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CATHERINE MORRISON: Warning – young people mistrust government. Here's what to do about it

"Youth are looking for governments to deal with issues that are fundamental and basic, in ways that will better future generations."
"Youth are looking for governments to deal with issues that are fundamental and basic, in ways that will better future generations." - 123rf Stock Photo

We’re not asking for much. We want governments to deal with issues that are fundamental and basic to us all.

Youth are worried about the future. A national online survey conducted by Abacus Data , with 1,000 youth between the ages of 15 to 30, reveals our political priorities, our lack of trust in governments and the top issues we are currently facing. Like our peers, we worry about gender issues and the rise of extremism, but what we are most concerned about is the rising cost of housing, mental health issues, and knowing how to contribute to solving these issues.

Youth are struggling to find jobs with liveable wages and have lost hope that we will be able to find affordable housing, with ​94 per cent of youth agreeing that the rising cost of housing is an issue​. These economic uncertainties are contributing to an increase in stress and mental health-related issues.

Due to this uncertainty about our future, there is a disconnect between youth and governments. We don’t trust that governments are always doing what is in the best interest of Canadians and our global community. Youth would like to see political parties and governments work together to effect meaningful change to fix economic issues, address climate change, and ensure that the rights of Indigenous Peoples are respected.

We worry about gender issues and the rise of extremism, but what we are most concerned about is the rising cost of housing, mental health issues, and knowing how to contribute to solving these issues.

We’re not asking for much. Youth are looking for governments to deal with issues that are fundamental and basic, in ways that will better future generations. Though we care about these issues, we struggle to engage due to a lack of confidence in our current political system, an absence of knowledge about or exposure to politics, and a shortage of time and resources, which are even bigger barriers for those facing challenging socio-economic circumstances. Arguably, youth are more disconnected from politics than ever because we don’t see ourselves as having the same priorities and we don’t feel confident that governments take our concerns seriously. Without addressing these issues, it’s likely that youth will continue to seek out ways beyond traditional politics and government to have an impact.

What can governments do to help us? We are the first generation in history who don’t see our lives as better than the lives of our parents. We need governments to create more youth positions in well-paying jobs and to find solutions to the housing affordability crisis so that we have livable wages and safe homes. We need governments to listen more to the voices of youth and marginalized people, in order to regain our trust. We need to remove barriers that inhibit youth from getting engaged in politics. Better, unbiased education about civics in high school as well as more programming in community spaces and institutions that youth frequent, will ensure information is more accessible and relatable. As well, governments should pay more attention to how and where youth are connecting and having their conversations. With the rise of social media advocacy and online engagement, involving young people in a political conversation is different from before. It extends well beyond volunteering for political parties and writing letters to MPs.

The issues that preoccupy youth most, such as climate change, are global, human-rights issues. They are overwhelming us, and traditional systems seem inflexible in meeting the needs of a changing world. What we need is for all levels of governments to come together, despite their different beliefs, to work towards making the real changes that we need for the wellbeing of our future and our planet. More importantly, we need them to recognize that it’s not just nice to have youth more involved, it’s absolutely necessary if we are to succeed in combatting problems that affect the lives of all Canadians.

Catherine Morrison of Ottawa is Co-President of McGill Women in Leadership Students’ Association. This article was written with: Shealah Hart , Northern Arm, NL, Member of the National Youth Council of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada; Shae Guy , Lethbridge, AB, Experiences Canada Alumnus; Jennifer Dupuis , Montreal, President of CARE Jeunesse; and Tristan Eisnor , Miramichi, NB, Member of the National Youth Council of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada. The Abacus survey can be found at: https://abacusdata.ca/another-youthquake/

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