Bamboo Shield
Crime Prevention in Action - CPA-25
National Anti-Drug Strategy

The Bamboo Shield program works with high-risk Aboriginal and immigrant youth between 13 and 17 years old in three schools in Edmonton, Alberta schools. The Program provides at-risk youth with skills to reduce current and future involvement in criminal or delinquent activities. Bamboo Shield is supported by Public Safety Canada, National Crime Prevention Centre's Crime Prevention in Action Fund and is administered by the Centre for Race and Culture (CRC) - an organization dedicated to the elimination of racial discrimination in Edmonton and surrounding communities. The project began in May 2009 and will be piloted and evaluated until the end of August 2012.

In recent years, the challenges for African and Aboriginal youth in the Edmonton area have increased. Many of the immigrant youth have lived in war torn countries and have survived traumatic circumstances and poor living conditions. Some youth from countries such as Sudan, Somalia, and Liberia fought in wars as "child soldiers" before they came to Canada and aggressive physical reactions to many situations come naturally. Drug use is suspected as being high among these youth and their direct involvement in violence has left many traumatized. Diagnosis and treatment for trauma is rarely sought out. These youth face other challenges including limited language and literacy, lack of effective coping and anger management skills, cultural disconnection and family disorganization.

Some Canadian Aboriginal youthFootnote 1 face economic and social deprivation, alcohol and substance abuse, inter-generational cycle of violence, family disorganization, loss of traditional values and overcrowded and substandard housing. These risk factors have been linked to increased acts of violence and victimization by Aboriginal youth.

For African and Aboriginal youth, the challenges faced are heightened by the community risk factors they experience including living in neighbourhoods with high levels of violence, drugs, shoot-outs and family conflict. The Bamboo Shield works primarily with youth living in North East and downtown Edmonton where rates of substance abuse and offending are higher than in other areas of the cityFootnote 2.

One of the central risk factors addressed through the Bamboo Shield is drug and substance use. For this reason, the project has been identified as contributing to the National Anti-Drug Strategy (NADS). NADS is delivered by several federal government departments with goals to reduce the supply of, and demand for, illicit drugs and address crime associated with illegal drugs. The NADS approach is designed to lead to safer and healthier communities by taking action in three priority areas: preventing illicit drug use; treating illicit drug dependency; and combating the production and distribution of illicit drugs. Public Safety Canada's National Crime Prevention Centre is contributing to the knowledge about what works to prevent addictions related criminal behaviour.

The Evidence Base

Bamboo Shield is based on evidence from the Lions Quest approach.

Lions Quest - Skills for Adolescence

Lions Quest program (PDF, 103KB) is a community based, life skills program, designed to reduce the risk of substance abuse and violence by providing a nurturing, caring environment that enhances character, social and emotional competency, community service, and good citizenship skills. Lions Quest brings communities and schools together for group projects that provide youth with alternatives to substance use and aggressive behaviour. The Program uses classroom instruction, mentoring, positive parental involvement and cultural supports.

Results including 14% increases in participants' grade point averages in school and 72% decreases in their out-of-school suspension rates have been reported through evaluations of Lions QuestFootnote 3. Evaluation reports from Lions Quest program also show increases in the communication skills and abilities to show concern for the well-being of others for youth participants in grades 9-12. Grade 9 students in the program showed no increase in drug use and maintained a low risk for dropping out of school compared to students not involved in the program whose risk levels increased. Overall, students who participated in the program showed a much lower drop-out rate compared to students who were not involved. Engagement in community service showed significant results in increased positive community values and interpersonal competencies of the participantsFootnote 4.

Bamboo Shield Program Participants

Bamboo Shield involves Aboriginal and refugee/immigrant youth between the ages of 13 and 17 who have the following characteristics: criminal records, poor academic achievement, unstable families, and live in areas characterized by high level of criminal activities. The Project also involves the families of participants.

Key Partners

Many community partners are involved in Bamboo Shield. Some of the key organizations include:

Program Components

Youth are identified to participate in Bamboo Shield by the schools based on assessment of risk factors such as known drug and alcohol use, involvement in the criminal justice system, behaviour challenges, family break-down or truancy issues. Child and Family Service workers are also involved with schools to identify participants. Once referrals are made, the Bamboo Project Team meets with school representatives, police and court officials to review and make the final participant selection.

Once selected and assessed, youth participate in a structured curriculum covering eight core program areas. The Program is held during the school year and can begin when youth are in grade 7. Bamboo Shield continues through grades 8 and 9 with the curriculum in the eight areas becoming more advanced and age appropriate over the years.

Twice a month, family events are scheduled and community events are planned on an ongoing basis. Participants meet four times during the summer months and close attention is paid by the staff to follow up with the youth.

The eight core areas of the curriculum include:

Self Assessment and Goal Setting

These sessions help youth assess their decisions and the results of their actions. The youth learn about setting goals, skills for decision making and how to think differently about challenges they may face. Through structured and guided examination of their past actions youth begin to identify what they want or need to change. The final part of these sessions is to have the students look forward and describe what they want their life to look like in 20 years. This in turn helps the participants set goals to work towards.

Healthy Relationships

The next element in the curriculum is focused on learning to build strong relationships with family and friends. Youth examine their own and other relationships and learn to think about what makes them positive or negative. They build and practice skills for how to recognize and avoid negative relationships and how to build positive ones. The youth confront issues of confidence, cultural interpretations and misunderstandings and conflict resolution as they explore relationships.

