A group of organisations and community partners aiming to improve the circumstances of children and young adults has just created a collaborative table, Énergie jeunesse Haut-Saint-François (in English, probably to be christened Energy and You). The idea grew out of discussions on the many problems identified in the region, and the shared commitment of the different participants during a large meeting at the East Angus cultural centre.
Resulting from the work of the Youth Table, a watchdog committee was created to reflect on a new form of collaboration that would aim to resolve various difficulties experienced in our region. “The exercise was to highlight the issues that young people have,” explained Sylvain Lessard of the Carrefour jeunesse-emploi (CJE). Over the two past years, the committee of eight members looked at different difficulties. At the top of the list were the most recent statistics. With the results of their research in hand, they invited various partners and organisations to help decide on the next steps to take. Besides numerous community organisations, also present were representatives of the CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS, Townshippers’ Association and the Eastern Townships School Board, as well as Robert Roy, Prefect of the HSF RCM, and Dominic Provost, director general of the RCM and the CLD.
The exploration resulted in highlighting four important issues in our region: sexual assault, mistreatment and neglect, mental health and suicide, and drug and alcohol use. “Today, what we are asking is to deliberate,” said Lessard. Committee members then took turns speaking: Renée-Claude Leroux of the Hauts-Cantons school board, Sylvain Lessard of the Carrefour Jeunesse-Emploi, Myrthô Ouellette of the Haut-Saint-François fou de ses enfants, Marilyne Martel of the CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS, Jinny Mailhot of the CDC, Éric Martineau of the Partners for Educational Success (Projet PRÉE), Jean-Guy Tessier of the Territorial Collective, and Sébastien Tison of the Comité loisir de la MRC. They shared some surprising facts and statistics about each of the four selected issues.
“These are topics that are really alarming. They’re not small cases, they’re quite heavy problems. We have to work really closely together,” said Mailhot. The objective of the group was to prioritize the broad issues and schedule them for discussion at gatherings, with the first in October 2017 and the next in January 2018. This task was difficult for the assembled participants, because all the topics discussed were important and had serious consequences. Two were finally selected to be the first themes dealt with at the next two gatherings: mental health and suicide, and sexual assaults.
Together, the committee hopes that the community partners collaborate on small actions, insofar as they are able, in order to bring about big changes. Robert Roy, prefect, sensitive to issues relating to youth and concerned about the size of the task, commented, “I find this so big, I am with youth everyday, and I try to see everything. How are you going to follow up in a way that has concrete results?” Renée-Claude Leroux quickly responded, “This is why we are here. We have to come together and look at what is happening. We cannot rescue everyone, but the first step is important.”
Between now and the next meeting in October, the watchdog committee plans to gather information about the theme for that meeting, to enable participants to take concrete measures.