Despite the many benefits of recreation in health and in settlement, newcomer youth have much lower participation rates compared to their peers. On Monday, June 12, 2017, more than 120 young people, service providers, volunteers, and elected officials gathered at Toronto City Hall to explore ways to improve access to recreation for newcomer youth. Below is a summary of the afternoon and themes that emerged.
The day started with a chance for participants to engage in drop-in activities, like sports skill trials, and breakdancing, and informal networking. A formal welcome was made by Councillor Pasternak, Chair of the Community Development and Recreation Committee, and Councillor Karygiannis, one of Toronto’s Newcomer Advocates. This was followed by panel presentations, summarized below, and breakout sessions in which every participant had the opportunity to share their experiences through participation in a single session.
There was a focus on genuine youth engagement, with youth from all backgrounds embedded throughout these conversations. Diversity and intersectionality were brought up by participants and presenters as essential principles for any work with newcomer youth, from conducting outreach to developing program evaluations. Youth continuously described the multiple, intersecting identities that newcomer youth possess, as youth, as immigrants, as members of particular cultures, and young men and young women with varying abilities. They talked frequently about how this affects their experiences of power and oppression, and shapes how and where they can be engaged and be connected to recreation. This concept should inform all work with newcomer youth and be the starting point for genuine youth engagement.