Author: tatenda chikukwa | contributor
People are frustrated about continuous gang activity in Saskatchewan
17 year-old Brendan Keewatin, a Native Syndicate gang member, will spend 5 years and 10 months in jail for killing Derrick Amyotte, a Regina father of three who made the unfortunate decision of wearing a red shirt.
Amyotte was walking through a North Central neighborhood when he was confronted and subsequently stabbed to death for wearing an opposing gang’s color in Native Syndicate territory. Many people were relieved to see justice done for what the judge described as a “senseless crime,” but citizens were also shocked at the light sentence Keewatin received.
People living in the North Central area are extremely frustrated with the persistence of gang activity in their community and the two-year closure of the Regina Anti-Gang Service (RAGS) program is not helping to ease their concerns. The North Central Community Association’s goal for the past 37 years has been to fix the social and economic development problems in the neighborhood as a community. Improving on housing infrastructure, crime prevention, education and health services are important parts of that goal. The Regina Anti-Gangs Service was a crucial element to stopping gang violence.
North Central Community Association (NCCA) director Rob Deglue said Amyotte’s death, “reaffirmed the need to have gang exit strategy”. Deglue is working to reinstate RAGS with funding from the provincial Ministry of Justice and the federal government. The RAGS program worked at helping at-risk youth leave gangs and preventing them from joining gangs through a Wraparound program. Getting youths involved in positive recreation activity, supportive mentor relationships and any other form of assistance was essential to avoiding criminal activity.
“Wraparound is how can we support you like a family in your life going forward.”-Deglue
According to a 2005 study done by the Criminal Intelligence Service Saskatchewan, there are approximately 500 gang members and associates operating out of Regina, Saskatoon and Price Albert.
There are numerous gang operations in the province but only 12 adult and youth gangs can be identified. Adult gangs include the Native Syndicate, Indian Posse, Redd Alert, Saskatoon Warriors, Crazy Cree, Mixed Blood, Tribal Brothers and West Side Soldiers and the youth gangs include the Crips, Junior Mixed Blood, Indian Mafia Crips and North Central Rough Riderz. These Aboriginal-based gangs are established in correctional facilities and thus they tend to recruit inmates and those inmates eventually join the gangs outside organization upon release. The youth gangs are far less organized and usually disappear, but the adult gangs have stayed for years. These gangs have established themselves in rural and urban communities for so long that they develop into full-fledged crime groups that participate in drug trafficking, prostitution, illegal gun possession and witness intimidation. This type of gang activity costs the community; we have already seen this happen to the north central neighborhood.
Not only is the economic viability and safety of the community threatened, but also the residents are left feeling alienated. People living in these areas feel afraid to leave their houses, go to the park or even participate in community reinforcement activities. That is why it is important that the NCCA get it’s funding to bring back the RAGS program.
The NCCA is always looking for volunteers, particularly justice and social work students to help the write a proposal for the province. They want help from students that know about human resource issues, counseling, the rehabilitation process and a good understanding of the justice world. Hopefully, by mitigating all the risk of re-opening the RAGS program it will be open to help reintegrate teens like Brendan Keewatin into society.