Key Issues Faced by Brampton Youth
The youth in Brampton currently face a variety of unique issues that were not as prominent of a concern for the older generations a couple of years ago. This analysis provides a brief overview of some of the key issues faced by the youth aged 15-25 within Brampton and what services/programs the youth need to address and overcome these issues.
Based on data collected from a 2016 survey conducted by the Youthful Cities organization, and news articles from Brampton Guardian, The Star, CBC, Globe and Mail, and more, this analysis finds that the youth in Brampton need greater opportunities to exercise entrepreneurship and creativity, increased employment security combined with affordability in education, improved safety, greater mental health support, improved public transit services, and addressing racism and increasing the promotion of diversity. The paragraphs below identify each issue and analyze it in greater detail.
#1: Entrepreneurship and Creativity
Youth in Brampton will benefit from greater opportunities to exercise their creativity and build their entrepreneurship skills. This is proven by the Youthful Cities survey, which found that the City of Brampton’s recreation programs are well known and attended by the youth, however “less than 1/3 of youth” are knowledgeable about programs related to skills development and entrepreneurship” (Youthful Cities, 2016, p. 23).
This analysis expands the definition of entrepreneurship to include not just starting one’s own business, but also having the opportunities to exercise and build one’s creativity and innovation skills. The youth will benefit from community programs that allow the youth to enhance their innovative and entrepreneur skills. Program ideas include informational workshops focusing on the importance of making connections, engaging with different community organizations, how to successfully market oneself on business platforms, creating a Linkedin profile, and more. Learning these skills early on will be beneficial for the youth because it will allow them to grow more confident in their leadership and independent working skills, crucial for their path into post-secondary
#2: Employment Security
The youth in Brampton need greater assurance of finding employment opportunities within their community. Most of the youth in the Youthful Cities survey explained that they are concerned about finding a suitable job in Brampton after their post-secondary career, especially in their desired fields (Youthful Cities, 2016, p. 33; Criscione, 2016). The younger youth are concerned about a lack of employment opportunities as well, due to the increasing expenses of post-secondary education. The lack of job opportunities, coupled with the increasing education costs prevent the younger youth from gaining adequate work experience for their resumes, which poses a great challenge when they are applying for volunteer or co-op based positions. Furthermore, unemployment and poverty within newcomer families and minorities results in youth being displaced because of “strife and instability in the family.” Statistics Canada 2015 report shows that 13% of individuals aged 18-64 live in low-income families (Statistics Canada, 2017). Financial hardships not only impact the adults in the family, but also cause a burden for the youth leading them to “mental illness and addiction”, “alcohol dependencies”, and social exclusion (Newport, 2017).
This shows that the community needs to expand employment opportunities for the youth, as well as the families, including increasing the availability in entry level jobs. Although there exists the Canada Summer Jobs Program, there should be greater promotional strategies to communicate such opportunities to the youth and connecting them to employment resources. It will be beneficial to introduce such programs within high schools or conduct community job fairs for the younger youth.
Additionally, there needs to be the provision of mental health and counselling support for the youth who are displaced or struggling as a result of poverty or unemployment within their families. This will help the youth cope with struggles in a healthy way. In addition to counselling, the youth should be taught how to build their resumes effectively and how to gain valuable volunteer experience, as that will help them impress future employers. Students should be encouraged to participate within their communities and there should be programs that facilitate student volunteer excursions. There should also be an increase in government programs that provide youth from low-income families with greater employment opportunities, including programs such as the Canada Summer Job Program. Often times, employers turn away youth seeking jobs because of a lack of experience, however, this prevents the youth from earning any experience. It becomes a burdensome cycle that impacts the youth negatively and prevents them from achieving career growth and success. Therefore, it must be ensured that the youth receive sufficient support with employment and increase employment opportunities for the youth, especially when they are from low-income families.
#3: Improved Safety
The youth also require programs that improve the safety of the youth, including physical and emotional safety. Recent news stories show that youth violence has been on the rise in Brampton, including the recent incident that occurred in Brampton East (Douglas, 2018; Marychuk, 2018). Another incident that was recent and widely circulated on social media occurred near College Plaza Campus (CBC, 2018).
This issue requires a need for programs that enhance the physical safety of the youth, such as strong bullying prevention programs within schools and easier access to the police system. While many schools have a strict no-bullying policy, there is often fear of social isolation and exclusion if the youth approach administration with their concerns. As a result, youth are unable to effectively handle situations of verbal, emotional, and physical violence. There need to be programs that encourage bystanders to come forward with any instances of bullying that they witness to prevent the situation from escalating further. On a community level, youth will benefit from youth employers receiving informational workshops that helps them recognize signs of bullying and provides them with training to handle situations of youth violence in their workplace.
Furthermore, there needs to be further analysis of the reasons that lead youth to increasingly pursue a path of violence to prevent future occurrences of youth violence. For instance, the lack of social and employment opportunities for the youth is linked to the increasing youth violence. This is exemplified by a 2017 United Way report, which states that “a lack of opportunity and where [youth] see themselves in the future” increases the risk of youth violence as it creates a disconnect between the youth and the community (Mirza, 2018). Youth lose a sense of loyalty and connection to their community because they are unable to grow and access the benefits the City offers. This can leave the youth feeling hopeless, helpless, and reliant on violent measures to handle their frustration. Programs to tackle this include providing the youth with mentorship and guidance to redirect them to healthier paths, as well as programs that youth overcome challenging social conditions, such as poverty (Mirza, 2018).
Therefore, a closer analysis of the reasons underlying the surge in youth violence will benefit the youth and prevent further escalation and instances of youth violence.
#4: Mental Health Support
Youth in Brampton require an improved access to mental health services, especially at-risk youth. This includes newcomer youth, those from low-income families, foster children, youth coping with addiction or other mental health issues, and more (Youthful Cities, 2016, p.30). The need for greater provision of mental health resources is apparent with the surge of increasing youth violence in Brampton (Mirza, 2018).
There must be an increased support network for the youth so they are able to handle any issues in a healthy manner. There is a need for programs that make the youth feel included and accepted, which means challenging any existing stigma against mental health. Youth need to feel supported in their struggles and require resources that allow them to open up about their struggles in a safe environment. This includes offering counselling services, free of cost or subsidized, factoring in low-income families’ youth as well as newcomers. Youth need programs that teach them to healthily cope with their struggles, such as informational workshops about healthy eating, engaging with organizations to exercise their hobbies as a way of de-stressing, and more.
#5: Improved Transit Services
Another area that needs improvement in order to enhance the lives of the youth in the community is transit services. Many youth increasingly travel using public transit, especially those attending post-secondary institutions in Toronto (Youthful Cities, 2016, p. 25). The frequency and availability of transit, however, needs to increase to accommodate the youth’s dependency. For instance, one 15-year old youth in the Youthful Cities survey reported that transit buses are frequently late, and many stops lack adequate roofing of chairs for protection against the cold weather (Youthful Cities, 2016, p. 17).
This shows that the youth have a great need for frequent, available, and adequate public transit service in Brampton. It becomes of increasing importance to newcomer youth and youth from low-income families, as the prices of gas are expensive. Additionally, it is important to have a reliable public transit system for the youth to help them build successful independence skills. Youth learn how to navigate by using public transit, a skill that is transferable to successful independent living for them for the future. The lack of frequency and proper conditions of public transit is detrimental to youth engagement within their community. It discourages youth from attending community events or volunteering at places that are not easy to access from their homes, especially in the winter season. This in turn impacts the sense of belonging and inclusion that the youth should feel with their community and instead fosters a disconnect between the youth and the government. Therefore, it is crucial to have affordable and reliable transit for the youth.
Promoting Diversity and Addressing Racism
Another area of importance that requires enhanced services and programs for the youth is greater promotion of diversity, addressing racism, and providing integrative support for youth, especially newcomer youth and youth that are visible minorities. While Brampton is well-known for its multiculturalism and diversity, youth, especially newcomer youth may struggle to cope with the cultural change and have trouble fitting in. This problem is exacerbated by instances of racism in schools and the community. For example, in 2014, there was distribution of anti-Sikh flyers called “The Changing Face of Brampton” and “Is This Really What You Want?” (Ahmed-Ullah, 2017) Furthermore, a 2015 United Way report on the wellbeing of Black youth in Peel demonstrated that Black youth still face racism in Brampton, despite its reputation of being a multicultural hub. For instance, black youth are “under-represented and underemployed” in the workforce, they are “over-policed” and “racially profiled in stores, schools and in transit” (Panjwani, 2015).
This makes it clear that despite the growing newcomer and multicultural population in Brampton, the youth still face systemic barriers due to their ethnicity and race. This in turn impacts the well-being and sense of community that the youth feel in Brampton. It reduces their trust in the government, community, and services offered by the City. Instances of both direct and indirect racism, such as the flyers distributed by Immigration Watch, create feelings of alienation and exclusion (Panjwani, 2015). Youth are unable to achieve their full potential in school and lack a support system. This calls for a dire need of community programs that promote inclusivity and diversity and urge the community and the municipal government to do the same. This includes mentorship programs for Black youth, newcomer youth, and youth belonging to other minority populations that allows them to excel in their academic and social lives. There also needs to be counselling services for these populations to allow them to cope with any experiences of bullying or exclusion. Without proper support and guidance, the youth may turn to alternate means of coping, such as substance abuse or violence. For newcomers, there should be programs that allow the youth to engage with the community through volunteering or employment, in order to increase their representation in the workforce and help them feel a sense of belonging. Additionally, the community must recognize and raise awareness about the impact and instances of racism.
Overall, this analysis discussed the most prominent issues faced by the youth in Brampton, including a lack of community programs that promote entrepreneurship, concerns of unemployment and affordable education, improving the safety of the youth within schools and the community, provision of greater mental health support, more accessible public transit, and increased efforts to address racism and promote the importance of diversity within the community. It is important to analyze the issues that youth face in the community to provide the youth with the most effective solutions. Of equal importance is to provide the youth a platform to engage in discussion about what impacts them the most, the process of which include conducting surveys, implementing programs at the governmental and non-governmental level that offer youth a discussion space, or conducting extra-curricular programs within school. It is crucial to ensure that youth today are able to grow in a positive, constructive, and inclusive environment to become effective future leaders.
Beenish Khan (Community Liaison Worker – Canada Summer Job Program 2019)