Indigenous, Black youth spend more time in Ontario court system, according to report

Yet more evidence of system bias in our court system:

Young people charged with crimes in Ontario are waiting longer for their cases to be resolved, prolonging their time behind bars or extending onerous bail conditions – a situation that disproportionately affects Black and Indigenous youth.

The finding is part of a comprehensive report on youth bail by the John Howard Society of Ontario that is set for release on Tuesday. The research draws on provincial justice data and interviews with people who’ve endured the youth criminal-justice system.

The report, titled Unequal Justice, portrays a system that made huge advances after the passage of the Youth Criminal Justice Act in 2003, but has slipped of late in its treatment of a vulnerable subsection of the population.

Last year, The Globe and Mail found that racial bias pervades the adult correctional system as well. An investigation revealed that risk-assessment scores used to determine parole decisions, treatment plans and security classifications in adult federal prisons discriminated against Black and Indigenous inmates.

“Looking at young people, there’s an opportunity here, early on, to stop a lifetime of involvement with the justice system,” said Safiyah Husein, senior policy analyst with the John Howard Society of Ontario. “So if we are able to connect these children with the resources and supports they need early, then we can prevent them from cycling in and out of the justice system for the remainder of their lives.”

The Youth Criminal Justice Act, which applies to people between 12 and 17 years of age, has largely succeeded in doing just that. In 2000, Canada’s rate of youth incarceration was among the highest in the Western world, at 17.64 per 10,000. Today, it’s 3.79.

But those gains have come with huge racial disparities. The proportion of whites among youth in secure detention, the most restrictive form of youth custody, declined to 28 per cent from 39 per cent between 2006 and 2016. Over the same period, the rate remained flat for Indigenous prisoners, at about 10 per cent, and increased to 21 per cent from 19 per cent for Black inmates.

“The rate of youth detention has decreased overall since the implementation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, but the question is, are those positive impacts being felt by all? They’re not,” said Fareeda Adam, staff lawyer at the Black Legal Action Centre. “And specifically Black and Indigenous youth are not seeing these benefits.”

John Howard researchers found some heartening news in the court data. For instance, they determined that around 59 per cent of youth cases in 2017 recorded a bail decision at the initial court appearance. However, the number of young people who have to appear before a court five or more times before receiving bail is on the rise, to 9 per cent of cases in 2017 from 5 per cent of cases in 2009.

And those appearances are becoming more spaced out. While five appearances equated to roughly 2½ weeks in custody as of 2006, it stretched out to three weeks by 2017.

While such a stint might seem short from the outside, just a few days in detention can shift a young person’s mindset permanently.

“Whether it’s group care or jail, the system teaches you to run away from people who do anything negative toward you, or physically fight them,” said Liam Smith, a 22-year-old Belleville-based youth peer mentor.

Mr. Smith helps teens navigate the criminal-justice system. He says many of them are encumbered with impossible bail conditions.

“They get these silly conditions like ‘keep a curfew’ and ‘keep peace and good behaviour,’ ” Mr. Smith said. “What happens if the court tells a kid he has to be somewhere at 9 o’clock but due to circumstances he can’t control, he doesn’t have a bed and has to sleep on the streets? That’s a bail breach. He can get arrested for that.”

Those bail breaches come with administration-of-justice charges that can further entrench a young person in the justice system, the report states.

The report calls for an end to such “boilerplate” bail conditions, an increase in funding for programs that divert youth from jail, a renewed focused on expediting release for detained youth and the adoption of a strategy to address the overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous youth in the justice system.

“Once we have a robust system of community-based alternatives to jail, we can fully realize the goals of the Youth Criminal Justice Act,” said Ms. Husein, the John Howard analyst.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-indigenous-black-youth-spend-more-time-in-ontario-court-system/

Diversity, inclusion minister should act as ‘catalyst’ with cross-ministerial power, say advocates

Some good commentary but more speculation until we actually see the ministerial mandate letters:

Renaming the multiculturalism ministry to diversity and inclusion has drawn mixed reactions from affected communities, as advocates await the release of the ministerial mandate letter to signal whether action is likely to come with the new title, or if it’s just “window dressing,” as some fear.

