From damaging cars to throwing rocks at local stores, Iqalummiut have seen it all. Children on the streets can be reckless when it comes to crimes.
Facebook group “Rant and Rave” is full of shocking recent examples: videos of kids bullying motorists as they pass by, stealing bicycles and even on one occasion assaulting a dog tied just outside his owner’s house.
Arctic Ventures Market Place, a local grocery store, has experienced its share of misconduct by youths.
“They constantly try to steal, and when they’re caught they throw rocks at us and the customers, and not small rocks either,” explains Troy LeBlanc, the store’s assistant manager. “One time, an employee tried to chase them outside and one of them threw a bicycle at him! It’s gotten to the point where we’re losing young workers because their parents find it too dangerous for them to come in.”
LeBlanc noticed that although the assaults on customers are random and not targeted, his store is more prone to the attacks as it’s in the centre of residential zones.
Pauline Melanson, representative for Iqaluit’s RCMP division, stated that children under 11 years old were caught on six occasions this year involved in four types of crimes: “false fire alarm; possession of property obtained by crime; assault and mischief.” Meanwhile, youths ages 12 to 17 were arrested on 27 occasions for “shoplifting, mischief, various assaults, arson and thefts.”
“Youth crime is connected to brain development — it’s about risk-taking. Maybe we haven’t created enough spaces where positive risks can be taken,” says Stephanie Clark, director of recreation for the City of Iqaluit. “What creates the conditions of success in youth development are meaningfulness; belonging; connections; knowing you’re important; and having consistency. If you don’t know that you mean something to someone, what good are you? You’re just floating as an island. At the end of the day negative attention is still attention.”
The last few years have proven to be especially challenging due to the pandemic, with key activities and resources not being as accessible to Northern children.
“Not having access to the aquatic center or the arenas has been very difficult and online school was very hard for a lot of people too” says Clark.
After 15 years of service in out-of-home care for children, Clark mentions she believes we need to have more empathy.
“We don’t take the time to ask the difficult questions, and just expect things are going to change,” she says. “We have even less empathy for them, as adults, you can see the patterns of these lives moving forward. Where’s the intervention? The intervention could be now.”