Indigenous Cultural Supports for Youth

The Cause

Indigenous youth are overrepresented in the criminal justice system due to the effects of intergenerational trauma and abuses that have created many complex social issues that continue to affect younger generations of our peoples. Although the numbers of youth engaged in the criminal justice system has dramatically reduced since the implementation of the 2003 Youth Criminal Justice Act, Indigenous youth are more likely to experience detention in offender centres and become engaged in activities that lead to their criminalization. The crimes that they are engaged in are more likely to cause their detention for longer periods, and more likely to recidivate returning to criminal activity without proper connections to their cultural community. The Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary has been providing Indigenous programming to youth during their detention since June 2018, most notably we have identified that the effect of ceremony and cultural engagement have had overall positive effect on youth who would typically be locked down in their cells through adapted behaviour, less concerns over physical altercations, and an increased level of pride and respect for those around them. At present, youth discharged from the Calgary Youth Offender Centre (CYOC) do not have the same access to cultural programming and ceremony back in their community. In particular with those Elders and resource persons who they have engaged with in CYOC. As a result, they tend to return to what is known without having the options to stay connected to the cultural community where they have begun their healing. We would like to extend this programming into the community to provide stronger linkages to youth once released. Youth receive support through ceremonies such as sweatlodges, talking/healing circles, medicine learning the Blackfoot language, drumming and singing, dancing and beading classes.

Who Will it Benefit?

Indigenous youth ages 12-19 who have experienced systemic criminalization due to intergenerational trauma which has caused addiction, mental health and challenges within their family structure. Youth have experienced detention, are involved in the justice system or at risk of being criminalized who have a desire to reconnect to their culture to increase their well-being, cultural pride and connection to their community.

Non-Indigenous youth who are interested and motivated in engaging in Indigenous ceremonies and activities to support their personal journey of healing.