It’s our future — What are we doing for youth?

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Right now in Winnipeg, a young girl is probably performing sex acts with a man for drugs.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/01/2014 (3138 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Right now in Winnipeg, a young girl is probably performing sex acts with a man for drugs.

As you read this, undoubtedly a child is cutting and scarring her arms out of desperation over her plight in life.

Many young people are thinking about suicide; too many will succeed. We have about 10,000 Manitoba children in government care, up from fewer than 7,000 in 2006. They suffer broken ties from their families. A disproportionate number are aboriginal. Many will serve multiple jail sentences. Street gangs are swelling with young people seeking what is missing at home.

Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press files

Many of our lost youth have little chance, coming from neglectful families. Some have substance abuse problems interrupted by bouts in jail.

You need a licence to drive a car or to have a pet dog, but anybody can have children. Kids are having kids, and many are never taught how to parent. It is no wonder they have difficulty being parents if they had none themselves.

People need to learn how to parent, and the community must help them. A wise African proverb says: it takes a village to raise a child. The only way government and service agencies can help is by working together. Today’s social problems are too broad and complex for any single agency to achieve anything substantial alone.

Once I told this truth at a high-level meeting. Representatives from a variety of agencies were working on solutions to sexual exploitation. When it came time to agree on a direction, the meeting stalled.

I said, “OK, just so we’re clear, we agree that kids are going to be victimized and we’re going to let it happen because its someone else’s responsibility.” This harsh truth got the discussion going again.

Getting agencies to break from their conventional roles and willingly share ownership in social problems is difficult work. But sometimes we need to change. We all do our jobs well, and yet children still get victimized. Sometimes people who need help get lost between agencies. Doing better is not about avoiding liability; it is about doing what is right. It is about not leaving it to someone else.

We have a moral imperative to protect our youth. Our community must pull together to help struggling parents and neglected children. The only way we can make it happen though, is to share in responsibility. It is fair to say parents need a chance to learn. It is also fair to say government and non-government agencies are constantly asked to do more with less.

It is not fair to ask what the police are doing about crime, without also asking what the rest of the community is doing as well. That is like asking what the police are doing about poverty, health care, education and job opportunities. The police cannot deter crime alone, any more than a doctor can cure diseases resulting from a lifetime of poor health choices. These issues need addressing early in life before they become problems. Crime is the symptom at the end of a long path that often begins in childhood.

As a husband and father of four children, and having dedicated 30 years to working in the justice system, I am concerned about the future. Looking at our collective humanity now, I fear what may happen if we do not change.

Our village, our community, must pull together if we are serious about social justice and about making a brighter future for our youth.

 

— Staff Sgt. Bob Chrismas is in his 25th year with the Winnipeg Police Service.

History

Updated on Saturday, January 4, 2014 10:44 AM CST: corrects typo in lede

Updated on Saturday, January 4, 2014 3:58 PM CST: adds byline

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