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Chapter Eleven

Strengthening Young People

The recognition of the importance of early-years intervention should not be used as a justification for society to turn its back on young people who are at risk once they enter the public school system. No matter what their backgrounds, adolescents are not permanently locked into their futures. Research shows that comprehensive programs that stick with young people, and that offer work, service, and incentives, can make a difference.

There is, of course, a much more positive reason to invest in young people than simply to prevent crime. A skilled and educated populace is the basis of a healthy, functioning community. In the coming years, Aboriginal people will constitute a significant portion of the Manitoba workforce. Investing in the skills of the coming workforce makes sense from economic and social perspectives.

For these reasons, those institutions that deliver educational, social service, and recreational programs can play an important role in crime prevention and community development.

The Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission's recommendations in this area are aimed at developing policies that support the following goals:

  • providing support and guidance to vulnerable adolescents

  • providing educational programs that keep young people at risk in the school system

  • assisting young people who are at risk to make the transition successfully from school to work

  • improving school outcomes and fostering prosocial behaviour

  • increasing social skills and reducing aggressive behaviour

  • preventing youth homelessness



After the family, the school is perhaps the most important institution in determining a child's life chances. It is an institution that socializes, that evaluates, and that educates. In doing so, it determines both the student's life chances and his or her immediate sense of self-worth. Students who do well in school are far less likely to be at risk of becoming involved in delinquent activities.

According to the study on crime prevention prepared for this Commission by Dr. Rick Linden:

A major review of crime prevention programs conducted for the United States Congress ( concluded that programs that build school capacity to initiate and to sustain innovation; programs that effectively communicate appropriate behavioral norms; and programs that taught social competency skills such as problem-solving, communication skills, and decision-making had an impact on delinquency. (Linden, page 14)

Research prepared for the Commission indicates that there has been success where schools:

  • allow pupils to participate in decisionmaking

  • make greater use of programs such as performance-based education

  • use cross-age tutoring

  • involve students in the operation of the school

  • assist students with the transition from school to work

  • use curricula culturally relevant to students

  • provide alternative classes or schools for high-risk children

  • have the capacity to innovate

  • communicate behaviour norms to students

  • teach skills such as problems solving, communication skills, and decision-making


Aboriginal Educational Experiences

The destiny of a people is intricately bound to the way its children are educated. Education is the transmission of cultural DNA from one generation to the next…It determines the productive skills of a people…Aboriginal parents, elders, youth and leaders have come forward to tell us of the vital importance of education in achieving their vision of a prosperous future. Education is seen as the vehicle for both enhancing the life of the individual and reaching collective goals…

Current education policies fail to realize these goals…Human costs of this failure is immense. (RCAP, Volume III, page 434).

Federal and provincial education policies of the last hundred years have failed to meet the needs of Aboriginal people. For proof, one needs only to refer to residential schools and the aftermath of the policy governing that phase of education. Modern-day policies have been more enlightened and have featured sustained initiatives by both levels of government. Aboriginal teachers and support staff have been hired and curriculum has been revised to address some of the needs of Aboriginal students. Many First Nations communities have established control over their schools over the last two decades. However, the results flowing from the initiatives continue to be minimal (RCAP, Volume III, page 438).

A document prepared by the Manitoba Department of Northern and Aboriginal Affairs for Manitoba provides the following information about Aboriginal educational attainment rates:

Percent of Aboriginal graduates - high school: 33.7 percent (Aboriginal youth 15-29 who have completed high school; 53.9 per cent have some high school.)
Percent of non-Aboriginal graduates - high school: 62.7 percent
Percent of grade 12 completed by Aboriginal people in Manitoba: 38.2 percent (age 15+)
Percent of grade 12 completed by non-Aboriginal people: 61.2 percent
Percent of Aboriginal youth (age 15-25) attending school: 44.1 percent
Percent of Aboriginal people with a university degree: 2.9 percent
Percent of non-Aboriginal people with a university degree: 12.6 percent

The figures show that Aboriginal people in Manitoba continue to experience low rates of attainment for high school graduation and for completion of university degrees. However, there is some encouragement to be drawn from the fact that Aboriginal people who have a high school diploma are more likely to attend post-secondary institutions (university, community college, or other institutions). Over half of those who have completed high school have some post-secondary training. However, there is a large proportion of Aboriginal students who are not completing high school (over 65 percent). This suggests the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal outcomes will continue to widen. It appears that there is also a large gap between those Aboriginal people who have attained high school and post-secondary education certification, and those who are not attaining either.