Healthy Decision Making

In this part of the curriculum, focus is on decision making as it applies to alcohol and substance use. The students learn facts about drugs, tobacco and alcohol and explore how substance use affects more than just health. Youth spend time thinking about why they are using drugs and alcohol. Often the reasons for drug and alcohol use include anxiety, fear and other social pressures. Base on a good understanding of the situation, youth are given opportunities to learn and practice other ways to deal with the root causes of the issues. This part of the curriculum helps provide the tools youth need to think critically and deal effectively with stressful situations.

Interpersonal and Communication Skills

Youth's awareness of the fundamentals of communication are raised and they practice skills such as listening, sharing ideas and paying attention to non-verbal cues.

Academic Success

Bamboo Shield takes place in school settings and all the participants in the program struggle to some degree and for a variety of reasons with school success. This part of the curriculum examines topics related to academic success such as time management, organization skills, study habits and tips for increasing concentration. Students are given information about different learning styles and build an understanding of what works best for them and how to use that information in school and work settings.


The mentorship component teaches youth effective leadership skills. Mentors in the program are adults from the community who coach and support through their insights and experience. Mentors work with the participants throughout the program and help the youth strive to be someone their peers and family can look to for help or assistance. The youth also gain an appreciation for how leadership benefits them - through increased credibility, responsibility and confidence.

Conflict Resolution

In the conflict resolution portion of the curriculum, the students are challenged to apply all they have learned to resolving conflicts. They learn to identify conflict and examine their own attitudes, reactions and behaviours. They are taught conflict resolution skills and given opportunities to practice them in real life situations as well as in role playing scenarios. Learning to solve problems successfully and exploring the nature of conflict provides skills the youth can apply to conflicts family members and peers may be experiencing. The youth learn valuable mediation and negotiation skills.

Community Service

In this part of the curriculum, students participate in community service that makes use of what they have learned. They work together and identify a need or problem in their community. They then explore the need or problem and decide on a project that will contribute to resolving it. Examples of some ways youth have done this include dealing with lack of nutritious food by volunteering at a food bank or organizing a food drive. Through the community service projects, the youth extend the skills and insights they have gained through the Program to real life situations. They receive guidance and support and learn how to recover from mistakes. It is a reflective and unifying experience for them and leads to increased competence and resiliency.

Evaluation Design

A comprehensive process evaluation of Bamboo Shield is being conducted. The evaluator gathers data through a variety of mechanisms including participation in meetings and curriculum sessions and interviewing participants and their parents. The evaluator also conducts interviews or arranges focus groups with Bamboo Shield staff, principals, teachers and other staff at the schools and the mentors in the program.

The evaluation is guided by the following key questions: to what extent did the project reach its target population; were the project activities implemented as planned; did the project produce the expected outputs; did the project work effectively with partner organizations; and were staff selection practices, training, and skills adequate for the intervention?

Preliminary Findings

Bamboo Shield is currently working with 52 youth participants. Preliminary findings indicate that the youth participants feel more engaged while at school. With a stronger presence from their parents in their lives, there is better communication to support the youth more effectively. The youth are applying new, positive social and communication skills in their home, community and school settings. At the system level, the school, community services and community members report increased collaboration in supporting culturally marginalized youthFootnote 5.

Implementation Observations

Partnership with Schools

In order to reach youth from various backgrounds, Bamboo Shield works with 3 different junior high schools in the Edmonton area. Bamboo Shield staff have learned that every school has its own culture and it is important to be dedicated to communicating and working with each school administration and staff to understand the underlying culture and integrate the program into it. Bamboo Shield is grounded in a goal shared by all the schools - to provide the best possible support for students to be successful.

Use of Creative and Visual Arts

Bamboo Shield staff help students build their skills and abilities through creative and visual arts which include students learning positive expression, listening, decision making and team work through drumming circles and song creation. They have also created art pieces to share who they are and learn about other students. An art therapist trained in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will also contribute to the BSP in coming months.

Supporting Parents

Some parents and guardians of project participants have serious barriers that prevent them from attending monthly parent meetings. This challenge results from the multiple employment, child care and transportation issues experienced by the parents of participants. Other barriers such as distrust of schools, addiction issues and poverty also impact the participation of parents and guardians. To increase parent participation, program staff have arranged individual meetings and home visits with parents to accommodate their schedules and circumstances.

For more information on this project please contact:

Executive Director
Centre for Race and Culture
10865-96 Street, Suite #4
Edmonton, AB T5H 2K2
Tel.: 780-425-4644, ext. 3

Public Safety Canada
National Crime Prevention Centre
Prairie Region
700-310 Broadway Avenue
Winnipeg, MB R3C 0S6
Tel.: 204-984-7237

If you wish to register to receive crime prevention information please visit the subscription page.


  1. 1 Royal Commission Report on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996.
  2. 2 For more information, contact project sponsor.
  3. 3 Lions Quest Evaluation Report of Student Attitudes. (2008-09) Retrieved from (PDF, 22.1KB)
  4. 4 Lions Quest Evaluation Program. (2006) Retrieved from (PDF, 123KB)
  5. 5 For more information, contact project sponsor.
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