Kids need healing, belonging to avoid gang life, report says
Jamil Mahmood has been saying for years that Winnipeg needs to help people leave gangs but he's hit nothing but brick walls.
Mahmood, who is also the chairperson for the Gang Action Interagency Network (GAIN), said that among the major cities in Canada, Winnipeg consistently leads in gang-related violence and homicides.
In an effort to address the issue of gangs in Winnipeg, GAIN conducted research with the aid of the University of Manitoba to find "gang-exit initiatives" to help people find ways to get out of the street life.
"There is no quick-fix to this issue," said Mahmood, who is calling on the provincial and municipal governments to commit the necessary resources "to sustain a long-term and comprehensive response to the complex gang issue."
"There needs to be investment in a strong community-led plan that builds on this research. GAIN's report highlights the underlying issues and now we need to come together and put the solutions that do work into practice."
Mahmood said the research shows kids need three main things:
1) A sense of identity and belonging.
"So, looking at really understanding who you are and how you fit into your community," he said.
"Looking at how to help kids and families and people who need help healing. There's been a lot of trauma — we're talking about the history of colonization and poverty and we're talking about a lot of internal trauma here in Manitoba for aboriginal people," he said.
3) Extended programming.
"Programming that fits the needs of these kids; programming that is here 24/7; programming that provides the support, mentorship and strong connections that these kids need to make a change in their life," he said.
No plan to help injured youth who want out of gangs
Emergency room physician Carolyn Snider said many young people hurt when gangs clash end up in the ER.
"It's very clear that there's a gang problem here in Winnipeg," she said.
Snider said those caught in the cross-fire sometimes ask for help to get out of gangs. But she said, there is nothing in place to help them and that frustrates her.
"As a physician I grew up thinking I could try and fix things," she said. "I've learned the hard way that we can do our best in this situation ... and I try to work with many wonderful community colleagues to try and do our best for this youth. [But] the hardest part is the lack of co-ordinated response and that's what's really needed."
Floyd Wiebe, whose son T.J. was the victim of a homicide in 2003, now counsels the parents of children who have fallen in with gangs.
Wiebe said there just aren't enough resources for young people in trouble when they need them.
"When we were doing the research for the video they interviewed a 12-year-old kid. He said that a gang was chasing him and he was running down the street to the community centre and the community centre was closed."