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A.P. La Barge: Youth and Family Challenges in Canada

Presentation notes
Conference on Promoting Strong Family Values - Foundation for a Peaceful Nation

Universal Peace Federation and Women's Federation for World Peace
Toronto, Canada
June 9, 2012

All children should have the opportunity to be born healthy and into a loving, nurturing family. Families are the basic social units or building blocks of human society. Families nurture the young and ensure the survival of the species. Families build up a person’s personality.

From a policing perspective, families play integral role in community safety and crime prevention.  Good child rearing stops crime from ever happening in the first place. But childrearing has always taken place within a group or village setting. The village includes other parents, other families, teachers, community groups, government agencies, the police, and other young people. Young people more at risk today than ever before due to changes in society.

Despite media reports, there is no youth crime epidemic, but it is still a major concern. The majority of youth don’t commit crime; they are more likely to be victims. We have sympathy for abused and neglected children, but society demands severe punishment if they commit crimes. Children who commit crimes are often children in need, and their family or society has let them down.

There are identifiable risk and resiliency factors.

Risk factors for youth crime:

•A family history of persistent offenders often characterized by parental alcohol and or drug abuse, parents conflict, excessive discipline, and parental neglect

•Child feels isolated, confused & angry

•Struggles to establish and maintain relationships

•Poor value system = fall victim to peer pressure

•Leads to issues at school & in the community

•Parents experiencing time famine

•They spend less time with each other and with their children due to work commitments

Risk factors for children abusing drugs

•Family history of substance abuse and friends who use drugs

•Early use of alcohol and tobacco

•ADD and other behavioral problems

•Unable to attain conventional rewards

•History of sexual and physical abuse

•Trauma, depression and anxiety


The impact of media violence on youth

•Children growing up too fast and in a less supportive environment

•Too many kids being raised in front of TV or video game console

•Studies show that 81% kids aged 2-7 watch TV alone and unsupervised

•By 18, child watches 200,000 acts of violence and 20,000 murders on TV

•Video games sensationalize guns and use of violence as a way to resolve problems

•Studies show extensive viewing of TV violence causes greater aggression


Resiliency markers for children

•Promoting youth resilience is a  combined effort of parents & families, schools, communities, youth themselves

•#1 is strong family relationships

•Kids are taught good value system and good social skills and self control so they can resist peer pressure re drugs, gangs, crime

•Children active in their church, clubs, sports & school activities

•Parents spend time reading and playing with their children in early years


Studies about the impact of early years

•Experiences we are exposed to in early life affect our learning, health and behaviour throughout life

•ECD has a long reach - Shapes emotion, regulates temperament & social development

•Shapes physical/mental health and behaviour in adult life

•Shapes physical activity and language & literacy capability


The impact of families on children

•Parents & families have a powerful impact on children

•Parental alcohol abuse = more emotional problems, aggressiveness and criminality in children

•Parental depression = behavioral problems in children

•Family violence & excessive discipline = increased aggression & bullying in kids

•They see and hear everything

•Participation in organized recreational activities = higher vocabulary & communication skills


The impact of poverty on children

•Poverty can have a debilitating effect on children

•The younger the parent = the lower the income

•Low family income often leads to poorer outcomes for children

•The longer a child lives in poverty the greater the difficulties

•Major crisis in Aboriginal communities – National Shame

•3% society/22% prison population

•Significant health, housing, education, crime, substance abuse issues in First Nation communities are robbing children of their future


The impact of poverty on New Canadians

•Economic stress is also acute in ethno-cultural and new immigrant families

•Big issue because immigration is critical to our survival as a nation

•Aboriginals are the only group which is exceeding its replacement rate

•Immigration now accounts for over 2/3 of our population growth

•Four groups identified as most likely to have persistent poverty issues:

Aboriginals, new immigrants, lone parent families and persons with disabilities


Canada is a land of oportunity

•UN Ranks Canada as best country in the world to live after Norway, Australia, Netherlands, USA & NZ

•Religious freedom & stable economy

•Democratic system of government

•Accessible health care

•Safest communities in world

•World class educational systems

•280,000 immigrants admitted last year

•Multiculturalism = Welcome place for all Canadian multiculturalism

•Grew out of RC on Biculturalism & Bilingualism

•Adopted as official policy in 1971 by Prime Minister Pierre E. Trudeau

•Creates common society from diversity - Unity in diversity

•Public programs support inclusion of newcomers

•Kaleidoscope of the world’s people

•His Highness Aga Khan calls multiculturalism  “Canada’s Gift to the World”


Ontario's York Region - Strength in Diversity

•Region was created in 1971

•Markham, RH, Vaughan, Aurora, Newmarket, King, Stouffville, East Gwillimbury and Georgina

