Young Adults

NFF Youth Blog: Bridging Civic Engagement Gaps with Diverse Youth Voices

October 15, 2021

We live in an uncertain world, and it is easy to feel powerless to act in a society that is composed of complex power dynamics and politics. Because the consequences of political decisions made today can shape the future we enter as adults, we have the right to have our voices heard at the table.  Young people’s voices are also important in providing new perspectives on a variety of critical issues. It is important that we recognize and assert  this right and claim it through democratic action.  

One of the reasons many young adults, including myself, may be hesitant to participate   in democratic procedures is  a lack of understanding of political frameworks in Canada. It can be difficult to see how our voices influence systems that appear larger than us.  How many of us are aware of or comprehend the process by which policies are developed? Or how much do we know about who our elected officials are and how to contact them? Information on our political framework or policies is not always easy to understand, which discourages young people from becoming involved in politics. Furthermore, we have witnessed decisions about our education, health, and environment being made on our behalf without listening to our voices, which has created a lot of cynicism and a sense of helplessness.  

The good news is that more is being done now to ensure youth voices are heard and included in decision-making processes, giving us more opportunities to express our opinions. Social media has emerged as a powerful tool for understanding political events, and youth led initiatives like the OnCanada Project have assisted with integrating youth into the political sphere. The recent rise in youth-led movements gives me hope for a more inclusive political future of youth voices.  

One such example is the September walk-out organized by Western students to raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual harassment on university campuses. The movement not only garnered the attention of the Ontario government but has also prompted Western University to implement mandatory training in residences as well as sexual violence prevention taskforce comprised of students, staff, faculty, researchers, and community members. This captures the power of young people’s advocacy and demonstrates that we have the power to bring about meaningful change.  

There are many issues that require the voices of young people right now. Decisions regarding our current child welfare system are being made, a subject near and dear to my heart, and they require the perspectives of children who have been through the system. Many foster children  have reported feelings of isolation and detachment from their own culture. This sentiment is especially true for many Indigenous children in Canada, and their voices must be heard during the decision-making processes. When it comes to providing platforms for youth voices, it is critical to ensure that all youth voices are heard, particularly those from marginalized groups. 

Whatever issues are most important to you, your voice deserves to be heard, and voting in the next election, listening to political debates, and paying attention to the news are all good places to start. The website of the House of Commons is a great place to learn about Canada's parliamentary structure, different committees, and even how to attend committee meetings. You can also contact your local MPs and MPPs to find out when town halls will be held and to discuss issues that are important to you. Finding out who your elected officials are is a great first step for anyone interested in getting involved in advocacy. 

The burden of political advocacy does not fall solely on the shoulders of youth. It is critical for elected officials to create spaces for youth voices and to listen to them. Listening to the voices of youth can aid in the development of policies that better reflect the needs of the local community. Elected officials could hold town hall meetings for young adults, invite youth voices to committees, and hold consultations to learn about key issues that are important to us. Canada's youth are full of ideas, passion, and potential that have the potential to transform many sectors of the world. We simply need to be open to listening and provide the necessary platform for youth to express themselves.