Indian Posse, Red Alert, and Native Syndicate aboriginal gangs are operating not only in the big cities but also in many rural areas including in the Far North.
“Right across Canada we're seeing an increase in aboriginal gangs,” says Cpl. Mike Moyer, aboriginal gang coordinator for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in British Columbia.“All our agencies and RCMP detachments and our national headquarters and all our police services really are having to look at this issue at a lot more serious rate than what we did say 10 years ago,” he said.
Native gangs are up to much of the same illegal activities as any other gang, such as drug distribution, theft, and prostitution. However, one difference is that aboriginal gangs have been known to make use of powwows and other traditional ceremonies to recruit members, Moyer said. Most gangs will move to wherever they can make money, including areas that have oil and gas exploration. “It's really a marketing thing,” said Moyer. “Sometimes the market is saturated with other gangs and other criminal activities so they go wherever the next market is.”
Moyer agrees with Totten’s view that more jail time is not the answer.Most Canadian provinces have anti-gang strategies that use various approaches. One recently implemented in Manitoba includes a component that helps parents understand how gangs operate in order to keep their kids from being recruited.Totten, who is currently evaluating several anti-gang projects, says this is a very important step, as are early intervention and prevention programs.He added that more effort should be put into keeping aboriginal children in schools that are culturally based, addressing health problems such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and keeping children from troubled families in the home if at all possible rather than placing them in foster care.Since many gang members view their gang as their identity, giving aboriginal children and youth a sense of their own culture helps increase their attachment to community and in turn decrease their need for an alternative source of identity.
But some aboriginals are born into gang families, and for them there’s no choice whether to join or not, says Totten.Getting out is also very difficult for female aboriginals who have been recruited into gangs. Female gang members—who Totten notes are a very small minority—are usually initiated through gang rapes and beatings. In order to leave, they have to go through the same treatment.“Quite often the way to get out of a gang if you're a young woman and if you don't have these family ties is that you get beaten to within an inch of your life, or you get gang raped again.”
Typically, says Totten, gang members who decide to leave have been shot one too many times, want to get their children back from child welfare, or are tired of sticking a needle in their arm.“The reasons why these young adults choose to get out of gangs are not dissimilar from what you or I, our hopes for the future would be—to have a job, to support a family, to be a good community member,” he said.
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