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Focus groups on Black youth experience expose failures of multicultural policy

Focus groups on Black youth experience expose failures of multicultural policy


Imagine having your university classmates assume that you sell illegal drugs in between classes, missing out on job opportunities solely due to your home address or having a beverage thrown at you from a moving car. These are the searing experiences of Black youth recounted in a research paper by Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Professor Andrea Davis and published in the Journal of Canadian Studies (2017). In this paper, she reflects on more than 45 years of official multicultural policy in Canada.

“The article argues that Black urban male youth, by situating their precarious life experiences on the margins of a set of core Canadian values, destabilize our understanding of Canadian society by revealing the ways in which they are routinely criminalized and pathologized, and by demanding greater access to upward mobility,” Davis explains.

Davis’ research shows that educational and employment opportunities are limited to Black youth

Her research is focused on the intersections of the literatures and cultures of the Black diasporas in the Caribbean, the United States and Canada. Her work encourages an intertextual cross-cultural dialogue about Black people’s experiences in diaspora.

This research was funded by the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Study looks at the effects of violence on Black youth

Andrea Davis

Andrea Davis

In this paper, Davis draws on the documentary The Real Toronto (Madd Russian, 2005), filmed during the “Summer of the Gun.” Here, the racialized and immigrant neighbourhoods corresponded to 13 priority or “at-risk” areas of Toronto, defined as such by socioeconomic indicators such as income level and homicide rates.

With this documentary providing the historical context, Davis revisits the issue many years later. She is effectively checking in to see what has changed since 2005. Her paper presents the findings from her three-year transnational study of the effects of violence on Black youth in Canada and Jamaica, collected in 2013.

Davis assembled multidisciplinary team from eight university and community organizations

To undertake this work, Davis put together a multidisciplinary research team from eight university and community organizations in Canada and Jamaica. The goals of this project were twofold:

  1. to examine the life experiences of Black Canadian and Jamaican youth, with special attention paid to their perceptions of and experiences with violence; and
  2. to assess the impact of this violence on their educational and employment trajectories.

The researchers conducted two all-male focus groups between May and June 2013 in Toronto. A total of 24 Black males between the ages of 18 and 24 participated. To encourage trust, participants understood that their involvement was voluntary.

Participants were recruited through local youth organizations. Meetings took place in their local communities. Discussion in the focus groups was generated via both preset questions and free-flowing conversation. The youth were asked to describe and discuss their experiences, if any, with violence. Each tape-recorded session was roughly 90 minutes.

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