Forty years ago, a TV program identified Pinehouse as the alcoholism capital of northern Saskatchewan.

A health worker says Pinehouse now has one of the lowest crime rates in the province’s north.

Mamawetan Churchill River Health Region worker Phyllis Smith says there is a good reason for that.

She says over the last 30 to 40 years, various residents and agencies have learned to work together to cut crime.

There is one frustration though.  Smith says just when police, teachers or nurses get to understand the community, they get transferred:

“Once you start developing the relationship . . . they leave, they switch.  So, then we have to re-create the relationship again.”

But she says the community just works with the next ones who arrive.

Smith spoke yesterday at the Northern Justice Symposium in Prince Albert.

Meantime, a well-known lawyer from the Kawacatoose First Nation says it is time Aboriginal people were included more often in the country’s justice system.

Don Worme acknowledges recent police surveys in Saskatoon and Regina indicate the Aboriginal population is becoming more comfortable with the police.

He says this could be the case, noting relations were at an all-time low in the wake of the Neil Stonechild inquiry in 2003.

Worme says, since that time, police departments have worked hard to try and recognize the various cultural differences that exist between them and the Aboriginal population.

Still, he says more work needs to be done.

Worme notes Aboriginal people have often been shoved to the side when policies impacting them are developed.

He explains one example of this was when mainstream society changed the intent of traditional healing circles to suit its own needs:

“They were genuinely healing circles where members of the community came together.  Yes, there were courts involved, even then.  But, as it soon came to pass, they became sentencing circles and the focus became remarkably different.”

Worme adds the recent gains made by police forces could be undermined by the federal government’s massive crime bill.

He says mandatory sentences will reduce the ability of judges to actually find a sentence that fits the crime.

Meanwhile, a new way of teaching children the value of leadership, team-building and community is getting some favourable reviews.

During yesterday’s session of the Northern Justice Symposium, educators from La Loche discussed the results of Project Venture.

The youth development model targets kids in Grades 6, 7 and 8.

Coordinator Sebastian Dupuis says, unlike traditional learning in a classroom, this model encourages students to learn through playing games.

One example of this would be a name game on the opening day so the children can remember each other.

Dupuis says the approach goes year-round and includes some after-school activities, too.

He says the project has proven its effectiveness in reducing absentee rates at school.