of frequency mentioned with

education, resource service gaps, poverty, addictions and problems with the criminal justice system all

emerging as important themes.

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Table 8

Summary of Affinity Diagrams

Systemic issues

(colonization

oppression

Residential

schools/ Racism)

Times mentioned

per # of groups

Total

comments

Example comments

13/7 69 • Multi-generational grief

• Sexual abuse

• Being told your stupid, worthless,

lesser than

• Trauma from colonization

Cultural Identity 6/7 55 • Loss of identity

• Separation from community, land

and elders

• Need for culturally appropriate

services

• The Lie

Family Issues 5/7 37 • Lack of resources for support

• Family disconnection

• Fractured sense of family

• Lack of supervision

Education/learning

Needs

Resource

issues/service gaps

4/7 34 • Cultural sensitivity for teachers

• Learning disabilities – underfunded

support

• Drop-out vs. push-out

6/7 29 • Gaps in service, have to be a

certain age to access

• No resources re: high risk youth

• Police are the only 24/7 resource

Poverty 6/7 22 • Born into life of poverty and abuse

Addictions 4/7 19 • Prevention of addictions

• Alcohol and drug consequences

FAS

Criminal justice

system

5/7 18 • Need alternative justice program

• Over-policing

• Labeling

• Over-policing an already

adversarial relationship

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In an attempt to interpret the flow of issues identified by the service providers and how they

combine to further explain the over-representation of Aboriginal youth in the criminal justice system, it

can be said that: colonization brought the residential schools and subsequent oppression, which has served

to erode cultural identity, cause the breakdown of family, and contribute to isolation. Without traditional

culture and spirituality as a foundation for coping, some Aboriginal peoples have fallen into addictions in

order to escape from the devastation and intergenerational effects of the residential schools, which has

also affected the family, and the health and cohesiveness of communities. With continuing systemic

racism, poverty, educational barriers, health issues, and inadequate or culturally inappropriate resources,

western worldviews and methods of justice and child protection, Aboriginal peoples and youth are

unfairly targeted, and the healing (and sometimes the basic) needs of Aboriginal peoples are left

unaddressed.

The group of school board staff identified similar issues, with the addition of “learning needs”

and “peer pressure.” More specifically, they voiced problems with a lack of student assessments, nondiagnosis/misdiagnosis/overgeneralization

of learning needs, a lack of action to address needs once

identified, stereotypes clouding appropriate services, and a lack of Aboriginal youth involvement in extracurricular

activities.

It is noteworthy that, in their focus group discussions, the police acknowledged the longstanding

mistrust between the Aboriginal community and themselves. They stated that they felt the research was

timely, since both major stakeholders (Aboriginal groups and the police) are no longer willing to accept

the status quo. Police voiced extreme frustration with the fact that the criminal justice system continues to

fail Aboriginal peoples, the lack of community-based resources (especially after hours) with which to

address it, and the chronic nature of the issues plaguing Aboriginal peoples (such as poverty, substance

misuse, sexual abuse, and domestic violence), which perpetuate their conflict with the criminal justice

system.

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4.2.2 Solutions to Aboriginal Youth Overrepresentation

In the second phase of the Focus Group sessions, participants were asked to brainstorm solutions

to the over-representation of Aboriginal youth. A summary of their individual ideas is provided in

Appendix 6. In the balance of this section of the report, we provide a synthesis of participant responses

into common thematic ideas.

4.2.2.1 Education to reduce stigmatization/systemic racism and increase

understanding

Many service providers voiced the need for more in-depth cross-cultural training and education of

all professionals, including VPD officers, staff, government departmental and ministerial staff,

community service providers and the public on the “truthful” history of First Nations and European

contact. One participant suggested a “cultural day” event to begin this process, and school staff

recognized that continued awareness workshops and learning for all stakeholders is part of the solution. It

is important to note that police members also welcomed increased education in cultural and historic

issues.

