60 second interview with Paul Nguyen
Paul Nguyen, founder of Jane-Finch.com, uses the power of the internet and social media to combat negative stereotypes of the marginalized community of Jane-Finch in Toronto, Canada
Do you do PLE?
The tension between the Jane-Finch community and the police force has existed for many decades. The population in the area is predominantly immigrant newcomers to Canada. Accusations of police brutality, abuse of power and unfairness are typical complaints voiced by the residents. I created a short one hour film called ‘Know Your Rights’. My goal was to create a hip and accessible film for at-risk youth to be better informed when dealing with police encounters. Kids could download the video for free and watch in on their iPod on their way to school.
What is your favourite example of PLE?
I was actually inspired by BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters. My childhood friend, who is black, was frequently stopped by police. I wanted to find out more information about the rights the public had. Since the Jane-Finch neighborhood has a majority ethnic population, I wanted to create a film in that context. It was a great experience to showcase my neighborhood’s unique stories and settings in a professional high definition production. We held a screening at the local library and the most validating moment came when the 2nd in Charge Inspector of the local Toronto Police division showed up and congratulated us on the production. Even though the film critically examined the police on various controversial issues, it demonstrated that the police department understood and appreciated the goal of the film.
Why do you think PLE works?
Public legal education works because everyone can connect with each other online. We can share experiences, information and tips in a global forum. From local matters to precedent setting cases, public legal education is crucial to informing the public about the legal rights they have or can challenge. Most recently, in Toronto, we had to deal with the G20 summit. Police had expanded powers, and there were allegations of abuse and wrongful detainment. With PLE, public confidence and awareness is crucial towards living in a healthy society.
What is the biggest challenge your organization faces doing PLE?
PLE is a growing, but important component of Jane-Finch.com. Although our mandate is to educate the public at large about the wonderful history and progress of the Jane-Finch area, we cannot neglect the problems the community has faced. The biggest challenge for us is overcoming the racial barriers and stigmas associated with being from the area. For us to build partnerships and to collaborate on future projects, breaking down the negative reputation is the key.
What is your top tip for doing good PLE work?
Be passionate, but not mad, about the issue you are trying to address or rectify. Organize a group of like-minded individuals and the truth will lead the way.
More about 'Know Your Rights'