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What About Our Problem Children?

Lloyd Brass

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      JUNE 1976      v06 n06 p30  
The people of this country reflect the image of Indian people with only a very small percentage of the total population of the forty thousand or so Indians in this province.

People of non-Indian ancestry are generally more exposed to these minority group of Indians. These minority groups are the tough hard core habitual criminals, juvenile delinquents, street bums, etc...

With encounters, with these types of people this is where the weeds, of mistrust and the communication barrier of Indians and non-Indians have splattered and ruined what could have been a more integrated relationship today.

Just like an average child who is going through three phases of education such as elementary, high school, and going into university or taking up a trade; the juvenile delinquent starts by going into firstly a boys or girls home, then into the provincial jail then into the penitentiary.

Therefore the seed of the problem before it bloomed into a thistle began at a very young age. We do not need any surveys to find out where these unfortunate people stemmed out from. It only takes common sense to know that the up-bringing of these kind of people were exposed to alcoholic parents, no parents, child abuse, parental negligence, immature parents and so forth down the line. It all boils down to a pretty bleak childhood for these very unfortunate people.

Their little minds have been building up and building up to a point where they start striking back at society. I've heard one Chief comment that as human beings with a thinking capacity we never stop being educated from the time we realized our existence: up until the time we breath our list breath. These children of poor upbringing also have been educating themselves but not the way the rest of society wants them to be.

Now what I am driving at is, there are ways and-professional approaches in curbing the rise of juvenile delinquency. In the Indian population, our juvenile delinquency rate is alarmingly higher per capita than the non-Indian people.

It was said at a recent meeting of welfare and social workers that the hard core juvenile delinquency is only one per cent of the total Indian population. This means out of the total Indian population in Saskatchewan we have about 430 cases.

A lot of these cases are referrals by the courts for these boys and girls to be placed into institutions in where they will receive professional help. It was also noted that one of these institutions is 47 per cent successful. That means some of these misled people have been taught the right attitude to cope with society.

Institutions such as these are the right answer but the problem is - Is there enough of them to go around? In all these institutions, there is a big waiting list who were referred into these expensive correctional centers of juveniles.

In the meantime, while the child is being placed in foster homes and doing more damage to his image and to the Indian people's image, society must suffer with car thefts, houses being broken into, innocent children beaten up and here again there is a long, list of what a young child is capable of pulling off. By the time his or her turn has come to be enrolled into the institutions, the professional people will have to work that much more harder to get through to their little thinkers.

And speaking of expenses in one institution for just one Indian child, the Indian Affairs Branch pays the amount of $1,438.00 for just one month. Now just think, if the Indian Affairs were to shell out monies for 430 children per year we would get a figure of about $7,420,080.00.

If the Indian Affairs Branch are willing to spend that kind of money, why not spent it in developing and building an institution with all the facilities for Indian children only. This would eliminate the waiting game and it would make these institutions more accessible to our Indian boys and girls. And the tab that is being presently picked up by the department - I'll bet it would not be nearly as great as the $1,438.00 per child. After all this is money set aside for Indians, let us start using this money on Indians.

I am not saying that we use Indian staff, but surely we have enough professional people around who would make themselves available for the project of this type.

All those people who are aware of the situation we are presently confronted with, here is one answer. If one institution is 47 per cent successful, I am sure an all-Indian center would be 70 per cent successful with a good follow-up program.

A center of this type would make our Welfare Workers, Social Workers, Probation Officers, Education Counsellors, Counsellor-Technicians, Truant Officers, Chief and Councillors and all those who work with Indian children job descriptions a heck of a lot easier.

This is not the total answer but at least we can place children gone bad and isolate them away from influencing other youngsters who are on the proper paths into the rest of the law-abiding society.

We can save some of these, children from hopelessness in where they might one-day end up in the feared dungeons of the Federal penitentiaries. If you do not
start acting now who knows, your child might be the next one to end up in the last graduating phase of the habitual criminal.