In-depth cultural awareness and sensitivity training were also mentioned to be important to all

those who provide services to, or come into contact with, Aboriginal youth. The link between cultural

awareness and service delivery is such that with increased understanding of traditional worldviews and

methods, stereotypes, discrimination, racism, unfair targeting, and stigmatization of Aboriginal peoples

and youth by teachers and the police might be reduced, and interventions by MCFD (regarding child

protection issues) and the VPD might be less intrusive, and more appropriate. A few Aboriginal service

providers used the example of “car 278” (a police officer and probation officer in a squad car) which

“harasses children” at particular public spaces frequented by young people, to catch youth breaching

conditions of probation (which might increase their chances of incarceration, for too-lengthy periods,

which can set youth up to fail).

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4.2.2.2 Education for Aboriginal Youth

Aboriginal service providers recognized that an accurate history of Aboriginal peoples is not

reflected in elementary and secondary school curricula for students, either. School staff wondered if the

Aboriginal curriculum was inclusive enough to all students (not just Aboriginal students). Effective

transitions for Aboriginal students in Grades 7 and 8 was cited as a need to prevent drop-out (or “push

out”) among Aboriginal youth, particularly considering that, according to respondents, many Aboriginal

youth who leave school in Grade 8 are affected with FAS. Police urged schools to be more sensitive to

and accepting of the problems of Aboriginal youth, and resulting mental health issues that may

accompany them (e.g., FAS, depression). It was noted that Aboriginal youth who are “pushed out” of

mainstream schools into alternative schools lose any opportunity to receive culturally-specific education.

Alternatively, an Elder voiced disapproval with occasions whereby a teacher may “push” an Aboriginal

student through the grades (even though they do not necessarily pass), in order to keep the funding they

receive for Aboriginal students.

Aboriginal service providers, educators, and Elders all voiced the need for greater supports

(through Aboriginal support workers or otherwise), to address the different learning needs, and

cultural/spiritual programs for Aboriginal youth in the educational system/at school. Several of the Elders

recommended implementing (or implementing on a wider scale) an Elder’s program, whereby the Elders

would come in and tell stories to the students.

One service provider voiced interest in the development and implementation of an Aboriginal

educational system in the urban environment. The idea of an Aboriginal high school (such as those in

Winnipeg and Saskatoon) was strongly supported and often mentioned by police members, who believed

in the importance of Aboriginal ownership, cultural education, and role models. School staff emphasized

the importance of building trust with Aboriginal parents and students, and involving them in decisionmaking

and solutions.

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On the other hand, some Aboriginal service providers noted that some Aboriginal students’

behaviour was inappropriately labeled in the school system, and youth were assumed to have problems

with FAS, when perhaps ESL was all that was necessary. One service provider also voiced issue with the

over-prescription of medications (such as Ritalin) to young Aboriginal students.

To respond to the different learning needs of Aboriginal youth, respondents provided several

ideas. One Aboriginal service provider suggested more creative alternatives to educational opportunities,

which was echoed by a school staff person who advocated for “activities for creative expression.” School

staff was particularly interested in keeping Aboriginal youth in school, to prevent involvement in the

criminal justice system. One voiced interest in learning more about “telltale signs” of youth who are

“mentally” dropping out earlier, to prevent the actual outcome.

Peer relationships indicated to the school staff that greater safety is necessary for students while

on school grounds, and that school staff should have more of a role in ensuring safety. For protection,

Aboriginal youth may join groups of other youth whose influence might not be entirely positive, which

may lead to conflict with the law.

4.2.2.3 Prevention

One solution to the overrepresentation issue often mentioned by Aboriginal service providers was

prevention: for babies, young people, families, and communities. Working with young people alone only

addresses part of the issue; nurturing healthy babies, providing mentoring for youth, and providing

support for parents and families (i.e., to address intergenerational effects of the residential schools) has

greater potential to prevent conflict with the law, and homelessness and poverty on the streets. Providing

sufficient supports for children and youth with FAS/FAE was also mentioned to prevent educational

failure/drop out and conflict with the law. A school staff person suggested taking advantage of the school

facilities that exist for evening and weekend recreational and other programming for youth. Elders,

service providers, police, and school staff all recommended developing healthy and appealing extracurricular

activities or alternatives to drugs and gangs, such as camping programs in the wilderness for

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urban youth, community involvement (volunteering/working within the Aboriginal community), dances,

sports, youth centres (for a “safe place” to go), etc.

