Montreal's Filipino community calls for place at the table as city grapples with youth violence

Members of Montreal's Filipino community want a place at the table at the city's upcoming summit on gun violence and more resources for English-speaking racialized youth.

Community members feel 'left behind,' demand more resources for English-speaking racialized youth

Members of the Filipino community are asking the city of Montreal and the Quebec government not to leave them behind with their crime prevention measures amid recent incidents of armed violence involving young people in Montreal.  (Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada)

Members of Montreal's Filipino community are demanding more resources for Filipino youth, and they want to be consulted as government officials look for ways to prevent armed violence involving young people.

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

"The Filipino community appears to be left behind, despite our growing concerns about social, cultural and economic marginalization of our youths," said Ramon Vicente, president of Filipino Family Services of Montreal.

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

Filipino youths — especially those living in Montreal's Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood — face major barriers, Vicente said. Many have limited access to educational supports, job training and sports. Almost 60 per cent do not speak French. They are grappling with racism, substance abuse and poverty.

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

"A lot of them feel like they don't belong, and they're not treated equally," said Perona. He said more after-school and recreational programs are needed, to help keep young people out of trouble. 

Spike in violence a 'wake-up call'

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

"The recent spate of violent crimes affecting many Black and Arab youths in Montreal is a wake-up call for us in terms of engaging our youths and accessing violence prevention measures to set up programs for them," said Vicente. 

Quebec announced last December it would spend $52 million over five years on youth crime prevention, in a bid to stem the rising tide of gun violence and crime. Half the funding would be geared toward targeting crime in Montreal. 

Fo Niemi, who heads the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, is working 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 CRARR, many of Montreal's English-speaking community groups 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 organized for the end of January but has since been postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19. The summit plans to bring together governments, police, community groups and schools, yet the Filipino community is so far not included.

"We are not sure whether we and other English-speaking racialized communities will be a part of this summit and have equal access to that new [provincial] funding," said Vicente. 

Coun. Stephanie Valenzuela, the first Filipina elected to Montreal's city council, says she has reached out to members of Montreal's executive committee to find out how the Filipino community can be included in the planning of 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 councillor for Darlington in Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce says her request has been passed on to the Montreal police, and she is still awaiting their response.

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

She said she wants to know what percentage of the summit participants are English-speaking and what percentage belong to visible minorities.

"I hope, by addressing this lack of integration within our city's networks, that we will be able to create opportunities and give hope to our youth and future generations," she said.