Young Canadians driving to impact policy post-COVID-19

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Youth reoriented Pixabay3

Young Canadians discuss post-pandemic future with politicians

Future Majority is a nation-wide, non-profit, non-partisan organization that made its national debut in ­­­15 competitive ridings, with the goal of getting young people across Canada to the polls during the 2019 federal election.

The organizers and volunteers mobilized thousands of young Canadians from coast to coast to engage in a dialogue with candidates on a variety of issues, including tuition costs and climate action. After the election, Future Majority remained present on campuses across Canada, engaging youth in conversation about what they believe politicians need to do in order to gain the support of the youth in their riding.

The introduction of the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically altered the plan of action for Future Majority, alongside most of the world, but many passionate young people all across Canada came together to put the Canada 2.0 initiative into action, in spite of the dramatic changes to their way of life. This new initiative has included hosting a series of digital town halls, which creates space for politicians to hear young people speak about the concerns that they have regarding how life will look for youth post-pandemic. In a recent Tweet, the organization described their post-pandemic mission:  “As Canada recovers from COVID-19, Future Majority wants those in power to know young people want better mental health services, income security, climate action, racial justice and affordable education.”

Over 40 municipal, provincial, and federal politicians who have agreed to participate in town hall events, which are taking place in the Greater Toronto Area and throughout Ontario, Regina and Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, and Fredericton, New Brunswick. Raiha Shareef, a second-year Psychology student and the University of Regina Champions for Change President, is one of 20 volunteers in Regina and one of 250 volunteers across Canada working to plan the digital town halls – the Regina event is taking place on Wednesday, June 24 at 5 p.m. Saskatchewan time.

Shareef said there’s “an apparent divide between youth and politicians,” adding, “I think it is important to start up this conversation between youth and politicians and the older generations because we’re all going through the pandemic together.”

“I haven’t seen very much youth engagement with the politicians before, and I think that hopefully from this digital town hall politicians will realize how important youth voices are and they will try to engage with us in the future as well,” said Shareef.

Thus far, there have been five politicians who have committed to attending the Regina town hall event: Ryan Meili, NDP MLA for Saskatoon-Meewasin and leader of the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party; Carla Beck, NDP MLA for Regina-Lakeview; Trent Wotherspoon, NDP MLA for Regina-Rosemont; Muhammed Fiaz, Saskatchewan Party MLA for Regina-Pasqua; and Aleana Young, NDP candidate for Regina-University.

For far too long, young people have not been at the forefront of politician’s minds – but change is coming. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought attention to groups of people in Canada that are vulnerable, youth being one.

Emily Lints, a third-year ­­English major at the University of Regina joined the Future Majority Regina team in the spring of 2020 to assist in the planning of the digital town hall.

“I feel like it’s really important to take this time during the pandemic to identify these issues that are even more prominent now and kind of push them forward afterwards,” said Lints.

Many youth feel as though politicians and older people do not understand what it is like to be a student or young person living in the hectic world that has become a new reality for many. Future Majority has given young people a platform to connect with those in power and share their experiences, in hopes to see changes.

Lints opened up about her personal struggle with mental health and how the pandemic has affected those parts of her life.

“Then the pandemic hit, and I was moving home and I didn’t have anybody else around me really. I was stuck at home with my immune compromised father, so I really didn’t have a lot of people to go see or anything like that,” said Lints. Studies have shown Lints isn’t alone in her sense of isolation – researchers and health professionals have raised the alarm over the impact of physical distancing and quarantine requirements on mental health, with many noting the problem is felt acutely by the young.

Future Majority’s mission statement reads: “Our mission is to amplify the concerns of young Canadians so that EVERY candidate, politician, and party are advocates for youth priorities.”

“I think youth being listened to is one of the biggest issues that were facing right now and I’ve always been passionate about acting for it because I have always felt like even when I’m on a board or something I am not necessarily taken as seriously as everybody else,” said Lints.

As Future Majority continues to amplify the voices of young people across Canada, they’re welcoming new members. Youth who want to get involved with the organization can go to https://www.futuremajority.ca/ and click the “join us” tab.

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