The police were particularly supportive of preventative and early intervention programs for

youth, in which they felt the school board should be involved, including education in drugs and alcohol,

safe sex, and gang prevention, etc. This sentiment was extended by an Aboriginal service provider, who

suggested more prevention workshops for families regarding prostitution and drug use.

4.2.2.4 Traditional Culture, Pride, and Identity

The Elders who participated in the focus group shared how they maintain a positive sense of

identity, despite the racism they might experience. Although very proud of their particular Aboriginal

heritage and identity, one stated that she thinks of herself as a person first, then an Aboriginal person.

While acknowledging that other Nations may have suffered greater cultural losses and impacts due to

increased and earlier contact with Europeans, she believes that if young people gain a stronger sense of

personal identity, they would also gain a stronger sense of cultural identity. Another Elder mentioned the

importance of having a relationship with her grandparents when she was a child. She suggested “taking

the time” to teach songs, tell stories, and show youth traditional crafts, such as beading, and making

ceremonial button blankets.

Aboriginal service providers stated the importance of cultural ceremonies and events for young

people (sweats, pow wows, etc.). Service providers, school staff, and police members all recognized the

need for positive role models, leaders, and mentors for Aboriginal youth (to replace popular media images

of “the gangster”), especially from within the Aboriginal community (who have achieved various types of

success, not just educational), to instill hope, a sense of pride, and positive identity for youth. A stronger

sense of cultural identity would also help to strengthen families. Others noted the importance of culture

and tradition as a foundation for all systems and services.

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4.2.2.5 Relationships with Family

According to Elders and Aboriginal service providers, the strengthening of family systems would

help to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal youth in the criminal justice system. One respondent

commented that families and relationships cannot be replaced by any amount of programming. Youth

need to feel connected, a sense of belonging, and have strong relationships with their parents/family,

extended family, and First Nation. It was suggested that the traditional community parenting model be

reinstated to reduce the need for intervention by child protection services. Aboriginal youth service

providers, Elders, and police all recommended more initiatives involving Elders mentoring young people.

Service providers recognized the importance of community involvement and commitment in the lives of

young people, and noted that “it takes a community to raise a child”.

Due to their interest in preventing Aboriginal youth conflict with the law, the police were

supportive of earlier intervention and child protection efforts. They expressed criticism at the Ministry’s

decisions to support independent living for certain youth who lack independent living skills and require

further care that may have been denied to them in the past.

4.2.2.6 Healing to Address Root Causes

Healing for all Aboriginal peoples affected by the intergenerational effects of colonialism (i.e.,

sexual abuse, loss of parenting skills, etc.) was often mentioned by service providers. Respondents

identified sharing and healing circles as one option, among others that are based in traditions and cultural

protocols. Contemporary root causes of conflict such as poverty and racism were often cited as deeper

issues requiring attention. Police often mentioned the importance of addressing root causes of conflict, to

prevent the intergenerational trauma and effects they witness on the Aboriginal youth with whom they

come into contact. An Elder commented on the services her grandson receives at school, and through

other agencies (e.g., hot meals, clothing donations) to fulfill basic needs; however, she stated that he also

feels unequal and inferior to his peers. Others suggested increasing funding for programs to address

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family violence, drug abuse, homelessness, education, and employment issues. As one Elder stated, “a

community needs to be drug and alcohol free in order to heal.”

Service providers identified healing as an essential component in reducing the over-representation

of Aboriginal youth in western systems of justice and child protection, as well as imprisoned Aboriginal

adults. An obvious connection between imprisoned adults and imprisoned youth dictates the importance

of alternative methods of justice.

4.2.2.7 Alternative/Restorative Justice

Service providers and school staff believed that alternative, non-punitive, restorative, or

traditional justice would be more culturally appropriate, and help to reduce the over-representation of

Aboriginal youth in the western criminal justice system. According to a few respondents, this would also

include the large-scale (and in some cases, re-introduction or re-instatement) of healing, ceremonial,

cultural, and reconciliation programs for Aboriginal people in conflict, as an alternative, or adjunct, to

imprisonment. Police were also supportive of more culturally appropriate alternatives to formal criminal

justice processes, and expressed a desire to learn more about traditional or more culturally-appropriate

options. Coincidentally, in another focus group, an Aboriginal service provider extended an invitation to

any officers interested in learning about or becoming more involved in the transformative justice model at

the Friendship Centre.

