Keyon Campbell’s death was just one of four shootings and a stabbing that the Malvern community has witnessed in the past three weeks.
How these types of incidents can be prevented is the cause of much discussion among youth workers and community groups.
Anthony Hutchinson, an organizer with the youth group Real Opportunities for Success in Education (ROSE), believes the answer lies in making our education system more inclusive of visible minority youth in the Malvern community.
“In the last little while, Toronto District School Board was taking money out of ESL, and putting it into other things,” claims Hutchinson, who says many youth from visible minority backgrounds and low income neighborhoods become “swallowed by the environment” when alienated by the schools.
More ESL funding
Kelly Baker, the TDSB’s communications coordinator, agreed that there was a decline in ESL funding from 2001 to 2004. However, she also noted that the board has slated a $4.3-million increase for ESL programs in the upcoming 2008-2009 school year.
Nonetheless, Hutchinson claims Keyon — a former ROSE member — and other youths in the community have been unjustly labeled as mentally challenged by the school system.
Hutchison had told the Scarborough Mirror that youth who are given this label can often score math grades in the A range, and speculated that Keyon’s assailant was probably one who wasn’t doing well in school himself.
For Elaine Munro, however, the answer lies not only in keeping youth in school, but also in giving them something productive to do when school is out.
Munro works as a project manager with Serve!, a group that organizes educational workshops and activities for Malvern youth in the summer and promotes the virtues of leadership, assertiveness, teamwork and diversity.
One of the group’s projects was the construction of a totem pole that was briefly stolen from Morningside Park earlier in the year.
With constructive feedback from the program’s mentors, Munro says the behaviour of some youth has “turned around.
“They don’t automatically get angry, throw something and storm out the door,” she said. “They have actually applied themselves and succeeded in accomplishing things in the program.”
Angels give tips
On the other hand, when it comes to offering increased security in Malvern, Guardian Angels of Toronto leader Robert Ing feels his group can make a difference.
Similar to a neighborhood watch, his small group of around a dozen unarmed citizen volunteers patrol city streets and act as a “visible deterrent to crime,” and an “extra set of eyes” to notify police if trouble breaks out.
“We’re not supermen, we don’t wear body armour and actually stop a gunfight, but we can certainly act as a good deterrent,” Ing said.
“With Angels in the community, we’d hopefully be able to speak to people, put our finger on the pulse and see if something is coming about, if someone feels wronged by something, and there might be retaliation.”
Ing says members recruited from within the Malvern community would also serve as good “role models” for the youth in the community.
“I would much rather have my kids join the Guardian Angels ‘gang’ than some street gang,” he said.
Simply putting more officers on the beat would be another possibility. But Hutchison, believes that isn’t the answer.
“The City of Toronto spent $150 million over three years to put 150 officers on the street. In the same city there are about 60,000 at-risk-youth,” Hutchinson said. “Using that much money for three years, we could create job opportunities for 10,000 of those at-risk-youth.
“Instead of 10,000 youth getting jobs, we invested in 150 officers. What would you rather do?” he said.