While highlighting progress on many fronts, Mayor Charlie Clark took time during his annual State of the City speech to showcase some areas where Saskatoon still lags behind the rest of the country.
Clark used a portion of his speech Tuesday at TCU Place to call for new approaches to the problems of high school dropout rates and youth incarceration.
“I would say in Saskatoon we’re on the front lines of this issue because some of our incarceration rates are, shamefully, the worst in the entire country,” he said to media after delivering his remarks.
With Indigenous youth making up around 90 per cent of all young people in jail, and dropping out of high school at about twice the rate of non-Indigenous people, Clark said the issues have to be approached with the support of leaders from that community. He said the provincial government will also have a major role to play in any new approach.
While Saskatoon police would likely be part of any new initiative, Clark said the city’s biggest role is in bringing all the different stakeholders to the table.
“The city has a key role to play as a convener, as a champion for change,” he said.
Clark said he’s had positive talks with the province and other leaders on the issue. He noted it was still too soon to make any formal announcements, but he hoped to be part of one soon.
Newly installed Saskatoon Police Chief Troy Cooper said he’d like to see progress on both files as well.
He pointed to many problems arising from young people failing to finish their education and getting locked into the cycle of crime. He added, it creates a drain on police resources.
“Most of what we do —probably 70 per cent of what we do— is not criminal in nature.”
Cooper said that means police often find themselves used as an expensive service of last resort for problems better addressed by others.
“We are by default being social workers and teachers and health care providers and addictions counsellors, and that’s not our role,” he said.