TORONTO, Aug. 23, 2012 /CNW/ - On Thursday August 23, 2012, members of the African Canadian Coalition of Community Organizations ("ACCCO"), an ad-hoc coalition of African Canadian led and/or focussed organizations, came together to respond to the Youth Action Plan released by Minister Eric Hoskins and Minister Madeleine Meilleur on August 22, 2012.
The devil is in the details.
Moya Teklu, Policy Research Lawyer at the African Canadian Legal Clinic ("ACLC") said the Action Plan was "a start." "The community organizations that met with Chief Blair, Mayor Ford, Minister Hoskins, Minister Meillieur and Premier McGuinty, had very clear recommendations," said Teklu. "Among those recommendations was the wholesale adoption of the Roots of Youth Violence Report, the need for culturally reflective programming and services, and a meaningful recognition of the skill, knowledge and capacity that exists in African Canadian communities and organizations. While the Action Plan reflects these recommendations in a general sense, the devil is in the details. The success of the Action Plan will depend on how, where, for how long and by whom it is implemented."
It is unclear whether the Action Plan is in fact "balanced."
Mobafa Baker, Program Director of the Youth Justice Education Program, was cautiously optimistic about the Action Plan's commitment to social programming and community building. "The Premier called for a 'balanced approach,'" said Baker. "Without knowing the exact dollars and cents attached to the community building initiatives outlined in the Action Plan, however, we cannot say with certainty whether this approach is in fact 'balanced.' I am hopeful that the Province's commitment to community building will be reflected in an investment in nurturing young people that is at least equal to the millions of dollars committed to policing them."
A similar concern was raised by Donna Harrow, Executive Director of Alexandra Park Community Centre. "The allocation of an additional $2 million to crime prevention and community mobilization and increased funding to the Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) is concerning," said Harrow. "First, PAVIS and TAVIS already received a commitment of $12 million dollars. Both programs tout "community mobilization" as being central to their policing strategy so they are essentially receiving more funding to do the same thing. Second, because of the requirement that youth engaged in YIPI complete a successful employment security clearance process, many of the African Canadian youth who most need employment programming but are "known to police" because they have been racially profiled, will not be eligible."
The particular vulnerability of the African Canadian community must be publicly acknowledged and specifically addressed.
According to Ekua Andria C. Walcott, Executive Director of the Harriet Tubman Community Organization, one very noticeable omission from the Action Plan is any specific mention of the African Canadian community. "The Action Plan mentions minority, racialized and disadvantaged youth, advocates a place-based approach that focuses on 'concentrations of disadvantage' and those who face 'multiple barriers,' and recognizes the challenges of poverty and racism," said Walcott, "But it does not explicitly note the African Canadian community or the particular vulnerability of this community as a result of these very factors."
The potential significance of this omission was explained by Liben Gebremikael, Executive Director of Taibu Community Health Centre. "While there have been improvements in youth mental health, the African Canadian community was largely excluded from the provincial strategy," said Gebremikael. "Due to the lack of a targeted approach, the services provided in high-needs African Canadian neighbourhoods have not been able to meet the needs. If the Action Plan's broad acknowledgement of difference, disparity and marginalization does not translate into targeted investment and tangible resources in predominantly African Canadian communities, the situation will only get worse."
SOURCE: African Canadian Legal Clinic
For further information:
Moya Teklu, B.A., J.D., Policy Research Lawyer
(T) 416-214-4747 ext. 23