BY PATRICK HUNTER
This is not an advocacy for another report on the problems facing Toronto’s African Canadian communities. It is a call for action – real emergent action that will resource a well-thought strategy to tackle this problem with depth. It is a call to our governments, at all levels, to take this matter seriously, and to show that they take the matter seriously – that Black youth in this society matters.
Last summer, the Ontario government finally “acted” on the Roots of Youth Violence report it commissioned, conducted by Alvin Curling and the Roy McMurtry. It announced certain measures: the formation of the Premier’s Council of Youth Opportunities; assigned Curling as Strategic Advisor; the development of an action plan to tackle many aspects of the problems facing youth – employment being a main factor.
Well, it seems the government has provided an update. Maybe I missed the big announcement, but I have to tell you that I did not know about it until I “Googled” Youth Action Plan update. Up popped the update. Here is a thumbnail sketch of what I found.
The Premier’s Council was established in March of this year. Its Chair is Lekan Olawoye. It’s made up of youth and young professionals representing various communities and cultures. One of its first tasks was to review the government’s “Stepping Up: A Strategic Framework to Help Ontario’s Youth Succeed”, which was apparently released in June.
Here is what the Chair said in his introductory message to the Framework: “When we were asked by the government to review Stepping Up -A Strategic Framework to Help Youth Succeed, we did so carefully and thoroughly. We recognize the importance of this document and we believe that it can be a document that provides leadership to build a better Ontario for young people. The Council believes that this framework must inspire action – as it speaks to the realities that young people are facing in their communities. Stepping Up should be used [as] a conduit for the transformation of how the province delivers the services and supports that make a difference for youth and their families.”
What bothers me about this document is that it is just that – another document that promises action, or as Olawoye puts it: “…must inspire action”. Here we go again.
Call me a cynic, but isn’t that what all the tons of reports on the Black community have essentially done over the last how many years? They are all geared to “inspire action”. Yet, when that inspiration takes seed, if it does, resources are limited and temporary, particularly in a community whose sometimes valiant attempts rely almost exclusively on volunteer supports.
Lest you think I am a “doom and gloom naysayer”, here are some of the achievements that the Ministry of Children and Youth have reported since the launch of the Youth Action Plan. These are taken directly from the website: “Created the first-ever strategic framework for youth in Ontario, Stepping Up: A Strategic Framework to Help Ontario’s Youth Succeed; increased the number of youth outreach workers across the province from 62 to 97; established the Premier’s Council on Youth Opportunities to advise the government on how to improve youth programs and better support youth; created more jobs for youth by expanding the Youth in Policing Initiative and the Jobs for Youth program to include after-school jobs during the school year; completed a review of the reintegration supports in the youth justice system, strengthening them to help youth in conflict with the law transition smoothly into their home communities, and launched an initiative to bring people together and identify opportunities to increase employment, mentorship and entrepreneurship for youth within the private sector.”
Community activist, Louis March, has undertaken a very specific task, supported by Redemption and Reintegration Services, to tackle the gun issue head on. Calling their effort the Zero Gun Violence Movement, March is hoping to rally broad-range support to get the guns away from the young people who seem bent on killing each other and who stupidly believe that having and using guns make them heroes.
And there is the root question: What is it about having a gun, shooting and killing their peers irrationally that is considered a worthy achievement?
The Framework idea is good if it does what it is supposed to do – establish the infrastructure and context to provide alternatives and opportunities for youth who are or who may be disheartened by a sense of nothing to lose. It is not enough to say this is what you are doing, or are going to do. Close monitoring and sustainability of what you put in place are key ingredients.
You would think that our politicians would have heard that message over and over again. And, that again is another troublesome feature. Sure they have heard it, but the Black community doesn’t vote as a block so politicians doing nothing would not affect outcomes.