Photo courtesy of Manfred Joehnck

Hundreds of people gathered in North Central Regina this morning to take part in the 10th annual smudge walk.

The first one was held in 2008 in response to an article in Maclean’s magazine that labeled the neighbourhood the worst in Canada.

A lot has changed since 2008, but there are still problems with gangs, guns, drugs and crime. There is also renewed pride and new growth.

Among the speakers at the kick off was Margaret Poitras, who works in the neighbourhood, running the All Nations AIDS Hope network. She has a message for the young people.

“It’s time they wake up, Waniska, we say, time to wake up and take pride in who they are,” she said. “The ceremonies, the languages and the teachings. They have to come alive again in North Central.”

Volunteer Organizer, Treena Amyotte, says there is a new pride in the neighbourhood, and events like the smudge walk reinforce and build on that. She says there is also new development and new schools, and it is becoming a better, safer neighbourhood.

“Since we started the walk, we have certainly seen growth in the community and new investment,” she said.

Regina’s mayor, Michael Fougere and Police Chief, Evan Bray, helped lead the smudge walk as it wound its way through North Central. It ended with a barbecue and community celebration in a neighbourhood park.

Bray is well connected to the area, having spent most of his career as a frontline officer, working the streets of North Central.

He says it is one of the best neighbourhoods in Regina, despite some of its challenges.