A troubling statistic noted above is that only about 44 percent of the Aboriginal youth in Manitoba are attending school. Manitoba has the one of the lowest attendance rates in Canada. The statistic is notable in light of research and other documentation that indicates that not being enrolled in school is an indicator of a young person's probability of coming into contact with the legal system. The risk factor is much lower where the child is attending school.

The problems that Aboriginal children experience with the school system appears to culminate in mid-teen years, when children begin disappearing from the schools. The problem, as noted by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, appears to be that the secondary school years are a culmination of issues arising from a child's progression through elementary school. These factors can include poverty, social change, family violence, and disruptive interventions in Aboriginal families.

In the area of education, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples called for:

  • innovative curricula that reflect Aboriginal cultures and lifestyles

  • increased involvement of parents, elders, and families

  • empowerment of young people

  • acknowledgement of the spiritual and ethical dimensions of learning

These concerns have been addressed to some measure by urban and other education authorities. However, the existing curriculum has not been substantially engineered to address an Aboriginal child's needs. Rather, the expectation is that the child will adjust to meet the existing curriculum. Additional planning and work must be done to ensure parental involvement and support for children in the school environment. School and education must be made relevant to Aboriginal children, especially in the urban environment.

The Commission would also reiterate the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples that more Aboriginal teachers and educational program designers must be involved in the educational system, especially where there is a significant enrollment of Aboriginal children in schools.

For most of the last decade, provincial government spending on education has not kept pace with the level of growth in the provincial economy. This has placed a greater share of the burden of public education funding on local school boards and the property tax base. In addition, a number of programs that assisted Aboriginal students in gaining access to post-secondary education were reduced or eliminated during the 1990s.


Aboriginal Education and Training Framework

The Manitoba Government has developed an Aboriginal Education and Training Framework that addresses a number of issues the AJIC has identified as being of significance.

The Aboriginal Education and Training Framework has as its goals:

  • improved student success and completion rates

  • increased skills training and rates of employment

  • strengthened and effective partnerships

The Framework calls for action in the following areas:

  • ensuring that the necessary structures, processes, and data are in place or being developed to support the Framework, through partnerships between departments and with Aboriginal people, in developing and carrying out education initiatives

  • recruiting and retaining Aboriginal staff, and training to increase sensitivity and operational ability of all staff to understand and meet the program needs of Aboriginal Manitobans

  • supporting early childhood transition to school and strengthening the meaningful involvement of parents, families and communities in education

  • ensuring there is effective, relevant, and high-quality curriculum, and learning resources, and inclusive learning environments for all students

  • ensuring that the needs of Aboriginal people are included in any transition to work activities

  • ensuring linkages across departments, across sectors, and across jurisdictions

This Framework represents a positive action plan for addressing many of the issues Aboriginal young people are facing. Furthermore, Manitoba Education provided the Commission with the following recommendations:


Kindergarten - Secondary and Post-Secondary Education & Training

  • Increase Aboriginal representation and involvement in all areas of the education system. This includes professional positions in school systems and within the Department of Education; volunteerism; Parent Advisory Councils, with a particular emphasis on positions that include decision-making capacities.

  • Expand and further implement Aboriginal perspectives in Manitoba curricula to be used in schools. Post-secondary education institutions should strengthen Aboriginal content in all programs.

  • Increase the number of Aboriginal-focussed schools and programs in areas with high Aboriginal populations.

  • Develop and further enhance Aboriginal language and culture programs.

  • Increase support for early-years education and literacy programs.

