Organizations and initiatives such as the STR8UP program not only save the citizens of the province tax dollars that may be spent on incarceration, they save lives. STR8UP members have gone from spending years in and out of the system to becoming responsible citizens, loving parents, role models, and teachers for the rest of us so we may have a glimpse of their truth and understanding of the world. These are a few of their stories…
STR8 UP Training & Employment Coordinator, Provincial Gang Strategy Assistant, STR8 UP Member, Board Member
Shane was born and raised on a farm West of Saskatoon, overcoming what most might label as insurmountable odds. Shane led a lifetime of addictions from a very young age, and experienced numerous instances/years of incarceration and gang involvement.
Since joining STR8 UP, Shane has been sober and has had no negative interaction with the law. Police Chiefs and Officers now know Shane as a community leader and peer rather than gang member.
STR8 UP was instrumental in helping turn Shane’s life around. He financed his own education through hard work in construction jobs, and has found that through his own truth, honesty, and life experience, no matter how hard and difficult it might be, no one can tell you that one’s past should discern their future.
He now sits on numerous Boards of Directors across the province, in a wide range of Executive Appointments within a political party, numerous community organizations such as STR8 UP, Quint Development Corp., Big Bear Cultural Society, and Treaty 6 Justice Collective. Shane has called out, called on, and met with, National leaders concerning the Canadian Justice System, Worker’s Rights, Prisoner’s Rights, Mental Health, Addictions, Social Enterprise, Law, and Policy.
STR8 UP Family Literacy Program Coordinator, Board Member, Singer/Songwriter, Mom
Jorgina’s extensive community work with youth and fierce truth-telling earned her the Aboriginal Order of Canada and as a first runner-up for the Canadian nation-wide Samara Everyday Political Citizen award in 2015. She recently completed work as a consultant for the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls in spring and summer 2017.
Jorgina has embraced an alcohol and drug-free life, acknowledging the difficulty it takes to change and moreover, maintain sober living. Her life story is showcased in several books, research articles and small documentaries that encourage and educate others about the realities of addiction, gang-life and prison.
STR8 UP Member, Board Member
Violence, misery, drugs, alcohol and gangs are a given on the streets. I do not accept what happened to me as a youth as normal. But it prepared me for a cold world, savage world. The world of street gangs and prisons. I had no education, or goals that were worthwhile. No history of my people. No identity to be proud of. The gang provided acceptance, love. Friendship and a sense of belonging. That was the illusion I was sucked into. As an adolescent, the ruthlessness in life was to be accepted. Reputation, violence, drugs and alcohol, gangs, were to be accepted. It was insanity. Hands bound together since the day I was born. Unable to break free. Knowing no other alternative. Not ever seeing a better way.”
Devon speaks of the mask that you need to wear on the streets. “It’s a persona of who you have to be. You feel judged, looked down upon. Not knowing who you are or where you come from, or having good role models. People don’t see how we got here… the history, the struggle. No one tries to understand the footsteps that got us here in the first place.” Pretty succinct words and the studies back him up.
Devon is now a member of STR8 UP and he speaks to the need for a focus on open communication that sees beyond the gangs. One that focuses on wellness, healing and treatment. “We need to stop the cycle of hate and blame, and dividing people into good and bad. We need to take the time to build people back up”.