Grab more Chairs! We are Inviting Young People to the Table

By Bruna Redoschi, OKN’s Research Associate

“Young people are the future. We are building today for future generations. We must think about the kind of world we want to leave for our kids…”

We have all heard and repeated these lines in our conversations. No one can argue them, and we try our best to fulfill their meaning, but there is a caveat. Despite our best intentions, adults have their own biases and shortcomings.

In Canada, youth are fighting for their space and right to have their voices heard. In 2021 they sued the Canadian government for their right to vote. Youth claim that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to vote for all Canadian citizens without age qualification. While initially, Canadian citizens were white, property-owning men aged 21 or older, the definition has been expanded since then and should keep advancing to include those who may have been excluded from social and political participation.  Young people are still pressing for their voice to be heard. We can be their allies. We can invite them to the table.

Girl with speaker

We were all young once, and we have all been on the outside of the decision-making process on many occasions. I remember being young and waiting. I was waiting for a time when I would finally participate in society more fully. My first days at university, while still learning my way around, I heard my professor say, “This is the world you are leaving for future generations. What have you done of it?”. This was a turning point for me. Where I went from being young and free, to being responsible for building the future world. I realized then I could have done more, even when I was younger.

Young people in Halton are not waiting for anyone to hand them the world. They are doing it today. Did you know that 36% of young people in Halton volunteer regularly? According to the Halton Youth Impact Survey findings, the same percentage of children and youth have engaged in at least two civic activities in the past year, including, but not limited to, discussing a local issue on social media, supporting a charity, participating in a public demonstration, getting in touch with a municipal official, or writing to the editor of a newsletter. Youth have and will continue to offer many suggestions to improve their communities and their engagement. They are asking for more community gardens, community cleanups, and ways to increase young people’s participation in the community, such as offering transportation to community events or ensuring opportunities exist close to everyone’s homes and schools.

Survey participants were also keen on protecting the natural environment: 67% felt a sense of responsibility towards protecting the environment, and 27% had engaged in a local initiative to protect the environment in the previous year. They are worried about protecting the environment and looking for ways to help their communities be better and greener. Some examples of their suggestions were adding green patches around community centres, recycling all plastic, or ensuring that green areas are preserved amidst a boom in construction sites.

On National Child Day, and every day, we must pledge to make room for the next generations to have their say and take ownership of the future we will build. Young people in Halton want to help build their communities and the world they will live in. They deserve to be welcomed to the table, and our job is to ensure we include their voices in the work we do.

What are the ways in which you can involve youth in planning and decision-making at your organization so that their voices are part of the programs and services in the community?

To learn more about how children and youth in Halton are doing, read the bulletin: Building for the Future How Youth in Halton Engage in Caring for their Communities and the Environment

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