Indigenous youth in Canada are incarcerated at rates that are six times greater than their non-indigenous counterparts. Studies have attributed this disparity to several factors: the intergenerational effect of colonial policies for assimilation; racial discrimination, both by the policy and Canadian society at large; the lingering effects of residential school experiences; low educational levels; and few employment opportunities. Solutions proposed have ranged from engaging community-based organizations through using arts and cultural programmes to encourage youth to disengage from criminal activities. One such programme implemented in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is Saskatoon Community Youth Arts Programming (SCYAP), a charitable, non-profit organization that uses arts and cultural programmes to improve the lives of at-risk youth. Although programmes like SCYAP do appear to have some success in reducing youth crime, little research has been carried out on the attitudes and views of youth that attend them. This study aims to fill this gap by investigating the views of the youth who attend the SCYAP programme.
The study used the social control theory by Travis Hirschi as the theoretical framework. The study was qualitative in nature and used the purposive sampling technique for selecting the respondents. Eight Indigenous youth in training at the Saskatoon Community Youth Arts Programming (SCYAP) were selected for the study through interview. The data was analyzed using Nvivo. The results indicated that the overrepresentation of Indigenous youth in the criminal justice system may be at least in part due to the impact of government-sponsored residential schools and the intergenerational effects of colonialism. Other factors identified were racism, discrimination, partisan reportage by the media and blocked opportunities, in particular job opportunities, and a lack of community programmes such as SCYAP. Participants expressed that the art intervention programme at SCYAP has encouraged them to move away from crime by engaging their time; building up their self-esteem; developing their skills, improving their social relations, and helping them to heal. Based on these results, the study makes several recommendations: first, that federal and provincial governments advance support and funding for social programmes and amenities, community organizations and employment opportunities; second that the federal government provide funds to improve on-reserve living conditions and housing; third, that future research be devoted to raising social and cultural awareness to increase educational success for Indigenous youth and to improving the mental health of Indigenous families and communities; lastly, that public educational programmes for non-Indigenous and Indigenous learners be expanded to raise the awareness of the social and cultural history of Indigenous communities. Without these educational and community programmes, as well as other changes, Indigenous people will likely continue to experience racism, discrimination, and stigmatization in the wider society.||