4.2.2.8 Legislation and Rights

Many Aboriginal service providers spoke of problems inherent in the excessive criminalization of

drug use, and advocated for increased implementation of harm reduction strategies for those who have not

yet been successful in their recovery efforts. Alternatively, one respondent asked for changes in

solicitation laws and an end to the Indian Act. Another suggested harsher penalties for predatory crimes,

such as luring young people into the sex, drug trades, or drug-using subcultures.

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Several respondents noted that information workshops for Aboriginal youth on the criminal

justice system would help them learn their rights, and reduce potential violations of those rights. Other

research participants emphasized the importance of external bodies/tribunals to address and provide more

appropriate (harsher) consequences for police brutality.

4.2.2.9 Relationships with Police

It was acknowledged in all focus groups that traditionally, relationships between Aboriginal

peoples and the police have not been positive. Elders recalled the role that the police had in taking

children away to residential schools, and in enforcing the ban on cultural ceremonies (possibly

imprisoning their grandparents), such as the potlatch. Aboriginal service providers and focus group

participants shared examples of more recent experiences of Aboriginal youth in their dealings with police,

such as zero tolerance practices for youth idleness and antisocial behaviour, illegal strip searches, and

perceptions of discriminatory targeting due to race, poverty, and/or culture. Other service providers

commented on the diligence of service, and mentioned that the community police office was “never

open”, and that officers selectively respond to calls that in their view, are deserving of attention (e.g.,

involving a young girl who had just been picked up by someone they knew to be a pedophile).

Despite these experiences with police, many respondents voiced interest and necessity in

including police officers in their ceremonies and events, and sharing their culture with VPD officers. One

Elder shared a story of when a police officer was invited to and attended a feast in her community.

Following the experience of being welcomed into the community (despite his professional role), the

officer expressed appreciation for the love he felt, yet sadness for his previous misconceptions of

Aboriginal people. The Elder believed that he gained an appreciation for them as people, and encourages

more opportunities for other officers to do the same.

Service providers and school staff who participated in the research suggested that police be more

informally interactive with Aboriginal young people (e.g., play basketball in plain clothes, etc.), to help

humanize, and change the primarily law enforcement nature of their contact. Upon recounting memories

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of a Native Liaison Officer and his relationship with her people, an Elder suggested that police visit

schools more often, to build positive relationships with the youth. One police officer also mentioned the

importance of modeling the behaviour they uphold by (and while) enforcing the law. One service provider

suggested strengthening partnerships between social services and the police, but cautioned against the

criminalization of issues. Others echoed the desire for the reinstatement of the Native Liaison Police

Officer, and the Aboriginal Peacekeeping Unit. Police members were also supportive of the School

Liaison Officer program, and its ability to strengthen relationships with young people.

Aboriginal service providers suggested a wider array of open, communicative relationships and

partnerships between the VPD and various Aboriginal organizations (in addition to those already

established).

4.2.2.10 Relationships with Service Providers/Teachers

Service providers and school staff also voiced the importance of developing and personalizing

relationships with Aboriginal young people. Focusing on strengths, maintaining integrity and honesty,

and advocating for youth were mentioned as elements in these relationships. One school staff person

cited five values of mastery, belonging, responsibility, reciprocity, and respect as integral to a positive

learning relationship.

4.2.2.11 Collaboration and Partnerships

Aboriginal service providers often cited the importance of beginning, continuing, and

strengthening partnerships between public agencies, private enterprises, non-profit community

organizations and First Nations through regular dialogue, on issues that affect Aboriginal peoples. These

focus group participants extended this recommendation to include the need for “deep listening” of

Aboriginal voices to foster understanding, and respect of Aboriginal responsibility and ownership of these

issues (which was also echoed by police). Police members were supportive of a collective approach in

addressing problems and issues, and working closer with different organizations to develop solutions.

