I recently attended a panel discussion on fatherlessness put on by The Reach Centre led by R.J. and Loretta McEwan. The panel included CFL legend Gerry Organ, rapper Patrick “Prosper” Laguerre, Pastor Joseph Kiirya, actor Dwayne Allen and youth worker Jason Mousseau.
What was unique about this panel was that there was also a screening of The Son, a short film about fatherlessness written and directed by award-winning Toronto filmmaker Cheryl Nembhard. She believes that art used properly can change the world. She facilitated the discussion asking about how grave the issue is and why mentorship is important.
“The film is raw, authentic and gives a controversial twist to police relations with black youth. The response has been overwhelmingly positive in both the film festival circuit and the community. I’m even prouder to say that the film has generated a much needed conversation on the topic of mentorship throughout the province, ” Nembhard says of her award-winning film.
The Children’s Rights Council in Canada cites a number of alarming statistics on fatherlessness from the National Fatherhood Initiative (USA), the U.S. Bureau of Census (USA), and FBI (USA).
Father deprivation is a more reliable predictor of criminal activity than race, environment or poverty. It accounts for 72% of murderers, 60% of rapists, and 70% of kids incarcerated. These kids are twice as likely to quit school and 11 times more likely to be violent. Three out of four of these teens commit suicide, 80% of these adolescents are in psychiatric hospitals and 90% are runaways.
While these statistics may be from the United States, Jason Mousseau, a youth justice worker with the Youth Services Bureau, said they were same in Canada. After working with fatherless youth for 20 years he has lost seven young people and doesn’t want to lose anymore. He noted this issue affects every race and is widespread. It causes loss of identity, lack of confidence, hurt, anger and possible generational effects.
But Nembhard also noted that young troubled youth can stop the the negative cycles in their lives. Those in the cycle need to decide that it stops with them, but they need help in the form of mentors and friends who will love them and walk with them on their life journey; that was the goal of this panel.
RJ McEwan and The Reach Centre don’t want this conversation to stop. They want to keep talking and working with community partners to bring both awareness and mentorship to the fatherless.
Along with other leaders in the city, McEwan recently co-founded a mentorship program for young men without fathers called theCode, short for the City of Ottawa Discipling Enterprise. The goal of the program is to Coach, Optimize, Disciple and Encourage young men with identifiable “fatherhood” needs in their lives.
“It’s my desire to address the issue of fatherlessness in our city due to the fact that although we spend millions of government dollars on programs to band-aid many of our socio-economic problems, we often fail to address the root cause of the majority of social issues and I believe it starts at home. When we get things right at home and provide energy and resources to solve some of the problems families are facing, we will see change in our schools, streets and society as a whole”, McEwan states.
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