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Aboriginal Gangs in Canada

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Female Aboriginal Gangs in Canada

Street gangs have become a particular concern today in Canada. Ranging from different age groups to different cultural backgrounds, they are currently on the rise. "Research has found that they are increasingly presenting themselves in smaller cities, rural areas, and Aboriginal reserves as well as becoming more organized and criminally sophisticated" (Jones, Roper, Stys & Wilson, 2044). So how do we define a gang? "A gang is a group of people who share a common purpose, who use intimidation and violence to carry out criminal acts" (Native Women's Association of Canada, 2002, p.1). Criminal acts such as: drug dealing, assaults, rape, vandalism, robbery and many others are what gangs today are participating in. Many Aboriginal youth are faced with multiple sources of disadvantage in comparison to their non-Aboriginal counterparts, making street gang involvement attractive to them. For the purpose of this paper three main areas will be focused on: statistics, socioeconomic disadvantages and incarceration. Along with these areas, the purpose of this paper will be based solely on female aboriginal gangs in Canada and how they are on the rise.

"Over the last two decades research has found that active female participation in criminal gang activity is on the rise" (Dorais, 2009, p.28). "There are a growing number of female gang members in western provinces, including British Columbia (12%), Manitoba (10%), and Saskatchewan (9%)" (Native Women's Association of Canada, 2002, p.1). Women are forming their own gangs all across Canada and the United States but are also participating in mixed gender gangs and auxiliary gangs (female gangs affiliated with male gangs). Correctional Service of Canada (2004) states that "57.3% were involved in mixed-gender gangs, 36.4% in female gangs affiliated with male gangs, and 6.4% were a part of an autonomous female gang". Independent female gangs are much lower than mixed-gender gangs in Canada but are still currently on the rise in and out of provincial and federal institutions. Gang activity is expected to be on the rise in the Aboriginal population, specifically if areas such as discrimination and social and economic problems aren't dealt within Aboriginal adults and youth culture

There are a number of societal factors that contribute to female aboriginal gangs. Societal factors are largely beyond the control of the families or individuals and thus can shape the life circumstances of many Aboriginal youth. "These factors may include: entrenched and severe poverty, disproportionate placements with child welfare, mental health, and other social welfare institutions and high rates of alcohol and drug abuse" (Grekul & LaRocque, 2011, p. 134).

One of the leading causes of girls falling into gangs is they don't have access to safe housing. Safe housing could mean my step-dad is an asshole and he leaves red marks around my neck and bite marks all over my body. Safety could mean I don't want to stay at a youth emergency shelter where I have to stay with boys. Safety could mean, you know, not only for me but also my baby because I am thirteen and a mother of two, so we have to make sure that they are safe. We need resources much more than crisis intervention, we need long term placement options that would be like - maybe like an apartment block that is specific for women and girls (Grekul & LaRocque, 2011, p. 143).

Aboriginal women today are constantly faced with many drawbacks that make it a struggle to survive on a daily basis. With the number of cutbacks to social services, the amounts of resources that are out there for Aboriginal women is on the decline and are impacting women not only as individuals, but those who are sole parents possibly trying to support one child or sometimes more than that; "Cuts to mental health services, social housing, and women's shelters have disproportionately impacted Aboriginal women" (Native Women's Association of Canada, 2002, p. 6).

Mental health is an area that is in dire need of more support in regards to these women who are lacking in assistance and encouragement. "The prevalence of offenders with 'significant' mental health issues upon admission has doubled in the past five years (and) female offenders are twice as likely as male offenders to have a mental health diagnosis at admission" (Native Women's Association of Canada, 2002, p. 6).

"In 2011, Aboriginal women represented just fewer than 4% of women in Canada, yet accounted for 34% of all women in federal penitentiaries" (Native Women's Association of Canada, 2002, p. 5). The Aboriginal female offender population has grown by 90% in the last ten years, and it is the fastest growing division of lawbreaking people. "Canadian research has found that incarcerated female street gang members have a higher disregard



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