Within Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.) expanded 37-member cabinet, announced on Nov. 20, multiculturalism has been hived off from the heritage minister’s responsibility, with a separate portfolio for diversity, inclusion, and youth created, to be overseen by Bardish Chagger (Waterloo, Ont.) as minister.

Shireen Salti, interim executive director at the Canadian Arab Institute, said she’ll be watching to see if Ms. Chagger will be empowered to “act as a catalyst ensuring that diversity and inclusion is evenly applied across governments,” and that it doesn’t work as “a stand-alone ministry.”

The role should involve looking at the various functions of government and ensuring that underrepresented communities see some outreach and affirmative action, and that equal opportunities apply across sectors, something Ms. Salti said needs to be addressed for Arab Canadians, who represent the largest demographic of newcomers right now.

Former Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes said she was critical of the position in the beginning, but it presents an opportunity to “shift the conversation,” which in the past has mostly focused on gender-balance, to one that addresses equity for all. It should envelope intersecting identities, including race, class, ability, sexual orientation, and religious minorities, she said, and the gender-based analysis that was applied to government work in the 42nd Parliament should be broadened.

The position should act as an “accountability” check on the Liberals promises, and she said she hopes Ms. Chagger is tasked to work across all ministries to ensure that policy is looked at from an equity perspective. That’s the key, said Ms. Caesar-Chavannes, who is critical of the term “diversity,” calling it a frame that may draw in more people, but doesn’t always lead to systemic change.

Diversity just means numbers, echoed Black Vote Canada’s Velma Morgan, while inclusion means actual participation, she said, and she hopes the minister’s mandate letter is “starting at home,” namely, addressing the dearth of diversity in government offices. It should include outcomes that lead to more people of colour among the political staff surrounding ministers, and those reporting to them in the bureaucracy, said Ms. Morgan.

“We need to have people at the decision-making table so it reflects our community, but also brings the voice of our community to those tables,” she said. “A policy may seem very neutral on the surface but it might have an adverse effect on our community, and if you don’t know the nuances in our community, then you wouldn’t be able to catch them.”

Without specific measures in mandate, it’s ‘window dressing’

To former Conservative staffer Angela Wright, Ms. Chagger’s new title is “very typical of the way” Liberals have done things, and doesn’t necessarily signal a change in direction or adoption of new policies.

“When it comes to diversity and inclusion, they’ve already done all the studies and the reports, and at this point we need to see action and we need to see money from government to signal this is actually a commitment and something they’re going to work toward,” she said.

Anything less than actual money, changes in law, and policy implementation “is just window dressing,” she said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh (Burnaby South, B.C.) has dismissed the new ministry as “pretty words,” rather than “real actions,” to address inclusion.

Political scientist Anita Singh was equally critical, noting cabinet positions like this one—and the newly formed ministry echoing the Liberal Party’s tagline of middle-class prosperity—are “a catch-22”.

“On one hand, the prime minister is trying to signal that these are issues that are important to his party, but on the other hand, by isolating these ministries, it fails to show how diversity, inclusion, and youth issues are interrelated to other key portfolios,” she said.

The biggest issues for youth, for example, are job creation, housing supply, and education, and so a ministry separate from that core work “makes little sense,” said Ms. Singh, while immigrant groups and people of colour face issues around immigration, credential recognition, and economic growth and housing.

“It is a weird irony that integration is being isolated this way,” she said. “There seems to be a lack of understanding about how these are all interrelated challenges.”

Though the Heritage office, Ms. Chagger declined an interview with The Hill Times until her mandate letter was issued. The office did not respond to follow-up questions about the renamed ministry, its budget and departmental resources, and whether it marks a change in approach.

These files are coming together because “there are synergies between these different roles,” Ms. Chagger told reporters on Nov. 21, the day after she was sworn in. She’ll also take on the LGBTQ2 Secretariat, created last Parliament, which has been transferred, along with the Youth Secretariat, from the Privy Council Office to the department of Canadian Heritage. The government also previously announced an Anti-Racism Secretariat, under the purview of the heritage minister, and $4.6-million to bring in a “whole-of-government approach” to address racism.

“These are areas that we take very seriously and the fact that it is a responsibility at the cabinet table tells you that we are going to ensure that when we are making decisions, we are making good decisions not only for today, but for future generations,” said Ms. Chagger.

Ruby Latif, a former Dalton McGuinty adviser who has worked at various levels of government and in Liberal circles, said she was pleased the government has taken this “step forward,” calling it a helpful position.

“When you have someone whose specialty [is] looking at inclusion and diversity, it ensures there is a lens being applied to all aspects,” said Ms. Latif, adding she thinks Ms. Chagger is the right person for the job.

Ms. Latif knew Ms. Chagger through Liberal politics, and said the minister’s experience through her work at the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre, before the second-term MP became a candidate, means Ms. Chagger “actually brings that lens of understanding of diversity.”

File typically considered a junior minister

This will be Ms. Chagger’s third portfolio since being elected in 2015. First, she was named small business minister in Mr. Trudeau’s first cabinet, and less than a year later moved to the high-profile House leader post. Now, she’s paired with the Heritage department in a post that’s traditionally been seen as a junior minister, noted University of Toronto professor Erin Tolley.

Asked by reporters if she felt demoted, Ms. Chagger said with cabinet positions, it’s the prime minister’s prerogative. She said she faced the same questions when she was small business minister, and as House leader, and that it’s “important” to sit at the cabinet table.

Ms. Chagger is one of seven people who are visible minorities who were named to the 37-member, gender-balanced cabinet. She’s the fifth racialized minister to take on multiculturalism—the now-renamed portfolio has been the most common assignment among the 20 or so visible minority people who have occupied cabinet posts since Pierre De Bané was named to former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s cabinet in 1978, soon after the post was first created.

Where racialized ministers are named is noteworthy, Prof. Tolley said, and while it may make sense to have people of colour to serve in positions that deal with anti-racism and multiculturalism, governments should see those objectives as everybody’s responsibility.

“You can’t meet these equity objectives unless white Canadians are doing some of the work,” she said. “If you want to stack up the comparison between symbols and actual outcomes from this particular minister’s perspective, she went from a prominent role to one of less visibility and less importance.”

Multiculturalism has historically been one of the “hot potato posts” that’s been “all over the map,” with governments dealing with it in different ways, added Prof. Tolley.

It was first housed within the old department of the secretary of state, which later morphed into Canadian Heritage, and it’s also lived with the department of Citizenship and Immigration. Some prime ministers had a separate minister of state for multiculturalism, while others didn’t have a minister whose post specifically included multiculturalism in the title, as was the case in Mr. Trudeau’s first cabinet.

Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly (Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Que.) was responsible for multiculturalism in 2015, but it wasn’t brought into the title until now-House Leader Pablo Rodriguez (Honoré-Mercier, Que.) replaced her in the post in July 2018.

Semantics are important to politics, said Prof. Tolley, because it’s an explicit choice.

“The portfolios are not named accidentally,” she said, invoking the middle-class prosperity file as an example of a “symbolic and semantic” choice

“I’ll be curious to read the mandate the letter so see how, in practical terms, that symbolic choice materializes,” said Prof. Tolley, adding she also found it curious that the government isolated “youth” as a particular category.

It suggests something about government priorities, she said, whereas the words “diversity and inclusion” are “doing a lot of work” and are capturing a lot of different interests and identities and categories the government might be interested in. Last Parliament, Mr. Trudeau himself held the youth portfolio.

“From my perspective the name change, it doesn’t really go that much further, unless the mandate letter includes something about equity and outcomes,” she said, and it may be a case of simply renaming what was already there, and “in some ways almost diluting it, because now you’re dumping more and more elements into this bucket of diversity.”

