At Midaynta Community Services, we seek to empower racialized communities in Ontario, provide a platform where issues impacting the black community can be discussed, and take a leading role in addressing such issues. The 3rd Annual Conference on Youth Resiliency, Hate, Racism, and Youth Radicalization is one the many ways Midaynta provides a platform for youth and brings multiple stakeholders together to discuss and devise solutions on issues that impact the black community in Canada. This year’s conference brought together a diverse group of panelists to share their expertise, knowledge and strategies on youth resiliency, hate, racism, and youth radicalization— issues that are current, continue to dominate news headlines and impact racialized communities in Canada, especially racialized youth.
Racialized youth and communities in Canada continue to face systematic barriers, racism and discrimination, trauma and grave mental health concerns that need to be addressed. Amid all these challenges and barriers, the resiliency of racialized youth in Canada is something remarkable. Notwithstanding all the barriers and challenges racialized youth face, important lessons can be drawn on how the youth cope with such adversity. The 3rd Annual Conference provided such a platform, affording different communities the opportunity to learn from the experiences of the youth and share their own success stories. Highlighting the importance of youth resiliency and including youth voices on different platform helps counter the dangerous negative narratives that tend to generalize communities. Through this, different communities can recognize the importance of promoting positive narratives, empowering the youth and collaboratively working with different sectors to address some of the issues affecting racialized communities in Canada. Violent extremism being an example of an issue that transcends different communities, nations, religions and requires collaborative effort from everyone in Canada and beyond. According to Detective Feras Ismail, “this is not a ‘Muslim’ problem, this is a ‘all of our’ problem.”
While organizing this conference, the planning committee, mostly youth, recognized that discussion arounds the issue of radicalization are not devoid of controversy largely because mainstream perception of youth radicalization is framed around race and religion and the topic is highly politicized. In many ways, the conference offered an opportunity to address the issues of youth radicalization, debunk myths associated with this topic and offer alternative perspectives which was evident throughout the two days of the conference. Notably, panelists expressed concerns that policies addressing youth radicalization almost exclusively target racialized youth and ignore other facets of youth radicalization especially when a white youth is involved. A terror act committed by a white youth is more often given little attention or depicted as a “lone wolf” crime whereas a reverse situation involving a racialized youth is viewed as an act of terror. According to Dr. Ghayda Hassan, “this discourse that we constantly hear when an attack is committed by the other, it’s extremism. When an attack is committed by a member of the majority group it’s mental health. Right? This is rhetorical, this is ideological and this hurts. It’s a false dichotomy.”Such double standards and lack of cohesiveness in addressing these issues greatly impact racialized communities hence the reason why conferences like this one are very important