The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fighting Gangs. The Great Divide. People vs. Profs

A group of about 30 people marched from the North End to the Legislature yesterday.

There wasn't a university egghead in the bunch. Nor could you find a single Indian Chief or Nahanni Fontaine or any of the usual hate-the-police crowd who claim to speak for native people.

That's because the message the marchers brought to the politicians wasn't the message being peddled in Manitoba's universities or newspapers or by racial demagogues in the aboriginal community.

It was the direct opposite of the "special report" prepared by leftwing university professors for the attention of Attorney General Dave Chomiak, which embraced the "wisdom" of members of a violent street gang who said authorities should end a crackdown on gangs and concentrate on ending poverty.

The residents of the North End who made the long march didn't carry signs saying "End Poverty". Their message was "Stop the Violence." And it was directed at those same gang members and their ilk.

The march was organized by North End resident Daniel Ranville. Speaking as someone who lives in the neighbourhood where the gangs operate,
his words were ashes in the mouths of the university professors and professional Indian spokesmen.

Native people are becoming ashamed of being aboriginal because of the actions of the gangs, he said. The violence is getting worse; more innocent people are being hurt; and
the violence is most often directed by Indian thugs against aboriginal victims. The word 'criminal' is becoming synonymous with 'aboriginal.'

Decent, hard-working native residents of the North End are being tarred with the image, Ranville said. As the reporter Aldo Santin put it in the Winnipeg Free Press:

"Ranville, a social worker, said many aboriginal people in the community go to work every day, send their children to school and pay their bills. He said many of them are demoralized by the violence that is initiated by other aboriginal people."

The solution, said the marchers, has to come from the gang members themselves; they have to take personal responsibility for changing their lives.

"Some of us have come through these challenges and we can make a contribution to our community," Ranville said in the Free Press. "We’re marching to show that the situation is not as hopeless as it seems - challenging but not hopeless."

Will the voice of the people be heard in the Legislature? Don't hold your breath. Here's why.

The same day as the march, the NDP government, which has a hands-off policy when it comes to aboriginal street gangs, issued yet another news release on the topic.

September 16, 2009


Attorney General Dave Chomiak will meet with his western
counterparts tomorrow and Friday in Saskatoon to share
information on best practices and discuss initiatives for
fighting organized crime.

Why wait for the post-meeting news release when you can read the results in The Black Rod today. Look no further than....

Promising Practices for
Addressing Youth
Involvement in Gangs

Research Report prepared by
Mark Totten, PH.D
April 2008

In support of the Strategy,
Preventing Youth Gang Violence in BC:
A Comprehensive and Coordinated
Provincial Action Plan


Aboriginal Youth and Violent
Gang Involvement in Canada:
Quality Prevention Strategies
Mark Totten, M.S.W., R.S.W., Ph.D.

Volume 3: pages 135–156
March/mars 2009 (Institute for the Prevention of Crime, Ottawa)

Yep, same guy. He's the Director of Research at the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa, so he's got the clout to influence policy.

And what's his conclusion?

The answer to fighting youth gangs is---wait for it----more social workers.

Stop laughing.

You'll find it all in his B.C. report under the heading:

The initiatives described below are proven to be effective in preventing membership in gangs and intervening with gang-involved youth."

The initiative that Dave Chomiak will be talking most about is called Wraparound. It's the latest buzzword in gangology.

Here's how Totten describes it:

Wraparound is a complex, multifaceted intervention strategy designed to keep youthful offenders at home and out of institutions whenever possible.

* "A comprehensive continuum of individualized services and support networks are “wrapped around” young people, rather than forcing them to fit into categorical, inflexible therapeutic programs (Portland State University Research and Training Center, 2003). Individual case management is a cornerstone, although Wraparound is very different from conventional case management programs: in the latter, an individual case manager or probation officer navigates them through traditional social and youth justice services (Burchard et al., 2002).

* A collaborative, community-based interagency team (with professionals from youth justice, education, mental health, and social services systems) designs, implements, and oversees the project. One organization takes the lead in coordinating each individual Wraparound case.

The bottom line---more social workers.

There was another project that almost made the grade except for one teensy-weensy problem.

"• The Little Village Project (Spergel, 2006; Spergel et al., 2003) has shown the most positive outcomes of any comprehensive gang intervention program."

Little Village is an inner-city area of Chicago with the gang violence problems you would expect to find there. Starting in 1992, authorities launched a " balanced, three-pronged approach that encompasses prevention, intervention and suppression activities."

The outcomes were good except for one problem. The problem? "...
there was not any major decrease in the overall gang crime in the Village (Spergel et al., 2003)."

As for What Doesn't Work in Totten's opinion..."Approaches described below are proven to be ineffective and should be stopped."

* ‘get tough’ approaches
* sending gang members to jail
* government education programs
* aboriginal leaders outreach

"Get tough and ‘lock ‘em up’ approaches have the exact opposite effect of that intended: incarcerating gang members and those at risk of joining gangs is very expensive, increases gang cohesion and recruitment, and in many cases results in these youth committing more serious crimes upon release. Instead, Wraparound approaches, based upon an integrated system of care model, result in significant cost savings and have excellent outcomes."

• Traditional detached-worker programs, which use social workers, youth and recreation workers or Aboriginal leaders who outreach into gangs are ineffective and can do more harm than good by increasing gang cohesion (Klein, 1995).

Curriculum-based prevention programs targeting youth at-risk for gang
involvement, such as the American Gang Resistance Education and Training
program (G.R.E.A.T.) and the many Canadian primary prevention initiatives (see Appendix B) effect modest, short-term change. However, follow-up studies have fund program participants to be as likely as non-participants to become gang members in the long-term.

Uh oh. Check out what's in Appendix B:

2001 - 2006 Manitoba primary prevention initiatives (recreation, educational videos, booklets, primary and secondary classroom education, parent information, community collaboration)
• Lighthouses, Manitoba Justice.
• Project Gang Proof, Manitoba RCMP, Winnipeg Police Service, Manitoba Justice.
• Take Action: Street Gang Awareness, Winnipeg Police Service.

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