One police member acknowledged the various Nations and interests within the Aboriginal community,

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and urged that representatives of all Aboriginal groups be involved in discussing, implementing, and

owning solutions.

Regardless of the sector, Aboriginal service providers often cited the need for increased

Aboriginal involvement in the development and delivery of resources and services, to ensure cultural

appropriateness, and ownership. One participant suggested a lobbying group or collective to address

complaints and represent issues of importance. Others sought acknowledgement and recognition of the

potential of various forms of urban Aboriginal governance. Other Aboriginal youth service providers

emphasized the importance of youth involvement in discussing solutions, creating programs that youth

are interested in, and respecting the energy and perspective of young people.

4.2.2.12 Community Resources and Other Service Providers

Although the category on collaboration refers to community service agencies as well, this

category is included separately to emphasize the often-mentioned need for increased communication,

collaboration, and integrated service among and between service providers (including educators), so youth

may receive the full extent of the services they require (to prevent their involvement in the criminal

justice system). Sharing best practices among other service providers was also suggested by a school

staff person, which may help to reduce competition among service providers (as mentioned by a service

provider). Many service providers and school staff who participated in the focus groups mentioned the

need for “wrap-around” services, or more co-coordinated, holistic approaches to address Aboriginal youth

needs.

Aboriginal service providers also noted service accessibility issues (e.g., substance misuse

treatment beds, counseling, housing, and other services), due to limited funds (which affects the

continuity of services), extremely high caseloads, location (fewer services on the North Shore), targeted

populations (ignoring the heterogeneity of Aboriginal youth), gated services for youth in conflict

(reactive, rather than preventative), and age-specific services (18 year old youth often have very limited

access to service before they reach legal age of majority, and then, at age 19, are often no longer eligible

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to access youth services). Access to detox or drug treatment was recognized by respondents to be

especially important, since the individual’s interest in accessing help may change if the services are not

readily available.

Police members strongly advocated for increased funding for Aboriginal agencies, to ensure the

availability and accessibility of 24 hours a day, 7 days a week community-based Aboriginal resources,

and to address the various needs of Aboriginal youth with whom they come into contact. They suggested

increased detox and treatment services, and safe housing (in order to be able to take advantage of

“incarceration as a last resort” provisions in the Youth Criminal Justice Act),and recommended that, for

certain social issues (which are not necessarily at a stage requiring criminal justice intervention),

Aboriginal street-workers be the first point of contact. Police members noted that with insufficient

government funding and planning of priorities, they often become the only available resource.

Regardless of the plethora of services which may exist, marketing or advertising the existence of

those services to potential referral agents in the criminal justice system is essential. Several Aboriginal

youth service providers emphasized the importance of educating judges, lawyers, probation officers, and

others about the services that can be used as alternatives for Aboriginal youth who come into conflict with

the law.

4.2.2.13 Economic, Employment, and Job Training

A few service providers spoke of large scale investment and development of economic ventures

for Aboriginal peoples, both on and off reserve. Service providers suggested starting earlier to explore

options for a future, and school staff were strong advocates for “challenging the lie”; that is, challenging

the idea that Aboriginal youth have fewer or more restricted opportunities, in order to foster young hopes

for, and realities of, a positive future.

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To address the need for Aboriginal involvement in providing services to Aboriginal youth, and

ownership of Aboriginal-specific issues, participants also encouraged the development of more job

training programs for Aboriginal peoples and youth in all areas, including front-line service delivery (e.g.,

youth workers), education (e.g., teachers), justice (e.g., court workers), etc.

4.2.2.14 Conclusions

Although the six focus groups represented different groups that often appear to be at opposite

ends of the political spectrum, the interests and recommendations advocated by each group demonstrated

remarkable similarity and agreement. Based on the subheadings above, it is clear that police and

Aboriginal people/professionals alike recommend a multi-faceted approach to reducing the overrepresentation

of Aboriginal youth in the criminal justice system. Towards this endeavour, the role of the

justice system is to be aware of, and reduce, racial biases and discriminatory targeting of Aboriginal

youth; strengthen relationships and increase collaboration towards problem-solving with Aboriginal youth

and service providers; and increase police education on traditional or cultural worldviews and methods of

justice and involvement in Aboriginal ceremonies and events. The most commonly mentioned areas in

need of attention, voiced by all focus groups included: prevention; funding for Aboriginal-specific

resources for treatment and other healing; addressing root causes such as poverty; and providing greater

access to Elders/mentors and profile to other positive Aboriginal role models. Groups also recognized

that Aboriginal representation, collaboration, and ownership were integral to developing solutions and

realizing recommendations.

