Two children died and seven more were critically injured as the result of gang violence in 2020, according to Saskatchewan’s Advocate for Children and Youth.
Lisa Broda, PhD, in her annual report released on April 27 said her office is currently assessing critical injuries involving seven youth who experienced a gunshot wound, stabbing or physical assault.
“In each of these cases, the youth had some level of gang involvement or affiliation that contributed to their injury,” said Broda. “It appears this may also have been the case in at least two deaths where charges of murder or manslaughter had been laid.”
Broda said her office is working on opportunities to better support young people in disengaging from gangs and reducing their risk of gang-related violence.
The report revealed that in 2020 there were 38 deaths of children who were in care, or receiving support from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services or a delegated First Nations Child and Family Services Agency. This is the highest number reported in the 12 years since the ministry has collected data.
Of those 38 child deaths, nine were suspected homicides, two were suicides and two were from drug/alcohol toxicity.
Thirty-five children were critically injured in Saskatchewan in 2020. Eight of those were suicide attempts, six were knife or blade injuries, and four were injuries from a shooting.
Broda also said the COVID-19 pandemic has created significant concerns about risks faced by vulnerable children and youth in Saskatchewan.
“It is evident the consequences of the pandemic is having a distressing effect on children in terms of their mental, emotional, social, and educational security. Many continue to suffer from social isolation, neglect and are experiencing abuse and maltreatment due to it not being detected. For extremely vulnerable children, these effects are compounded.”
During most of 2020, public health restrictions meant to control the virus have had a significant impact on children, according to Broda.
“As these social safety nets are compromised, it becomes more difficult to identify and mitigate the impacts to children during this health crisis.”
Broda has been a senior lecturer for the Department of Sociology at the University of Saskatchewan for more than 20 years. The Advocate for Children and Youth is an independent office of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan.