Forum on Vulnerable Young Francophones in Minority Communities

4. Information messages

The agenda included five information messages to be presented at different times of the day. Two of the messages were from the communities and three from the federal institutions. The purpose of presenting these information messages was to enable the participants to better understand certain realities in the field and become familiar with the approaches of the federal institutions that were members of the working group.

4.1. Léonie Tchatchat – Executive Director, La Passerelle, Toronto

Ms. Tchatchat thanked the forum organizers for this opportunity to have discussions with new partners and establish new collaborations. La Passerelle is a Toronto organization that works with Francophone youth from disadvantaged neighbourhoods. About 80% of the organization's clients are immigrants from developing countries. These are young people from a racial minority, who experience poverty on a daily basis. Because their parents often face integration problems, these young people have a great deal of difficulty achieving their full potential (isolation, lack of cultural activities with which they can identify, dropping out of school, etc.).

Ms. Tchatchat presented a project completed in 2008 with the young Francophones in her area. During this project, focus groups were organized and young people of school age were invited to create a poster describing everyday reality in their schools and communities. When the time came to launch an awareness campaign with these posters, this was the most striking phase of the project because it revealed the existence of tribes within the class – the African tribe and the White tribe. In some classes, teachers recognized that this type of division existed and admitted feeling overwhelmed because they had no tools to deal with these types of problems.

The second project presented was the mosaic passport. This project gave young people from different communities the opportunity to share their experiences in order to find solutions to problems of safety and violence. It was clear from discussions that the young people felt threatened by the attitude that the police adopted towards them. These situations often degenerated into trouble with the police.

Ms. Tchatchat also provided some information regarding the situation in Ottawa. According to data from the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa, 85% of the 140 youths detained in March 2004 were young immigrants. Of these, 80% were young Somalis (170 young Somalis have been in trouble with the law). These figures were higher than those of the previous year. According to the Regroupement ethnoculturel des parents francophones, a local organization that works with parents and youths, 43 young Somalis were placed in custody and 121 got into trouble with the law in 2003.

Ms. Tchatchat concluded by saying that community organizations that work in the field with young people from minority communities often lack the means to cope with this problem, which affects their clients.

4.2. Tanniar Leba – Executive Director, La Boussole, Vancouver

La Boussole is a community, economic and social support centre serving Vancouver's Francophone community. Sixty-five percent of its clients are French-speaking migrants from Quebec and Ontario and 35% are recent immigrants to Canada. The organization is active in four areas, social services (crisis intervention, outreach, mental health, substance abuse), community services (meals and community activities, clinical and legal assistance), employment and immigration. Although the organization does not receive any funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, part of its work involves immigration, because of the realities encountered in the field.

In short, La Boussole is facing three major challenges:

  • In British Columbia, the Francophone community represents 1.5% of the total population and French is in 6th place in demographic terms. Yet, according to a 2004 study conducted by the city of Vancouver, 25% of street youths were Francophones. Still in Vancouver, a more recent study revealed that 8% of the homeless were Francophones.
  • Funding comes from various levels of government, i.e. federal and provincial governments and the city of Vancouver, as well as from local organizations. The federal government is increasingly devolving control over the administration of the programs to the province. This transfer of responsibility could, therefore, lead to a loss of federal funding.
  • The political, social, economic and demographic context is also challenging. The number of new arrivals never stops increasing and neither does the disparity between rich and poor. Amendments to provincial laws and regulations are affecting the most disadvantaged and vulnerable clients. For example, anyone for whom any Canadian province has issued an arrest warrant, and who wishes to settle in British Columbia, will be denied access to welfare. This legal situation may make matters worse for street youths and increase delinquency.

In terms of best practices, the organization implements activities in the field of crime prevention and social reintegration of young transients through art and manual labour. A future travel project illustrated by young people will give young immigrants, and refugees in particular, the opportunity to retrace their paths and share their experiences.

4.3. Dan Quirion – Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Mr. Quirion outlined the drug and organized crime awareness program organized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This is a program established by 55 members of the RCMP across the country, in partnership with communities. One of program's challenges involves language, especially when working in Francophone minority communities. The need to increase the police officers' awareness in order to enable them to better understand young people and newcomers is also a challenge for the program.

Another important aspect is the need to support young people who are vulnerable and at risk. To ensure effective prevention, it is important to make young people understand the role that police officers play, to educate and inform them so they are able to make good decisions. It is equally important to educate the community. The main issue is how to reach these young people. This is where the program needs to get parents involved because they are the best teachers and educators for their children. The program, therefore, provides parents with tools for coaching young people. The RCMP is using new technologies to implement this program, including a website created and operated by young people.

Mr. Quirion concluded by emphasizing the need to work together to avoid duplication, which is especially important during an economic crisis.

4.4. Major Guy Peterson – National Army Cadets Coordinator, National Defence

Major Peterson presented the Army Cadet League of Canada, an organization that brings together 12 to 18 year-olds, and whose purpose is to develop their leadership abilities and make them better citizens. The organization is not involved in recruiting young people for the Canadian Forces. The Army Cadet League of Canada has about 1,500 cadet corps involved in activities in 700 communities.

Anyone who is interested may join the Cadet League, regardless of their origin, colour or language. The organization is open to everyone and is very effective because it helps mentor young people, including young people who are at risk and vulnerable.

4.5. Nancy Boillat – Senior Counsel, Public Prosecution Service of Canada, Quebec Regional Office

Ms. Boillat's presentation made participants aware of the mandates and approaches of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC), which was etablished on December 12, 2006. The PPSC fulfills the responsibilities of the Attorney General of Canada in the discharge of his criminal law mandate by prosecuting criminal offences under federal jurisdiction and helping to strengthen the criminal justice system. The PPSC is also responsible for advising law enforcement agencies and communicating with the media when prosecutions are being conducted.

The Director of Public Prosecutions has both federal and provincial responsibilities. The Director is responsible for prosecuting drug offences in all provinces and territories, except Quebec and New Brunswick. The Director is also responsible for prosecuting violations of our laws, such as the Fisheries Act and the Income Tax Act. In the three Territories, the PPSC is responsible for prosecuting all Criminal Code offences.

The creation of the PPSC reflects the decision to make the principle of prosecutorial independence transparent, free from any improper influence.

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