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5 CHAPTER FIVE:

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

The level of commitment exhibited by members of the Aboriginal community and the Vancouver

Police Department bodes well for future initiatives dealing with youth overrepresentation in the criminal

justice system. The community of young Aboriginal leaders who participated in the creation and

supervision of this study demonstrated a capacity for social intervention at the highest level. Similarly,

members of the Vancouver Police Department who served in an advisory capacity for this project showed

great loyalty and commitment to moving forward in a positive way, which bodes well for future program

development and collaboration. If there is a shortfall associated with the issue of Aboriginal youth being

disproportionately engaged with the justice system, it cannot be attributed to a lack of dedication on the

part of these men and women.

Implicit in the formal data as well as in the countless informal conversations which took place

between members of the research team and the Aboriginal and police communities, was recognition that

Aboriginal youth are dealing with personal challenges far beyond what is faced by the large majority of

non-Aboriginal young people. Foremost, is the dearth of family stability. The fact that fully half of the

youth interviewed had been in the care of the Ministry of Children and Families for an average of three

years is a stunning finding. This upheaval combined with the hurdle created as a result of having the

current generations or parents and grandparents being victims of the residential school “experiment” has

created a situation wherein parenting skills have become elusive for most Aboriginal people in British

Columbia. This is not to imply that there is no will to improve these skills, but rather that the fact this

consequence of the residential school experience has been ignored at best, and denied at worst.

Aboriginal youth, like all children, need to feel that they are valued and loved. And like any

human, their behaviour will reflect that need. If good behaviour gets them attention, that will appeal. If it

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does not, then the alternative is unavoidable. There is ample evidence in this report for the conclusion that

the community—in all of its manifestations—must find ways to validate these children by creating

opportunities for them to succeed and have those successes recognized and rewarded at an early age. The

existing adversarial relationship between the Aboriginal community and the Vancouver Police

Department precludes the establishment of a joint initiative to address this challenge. However, as

suggested at the beginning of this section, the spirit of mutual respect and collaboration which was

demonstrated by both sides, in this project, provides good reason for optimism.

5.1 Recommendations

The principle recommendations of this report are:

1. That the goodwill and working relationships developed during the course of this research project be

fostered to become part of any long term initiative.

2. That the relationship between Aboriginal youth and the Vancouver Police Department be reframed so

that the primary impetus behind contact and interaction is constructive and positive rather than

enforcement-based. The research clearly indicated a sense of disconnect between youth and the

police, a function of the context of most of their interactions. .

3. That the Aboriginal community undertakes initiatives which will establish and encourage youth to

identify with and feel engaged by their traditions. This work should pay particular attention to

creating a sense of family to which youth can turn in times of difficulty—many youth expressed a

desire to be turned over to a member of their community as an alternative to police custody. It should

also facilitate a meaningful connection with culture and community—while the data show quite

clearly that those youth who spent time on their traditional territory were less likely to be involved

with the law, it also showed that most of the 200 youth interviewed were unable to either pronounce

or spell the name of their Nation.

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4. Education programs for both police officers and Aboriginal youth that go beyond stereotypical

cultural icons—the making or explanations of dreamcatchers can only accomplish so much. In

addition to existing initiatives, it would be fruitful for all involved to be educated in the traditions of

Aboriginal justice. Programs meant to reflect these values can only be effective if those involved in

their implementation and use understand the guiding principles which underlie them.

5. Substance abuse is a symptom rather than a discrete problem. Dealing with the consequences of

substance abuse in the Aboriginal youth population must be informed by a clear grasp of the

precipitators of the abuse.