  • Promote and facilitate greater parental, community, and Elder involvement in education.

  • Expand opportunities for youth to develop leadership skills.

  • Identify and support "best practices" and intervention strategies that address and assist at-risk students, especially those vulnerable to youth-gang recruitment and activities.

  • Provide greater access to career and labour market information with appropriate supports to assist in career development.

  • Provide opportunities for youth to participate in business, government, and other local decision-making bodies.

  • Strengthen employment supports (career counselling, labour-market information, job placement, and other employment services that are available through Employment Centres), making them more readily available through correctional facilities, especially as part of plans for transition back into the community.

  • Review the proposed establishment of two, separate, post-secondary education institutions (university college for the north and a southern Aboriginal institution).

  • Facilitate and support the potential establishment of an Aboriginal Justice Training Institute.

Aboriginal Teacher Education

  • The number of Aboriginal people being trained as educators should be increased. The need for administrators, guidance counsellors, and senior years math and science specialists will continue to grow.

  • Both mainstream and Aboriginal-focussed teacher education programs should be available, and both models must effectively support the development of Aboriginal people in all aspects.

  • Development opportunities and capacity-building for Aboriginal education and training for all teachers/faculty/instructors should be mandatory.


For those who become incarcerated, academic and vocational education could provide a second chance to address their educational disadvantage and skill deficiency, and better equip ex-offenders to compete for employment, education, and training opportunities. Recommendations include:

  • Expand academic and literacy programming within correctional facilities, with an emphasis on youth.

  • Utilize Prior Learning Assessments to enable Aboriginal people to get recognition for learning outside the formal education system.

  • Implement Access programs and other alternative models to support increased Aboriginal participation in post-secondary education programs.

  • Facilitate long-term programs that incorporate mentorship and role model components.

  • Expand culturally appropriate transitional programs--for example, Youth Build Programs for youth--to acquire construction skills, and complete a high school education and leadership training.

  • Develop specific programming and curriculum for the different needs of both male and female inmates.

  • Develop education and training programs that take into account current research on effective strategies for individuals with FAE and/or FAS.

  • Collaborate with Aboriginal Elders.


Strong partnerships will be required to support the success of Aboriginal learners and workforce entrants. Parents, community, all levels of government, including Aboriginal governments, and other educational stakeholders must collaborate to reverse the current trends, reduce barriers, and achieve mutual goals.

  • Develop stronger partnerships between Manitoba Education and Training and Manitoba Justice.

  • Develop, in partnership with Aboriginal communities, various levels of government, and other stakeholders, appropriate structures for joint planning and/or program delivery.

  • Enhance intergovernmental coordination to ensure a holistic approach and cross-department linkages with education, training, and employment initiatives.

  • Support new and existing alternative justice models; for example Aboriginal Ganootamaage Justice Services of Winnipeg; Community Holistic Circle Healing Program at Hollow Water, and Under a Northern Sky: Aboriginal Circle of Peacemaking and Justice.

  • Collaborate with alternative bail supervision programs to develop long-term education and training plans for youth.

  • Ensure that initiatives increase the awareness of the relationship among health, education, and employment.

Time has not permitted the Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission to evaluate these recommendations in the detail they deserve, nor to consult with Manitobans on them. However, it would appear that these recommendations are consistent with the AJIC's approaches and priorities, and are deserving of future consideration.


Specific Programs

A number of specific programs in other jurisdictions, brought to the attention of the AJIC, have the potential to reduce the involvement of young people in crime.

The Outdoor Classroom Program

To make school more relevant to the lives of Aboriginal children, the National Crime Prevention Centre provided funding to the Gwich'in Tribal Council in the Northwest Territories to establish the Outdoor Classroom program. The project targets Aboriginal youth aged 6-12 from northern, remote, high-needs communities, who face multiple risk factors.

