Personal Injury & Violence


Aboriginal youth spoke to us about not only suicide but also the range of physical abuses they experience daily. In many instances physical violence erupted in public domains, whether it was a schoolyard, shopping mall or youth center as a result of remarks that were perceived as racist or discriminatory. To deal with threats of physical abuse, youth formed small groups for mutual protection. Most disturbing was the number of comments that indicated a perceived increase in gang recruitment of Aboriginal youth in Calgary.

They (non Aboriginal youth) stare at you all the time when you go out and then they scatter. There are so many stereotypes. One (Aboriginal) person beats up someone an then everyone is afraid.

Aboriginal female - 13 yrs

Homeless youth and youth in school indicated that they themselves or someone they knew had been approached by gangs in Calgary. Threats of physical violence, robbery or intimidation were also common if requests for money or other good were not handed over. Those who had been approached felt that they had been at risk because the recruiters knew how to create a sense of family or connections. The combination of "sticking together" with other Aboriginal youth to avoid bullying or individual attacks, having nothing to do after school, evenings and weekends as well as feelings of alienation have been cited as high risk opportunities (Hearing the Voices of Youth, 1999).


Injuries resulting from violence are the number one cause of premature death among Aboriginal Albertans, far more than for others. Small children, young people and seniors are hurt the most often. Throughout the time that the focus groups were being conducted, reports of an increase in the prevalence of suicides on the Siksika Nation were in the media. Although measures are being taken to find solutions for this problem by the Siksika Nation, Aboriginal youth in urban Calgary still face unacceptable risks of suicide, violence and personal injury.

My cousin wanted to commit suicide but the doctors wouldn't help him. They said it was only a phase. It's not a phase, he's sick.

Aboriginal female - 13 yrs

The incidence of injuries due to deliberate violence is considered to be higher than for injuries due to accidents. The suicide rate is five times the national average in the 15 to 24 year age group among Aboriginal youth. Not enough research has been done to indicate the main causes of youth suicide but some say it is combination of boredom, isolation, poverty, substance abuse, sexual and physical abuse and a general feeling of low self-esteem and powerlessness.(Strengthening the Circle, 1995).