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More than ever, youth must matter in Canadian politics and policy

By Janet Longmore      

Young people, in Canada and abroad, represent an enormous opportunity. Not only are they the largest-ever youth cohort, but research shows that young people today are far more educated, connected, and socially responsible than ever before.

NDP MP Charlie Angus, fourth from right, who is his party's critic for the Indigenous Youth portfolio, poses with youth from Nishnawbe Aski Nation in northern Ontario. Millennials have the potential to be the largest generation voting in the 2019 election, and youth voter turnout is on the rise, writes Janet Longmore. The Indigenous population in Canada is young and rapidly expanding; nearly half of Indigenous peoples in Canada are under the age of 24.
The Hill Times file photograph

We have hit a generational tipping point in Canadian political engagement.

Millennials have the potential to be the largest generation voting in the 2019 election, and youth voter turnout is on the rise. The Indigenous population in Canada is young and rapidly expanding; nearly half of Indigenous peoples in Canada are under the age of 24.

Now that we’ve passed the halfway point of the Liberal mandate, Canadian politicians are turning their eyes toward the 2019 election. More than ever, youth must matter in Canadian politics.

Young people, in Canada and abroad, represent an enormous opportunity. Not only are they the largest-ever youth cohort—numbering 1.8 billion worldwide between the ages of 10 and 24—but research shows that young people today are far more educated, connected, and socially responsible than ever before.

At Digital Opportunity Trust, we support a global movement of young social innovators who are transforming their communities. In the face of threats like climate change and growing inequality, they are building an economy of social good as social entrepreneurs and innovators.

Young women are tackling the gender digital divide through youth-led, locally relevant training initiatives in Kenya, Tanzania, and Jordan; youth are solving critical environmental protection issues in Ethiopia and Uganda; and young Indigenous leaders are creating employment opportunities and space for cultural growth here in Canada.

Equipped with skills, knowledge, and networks, youth are successfully tackling systemic problems that governments, charities, and the private sector have spent decades trying to address.

In December, six of DOT’s young social innovators from Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Jordan, and Lebanon visited Ottawa to talk about how Canadians can support youth to build and legitimize a youth-led economy of social good, at home and globally. They met with ministers, government agencies, and the private sector to urge Canada to invest in the tools, skills, and networks that support young people to develop solutions to local and global challenges.

Listening and learning from youth who are transforming their communities is just the first step. Proudly, Canada is taking steps in the right direction.

Indigenous Youth Voices is a group of young people who are driving national consultations with Indigenous youth under Call to Action 66 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We’re seeing first-hand the powerful outcomes that occur when government collaborates with and listens to young people.

International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, through the Feminist International Assistance Policy and the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, has expressed Canada’s intention to prioritize the empowerment of women and girls, recognizing the proven effect this will have on social and economic development.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as the minister of youth, has created the Prime Minister’s Youth Council, which has contributed to new accessibility legislation and the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy.

It is encouraging that the Canadian government is beginning to recognize the importance of youth contributions to dialogue, policy, and impact.

As the generation that will inherit the complex global challenges of today, young people, particularly young women, must be purposefully engaged in the discussions, policies, and processes that shape the world.

We urge government, civil society, and the private sector to ensure that youth are represented on policy and decision-making processes, and that their ideas are supported. We have seen the powerful and inclusive impact this can have. It is time to recognize youth as the daring social innovators we need.

Janet Longmore is the founder and CEO of Digital Opportunity Trust, a movement of young social innovators who are working to transform communities around the world.

The Hill Times

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