When Jean Yves Benard talks to area high schools students about gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered issues, he finds there isn’t enough understanding.
"A lot of discrimination comes from lack of awareness and lack of understanding," said the 22-year-old volunteer with the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa’s youth engagement program. "A lot of youth don’t know the definition behind the meanings of the words they use."
A $70,000 provincial grant announced yesterday aims to change that. The money will fund a multimedia campaign including posters, websites and zines and eight months of outreach work, culminating in a forum bringing together youth, parents, youth justice workers, police services and justice system professionals this fall.
"This is the kind of investment that will make Ottawa a safer community," said Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa executive director Alex Munter, who estimates the campaign will reach tens of thousands of Ottawans. "Being a teenager is tough," said Munter. "Growing up when you know you’re different is even harder."
The Youth Services Bureau serves up to 3,000 area youth per month at 20 locations.
"What this will ensure is that the GLBTTQ community can build links with other members of the community," Attorney General Chris Bentley said yesterday. "You build strength through understanding."
"This provides much-needed services for youth in the Ottawa area," said Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi.