York University holds a forum on youth violence

York University will hold an open forum on youth violence on March 22. The event, which has been organized by Vanier College in cooperation with McLaughlin College, will take place from 2:30pm to 4:30pm. in Winters Dining Hall in Winters College on York’s Keele campus. “Hearing from Youth on Youth” will have a special panel of politicians, police, educators and community leaders who will come to hear the concerns of young people on the issue of youth violence.

“We are concerned about the increasing and tragic loss of young lives in Toronto. This has impacted the York community, especially with the recent killing of Chantel Dunn, a student at York University,” said Vanier College Master Carole Carpenter (left). “Our hope is to get young people and the city’s leaders talking about the cause of the problem and solutions to remedy this dilemma.”

More than 200 people have indicated their intention of attending the forum, said Carpenter.

“The concept for this forum came out of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It states that children have the right to have their voices heard. In the whole matter of youth violence, it seemed to me that there were a lot of talking heads but no one was listening to what young people had to say,” said Carpenter, who teaches children’s literature and culture, and is a specialist in areas such as childhood in Canada, multiculturalism and folklore as a discourse of identity. “So I thought an event of this kind would give today’s youth a chance to speak their minds. Many of the young people planning to attend have backgrounds where they have been victims of violence or they have been involved in violence either as witnesses or as perpetrators.”

Frustrated with what she perceived as the lack of listening, Carpenter decided that she would invite stakeholders and persons involved in making decisions relating to policies that address issues of violence to come to York University to hear what young people had to say. “We have representatives from the provincial government, York Region and Peel Region police forces. Peter LiPreti, City of Toronto councillor will be attending, and Margaret Gardonio, the principal of James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School, will be attending together with a delegation of students from the school. Roy Cullen, member of parliament for Etobicoke North, will be coming to hear what the youth have to say and York West MP Judy Sgro is sending representatives from her office to attend the event.”

The format, says Carpenter, has been designed to set the stage for listening. “These stakeholders will be seated on the stage and they are there to listen, not give presentations,” said Carpenter. “Anyone in the audience can get up and present their views and tell their stories. We have taking the ‘imposing’ factor out of the mix and tried to create a forum where constructive dialogue can take place.”

“This event matters to all of us, especially when young people like Chantel Dunn are killed in the crossfire,” said Carpenter. “It was partly my response to the sadness I felt over Miss Dunn’s murder that I conceived of a place where people could speak and those in charge of policy could listen.”

There will be a reception following the forum. “Come and have your voice heard,” said Carpenter. “All are welcome to attend.” For more information, visit the Vanier College Web site or contact the Office of the Master, Vanier College at ext. 55192.