Safety is a key component to any community and feeling safe starts with a strong family unit. The residents in Hobbema are working to make the community a safer place one step at a time. As another member of the community was gunned down it should not stop the progress that has been made. The community and First Nations people are a strong family influence and are working together to help prevent more crimes from occurring with the introduction of a gun amnesty.
Hobbema has been a gun stricken community and last year alone the RCMP responded to more than 250 firearms-related complaints. Earlier this year 23-month old Asia Saddleback was wounded in a drive by shooting involving rival gangs. Gang activity has been a constant problem on the reserve where 13 different gangs have been active, some selling drugs just a few feet away from the local high school.
The government has also tried to help curb the violence in Hobbema by increasing RCMP on the reserves. Last spring, the federal and provincial governments had posted 41 members to police the four reserves, which gave Hobbema a police-to-resident ratio of one to 238 compared to Calgary where the ratio is one to 630.
Making a difference
However in the recent months residents have worked hard to improve their community. Driving through the small area just north of Ponoka there are fewer gang signs spray painted on buildings and rundown buildings have been cleaned up and gardens are been planted to brighten up the area.
The Community Task Force is doing a good job in Hobbema as they work together to try to bring peaceful measures back to their community.
Gun violence is not only a problem in Hobbema but a nation wide problem. A new study released by Statistics Canada examining the 2006 rate of violent crime involving firearms showed that Canada remained stable for the fourth consecutive year. Canadian police services reported just over 8,100 victims of violent gun crime, ranging from assault to robbery and homicide accounting for 2.4 per cent of all victims of violence.
The study also showed that the use of guns in violent crime among young people is increasing. The StatsCan data stated that the rate of youth aged 12 to 17 accused of a firearm-related offence has risen in three of the past four years, increasing since 2002. In 2006, more than 1,200 young people were accused of a violent offence in which a gun was used and this accounted for 2.8 per cent of all youth accused of violence; in contrast 1.8 per cent of adults accused of a violent offence had used a firearm.
To me the prevalence of gun violence in a small community and just a 15-minute drive away baffles me. I grew up outside of a small city and was surrounded by other local youth, mostly guys. I was a bit of a ‘tom boy’ and would run through the fields and play with the toads and the frogs without hesitation. However, the one thing that my parents were strict on was the use of guns of any form, this meant that during the lazy, hazy, smoggy days of summer I was not allowed a water gun. Also, any of the video games I played were of a sport nature or Disney approved with no sign of guns. Even as I’ve gotten older I tend not to play violent video games, recently I have fallen in love with the classic ‘Frogger’ on my computer, trying to help my cute little frog across the busy street without becoming road kill. Recently I went camping with some friends and one of the young boys had a water gun as I tried to fire I ended up getting soaked because I didn’t quite know how to use it. Now I’m not saying that my family was perfect, far from it but the solution needs to start at home in a family atmosphere. This includes the cadet core, which is such a positive influence for the community, elders, parents, siblings and older friends telling youth that guns are not the answer. The amnesty program is a great chance for people to turn in their weapons and get the guns off the street. If there are fewer guns that means there should be fewer crimes.
When you think of gun violence you think of the big cities not the culturally rich community of Hobbema I have been exposed to. From doing charity walks, hockey tournaments, positive role models and the former chief Victor Buffalo being named to the order of Canada.
There are many great, positive stories that have come out about Hobbema that have been reported and many that have yet to be discovered.
Now it would be naive to suggest taking all guns off the street but in a perfect world that would be be the best alternative.