Montreal basketball tournament connects youth, police in effort to curb violence

"There's a serious issue of violence involving youth in the city that we have all come together to resolve," Fo Niemi, executive director of CRARR. He hopes engaging young Montrealers in community will combat the issue. Anastasia Dextrene reports.

A basketball tournament promoting the prevention of youth violence took place in Montreal this weekend.

The two-day “Together Against Violence” tournament at the Cégep du Vieux Montréal featured 250 teens and young adults aged 12 to 25.

A key element of the tournament was the involvement of more than a dozen Montreal police officers and cadets – as players, coaches or referees – as a way to promote cooperation between law enforcement officers and youths.

Members from Urgences-santé, the STM and the RCMP were also present.

“This is the first time the Montreal police constituted a basketball team to play with Black youth, Chinese youth, Filipino youth, Latino youth,” said Fo Niemi, the executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), which co-organized the weekend.

“We hope this event will mark a significant departure and, shall we say, a new benchmark in terms of police-community cooperation.”

“Together Against Violence” tournament at the Cégep du Vieux Montréal Feb. 25, 2024. (Anastasia Dextrene, CityNews)

The organizers are using basketball to steer kids and teens of different racial, linguistic and social backgrounds away from violence and crime.

“This is a basketball tournament that brings together young people and their parents and families from different backgrounds, Montreal from the north to the west, to the south, to the east,” Niemi said.

“We recognize there’s a serious issue of violence involving youth in the city that we have all come together to resolve.”

“Together Against Violence” tournament at the Cégep du Vieux Montréal Feb. 25, 2024. (Anastasia Dextrene, CityNews)

The activities were co-organized by CRARR, the Jamaica Association of Montreal, CRARR, the Trevor Williams Kids Foundation, the Montreal Mynix Athletic Club and the West Island Black Community Association (WIBCA).

“With the SPVM here as well, it shows that we have unity in Montreal,” said WIBCA president Joan Lee.

It’s part of a year-long project to mobilize young Montrealers through public and private sector partnerships.

“I think it’s a really important message to show the kids that violence is not a solution, so we came to play ball,” said Shad Taillon, one of the student athletes.

“It just shows that everybody has talent and true potential,” added James Morris, who also participated.

“Together Against Violence” tournament at the Cégep du Vieux Montréal Feb. 25, 2024. (Anastasia Dextrene, CityNews)

Officials and leaders emphasized the importance of finding grounding in activities across the city.

“Making sure that people are included and feel that they belong is a really big part of, again, countering violence, making sure that people have a chance to have the full life that they wish and want to have,” said Robert Sanders, the U.S. Consulate General in Montreal. “And so seeing these young people today, they’re our future, they’re the next generation, so we need to support them.”

“It’s basketball, right?” added student-athlete Trey Harvey-Holder. “So many of us like to play it, and it’s just about having fun and everybody playing together.”

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