6. Issues of accessibility to programs and resources are, as expected, critical. One recurring theme

revolved around the limited availability of facilities and personnel—youth complained about the

closing of the Friendship Centre at what they thought to be an unreasonably early hour, and the fact

that the Broadway Youth Resource Centre is not open on weekends. The upshot of this, at least in the

case of the Friendship centre, is that at a certain point in the evening, all the youth who have been

using the Centre, are moved out on the street with nothing to do. Understanding that there are

arbitrary limitations to resources, every effort should be made to provide access to alternatives to

“hanging out on the street.”

7. As might be expected, youth who described themselves as engaged in spiritual ceremonies, whether

in a private or public setting, were less likely to be involved with the police. While the voluntary

nature of this set of activities must be acknowledged, there may also be an opportunity of education

here.

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6 APPENDICES

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Appendix 1

Youth Questionnaire

All instructions on this questionnaire are in italics. They are for the information of the Research

Assistant only, and should not be read to the Respondent. Before starting the interview process,

record the following:

Date:______________ Time:_________ Location of interview: ____________________

Interviewer:_______ Senior Interviewer: ______

Gender of the Respondent: Male Female

Thank you for volunteering to participate in this research. I appreciate that you are willing to

help us learn about possible ways to decrease the number of Aboriginal youth coming into

contact with the justice system. As indicated previously, you will be paid $15 for completing the

questionnaire. I would like to reassure you that the answers you provide will be anonymous and

confidential; no one will ever be able to link you to the completed questionnaire. By filling out

the complete questionnaire, you will make a critical contribution to the quality of this research.

Are you alright with that?

Before we begin do you have any questions?

Answer those questions you can. Make a note of those questions to which you do not have the

answer, and ask the Respondent if he or she would like you to get back to them with a response.

This first set of questions asks about you and your ties to your Aboriginal community.

1. Do you identify as being Aboriginal, Métis, or Inuit?

Aboriginal Métis Inuit

If Aboriginal, show them the list of Nations and write the appropriate number below:

a. To which Nation do you belong? _____

2. How old are you? _____ years

3. How long have you been living in Vancouver? ___ years or ___ months

4. Who do you live with in Vancouver? DO NOT read list.

I live on my own

Parent

Grandparent

Other legal Guardian (Specify)___________________________________

Friend

Other (Specify)___________________________

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5. Have you ever spent time in the care of the Ministry of Children and Families?

Yes No

If yes:

a. How long? ___ years or ___ months.

6. Who or what do you think of as “your community?”

______________________________________________________________________________

7. Have you visited your traditional territory in the past 2 years?

Yes No

If yes:

a. How many times a year do you usually return to your traditional territory?

___ times.

b. Who do you usually stay with on these visits?

DO NOT read list. Check one only.

Parents

Other Relative (be specific: Aunt Uncle, etc) _____________

Friend

Other (Specify)____________________________

c. In total, how much time do you usually spend on your traditional territory each

year? ____ days.

d. Are your visits tied into specific activities or events?

Yes No

If yes: What are those activities or events?

READ LIST and check all that apply

Annual celebrations

Fishing

Funerals

Hunting

Family events (weddings etc.)

Other (Specify)____________________________

8. Do you participate in spiritual ceremonies? These can be private, personal, or public

practices.

Yes No

If yes:

a. How many times per month on average? _______

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This next set of questions asks about your personal support network. Please use this scale

to indicate your level of agreement or disagreement with each statement.

Place a copy of the scale in front of the Respondent.

1 2 3 4 5 6

Mostly Agree a Disagree a Mostly

Agree Little Little Disagree

Totally

Agree

Totally

Disagree

READ each statement and write the response number in the box beside each question

9. My family life provides love and support.

10. My parents/guardian and I communicate well.

11. I have at least two adults, besides my parents, who I can call if I need help.

12. My neighbours care about me.

13. I find/found school to be a caring, encouraging environment.

14. I feel I can/could seek help and support from one of my teachers.

15. The Aboriginal community in Vancouver supports its young people.

16. I feel I have influence on decision-making within the Vancouver Aboriginal community

17. I help out at least once a week in my community.

If the answer is positive, ask the following. You may use these examples only: help carry

packages or with shopping, small jobs around the home, babysitting.

a. What do you do to help out? _______________________________

18. I feel safe in my neighbourhood.

19. I feel safe at home.

Ask questions #20 and #21 only if the respondent is 19 or younger.

