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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Cedar Project : exploring the health related correlates of child welfare and incarceration among young Aboriginal people in two Canadian cities. Clarkson, Adam


Aboriginal leadership and communities at large are deeply concerned about the disproportionate number of young Aboriginal people entering the child welfare and justice systems in Canada. The current institutionalization of young Aboriginal people must be understood as an extension of Canada’s colonial history, including generations of family disruption and child apprehensions. More knowledge is needed on the impacts of these experiences among young Aboriginal people. This study compares sociodemographics, trauma experiences and drug and health related vulnerabilities between young Aboriginal people who were taken away from their biological parents and those who were not, and between those who were incarcerated in the last six months and those who were not. Baseline survey data from on ongoing prospective cohort study of urban Canadian Aboriginal young people was analyzed to determine variables associated with the child welfare system and recent incarceration. To be eligible, participants had to be between the ages of 14 and 30, be living in Vancouver or Prince George, and have used illicit drugs in the past month. Recruitment methods included word of mouth, posters, and street outreach. Surveys were administered between October 2003 and November 2007. Multivariable regression found that child welfare was associated with having at least one parent attend residential school, suicide ideation, and ever being on the street for three nights or more. Among those who injected drugs, being taken from parents was associated with overdose, injecting with used syringes, and self-harming. Recent incarceration was associated with currently self-harming, being male, ever being in juvenile detention, and injection drug use for the total population, and injecting with a used syringe and spending three nights or more on the street for injectors. Eleven percent of injectors who were incarcerated reported injecting while incarcerated. Dedicated efforts are required to support young Aboriginal people who have been involved in the child welfare and justice systems. Focus on trauma care and on supporting families and communities is crucial in addressing the disproportionate number of institutionalized Aboriginal young people. Jurisdictional reform, cultural programming, supportive housing and harm reduction strategies are urgently needed.

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