Report by Marian J. Rossiter and Katherine R. Rossiter, 2009. Prairie Metropolis Centre.

Did you know?

  • 46 to 74 percent of immigrant youth whose first language is not English fail to finish high school.
  • Immigrant youth are recruited into gangs and illegal activity as early as the age of 10, and continuing to the ages of 18-20.
  • Immigrant and refugee youth are not perceived to be in conflict with the law more than their Canadian peers, but they are more vulnerable to gang recruitment.

If the basic needs of immigrant youth are not met they will seek alternative means, which may lead to involvement in organized crime. This report examines key factors at play in the lives of immigrant youths who become involved in crime, gangs, and violence in Edmonton.

Prime risk factors identified are:

  • Family – poverty, lack of healthy family relationships, mental and physical health
  • Individual – pre-immigration violence, addiction, health issues
  • Peer – social exclusion, discrimination, inter-ethnic conflict
  • School – lack of ESL and curriculum adaptation; bullying; interrupted formal education
  • Community – lack of role models and leadership opportunities within their ethno-cultural community; lack of safe and affordable housing

Many of these risk factors will compound on each other to create extremely volatile situations.

4 major policy recommendations are made by the authors:

  • Enhance integration by providing adequate funding for settlement, mental health, and multicultural services to facilitate adaptation.
  • Government must ensure that the socioeconomic circumstances of immigrant families allow them to meet their basic needs. Programs for safe housing and appropriate employment are necessary.
  • Communities must have comprehensive support networks for immigrant youth and their families in place to provide youth with information about social and health services, education, employment, and other resources.
  • Schools are in an ideal place to meet the needs of immigrant youth. A process of needs and risk assessment should be set up, followed by adequate ESL support and necessary curriculum adaptation. Culturally and ethnically diverse staff populations are in a position to act as role models. Zero-tolerance methods for dealing with bullying and other transgressions should be replaced with restorative measures. Immigrant students should be supplied with career counselling, goal-setting guidance, after-school programs aimed at helping them adapt and integrate, and funding for further education.

Coordination between multiple levels of government and diverse sectors of the community is essential for reducing the risk of immigrant youth becoming involved in criminal activity.

This paper is useful for anyone working with immigrants or at-risk youth; educators.

Review by Jennifer Hoyer  

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