By the Voices against Violence Western University Group

The idea of belonging is correlated with the topic of culture and identity. Youth tend to conform to society's social norms in order to be accepted. This identity may not be who they are, but rather who they are expected to be. For example, when a youth from a foreign country comes to Canada the pressure to adopt the host country’s culture is strong, especially at such an influential age. This also may involve the adaptation of international students when they arrive in a society like that of Canada’s. These students may experience a form of culture shock as they come from a society that may be different from the culture that is present here, in Canada. An example of this is my friend: he came straight from India and started education here, and for the first month he struggled here so he had to adapt to the traditions and culture here. The feeling of belonging in a society involves one’s identity as well. Structural violence in society of youths is evident when youths try to express their identity. An example of this is homophobia or racism against a minority group because these are hate crimes against someone trying to express their own identity. Youth are at a point in their lives that they want to experiment and experience new things to identify their identity. Due to cultural differences and structural violence, these youth aren’t able to express their identity in to today’s society. This separates them from belonging to the society due to cultural and identity differences.

The government should enforce some rules on the material media expresses to youth. These messages sent by media are usually not positive, pertaining to self-image or body image. These negative messages sent to the youth by the media should consist of filters and regulations before being displayed, because youth are usually affected the most by the messages media sends. This usually consists of their interpretations of how one should look or act to be a part of the norm. Family usually plays as the biggest contributor in trying to sustain the integrity of their youth. Their support is crucial to youth due to the connection they build as a family. For example, children will usually look to their parents as role models or an output to sharing feelings about something they disagreed upon. Parents and family also have the largest contribution to expressing their cultural background into society. This allows youth to feel more confident about themselves and their culture. An example of this is the Sikh community in the GTA. They have come a long way in persisting their culture into our society, as a means to promoting and preserving Sikh traditions. This provides Sikhs from around that area a little more confidence and protection, in terms of assimilating while keeping alive the Sikh culture. This allows youths from the Sikh community to feel confident and sustain a positive body image due to the knowledge of having a Sikh community that is there for them. The government respecting and allowing these traditions to occur provides the Sikh community to reach out to the youth community more effectively to instill knowledge of culture and unification the Sikh religion provides them with. Youths being provided with this knowledge begin to feel more confident.

The Canadian Multiculturalism Act also provides a sense of equality between people of different cultures. It provides people with equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination and that everyone has the freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association and guarantees those rights and freedoms equally to male and female persons. This sense of equality can be a strong factor providing youth with the knowledge that the law will help them express their culture in their own society. This is a contributing factor in youth having the sense of belonging they need to stay connected and share their feelings as a member of society.

About this series: 

This blog series was written collectively by youth co-researchers in the Voices against Violence Western Group, which met during the winter of 2014. Working together over a period of 12 weeks, these youth identified salient themes in their shared experiences, as well as how these themes intersected each other in instances of structural violence or resistance against it. Culture is second in this series.




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