•Bordered by Toronto, Lake Simcoe, Durham and Peel Regions

•1.1 million population – growing by 30-40,000 citizens a year

•One of the key centres of multiculturalism and ethnic diversity in Canada

•Number of immigrants + 34% in past 5 years

•Highest immigrant growth rate in the Greater Toronto area


Ontario's Police Services Act

•Safety and security of persons & property

•Safeguard Charter of Rights & Freedoms/Human Rights Code

•Emphasis on community cooperation

•We must be sensitivity to Ont. pluralistic, multiracial & multicultural character

•We must be representative of community

•In diverse societies, police can help    build communities - starting with families

•252,000 families in YR & we have highest proportion of married couples in Canada with children @ 67%


York Region Police's Family and Youth Programs

•In 2003, revised our family & youth programming - CPSD

•Partner with YRDSB, YRCSB, CFIF, JCA, MACA, Future Aces, APMC, B’Nai Brith, SSN, CAS, YBH, SGate & York University

•Common Roof approach

•Youth committees/scholarships

•Teach 30,000 kids a year at CSV

•Emphasis on Character Matters

•Special camps & programs for at-risk kids and families


The Changing Face of the York Region

•York Region is rich in cultures that span the globe

•2 out of 5  or 40% of York Region’s 1.1 million  residents are visible minorities

•Only 3 out of 10 VM’s are Canadian-born – other 7 are immigrants

•204 different ethnic groups represented in Region

•Top 5 - Chinese, Italian, East Indian, Can. & English

•Top 5 visible minority groups – Chinese (16%) South Asian (9%) West Asian, Black and Filipino

•Markham is Canada’s most diverse municipality – 65.4% of its 310,000 citizens are visible minorities

•80+ different languages spoken; top 5 are Chinese, Italian, Russian, Persian and Tamil

•35,000 residents have no knowledge of English or French

•300+ varied places of worship

•Multiculturalism at its best - Ja’ffari Islamic Centre & Temple Har Zion - Harmony Award for A Lot to Share

•Diversity has helped make York Region the envy of Canada and Canada the envy of the world


Diversity vs. Inclusiveness

•Diversity - the extent to which the community has people from different cultures, races, religions and backgrounds in it

•Inclusiveness - initiatives you put in place to make your community a safe and welcoming place for all

•Snapshot vs. motion picture

•Immigrant families face unique challenges even in safe, multi-cultural countries like Canada

•Canada needs to be a more inclusive country, not just a diverse one


Challenges Faced by Immigrant Families

•Negative media and societal stereotypes

•Language, employment and housing issues

•Feelings of isolation, depression and vulnerability

•Cultural and generational clashes

•Changing role of women and elders

•Targeted by crime groups

•Concern for safety of family in homeland

•Fear & mistrust of police and government agencies

•Victims of racism, discrimination & hate crime


Effects of Discrimination

•Victims suffer more than physical & emotional effect

•Hate mongers want to instil fear and hurt

•Sends message to them & their community that they are threatened, inferior and not welcome here

•Victims and communities feel anxiety, stress, fear & isolation

•If unresolved, community attitudes can harden and leads to distrust and retaliation


Under Reporting of Crime

•Crimes against immigrant families and communities often goes un-reported

•General fear and mistrust of police due to conditions in homeland

•Perceptions carried over into their new homeland

•Feel vulnerable & isolated

•Community safety hinges on community cooperation


Community Support Agencies

•Some communities have well established support organizations

•B’nai Brith 1874, Canadian Jewish Congress CIJA1919,Black Action Defense Committee 1988, African Canadian Legal Clinic 1994, Friends Simon Wiesenthal Center 1977

•Some in their infancy


Trading Places

•Changes in family and gender roles, dress & dating habits present major challenges to new Canadian families

•The changes impacts on their    identity, behaviour and relationships especially male/female and father/daughter ones

•In Canada, decisions on dress, dating and career choices seen as individual ones, but not so in many immigrant families

•Conflict between the two cultures sometimes results in tragedy  i.e. Shafia family - Aqsa Parvez murders


Finding a Balance Is Challenging

•Parents argue that the need to integrate shouldn’t override richness & meaning of immigrant culture

•Fitting into mainstream seen as a survival tactic in high school

•Being pulled between two cultures is a daily reality for many teens

•Culture in a multicultural society is  never a single expression – it is an  amalgamation of lifestyles, values, ideologies, traditions & social modes

•Canada should be a nation where diversity and integration can function hand in hand and families flourish


The family is the origin and basic foundation that is unchanging throughout the ages. It cannot be changed by a father, by a brother or sister or even a nation’s institutions. The family is the school of love. The patterns of behavior established in the family determine the patterns of behavior in society at large. - UPF Founder Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon