Montreal’s Filipino community demands a seat at the table as the city grapples with youth violence

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Members of the Filipino community in Montreal are calling for more resources for young Filipinos and they want to be consulted as government officials look for ways to prevent gun violence involving young people.

Several community leaders spoke at a virtual conference hosted by the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRAAR) on Wednesday, calling on the government to address what they say are the many unmet needs of Filipinos. Montrealers.

“The Filipino community seems to be being left behind, despite our growing concerns about the social, cultural and economic marginalization of our young people,” said Ramon Vicente, President of Filipino Family Services of Montreal.

There are approximately 44,000 Filipinos living in Montreal, according to a 2016 Quebec census. More than a third — 35% — are under the age of 24, compared to the Quebec average of 28%.

Young Filipinos — especially those who live in Montreal’s Côte-des-Neiges neighborhood — face major obstacles, Vicente said. Many have limited access to educational supports, job training and sports. Nearly 60% do not speak French. They struggle with racism, drug addiction and poverty.

Bryan Perona, a young Filipino man who runs a barber shop in Montreal, says he knows firsthand the challenges young people in his community face because many come in for help.

“A lot of them feel like they don’t belong and they’re not treated the same,” Perona said. He said more after-school and recreational programs are needed to help young people stay out of trouble.

Peak of violence a “wake-up call”

Last week, a 17-year-old boy was shot and killed in the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough. Three Montreal teenagers were killed in 2021.

“The recent wave of violent crime affecting many Black and Arab youth in Montreal is a wake-up call for us in terms of engaging our youth and accessing violence prevention measures to implement programs for them,” Vicente said.

Quebec announced last December that it would commit $52 million over five years to youth crime prevention, in an effort to stem the growing tide of gun violence and crime. Half of the funding would go to targeting crime in Montreal.

Fo Niemi, who directs the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, works closely with the Filipino community and other English-speaking racialized communities to promote equitable access to youth and violence prevention measures. (Sudha Krishnan/CBC)

But according to Fo Niemi, executive director of CRAAR, many English-speaking community groups in Montreal working with racialized youth have yet to hear how the funding will be allocated or when they should expect to see the funds.

Fight for Inclusion at Gun Violence Summit

A Montreal summit on gun violence was held in late January but has since been postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19. The summit plans to bring together governments, police, community groups and schools, but the Filipino community is not included so far.

“We don’t know if we and other racialized English-speaking communities will be part of this summit and have equal access to this new [provincial] funding,” Vicente said.

Com. Stephanie Valenzuela, the first Filipina elected to the Montreal City Council, says she has reached out to members of the Montreal executive committee to find out how the Filipino community can be included in planning for the forum.

Stephanie Valenzuela is fighting for a seat at the table for Montreal’s Filipino community at the city’s upcoming summit on gun violence. (Facebook/Stephanie Valenzuela)

The Darlington councilor in Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce says her request has been forwarded to the Montreal police and she is still awaiting their response.

“As a first-generation Canadian Filipina, it is important to me to shine a light on the struggles that my community and many other ethnic communities experience on a daily basis due to the lack of accessibility to resources provided by different levels of government” , says Valenzuela.

She said she wanted to know what percentage of summit attendees are Anglophones and what percentage are visible minorities.

“I hope that by addressing this lack of integration in our city’s networks, we can create opportunities and give hope to our young people and to future generations,” she said.

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