5 Takeaways from the First-Ever State of Youth Report
It’s finally here: the first extensive federal report on the state of youth across Canada. This document gives us an unprecedented insight into the thoughts, experiences and lives of young people in Canada.
The State of Youth Report shows the issues that matter most to youth as part of a commitment made by the federal government through the Youth Policy of 2019, this study is for youth, with youth and by youth, and will be developed and released every four years. The report was drafted by 13 young people and informed by consultations with almost 1,000 youth coast to coast.
In the report, young people shared their views based on the six priority areas identified in Canada’s youth policy: Truth and Reconciliation; Environment and Climate Action; Health and Wellness; Leadership and Impact; Employment; and Innovation, Skills and Learning.
With this being the first report it also gives us a baseline of the priorities and experiences of young people across the country. Studies like these help us understand the immediate needs of youth in Canada. For youth workers, organizations, grassroots—it helps us all do our work better.
To understand the gravity of the 100 page report, we broke it down into five key takeaways:
1. The State of Youth Report Is the First of Its Kind in Canada
The immediate question is why was a comprehensive national study not deemed a necessity before? What was guiding the needs of young people in Canada prior to its release? While groundbreaking, the existence of the report speaks to a greater gap between institutions and the communities they serve. There’s an awakening happening in the social services sector to value data, especially since recent studies have shown that COVID-19 exacerbated the racial and socio-economic inequities already present among youth.
2. Make Reconciliation for Indigenous Youth a Top Priority
One of the most insightful findings from the study is that young people in Canada do not trust their government to act and fulfill promises based on previous governments.
“Youth in Canada have mixed feelings about whether reconciliation is possible. Previous unfulfilled government commitments and a lack of change and action has led to frustration and distrust,” as stated in the report, “Youth want to see Canada develop an action plan that is measurable and relevant in order to hold our systems and institutions accountable. Indigenous Peoples should be engaged when determining this measurability and relevance.”
Participants created a reconciliation plan based on the following: Covid-19, Citizen Responsibilities, Indigenization, Healthcare, Education, Language preservation and vitality, and young people want the government to fund and implement a thorough investigation of all former residential school grounds to ensure recovery of any deceased children, found in unmarked mass graves or elsewhere.
3. Young People Are Demanding That Action is Taken on Climate Change
Young people across the country are asking that the government implement just transition principles into its policies. This means creating accessible grants for community projects geared towards environmental education—such as community gardens, solar farms, composting initiatives. Another part of this action includes supporting and upholding Indigenous Sovereignty, and that climate change education needs to highlight the urgency of the crisis and dispel misinformation being presented through illegitimate channels.
The report also notes that the mainstream environmental movement is one that has historically excluded racialized youth, even though they are often on the frontlines and bear the brunt of climate change impacts in Canada and abroad. So how can environmental organizations better engage and share power with racialized youth?
While most of the world is being exploited and mined by Western corporations, Canada is not exempt—75% of mining companies worldwide are Canadian, an industry notorious for environmental destruction and human rights violations around the globe. So we must demand that the federal government hold Canadian corporations accountable for their role in climate change.
4. Address Health and Wellbeing of Youth
Young people are also concerned with the racial and socio-economic inequalities that manifest in Canada’s healthcare system. Marginalized youth are more likely to deal with mental health challenges and have less access to healthcare. Calls to action include providing health and wellness education to youth and addressing systemic issues with equitable access to healthcare and wellness.
5. Youth Employment Concerns
It’s no secret that young people face employment barriers that disproportionately impact marginalized communities. The inability to find entry-level positions is dissuading youth from pursuing their education. Covid-19 has made job opportunities more difficult for young people, but has allowed some the opportunity to pursue entrepreneurship. This entrepreneurship among young people should be supported through increased grant opportunities and fellowship programs and paid internships.
Youth are asking for the government to help reduce employment barriers, support programming geared towards helping young people pursue careers. To better address the impacts of COVID-19, institutions should give more assistance to the young people that lost their job during the pandemic and investigate unemployment rates and the average salaries of youth across Canada by race, gender and ability.
Looking Towards a Better Future
Overall, this study highlights the heightened social consciousness among young people. They list actions that could radically change the existing barriers in our communities. Their solution is to provide resources and support to uplift young people who are trying to navigate a complex COVID-19 reality. This report also shows the power of including young people in policy decisions. The role of Canadian youth is evolving in regards to involving them in conversations and studies about their well-being.
Now we wait and see what actions will be taken by governments, institutions and organizations to follow through and actually improve the conditions and wellbeing of young people across the country. Young people, especially those living in contexts of inequity, are often consulted, but to what actionable ends, we rarely see.