The program has four components:

  • an Outdoor Classroom that uses an alternative teaching environment to combine academics, traditional activities, and effective crime prevention strategies

  • an Orientation Program for teachers, parents, and other resource people on the integration of crime prevention strategies at home, in the school, and in the community

  • social skill development for children aged 6-12 to identify pre-offending behaviours, and appropriate early-intervention strategies

  • an integration of crime prevention interventions for children and their families into existing community programming

Multisystemic Therapy (MST)

As the name suggests, this treatment program, which focusses on high-risk youth, recognizes that young people live within a set of interrelated systems. These treatment programs do not focus on the young person's assessed weaknesses, but help them develop the skills to address the systems in which they are living. According to Linden:

The ultimate goal of MST is to "empower the family to take responsibility for making and maintaining gains....parents are encouraged to develop the requisite skills to solve their own problems rather than rely on professionals" (Leschied and Cunningham, 2001: 9). Experimental evaluations of MST intervention including a program in London, Ontario (Leschied and Cunningham, 2001) have shown reduced rates of criminality, institutionalization, and drug abuse. The program has involved families in the treatment process and has improved family functioning and cohesion. Positive results have also been obtained for a similar program called Functional Family Therapy that also includes a variety of interventions with youth and their families (Surgeon General, 2001). (Linden, page 11)

Tu Tangata

Tu Tangata is a program that was developed in 1995 at Parkway College, in Wainuiomata, New Zealand. It was started by people in the local community in an effort to improve the school and career achievement of the largely Maori student population at the school.

The program places an educational support worker in each classroom. These workers do not develop or deliver the school curriculum. Instead, their tasks include:

  • supporting the student

  • supporting the teacher

  • monitoring student progress

  • encouraging parent participation in class or at home

  • promoting education in all aspects of personal student health and social behaviour

The education support workers are members of the local community who have a variety of educational and life experiences. They work for the community, not the school division, and their role is intended to introduce the student to the classroom. The workers take the lessons along with the students and monitor how well each of the students is learning, assess and monitor student understanding and performance, and assist students who are having difficulties. The program has been adopted by other schools in New Zealand and Hawaii, and has had the effect of reducing crime and enhancing educational achievement.

Employment Programs

Many programs have been developed to help young people become prepared for employment. Traditionally, they include:

  • work assessment and skills testing

  • practical life skills

  • job readiness training

  • vocational and support counselling

  • placement into employment or skills training

An example of such a training program targetted toward Aboriginal youth is the Bent Arrow program, which is operating in Edmonton. A 16-week program for First Nations people between the ages of 16 and 24, it is designed to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to make and maintain positive lifestyle changes. Participants can receive a training allowance.



Recreation programs are an important element of a healthy, functioning community. However, research indicates that such programs have only a limited impact in reducing crime. As with other crime prevention programs, it appears that to be effective, such programming must be intensive.

In Manitoba, two programs have been linked with decreases in crime rates. The Northern Manitoba Recreation Director program trained community recreation directors who provided programs on a year-round basis, while completing training modules to further develop their leadership and training skills. The summer fly-in sports camps run by University of Manitoba physical education students on reserves in northern Manitoba was linked with significant declines in crime rates, compared with reserves that did not have the programs. This program involved very intensive recreation activities that were run over an entire summer. The information provided to this Commission indicates that this program is no longer in operation. The Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission encourages the Manitoba government to take steps to see if a program of this nature can be revived.


Recreation and the Department of Culture

During the course of its deliberations the AJIC consulted with the Manitoba Department of Culture, Heritage and Tourism which has responsibility for recreation programming in the province of Manitoba. The department identified that there was:

  • a lack of trained recreation leadership in the north

  • a lack of recreation training available in the north

  • a lack of professional development opportunities for those recreation officials in the north

  • a lack of recreation facilities in the north

  • a lack of resources to maintain recreation facilities in the north

  • a lack of coordination between departments that support and fund recreation activities in the north

  • a lack of understanding of the long-term value of community recreation programs

  • a lack of Aboriginal participation in mainstream recreation, sport, or physical activity opportunities in the City of Winnipeg

The AJIC was informed by Culture that Aboriginal communities lack access to the resources necessary to provide quality recreation programs. Two of the problems the department identified were the lack of recreation directors in communities, and the limited attention that local political leaders could devote to the issue.

