NATIONAL

The problems persist in North Central

COLIN CAMPBELL March 31 2008
NATIONAL

The problems persist in North Central

COLIN CAMPBELL March 31 2008

The problems persist in North Central

COLIN CAMPBELL

When Maclean’s labelled Regina’s North Central neighbourhood the worst in Canada last year, politicians rallied at the North Central Family Centre, citing its youth running and boxing programs as evidence of some of the good work being done in the crimeand drug-infested area locals call simply “the hood.”

Last week, the centre was back in the spotlight, but for all the wrong reasons. A video surfaced showing members of the running squad, the Dirty Dozen, drinking alcohol with their chaperones and smoking pot while on a trip in Jamaica last December. The centre’s director, Sandy Wankel, and assistant director Ivan Amichand, offered their resignations (the person working the camera is called “Sandy” in the video and Amichand is shown drinking with members of the team), but the centre’s board, chaired by Wankel’s sister, refused to let them go, arguing that their departure would disrupt services too much.

The incident has sparked outrage within North Central’s largely Aboriginal population and reignited debate over just how much progress is really being made in tackling the community’s ills. “What happened here was a breach of trust,” says Pat Pratt, whose two sons and daughter were on the Jamaican trip.

Nobody wants the centre to close or cut programs, but there needs to be accountability at the top, she says.

Community leaders say they plan to protest the centre’s inaction—and they argue that a greater leadership role should be handed over to Aboriginal leaders. The centre has said it is launching its own investigation. But the whole affair underscores just how deeply rooted the problems are in North Central, says Rosalind Caldwell, a local community activist. “Just because a lot of politicians gather around the centre and hold up this program, the problem isn’t going away.” M