Although To Go Or To Stay is qualitative research, a quantitative snapshot of the participants is included to give some sense of the scope of experience that participants brought to the narrative material. (This is included in table form in the report to the funder on page 7, available to download from the homepage in both French and English. Appendix 3 provides a guide to the distribution of migrants and non-migrants among the three counties under study, and in the case of migrants, where they were interviewed.) This gives a more in-depth glimpse into those numbers.
To Go Or To Stay elicited a total of 48 narratives from young people between the ages of 16 and 30. The average age of the participants was 23. Gender was skewed toward females with 56% being female. This included four youth who self-identified as LGBTQ, one of whom I classified as female although s/he identified as transgendered.
An additional 13 youth were interviewed in focus groups as part of a second phase of data collection, and two as key informants, one (Obama) in narrative format.
Half the participants were non-migrants – they had either remained in their rural communities or had returned to it at the time the interview took place.
County of Haliburton
Two-thirds of the 21 participants who were raised in the County of Haliburton were non-migrants. Haliburton is the most rural jurisdiction among the three counties and the only county that does not have an urban centre. It is the oldest (28% of its 17,000 permanent population are age 65+) and poorest (average household income $54,721 in 2005) demography in the province, according to Stats Canada.
Several were planful stayers. Sally is the only one of the 14 non-migrants who had never left the county; she had moved in with her now-husband while in high school, taken a community college Personal Support Worker course the only time it was ever offered locally, and found local work in her field. Elizabeth commuted to Lindsay to take the same course, did not find work in the field that paid a living wage, and was re-training by distance education while working in her new field. Kodiak lived with his parents while working as a long-distance trucker, and has no plans to leave. Jim and Steve are apprentices who commute to urban centres for the classroom part of their course, but plan to live and work in their rural community; Steve tried urban life for a year after high school but was unable to find word; Jim stayed with friends during his first classroom module.
Anna Belle and Manny had each experienced somewhat disastrous forays into urban life, Anna Belle with her family, Manny to attend a gay-friendly school in Toronto, and had returned to the healing support of their rural community. Dan returned for family support and to run the family business when he became a father, and Tinkerbell when medical issues caused her to discontinue college.
Alice, Brian, Kelly, and Sam attended post-secondary education but failed to complete their courses, and returned home to regroup and reconsider next steps. Bill went urban for film school and stayed for a year afterwards to find work in his field, but was forced to return home when he was unable to find work in or out of his field that supported urban living; he lucked into a local work opportunity in his field.
City of Kawartha Lakes
We recruited no non-migrants in the City of Kawartha Lakes, population 73,000, but later engaged five youth in a focus group designed to find out why non-migrants were invisible in this county. It appears that youth services are primarily located in Lindsay, population 20,000, and outreach to rural youth is impeded by access to transportation. This is also true in Haliburton County, where services tend to be located in the two larger villages, and transportation is a challenge. Only two of the non-migrants in Haliburton County (Anna Belle, Manny) were recruited through service agencies, but because I live in Haliburton County, I could use my social networks to recruit participants. This option did not extend to City of Kawartha Lakes.
The remaining 10 non-migrants were recruited in Peterborough County. Eight were associated with a work-preparation program in the south-east corner of the county. Five from this area lived with parents and/or grandparents (Andrew, Mary, Pixie, Ricky-Bobby, Scribbler McWiggler), two with partners (May, Mikyla) and one (Max) by himself, while they struggled with a variety of challenges. One of the other two participants (Tina) lived with partner and child in her First Nations and commuted to work in Peterborough; the other (Ashley) lived with her parents and commuted regularly to Peterborough for medical and social services.
Half the participants were migrants. Three migrants were interviewed in Lindsay, thirteen in the City of Peterborough, six in the City of Toronto, one in Oshawa and one in Waterloo.
County of Haliburton
Three of the seven migrants who originated in Haliburton County were working in urban communities (Rose, Minerva, Optimus). All were experiencing some level of difficulty with affording urban life; Optimus, the most secure, was aware that his life style required that his partner continue to also draw a good salary. Three (Hummus, Mizzfit, Angel) were shelter users. Kailey was seeking refuge from an abusive boyfriend by staying with relatives.
City of Kawartha Lakes
Six of the nine migrants who originated in City of Kawartha Lakes were shelter users, two in Toronto (David, Niklaren), one in Lindsay (Justin, who later turned up in Peterborough, along with his partner, Star), and the remainder in Peterborough (Kaarlo, Kent). The other three were living in the community, Leanne with her husband and severely handicapped child, Madelin with her child, Mike by himself. Leanne and her husband were the only ones who were in the labour force.
Two of the eight migrants who originated in Peterborough County had migrated to Toronto, Decklan living on the streets and Miller staffing a shelter program. Maggie and Ben worked in a First Nations agency in Peterborough. The remaining four lived in the community in Peterborough, SC with a room-mate, Aisling and Liz on their own but working toward regaining custody of their children, and Dawn on her own while completing high school.
Six young people who self-identified as LGBTQ and received support from a Peterborough agency participated in a focus group that explored further the experience of coming out as gay in a rural community. They were younger (mean age 18.5 years) and all attending school, either high school or post-secondary, some in Peterborough and some elsewhere.
Two young men who lived on the streets participated in a focus group in Toronto. One (Roger) was First Nations and spent his first few years in Peterborough but entered the child welfare system early and was very transient. The other (Jerry) was raised primarily in Toronto but was in a variety of more rural settings when he came into child welfare care as an adolescent.
All of the nine participants who self-identified as Aboriginal were from Peterborough County (or in two cases, just adjacent).