The department also noted the potential danger that recreational activities would be limited to competitive sports, commenting that it was important to support community arts, culture, and social activities.

The Department of Culture also pointed to three positive developments:

  • The Manitoba Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Council. According to the Department of Culture, the council's work would benefit from additional financial and resource support. Such support would enhance the delivery of services that support the community recreation directors and other local leaders in developing grass-roots recreation and sport programs for residents of all ages.

  • The City of Winnipeg and the Manitoba Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Council (MASRC). This organization developed the Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre (WASAC), which has the objective of providing an entry level into the mainstream sport- and recreation-delivery system for Aboriginal people in Winnipeg.

  • Manitoba sent a team to the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in 1997 and will be hosting NAIG in Winnipeg in 2002. These games provide an opportunity for meaningful participation by Aboriginal people. Annual funding is needed to assist in the development of Aboriginal sport opportunities leading to the development of a Team Manitoba Program.

The Department of Culture, Heritage and Tourism proposed the following recommendations to the AJIC:


  • A program be developed to fund First Nations and Northern Affairs communities to hire qualified and trained, full-time, part-time, or share recreation directors to implement recreation, sport, and physical activity opportunities. The salary paid to these individuals should be at a level similar to other community workers in that locale. Fifty-five Northern Affairs and First Nations communities are without paid recreation leadership. A modest program to address needs could cost approximately $10,000 per community, as they develop the capacity to participate.

  • The Manitoba government provide additional funding to allow the departments of Culture, Heritage and Tourism, and Aboriginal and Northern Affairs to enhance the amount of training currently available for recreation directors in remote communities. Additional funds could also increase access to training provided through the Northern Manitoba Recreation Association, Recreation Connections Manitoba, Inc., and others.

  • The Manitoba government develop training and mentorship programs that employ, train, and support young people in providing recreation programs.

  • Keewatin Community College be asked to conduct a needs assessment process with key stakeholders to determine their role in training recreation personnel for Aboriginal communities.


  • The Manitoba Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Council and the Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre be funded on an ongoing basis by the Government of Manitoba.

  • Funding be provided for initiatives, including the Manitoba Indigenous Games (winter and summer), sport-specific training camps throughout Manitoba for the development of elite Aboriginal athletes, and special development programs, to develop a body of certified Aboriginal coaches and officials.


  • An intersectoral committee, co-chaired by Northern and Aboriginal Affairs, and Culture, Heritage and Tourism, be struck to identify priorities and to develop a coordinated plan for recreation, sport, and physical activity programs and services specifically geared to the Aboriginal community. It is recommended that the committee be comprised of representatives from all three levels of government plus various provincial departments and agencies with an interest in the Aboriginal community.

  • The level of participation by Aboriginal students in college and university athletic programs be assessed, that support programs be designed to increase participation by Aboriginal athletes in this setting.

  • Funds be made available to develop and deliver education programs on the benefits of recreation, sport, and physical activity to Aboriginal communities throughout Manitoba.


  • Special measures be taken to increase access of facility operators in Northern Affairs and First Nations communities to courses in the operation and maintenance of recreation facilities.

  • A pool of funds be made available for Northern Affairs and First Nations communities to development recreation facilities in concert with available grant programs such as Manitoba Community Places, Manitoba Community Services Council, and the Canada-Manitoba Infrastructure Program. The funds should be made available to the most needy communities first.

Time has not permitted the Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission to evaluate these recommendations in the detail they deserve, nor to consult with Manitobans on them. However, it would appear that these recommendations are consistent with the AJIC's approaches and priorities and are deserving of future consideration.


Table of Contents
Executive Summary
Section 1 - The Aboriginal Justice Inquiry: background and key issues
Section 2 - Aboriginal Rights and Aboriginal Relations
Section 3 - Community and Restorative Justice
Section 4 - Crime Prevention through Community Development
Section 5 - Concluding Thoughts

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