Social Work Week promotes equality

Matt Gardner
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Local social workers attended a presentation on gangs at the Alfred Jenkins Field House on Tuesday as the main event of Social Work Week.

Registered social workers Laura Hildebrand (left) and Nicole Rancourt take a break during a Tuesday presentation at the Alfred Jenkins Field House on street gangs, which served as the focal point for Social Work Week. This year’s topic is promoting equality.

An annual celebration across Canada during the month of March, Social Work Week recognizes the contributions of social workers to their communities and the importance of their work.

The Prince Albert branch of the Saskatchewan Association of Social Workers (SASW) organized the local events for Social Work Week based around this year’s topic -- promoting equality.

Registered social worker Laura Hildebrand said the topic fit in well with the subject of street gangs, which impact area social workers across multiple fields.

“We keep talking about how it seems to be really prevalent with all of our workplaces … all the different agencies that we represent,” Hildebrand said. “So we thought we wanted to bring in something that would relate to everybody and this is an issue in Prince Albert.”

“We know gangs affects equality … and the people we work with,” registered social worker Nicole Rancourt added.

She pointed to the examples of women whose partners are involved in gangs, or youth aspiring to rise through the ranks who end up being assigned much of the gangs’ dirty work.

Referring to the day’s presentation by Correctional Service of Canada security intelligence officer Glen Frank, Rancourt noted that underprivileged individuals and those from rougher backgrounds are more likely to become involved with gangs.

“Just like Glen said, if you live on the west side of Saskatoon, your chances of not being in a gang are very little … I think that’s kind of similar to Prince Albert,” she said.

Frank, who has been delivering presentations on gangs with Corrections Canada for the last couple of years, has decades of experience working in the prison system and has dealt extensively with gangs since the mid-1990s.

Rancourt initially approached him to speak on the subject due to the gang issues that many local social workers deal with in the community.

“I thought it’d be beneficial to them as it is to many -- and because we deal with gangs prevalently in all of our major cities now, I was willing to share some of the information (and) experience that I’ve had over the years,” Frank said.

We know gangs affects equality … and the people we work with. Nicole Rancourt

In his presentation, Frank looked at definitions and examples of street gangs, examining why vulnerable individuals often join gangs as well as how the gangs recruit (typically using a variety of tactics, from seduction to subterfuge to coercion).

Many youth in communities, he explained, see gangs as offering a surrogate family and an exciting lifestyle, or are lured by the promise of power and prestige.

Inside prison, however, the motivations for joining a gang more often involve pressure or intimidation, with many individuals joining simply for their own personal protection.

For the varied audience who heard Frank’s presentation -- which included employees from the education, health and justice sectors as well as representatives of the YWCA, Bernice Sayese Centre and city council (Coun. Charlene Miller) among others -- there was plenty of food for thought.

Hildebrand noted that she had heard requests to hold additional training events on gangs within the community.

“Having a presentation like this is going to be preventative, to educate members in the community about how to look for warning signs of gangs and things like that,” she said.

While the gang presentation was the focal point of Social Work Week this year, it is by no means the only event.

This Saturday, certified yoga teacher and public school social worker Celeste Boran-Fetch will host a free yoga class from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Mann Art Gallery.

“I’m a yoga teacher and a social worker, so I kind of want to bring together two of the things that I really care about,” Boran-Fetch said.

“Social workers need self-care … You have very difficult work that we do,” she added.

Though targeted primarily at social workers, Saturday’s yoga class is also open to the public.

Anyone interested in attending may register by calling 306-981-5027 or 306-764-YOGA.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Saskatchewan Association of Social Workers, Correctional Service of Canada Corrections Canada YWCA Mann Art Gallery

Geographic location: Canada, Saskatoon

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