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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.
By Sunday Akin Olukoju
September 23, 2014
In a recent Winnipeg Sun article,“Straight Talk: Hostile environment created by Winnipeg gangs, not for them,” Tom Brodbeck reviewed a Canadian Police Association (CPA) report and cited a damning portion of the report. In that portion, the CPA noted that “Gangs are a key and distinguishing feature of the urban landscape in Winnipeg” and that “these issues contribute to the instability and unhealthy lifestyles experienced by many youth.”
Reading this report raises red flags and evokes questions like:
To be fair, it is pertinent to ask the question: How did we get here? As we discuss the topic of globalization in class, students usually write about the increasing power of multinational corporations and how information technology and foreign direct investment drive globalization, shrinking distance and differences in the process, and causing deprivation, degradation and poverty in the developing countries. “Globalization through different aspects,” according to Nasser, in a 2014 Value Inquiry Book Series article titled “Cultural Identity and Globalization,” “goes side-by-side with modernization that at its core involves alienation.” Alienation in this case could be an inadvertent product of wrong-headed public policy or a deliberate profit-driven corporate strategy of outsourcing by multinational corporations, especially when migration from the global south to the global north is on the rise. A policy that accepts some child-soldiers as refugees from poor war-torn countries without appropriate integration strategy could be a recipe for systemic alienation. It is therefore no surprise to read Tom Brodbeck’s citation of the CPA report affirming that the “largest proportion of immigrant-gangs in Winnipeg is Africa-Canadian — about 35 percent — including the Mad Cowz and the African Mafia.”
Learning first hand from young offenders
As a researcher in a correctional agency, going through security checks to access young offenders in custody soon becomes routine. Spending time, one-on-one, with 14 children with ages ranging from 13 to 21 over nine weeks was very interesting and eye opening. It took a while for many of them to trust me. Meeting with some of their parents and being sympathetic to their plights opened a little window to the hearts of some. In the course of our interaction, I realized that many were recruited into gangs due to:
Many of the parents of these young-offenders did express their helplessness at the way public policy bind their hands and rendered them powerless to discipline their children.
The CPA report stated that “Many new visible minority immigrant youth from war-torn countries are vulnerable to gang recruitment in part because of a lack of access to school and community participation, an inability to obtain employment and general social barriers.” This is a possible indication that some of the jobs they would have been offered may have been outsourced to cheap labor in some developing countries. While a portion of the report said “Police describe the level of violence among some immigrant-based gangs as “extreme” where gangs engage in violence for the sake of violence,” another portion specifically said, “While other street gangs in Winnipeg may resort to violence for a specific purpose, for the Mad Cowz and African Mafia, violence is the goal and is both gratuitous and extreme.”
These are products of globalization-induced migration to North America. While it is easier to see jobs transferred overseas through outsourcing for the sake of profit maximization, it is also proper to note that globalization-induced migration, particularly of refugees coming in with low literacy level might just be a case of globalization gone full circle. Working closely with the young offenders in custody provided the ample opportunity to observe first hand the hard work of the correctional agency in the areas of proactive intervention and prevention as well as suppression. Getting to know the complexity of the situation at close quarters helped me to concur with CPA’s conclusion that it is “Increasingly difficult to integrate immigrant and aboriginal youth into educational and work opportunities,” and that it “reduces their sense of inclusion in Canadian social and economic life.”
Some of these young offenders were jailed, deported or rehabilitated. Through “Take Action School: Gang Awareness,” the Winnipeg Police Services (WPS) identified reasons for joining gangs:
|Lack of positive role models||Social deprivation or isolation||Substance abuse by the youth or parents||Friends or family members involved in gangs|
|School dropout or truant||Parental neglect||Need for protection||Unemployed with poor or non-existent job prospects|
|Poverty||Peer pressure||Single or divorced parent||Rundown physical environment|
|Frequent run-ins with the law||Low self-esteem||Unfulfilled or neglected needs||Low academic achievement|
|Not knowing consequences of gang involvement||Perceived lack of opportunity||Anti-social, hostile, aggressive behavior|
From my meeting with parents, the recommendation of the WPS is right on target. Parents should spend more time with and give attention to their children; in addition to showing the children that they are loved.
Author: Sunday Akin Olukoju, Ph.D. is the president of Canadian Center for Global Studies, a nonprofit organization and also teaches at Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada. Olukoju can be reac hed at [email protected]