'What it means to grow up as a Canadian': P.E.I. writer shares visions of Canada
'There was nowhere for me to go and read about what young people were doing in Canada'
What does it mean to grow up as a Canadian these days? A new P.E.I.-based website is sharing the experiences, concerns and hopes of the nation's young adults.
Maria Dalton single-handedly created the website Visions of Canada and for the past month has been publishing one interview per week with young people who talk about their experiences in and wishes for Canada's environment, the arts, politics and more.
So many people think that millennials are lazy … how can we empower all those people to go out and make change?— Maria Dalton
"What Visions of Canada aims to do is create a narrative based on individual youth experiences as well as a commentary on contemporary Canadian society and what it is to be a young person in Canada," said the 21-year-old, who grew up in Summerside, P.E.I., where she still lives.
Dalton has initially drawn on youth in her own sphere — she attended Carleton University, studying health sciences and is now embarking on a second degree in geography at the University of Calgary.
"I wanted to talk to people and get them to sort of analyze their life in terms of what it means to grow up as a Canadian," she said. "And also, looking forward into the future and what they think Canada is going to do over the next say, 10, 15 years and how it's going to impact them and their lives."
'Above and beyond'
Dalton has tried to choose interviewees who have experienced more than most typical 17-to-25-year-olds.
"They're people who've gone out, gone above and beyond what they're being taught in the classroom," she said. "Lots of these people have these incredible experiences."
For instance, University of Ottawa political science student Danielle Kydd of Hamilton, Ont., tells Dalton that some of her favourite pastimes include hiking, engaging in political activism and watching Question Period. "Governance is one of my biggest passions," she said.
Animal biology student Christopher Ritchie of Yukon shares that "one of the largest changes I would like to see is the increase in protected natural areas."
"At the rate we are destroying the planet, there won't be anyone left to care about how cool you look in your lifted diesel," he told Dalton.
Dalton has met many of her subjects through the National Student Commonwealth Forum, an annual week-long youth leadership conference in Ottawa for high school students. Dalton attended in 2012 and is now on the planning committee.
"There's lot of these amazing people — I like to call them diamonds in the rough, because they're not necessarily the people who are there leading the pack, they're not necessarily the student union president. But they're the people doing the most groundwork and lots of these amazing things in their communities," Dalton said.
'Seeing what the future holds'
The website, designed and built by Dalton this spring in her spare time, is aimed at other youth.
"When I go online, there's nothing for me to read that is aimed at me — there was nowhere for me to go and read about what young people were doing in Canada. So I wanted to create that," she said. However she's discovered that parents are also reading the stories, and "seeing what the future holds for the country as well."
So far, Dalton believes each post has been read 300 to 400 times.
The website does not contain advertising, so Dalton is not making any money from it. Although it's a lot of work, Dalton said she enjoys it, is learning a lot and believes she's doing a public service. Not surprisingly, she works as a federal public servant.
Politics could definitely be in her future, Dalton said, although not for the next decade or so.
'What youth are capable of'
Dalton asks all her interview subjects what their vision for Canada is. What is her own vision?
If it just encourages one person to go out and make one small change, that's a victory for me.— Maria Dalton
"I've never thought about it!" she admits with a laugh.
"I would say … a Canada that's completely unified, one that allows us to make the most of our natural resources without depleting them in any way, and just allows us to experience the natural beauty of our country and share that with the world and welcome everyone here."
What difference can one website make?
"Helping them think about things, what youth are capable of," she said. "So many people think that millennials are lazy … how can we empower all those people to go out and make change?"
"If it just encourages one person to go out and make one small change, that's a victory for me, in my opinion," she said. "So many people take Canada for granted."
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