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Shane Partridge works for STR8 UP, a program that helps youth leave street gangs. (CBC) The recent acquittal of Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley in the death of Red Pheasant Cree Nation man Colten Boushie has angered young Indigenous men, says a gang outreach worker, but it has also focused them on pushing for change.

Shayne Partridge left a life of addiction and violence and now works with former gang members through Saskatoon group STR8 UP.

He is helping organize a provincial conference in May emphasizing the root causes of gang membership and ways to give young people hope.

He recently spoke to the CBC Saskatoon’s Jason Warick. Partridge’s comments have been condensed. Dozens of people gathered at a vigil on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 10, 2018, one day after Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC) On the Colten Boushie case

SP: Since the verdict came out, obviously there are some very fresh wounds in the community. Indigenous kids, they had that bit of hope in them. Things were going well, as far as reconciliation was concerned. It was slow, but it was moving.

Now, the sentiment is: "Is it worth it? Is this all for nothing?" It creates a sense of hopelessness.

On the response of elders and Indigenous leaders Colten Boushie is shown in an undated handout photo. (The Canadian Press) SP: I’ve seen them [youth] leaning really hard on elders, First Nations leaders. They’ve all been consistent with their message they’ve delivered to the youth. While they acknowledge the frustration the youth are feeling, it’s important to hold on, let people work on policy changes, change laws … rather than be so angry, that they lose focus on creating real progress.

There have been some kids, or gang members, who have looked for direction. They are mad. They want to do something, anything. They’re mixed up. They want some answers. It’s the feeling resonating in the core neighbourhood.

On the response of Indigenous youth

SP: They’re actively looking at what they can do as far as petitions for policy change.

There are young folks who’ve gotten in touch with me. They’re so into changing the Jury Act, they’ve already looked at the sections and are saying "How do we do this?"

I know there’s a lot of activity. People are taking it upon themselves to create change. I’m really proud of the youth for doing that. They may not be able to change what happened, but they can make darn sure it will never happen again. That says something to the resiliency of the Indigenous population.

Damn right there is anger and a feeling of hopelessness. Youth are approaching elders and saying ‘What do we do?’ But the fact they’re reaching out and asking rather than going into a state of chaos or committing violent acts … they are looking for ways to move forward … and make real change.

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