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Canadian Children's Rights Council - Conseil canadien des droits des enfants

Canadian Children's Rights Council - Conseil canadien des droits des enfants

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Ontario youth call for end to violence

Canadian Press, Toronto Star and various other newspapers, Nov. 15, 2004

Dozens of young people from across Ontario are calling for an end to youth violence with a study released today that finds abuse to be widespread and on the rise.

The report, organized by Ontario's Office of Child and Family Service Advocacy and the group Voices for Children, was based on the stories of 80 young people who spoke about their experiences with school bullying, domestic assault, street violence and attacks within institutions.

Its 21-year-old author, Stephanie Ma, said society treats youth as second-class citizens and denies them opportunities to contribute to their communities.

"Read More ..ten than not, authorities and adults feel the need to talk at us, rather than with us," said Ma, who was placed into the care of Toronto's Children's Aid Society at age 12.

"It feels hopeless because no matter where we are, whether it is in school or when we are looking for housing, we are negatively typecast."

Ma said young people have few places to turn when they are physically and emotionally attacked in schools, foster homes, group homes and detention centres.

The report made seven recommendations, including a call for tighter screening on those who work with youth, the involvement of young people in all levels of decision-making and lowering the voting age to 16.

Judy Finlay, chief advocate of the Office of Child and Family Service Advocacy, said society must do Read More .. than just examine the root causes of violence, but acknowledge it is widespread, talk openly about it and engage kids in the remedies.

She said violence against youth deserves to have the same wide acknowledgement of issues once below the radar such as drunk driving, sexual abuse and domestic assault.

"We as a province need to acknowledge the level and the depth of violence," said Finlay.

"As adults, we have to begin believing young people and taking their voice at face value and engaging them and doing something fairly dramatic about it."

Finlay said she would like to see government, institutions and schools include young people on committees and boards when they discuss issues concerning violence.

The paper is the result of round-table discussions that brought together 80 young people, aged 13 to 24, from regions across Ontario including Kenora, London, Manitoulin Island, Ottawa, Thunder Bay and Toronto.