Young people in need of positive leaders, social inequality, unsanitary housing, lack of resources for parents, social networks that have become vectors of conflict… The problems are multiple, but concrete solutions exist.
The arrival of Ismael Sougou as a civilian with the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) has changed the situation for the Montréal-Nord neighborhood police station and its community partners. There is not an organization in Montréal-Nord that does not pick up its phone daily to call it. Mr. Sougou, community development advisor, allowed the police force to be more aware of the needs of North Montrealers. And the rise in gun violence has been his concern since day 1.
Talking about social networks
Pierre Allard, a police officer with the SPVM for thirty years, is a socio-community officer in Montreal North. He never wanted to leave this sector which he considers to be unfairly targeted by many prejudices.
Ordinary mortals designate Montreal North as a disadvantaged area, a term that makes them cringe. “I would say rather rich in culture and supportive people who want to get involved. We’ve been doing a lot with almost nothing for years, working to improve the community. »
The containment yo-yo has jeopardized the mental health of at-risk teenagers in the sector, according to him. More sports, more school, more activities and meetings: the closures have caused harm to young people.
The last two years at home, the young people spent them on Snapchat and Instagram. We will live with the repercussions for a few years.
Pierre Allard, SPVM police officer and socio-community officer in Montreal North
During his visits to primary and secondary schools, agent Allard approaches social networks without taboo. Sensitizing a young person at 16 is already too late. From the age of 12, the Criminal Code holds you responsible for your words and actions, he tells teens right away. “I don’t even talk so much about the phenomenon of street gangs anymore. The digital resume, the arguments that start on social media… Many think that what happens on Instagram stays on top of it. »
To like a publication of a violent nature is to legitimize it, he explains to them. “That’s the need now, and we’ve been doing it for a few years now. »
The police alone cannot solve everything. “There is the barrier of the uniform. We all have the same objectives, but when the speech comes from someone with a uniform, the message does not get through. It takes a bridge. »
Finally a youth center
Sheila Fortuné, director of the area’s youth centre, knows what it’s all about when we talk about a lack of resources.
Founded in 1983, Maison L’Ouverture, in Montréal-Nord, is one of the oldest youth centers in Québec. Until very recently, the establishment was located… in the cramped basement of a shopping centre. “Young people were singled out by customers and traders. At one point, I said to myself: “It cannot be that there is not an appropriate room in Montreal North”, ignites Mme Fortune.
We made a clear request to the borough in 2016. With the arrival of Ismael, who acts as a bridge between the SPVM and the community, the project took shape.
Sheila Fortuné, director of the L’Ouverture youth center
The future L’Ouverture house, currently being renovated, will offer users two floors from April consisting of a spacious living room, a music studio, a television and places for homework help.
A need felt even by the police force of the sector.
“My dream was to see a well-established youth center in Montreal North before my retirement,” says Pierre Allard, of the SPVM.
“People like Ismael who bridge the gap between the police and the community, that’s what we need everywhere in Montreal not to let initiatives fall into the cracks,” adds Ms.me Fortune.
Humanize the police
Ousseynou Ndiaye, director of the community organization Un itinerary pour tous, is used to the bureaucratic formulas set out by decision-makers when a shooting breaks out, he said. He has heard many times that “good cooperation from all partners” is needed.
“We often talk about repression, prevention and collaboration. But we forget the most important thing: involvement,” he says in his office near the intersection of Pascal and Lapierre streets.
Young people have been left out of the equation for too long. Yet they are at the heart of the problem of gun violence and difficult interactions with the police.
Supported by Mr. Sougou, Ousseynou Ndiaye has made great efforts to improve these relations. The inhabitants of the district have difficulty denouncing and confiding, he admits. “A fear has been setting in for years, people don’t call the police when a situation with a young person becomes worrying. »
Ismael Sougou organized a meeting between police officers active in the field and the organization. “We have settled cases here. We have found jobs for young people at risk. We explained to them the reasons behind the arrests… and they understood. A few years ago, I would not have believed that possible, ”says Mr. Ndiaye astonished.
Youth in search of role models
Young people lack positive leaders who look like them. They deduce that the chances of success are slim, notes Ismael Sougou, shortly after taking office. In other words, if the only examples of financial success are people with unsavory activities, we will not break the cycle of crime.
Brandon Dawson-Garvis went from incarcerated felon to yoga instructor. It was agents Allen Riva and Danny Lagarde, of the Community Consultation and Rapprochement Team (ECCR), who offered him to tour the schools in the area in the coming months.
Mr. Sougou loved the idea.
We are moralizing with young people. You have to have someone who knows what they can go through and who can be an example.
Ismael Sougou, Community Development Advisor
Mr. Dawson-Garvis has been in jail twice. Absent father, violence, crime, anger management problem: his childhood in Little Burgundy was not easy.
The discipline he practices and teaches is a thousand miles from the male stereotypes conveyed during his adolescence. “Where I grew up, you feel like you can only be three things: rapper, basketball player or criminal. »
“He can be a role model, because he knew how to manage his emotions and get out of them,” said agent Allen Riva.
Urban security is not everything. The conversation should expand in the coming months, wishes Mr. Sougou. If people don’t have enough to meet their basic needs, they will seek to obtain it in other ways. “We should also talk about housing security, food security, public transport that allows you to get out of a landlocked neighborhood. The police do not have the final solution or the mission to solve the housing problems,” said the adviser.