Aboriginal youth unprepared for city life: study 

Report recommends steps to overcome ‘culture shock’

Aboriginal youth are facing a queue of challenges when moving from rural communities to the city, and reserves need to do more to prepare them, a study by the Vancouver Native Health Society (VNHS) has found.

The 26-page report, titled Success in the City: Examining Aboriginal Youth Moving from Rural to Urban Communities, got its information from literature reviews and discussions with aboriginal people in rural and urban communities throughout British Columbia. The report was released to the public through NationTalk, a national newswire covering stories about First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

Research for the study began when the VNHS noticed that aboriginal youth were having trouble adjusting to city life.

Cole Rheaume, director of sales for NationTalk in B.C., coordinated the study for VNHS. “It was undertaken by Vancouver Native Health because they had anecdotally understood… that there was youth that were finding themselves perhaps getting into trouble and having a difficult time in the transition,” he said.

Among several findings, the report states that factors such as high unemployment, isolation and lack of educational or other opportunities are driving youths from reserves and into cities. Other factors include a low standard of living and abuse and neglect within families, according to the report’s executive summary.

“These shortcomings leave youth unprepared for the demands of city life and predisposed to anti-social behaviour when they migrate,” the report reads.

The report identified culture shock as one of the biggest challenges that aboriginal youth experience when they move to the city.

Though the report has several recommendations for improvements to be made on reserves, it nevertheless says that those communities provide a safety net for youth with factors such as housing, family, food and a sense of identity.

The report reads that youth find themselves in a situation of “cultural dislocation, loneliness and poverty” when moving to the city and that some individuals are left “completely adrift.”

“Unable to integrate quickly, the individual feels isolated and disconnected,” the report says. “This interferes with normal socializing, and indeed many youth expressed difficultly integrating socially to their new environment.”

Consultations with youth found that their experiences in the city were closely tied to the amount of exposure they had to urban areas. The report notes that those who had little first-hand experience with the city had their views shaped by verbal accounts and story-telling mixed with media representations from television the Internet and print material.

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