Canada 2017

For International Youth Day, these young change-makers have a message for Canada

What better way to commemorate these leaders of tomorrow than by letting them share their hopes and dreams for the future of Canada?

Today is International Youth Day, a chance to celebrate the contributions of young people who are changing their local and global communities. In their short lives, these young Canadians are already working to make this country and the world a better place. What better way to mark the day than by letting them share their hopes for the future of Canada? Here's what seven young Canadians told us they want to see happen in the next 50 years.

Tina Yeonju Oh, 20: Climate change activist (Sackville, N.B.) 

Tina Yeonju Oh was named one of the top 25 environmentalists under 25 by The Starfish Canada for her work as an organizer for various campaigns, including Ottawa Climate 101 and DivestMTA.

Fifty years from now, I hope Canada demonstrates to the world and its peoples that it can be a resilient climate leader in the face of climate change and justice. I imagine a future where Canada will thrive in the era of clean energy under a maximum global rise in temperature of two degrees C.

I hope to see this future supported by a tender and compassionate movement prioritizing the voices of marginalized communities. In my Canada, there are fulfilled promises on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and a just transition for oilsands workers. It stands in solidarity with communities of colour, refugees and queer communities who are most impacted by climate change.

I imagine a future where Canada will thrive in the era of clean energy.- Tina Yeonju Oh

I hope that universities will lead by example by divesting their endowment from fossil fuel corporations that poison these stolen lands. By 2067, I want to see real climate action so that there is a better Canada to live in for future generations.

Vishal Vijay,16 and Ishan Vijay,15: Co-Founders of EveryChildNow (Oakville, Ont.) 

The Vijay brothers founded EveryChildNow after witnessing extreme poverty on a trip to India. Their organization aims to fight for children’s rights across the world, through international development projects and homegrown advocacy.

After 150 years of Confederation, we're all proud of the country that Canada's become. My female friends can vote, my gay friends can marry and my Aboriginal friends can celebrate their heritage, but there's still something that we can't shake — prejudice and indifference. Unchallenged, they open the door for discrimination and have left many still stripped of basic needs, particularly children.

By the Bicentennial, we hope for the eradication of isms: racism, sexism, sexualism and more.- Vishal Vijay

In 50 years, we envision a Canada where everyone is free to express their true self without prejudice or judgement, whether that's the clothes they wear, the sports they play or the career they choose. A nation where no one is judged based of their gender, the choices they make or the dreams they pursue is a nation I would be proud to call my home.

By the Bicentennial, we hope for the eradication of isms: racism, sexism, sexualism and more. When parents teach their children that tolerance is a universal issue and that there's no room for prejudice, we can truly own our name Canada — the village that celebrates our differences, rather than lets them divide us. We need empathy for all, including the 1.3 million impoverished children who are often victims of prejudice and indifference. 

Ann Makosinski, 19: Student Inventor (Victoria) 

Ann Makosinski is a Canadian inventor who made big waves after creating a flashlight that runs off body heat and a mug that uses heat from the drink inside to charge the phone. Earlier this year, she was named to Forbes’s 30 under 30 list.

Canada's education system needs to be rewired to give more attention to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) subjects in junior and middle schools.

How many iPads do we give kids to use in classrooms vs. how many kids actually understand how an iPad works?- Ann Makosinski

Not enough children are learning manual skills or understanding how the overwhelming amount of technology around them works. How many iPads do we give kids to use in classrooms vs. how many kids actually understand how an iPad works and what electrical components are inside? To support innovation and lessen the symptoms of consumerism on youth, we must teach them to innovate and make their own solutions, instead of waiting for others to solve their problems and then buying the solution.

Canada needs to increase funding for science fairs, both local fairs and the Canada-Wide Science Fair. Some of the brightest teens and most innovative solutions come from these life changing science fairs. Financial support for young inventors obtaining patents is also needed. 

Sarah Jama, 23: Community Organizer and Civic Leader (Hamilton) 

Sarah Jama is the Ontario director for the National Association of Disabled Students. She resides in Hamilton, where she works as a community organizer and disability justice and anti-racism activist.

I'd like to see a Canada where all people are considered equal under law and in the eyes society. I'd like to see a Canada where Indigenous land is sovereign, where our political parties aren't inherently corrupt and where being white, cis, or able-bodied isn't a requirement for being viewed as competent.

I'd like to see a Canada where people with mental illnesses have a right to life.- Sarah Jama

I'd like to see a Canada where Black lives matter and a Canada that doesn't push for military intervention under the guise of peacemaking. I'd like to see a Canada where people with mental illnesses have a right to life — one that is free from the fear of police pistols.

But, all of this calls for revolution — which I'm not convinced will happen in fifty years.  Instead, I'll say this: In fifty years, I hope to see a Canada where those of us on the right side of history have not lost hope in the process of building change.

Abhayjeet Singh Sachal, 15: Youth organizer and speaker (Surrey, B.C.)

Abhayjeet Singh Sachal is founder of Break the Divide, an organization that connects local Surrey, B.C. students with people from across Canada through video calls.

Thousands of Canadian citizens face extreme inequalities and suffer the effects of past atrocities of our government. Facing water and food insecurity, suicide rates well above the national average, substance abuse issues and the greatest high school drop-out rates, these Canadians are segregated from other aspects of society. 

I hope to see a greater recognition and action towards issues facing Indigenous communities.- Abhayjeet Singh Sachal

As a young Canadian, I hope to see a greater recognition and action towards issues facing Indigenous communities in Canada. It is necessary for non-Indigenous communities to integrate and connect with Indigenous communities in order to create a unified Canada where all citizens have access to the same opportunities in life. 

Over the next fifty years, we will develop into a nation that connects with all its individuals. We must break all divides and unify. We must become one.

Shania Pruden, 20: Youth activist and speaker (Winnipeg)

Shania Pruden is an active blogger and former We Day speaker. (Submitted by Barb Sinclair)

A specific change that I would like to see happen before the Bicentennial would be the safety of Indigenous women and girls. The high amounts of missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada is not right. The fact the Indigenous women and girls are at more of at risk to be injured or harassed than non-Indigenous women and girls is not fair. 

No child should ever fear to live.- Shania Pruden

Growing up as a young Indigenous woman I was always in fear — I was always told to watch my surroundings and be cautious when I leave the house. No child should ever fear to live, regardelss of their age, race or gender. Canada is an amazing country, filled with amazing people, so shouldn't we be able to set our differences aside and work together to end the violence? 


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