North Central (Regina) – my home neighborhood – all my formative years were there (ages 12-26): I got an education there, learned about life, became a criminal, was poverty-stricken, got my first car, was introduced to my faith, made my closest friends, and was around many of the Aboriginal people groups from across Saskatchewan (whom my closest friends consist of). This neighborhood has been deemed by Macleans magazine as ‘the worst neighborhood in Canada’ – that’s the whole country – based on statistics. What does it mean – it means I gotta break this down.
I was watching news and they interviewed a lady named Julie Shore (who still lives in the neighborhood) – and I think she exemplifies a lot of what this neighborhood is. Her life story consisted of these elements – being stabbed, having her mother killed, addicition to drugs, and then turning to faith – in which she admits she finally got her ‘first job’ (she was approximately 27). I watched the story and I was like ‘and…’, I mean this is so commonplace that I hear her story and I barely ‘bat an eye’ – been there or seen there. Here goes the story.
The statistic is really not news to me – I think I knew this was the case. Growing up and attending Sacred Heart School we would compete with the neighboring schools for the highest crime/violence rates amongst schools – Sacred Heart won the dubious award 2 years in a row in the late 80’s. I actually am not sure that title ever leaves the school systems in that area.
I lived in the neighborhood for almost 15 years and I can say that crime rates grew the whole time I lived there. Last year was the culmination of year’s of struggle – Regina was both the murder capital (per capita) and crime capital (per capita) in all of Canada – we have dropped to 2nd half-way through this year. Most murders in Regina occur in North Central – or can be traced back to that neighborhood. Then you have a strong drug scene, the growth of gangs (who run the drugs), prostitution (even children), mass poverty (welfare), education rates which equal under a 50% graduation rate, lack of funding for programs, alcoholism, and a crime rating that shoots through the roof for theft and break n enters – so much so if you live there you expect to have your car broken into – we even keep our doors open so they don’t break a window. Is it the worst? I only lived there and nowhere else – to me it is pretty bad and Julie Shore called it ‘the worst neighborhood she has ever seen’ (a sentiment shared widely in North Central).
There used to be no ‘guns’ in the inner-city or North Central – the last few years changed that – I have a friend serving a 3 year sentence for a shooting at the Empire Hotel. Gangs and drugs made it neccesary for the equipment – but it’s only been introduced in the last 5 years. Knives and stabbings are horrendous – apparently in Vancouver they called us ‘stab city’ – a moniker with some truth – I have a few friends that have been stabbed in the past 10 years (nice scars). But this is the horror of living there – and most of this sh*t comes out at night – and I actually advise people not to walk through there at night – for safety purposes (if you don’t know anyone) – might get jumped and robbed (happens more than it gets reported in our city). North Central is weird that way – a lot of sh*t never gets reported – we just ‘deal with it’ (one way or another).
For me this is my home neighborhood – when I get the chance to be there I am. I have such a love for that place and I want to see it become a better place for the poor, broken, destitute, and sometimes – despised. That neighborhood has some of the most open and nicest people I have ever met in my life – and they are realer than real down there – they don’t mince words or beat around the bush – another aspect of it I love – ‘it’s this way or that way (don’t sh*t me)’. I found many of the people down there to be quite welcoming and racism is quite small – it’s racism in authority that have kept many of the Aboriginals in this neighborhood out of opportunities. I love the fact I can relate with the people in the ‘hood’ – I am one of their own who is making a difference – and trying to help others get employment. I just love that place – I actually wanna move back but that’s for me and my wife to argue over.
I’m just saying – the report is saying something to the city of Regina – stop ignoring the problem – just because it doesn’t effect you and you don’t see it – doesn’t mean it ain’t happening – this Mcleans article was a wake-up call – let’s start making things right.