This week we delivered SafeGrowth training in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, a Canadian city of about 15,000 in central-north Saskatchewan. Over the years North Battleford has had its share of troubles, including a top crime ranking for Canadian cities a few years ago.
This week city officials, police, and residents teamed up to expand their crime prevention and community development work. SafeGrowth training is now underway in a range of projects throughout the city. As well, representatives from three other nearby northern cities joined the training - the cities of Lloydminster and Prince Albert in Saskatchewan and Red Deer, Alberta.
My co-instructor Elisabeth Miller and myself worked with this impressive bunch, committed as they were to learn how to improve community life. Next month we will see what they produce.
I grew up in a northern Canadian city and I have a soft spot for the people who call them home. The best northern places boast a strong sense of community, industries like mining and lumber with well paying jobs, and outdoor adventure activities in unspoiled forests. The worst northern places suffer high unemployment with boom/bust economies, social unrest, substance abuse and the high crime so often accompanying that social dysfunction.
There was recently a somber reminder about the seriousness of crime prevention work in northern communities. One week ago in the small aboriginal town of La Loche, 300 miles north of North Battleford, four people were gunned down in a multiple murder - two were teachers at the La Loche high school. A few years ago a gang shooting killed one resident directly across from the La Loche RCMP police detachment.
Perhaps lessons from the SafeGrowth work in North Battleford will ripple out to other northern communities suffering violence and crime like La Loche? We can only hope. Clearly, there is much work to be done!