The Canadian Ark Centre of Excellence aims to facilitate greater integration of immigrant youth in Canadian society through fostering a supportive environment that offers a range of culturally appropriate programs, services, and supports.
Need for the initiative
According to the 2017 Public Safety Canada’s report on “Youth Gangs in Canada: A Review of Current Topics and Issues”, immigrant youth are one of three groups that become involved in violence or gangs because they “face a number of barriers to integration into Canadian society”. The report cites “multiple marginality” factors as barriers to health integration, this can include any combination of experience of discrimination or marginalization, identity or low rate of acculturation, need for belonging/acceptance, linguistic barriers, and the lack of appropriate community services/supports. Reintegration of these groups, including immigrants can begin when they “reconnect with the community through participation in community activities and services. In their ethnic communities, they may find spiritual grounding in religion and community mentorship”.
In addition, the report provides guidance on prevention and reintegration in various levels of support for high-risk immigrant youth. It advocates a “shared vision of collaboration among stakeholders from diverse sectors” in order to promote “the development of positive identities and to achieve a healthy sense of belonging at home, at school and in the community”. The report further suggests certain guiding principles for programs and services such as integration of empowering identity development, multi-stakeholder involvement to increase resources, multiple needs approaches to high-risk youth, and responsiveness of initiatives to the current needs of the target population.
The overall objective of this initiative is to facilitate the integration into Canadian society of high-risk immigrant youth, most notably from visible minority groups, in a culturally-competent manner. To address these complex, the Ark Centre will employ a mix of prevention and intervention strategies to facilitate integration of this group into Canadian society.
A primary focus of the Ark Centre will focus on involving and collaborating with the broader Ottawa-based youth-oriented community centres and organizations, key community leaders and experts, and Ottawa/Carelton university clubs. Accessibility to these programs/services hinges on fostering collaborative arrangements and networks to engage the right audience to identify those in need beyond the 300+ members currently at the Ark.
Community collaboration, providing the appropriate programs, and removing the cultural and economic barriers to accessibility is a first step in fostering integration of these youth to be productive and good standing citizens. Creating that necessary supportive environment is one of a collaborative approach and a shared responsibility.