Participants at the plenary session discussed six themes.
The forum enabled organizations working in Francophone minority communities and the federal institutions involved to discuss issues relating to the legal system and vulnerable youths in these communities. It was a first meeting and it is essential to continue with these initiatives.
It is necessary to perform an environmental scan that could define the problem more clearly and propose potential solutions to respond to the needs. Today, the situation of vulnerable young people in Francophone minority communities is unclear. We will need to move beyond anecdotal evidence to develop a consistent approach. To begin with, we need to know what agencies are working in the field.The findings from the environmental scan would provide a basis on which to build a strategy to channel our energy, coordinate efforts and implement prevention activities in the communities.
The participants said they were not yet at the needs identification stage. They were getting to know one another and establishing working relationships. Further thought and analysis are required before moving to the action stage. The forum allowed the participants to understand that prevention is achieved through social and community development programs. We must therefore take the risk factors that still need to be determined in Francophone minority communities seriously. This is a very complex problem and the work should not be performed in isolation. It requires the participation of community groups and the federal government; it must include all the stakeholders – the young people themselves, the provinces, municipalities, schools, families etc.
We might consider launching more specific projects in certain areas, such as the creation of local police or neighbourhood police to establish ties between the police and the community. This would help police better understand the realities and cultures of the community and the families. In return, the community will have a better understanding of the role of the police. This type of approach was tested in Manitoba (Winnipeg) and was very successful because it helped identify individuals at risk. It will soon be implemented in Quebec. This is a very good idea that may also encourage careers in the legal system for Francophones.
The target client group was not present today. We will need to find ways to get these clients to participate in future meetings to gather their views on the services offered, the realities and needs.
The plenary session ended with a discussion on the issue of risk factors relating to vulnerable young Francophones in minority communities. We will need to produce a list of specific factors so that the working group can use it to develop public policy.A number of views were expressed. Some said that the greater level of poverty of Francophone immigrants in minority communities increased the risk. Others said that poverty was not a risk factor in itself. Poverty was not a characteristic specific to Francophones in minority communities and young Francophones were not the only ones in this situation. These individuals did not speak the same language and a different approach would therefore be required with respect to their language, culture and environment. This did not answer the question of whether the risk factors were different.
Attempts were being made to identify other risk factors in this segment of the population. A significant fact was that a greater number of Francophone immigrants in minority situations came to Canada as refugees, compared to the number of immigrants who settled in the Anglophone community. One participant gave the example of the situation in Manitoba, where about 6% of English-speaking immigrants were refugees, while at least 50% of Francophone immigrants were refugees. The paths of these parents and young people were very different from the paths of economic immigrants and may have increased the risk factor in the Francophone population.
Other emphasized that limited access to French language resources for Francophones may be a differential risk factor. In some areas schools, from one year to another, there was a significant change in the percentage of young people with immigrant backgrounds. People are not adequately equipped to guide these clients in emergency situations, and the parents do not have access to the necessary information in French. Individuals' migration paths should not be overlooked and the material prepared for these clients should take them into account.