20. My family has clear rules I am expected to obey.

21. My family keeps track of where I am and what I am doing.

22. I think adults are aware of youth activities in my neighbourhood.

23. I have positive adult role models in my life.

24. I have friends who are positive role models for me.

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25. I am a member of organizations in my community.

Yes No

If yes:

a. To which organization(s) do you belong? _______________________________

________________________________________________________________________

_

26. I participate in spiritual ceremonies.

27. I hang out with friends and do nothing in particular two or more nights a week.

28. I believe people should help others.

29. I am responsible for my own actions.

30. Most of the time, I try to resolve conflict peaceably.

This next set of questions asks about why some Aboriginal youth become involved in illegal

activity. Please use the same scale to indicate your level of agreement or disagreement with

each statement. Check that they are still referring to the scale:

31. Friends get them involved in illegal behaviour.

32. Illegal activity provides money for drugs.

33. Illegal activity provides money for alcohol.

34. Illegal activity provides money for other things.

35. Illegal activity is fun.

36. Illegal activity is exciting

37. Illegal activity is often the result of anger.

38. Illegal activity often results from using drugs or alcohol.

39. Illegal activity helps build a desirable reputation.

40. Illegal activity is caused by bad judgment

41. Illegal activity is the result of life events beyond your control.

42. Are their any other reasons you can think of that explain why some Aboriginal youth engage

in illegal activity?

____________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________

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This next set of questions asks about your interactions with service providers.

43. Do you use the facilities or programs of one of the Aboriginal Friendship Centres in the

Lower Mainland?

Yes No

a. If yes:

i. On average, how many times in a month? _____

ii. Which facilities/programs have you used?

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

b. If no: Do you think lack of money prevents you from using these facilities or

programs?

Yes No

44. Do you use any other facilities and/or programs available to the Aboriginal community?

Yes No

a. If yes:

i. On average, how many times in a month? _____

ii. Which facilities/programs have you used?

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

b. If no:

Do you think lack of money prevents you from using these facilities or programs?

Yes No

45. Do you know that assistance is available to help cover the cost for you to use local programs

or facilities?

Yes No

46. Have you ever participated in a school-based program for Aboriginal youth?

Yes No

a. If yes:

What is the program called?

____________________________________________

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. If no:

What is the reason you didn’t participate?

______________________________________________________________________

c. Is there a program you wish had been offered?

Yes No

If yes:

i. What would that program include?

_____________________________________________________________________

47. Have you ever participated in any of the following community-based programs:

a. If yes: READ the list and check those which apply.

Leadership

Sports

Mentoring

Employment preparation

Cultural

Other (Specify)_________________________________________

b. If no: boxes are checked, ask the following:

What do you think is the reason you didn’t participate in any of these programs?

______________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________

c. Is there a program you wish had been offered?

Yes No

If yes:

i. What would that program include?

______________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________

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48. Which service organizations have helped you?

DO NOT READ the list; check all that apply.

Aboriginal Mother Centre Society

Urban Native Youth Association

Aboriginal Health Services

Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family

Services

Arrows to Freedom Cultural Healing

Society

Vancouver Aboriginal Transformative

Justice

Broadway Youth Resource Centre

Vancouver Native Health Society

Civic Youth Strategy

Vancouver Native Housing Society

Downtown Eastside Youth Activities

VSB First Nations School Support Works

Society

Eagle High Alternative School

Warriors Against Violence

Elders from the Aboriginal Community WATARI Street Youth Day Treatment

Program

First Nations Summit

Youth Eagles Healing Lodge

Hey-way'-noqu' Healing Circle for

Vancouver Police Department

Addictions Society

John Howard Society

United Native Nations

Justice for Girls

Knowledgeable Aboriginal Youth

Association

Legal Services Society, Native Programs

Aboriginal Friendship Centre

Crown Counsel Office - Vancouver (Youth

Court)

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