Challenges Faced by Aboriginal Youth in the Inner City

Article excerpt

Abstract

Aboriginal youth in Winnipeg's inner city experience poverty, unemployment, as well as the effects of colonization, racism, and alienation. To meet their families' economic needs, many have been pushed into activities that place them at high risk for contact with the justice system. Typically, these young men are not seen as community builders; the personal, family and community issues they experience while working to build community illustrate the multiple barriers faced in enhancing the physical and social health of neighbourhoods. We interviewed young Aboriginal men who had grown up in the inner city, to understand their past experiences, current realities, and how they saw the future of their neighbourhoods. Together, multiple challenges exist for Aboriginal youth in disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods that serve as barriers to community health.

Keywords: inner city neighbourhoods, youth, Aboriginal

Resume

La jeunesse autochtone des quartiers centraux de Winnipeg est aux prises avec le chomage et la pauvrete et subit les effets de la colonisation, du racisme et de l'alienation. Afin de repondre aux besoins economiques de leurs families, nombre de jeunes ont ete entraines dans des activites qui les exposent a un risque eleve de se retrouver aux prises avec l'appareil judiciaire. Plus souvent qu'autrement, ces jeunes hommes ne sont pas consideres comme des acteurs participant activement au developpement communautaire. Les problemes personnels, familiaux et communautaires qu'ils eprouvent sont autant de barrieres a franchir vers l'amelioration de la sante physique et sociale du quarrier. Nous avons interviewe plusieurs jeunes hommes autochtones qui ont grandi dans les quartiers centraux dans le but de comprendre leur experience, leur realite et comment ils entrevoient le futur de leur communaute. Plusieurs defis et obstacles au developpement d'une communaute saine existent pour la jeunesse autochtone.

Mots cles: milieu urbain deavorise, developpement communautaire, jeunesse, autochtone

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A growing number of Aboriginal youth live in cities. Their families move to urban centers for different reasons but often in search of employment and educational opportunities. The majority experience multiple challenges. However, the strengths of urban Aboriginal youth have received very little attention in the literature, and we could find no published research on their perceptions of a healthy community.

What is a healthy community? There are multiple interpretations and uses of this term. Some models of health focus solely on the absence of illness. Other models focus on the presence of wellness. Communities are based on geography, affiliation, or both. However, both public and grassroots organizations have used very inclusive, and similar, definitions. For example, the Centres for Disease Control (2005) define a healthy community as one "that is continuously creating and improving those physical and social environments and expanding those community resources that enable people to mutually support each other in performing all the functions of life and in developing to their maximum potential" (pg. 1). This differs little from the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (2005), which defines health, as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being", and goes on to indicate that "social, environmental and economic factors are important determinants of human health and are interrelated; people cannot achieve their fullest potential unless they are able to take control of those things which determine their well-being" (pg. 1). Finally, "all sectors of the community are inter-related and share their knowledge, expertise and perspectives, working together to create a healthy community" (pg. 1).

Many Canadians live in cities. As of the last census, the combined proportion of city dwellers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, has grown to approach 60% (Statistics Canada, 2005a). …