Source: Diversity, inclusion minister should act as ‘catalyst’ with cross-ministerial power, say advocates

Refugee and immigrant youth are more likely to end up in the emergency room during a mental health crisis than their Canadian-born peers, a new medical study shows

Not too surprising but nevertheless significant:

Refugee and immigrant youth are more likely to end up in the emergency room during a mental health crisis than their Canadian-born peers, a new medical study shows.

Newcomers did not seek early help from primary care doctors likely due to barriers in accessing and using outpatient mental health services, said researchers from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and the Hospital for Sick Children.

“Efforts are needed to reduce stigma and identify mental health problems early, before crises, among immigrant populations,” said the study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal Tuesday.

Based on health and demographic data, researchers looked at emergency department visits for mental health issues by youth between the ages of 10 and 24 years in Ontario.

They identified a total of 118,851 young people who visited an ER with a mental health concern between 2010 and 2014, including 1.8 per cent or 2,194 refugees and 5.6 per cent or 6,680 non-refugee immigrants. The rest were Canadian.

“Most major mental illnesses have an age of onset in adolescence and young adulthood with about 20 per cent of youth experiencing mental illness. Our findings suggest that there are important subgroups of immigrant and refugee children who face barriers in accessing outpatient mental health care,” said study co-author Dr. Astrid Guttmann, chief science officer at ICES and staff pediatrician at Sick Kids.

“Interventions to improve access to the mental health system should consider the needs of specific immigrant populations.”

The gaps between immigrant and non-immigrant youth can be attributed to differences in culture, language proficiency, ability to navigate health services and even referral biases by health care providers, said the report.

While the majority of youth sought help for mental health issues at an emergency department first, the rate was higher for newcomers. The study found 61.3 per cent of refugee youth, 57.6 per cent of non-refugee immigrants and 51.3 per cent of Canadian youth went to an ER first.

Report lead author Dr. Natasha Saunders, a pediatrician at Sick Kids and adjunct scientist at ICES, said the differences are both statistically and clinically significant.

“Emergency services are important for managing acute mental health crises, but for most mental health disorders, primary care would be the most appropriate place for treatment and referral to specialized services,” she explained

“The high proportion of immigrant and refugee youth who have not been previously assessed for mental health problems suggests a need to understand specific cultural and other barriers and enabling factors related to the use of mental health services and access to care.”

Among all immigrants, recent arrivals had the highest proportion (64.3 per cent) of first contact in the emergency department, as did non-refugee immigrants from East Asia (61.7 per cent) and refugees from Africa (65.4 per cent), Central America (64.6 per cent) and East Asia (62.5 per cent).

Those who live in low-income and rural areas and those without OHIP coverage also had higher rates of first contact for mental health in the ER, said the report.

Source: Refugee and immigrant youth more likely to end up in ER during mental health crisis, study shows

Quebec’s immigration debate out is of whack with province’s youth

Not sure how representative this survey is of all Quebec youth given limited to three CEGEPs in Montreal but nevertheless interesting and reinforces overall pattern of youth being relatively more open and comfortable with diversity:

….Lost in the political noise last week was a study released by a team of scholars working under the backing of a radicalization research group at Cégep Édouard-Montpetit.

The group surveyed close to 1,000 students at thee mostly francophone Cégeps about their attitudes toward religion, immigration and extremism.

They found that 59 per cent either agreed, or strongly agreed, with the statement that immigrants in Quebec are well-integrated. About the same number disagreed with the idea that the province should accept fewer immigrants.

Strong majorities also indicated they wouldn’t be bothered by a teacher wearing a hijab, skullcap or cross.

Seven out of 10 said they didn’t believe banning religious symbols in public would do much to counter radicalization.

Asked what their major social and political concerns were, the Cégep students prioritized the environment, inequality and economic development over immigration.

This is not to suggest that a debate about immigration is not worth having.

But the findings from this study raise the question of whether the terms of the current immigration debate are at all relevant to the generation that will have to live with its consequences.

Quebec’s politicians are spending a lot of time worrying that newcomers are not fitting in. The province’s youth have moved on to the next question: What are we going to accomplish together?

Source: Quebec’s immigration debate out is of whack with province’s youth