Community worker and youth leader, Victor Beausoleil, cannot comprehend how Mark Moore, who is accused of killing four males in the Greater Toronto Area, ends up on the front pages of most mainstream media while his photo and body of work is always relegated to the back pages.
Beausoleil who, like Moore, is 27 years old, is one of the youngest executive directors in the city, overseeing Redemption Reintegration Services (RRS).
“For me, that speaks specifically to how much mainstream media really applauds the brilliance of young Blacks in the city and the leadership of our young people,” said Beausoleil. “That has to change.”
The Scarborough-born Beausoleil is a candidate for trustee in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Don Valley East riding, which was left vacant when Michael Coteau was elected the riding’s new Member of the Provincial Parliament (MPP).
Nominations are open for the February 27 by-election for that ward and in Scarborough-Agincourt, which was also vacated when Soo Wong, who has held the seat since 2006, went to Queen’s Park as a new MPP.
Beausoleil says he’s qualified for the position.
“I have been a frontline community worker for 10 years and I have three children who are all receiving support from public education,” he said. “I think my insights and experience in terms of educational reform, policy development, extensive programs for parents, and meaningful ways to engage marginalized young people, will be a benefit to the board and the city as a whole.
“I also think my presence in that boardroom changes many dynamics. It changes the way decisions are made in terms of having a voice inside the room which can speak from a youth and African-Canadian perspective that is already limited.
“I feel it’s extremely important that I run because that kind of leadership is what is missing in our community.”
Beausoleil started volunteering 11 years ago in his Scarborough neighbourhood. He was a youth engagement coordinator at Tropicana Community Services Organization and youth coordinator of Dorset Park Youth Council, which received money through the Youth Challenge Fund to establish a sports pad – comprising a basketball court, cricket pitch and youth lounge – to help develop youth organization strategies and youth-based solutions at McGregor Park Recreation Centre.
As RRS executive director, Beausoleil oversees a staff of 10 working at two city sites to help incarcerated young people successfully reintegrate into society.
“Our staff range in age from 25 to 30 and we provide support in terms of housing, employment, education, mental health issues and challenges, and substance abuse,” said Beausoleil who is a board member of both the Atkinson Foundation and the Harriet Tubman Community Organization.
Beausoleil said the loss of several friends to gun violence sparked his passion for youth advocacy and community work.
“Many of my peers have died because of systemic barriers we face in the community,” he said. “A lot of times, young people are just a product of their environment (which) was developed around the social infrastructure that was not prepared for my generation. The urban planners who developed community housing had no clue what the impact of poverty and unemployment would have. That is Criminology 101.
“I have seen first-hand what happens when communities and neighbourhoods don’t have the resources to be effective in terms of supporting our young people to navigate agencies and the community in general.”
Beausoleil praised his parents for their support and for pointing him in the right direction.