VOICES OF YOUTH VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE IN MONTREAL
Published on September 19, 2023
Youth Basketball Tournament and Conference August 25 – 26, 2023
The Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) and the Jamaica Association launched an initiative for youth victims of violent crime by hosting a friendly basketball tournament on Friday evening, August 25 and a Conference “ Voices of Youth Victims” the following day. MCW was represented by President Linda Serpone at both events. The idea for this tournament came from a conference hosted by CRARR last March which MCW attended.
On Friday night, basketball teams comprised of young people representing various ethnic, linguistic and cultural groups city-wide participated in the tournament held at LCC. It was well attended by local City Councillors, team member’s family and friends and a few community group representatives. Sharon Nelson, First VP of the Jamaica Association of Montreal and Fo Niemi, Executive Director of CRARR opened the tournament with a warm welcome and a call to action. The two hosting community organization reps strongly believe basketball (and other sports and activities) can be used as a preventative measure in response to growing concerns about violent crime involving youth.
"Among young people, the use of guns and knives and other weapons is rising" stated Fo Niemi, CRARR's executive director.
The main goal of the conference held the following day at Centre Saint-Pierre “Voices of Youth Victims” was to bring young victims of crime and their families together with various representatives and groups from the community in the hopes of coming up with ways to reduce youth violence. Organizers and participants want support services to be developed, and for communities to receive equitable access to crime prevention resources.
Youth victims and survivors of violent crime shared their emotional stories and expressed the need for more support for victims, preventive strategies at schools and in the community and described how the system and people helped or failed them. The testimonies were both heart rendering and inspirational. It showed how youth who receive strong emotional support from a relative, teacher or their community and have access to healthy activities like sport, music or sessions to express their feelings can overcome the trauma and go on to lead normal or even inspirational lives. We heard how basketball, music or school programs in small groups allowing for self expression had been the key for many of these youths allowing them to overcome the trauma and stay on the right path.
We also heard from the parents who lost a child to youth violence and the life long trauma they suffer. How access to information and quickly, whether from police, justice or other entities, was paramount to a grieving parent. How shocking was the apathy from witnesses to the violence (including in one case, students and teachers who filmed the schoolyard violence but did not take a step to stop it), and how powerful was the internet in its capacity to bully and abuse. They expressed the need for access to more community resources from schools, the police and other organizations involved to help steer youth away from perpetrating violence or becoming a victim. They longed for access to healthy activities to attract and distract young people away from idleness, their cell phones and bad influences in the community. It was agreed that within ethnic communities, where often members are leery of engaging with local authorities, it was necessary for organizations to approach, engage and work within the community to provide support. The families of victims say although some help is available, many don’t know about the resources and a better job needs to be done to seek out those affected and help them get help.
Working with our allies and partners, MCW will be exploring ways in which we can assist in preventing youth violence. It was a great honour to meet such inspirational and resilient youth and we look forward to lending our support, working with victims and their families on this compelling and urgent issue.