Young Quebec voters want answers on Indigenous affairs, diversity issues this federal election

Immigration and Indigenous issues were front-of-mind for young voters who took part in an election panel earlier this week at the third annual Bishop's Forum.

At a panel discussion earlier this week, young voters peppered candidates with tough questions

Nigel Adams travelled from Nunavik to take part in the Bishop's Forum. He asked federal politicians what they plan to do to help northern communities. (Spencer Van Dyk/CBC)

Immigration and Indigenous issues were front-of-mind for young voters who took part in an election panel earlier this week at the third annual Bishop's Forum.

The Forum — held at Bishop's University in Sherbrooke — brings together English-speaking youth from all over Quebec for five days of discussions on everything from citizenship to diversity, from inclusiveness to sustainability.

On Tuesday, the participants were able to put questions to representatives from four federal political parties (Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green; a Bloc Québécois MP was forced to cancel).

After the event, the young voters shared how they thought the politicians measured up and what issues they hope the parties will address once the campaign begins. 

Nigel Adams

About: 26, Kangiqsujuaq, Nunavik

Adams was one of four students at the Forum from Nunavik. He attended the Forum last year as a participant, and returned this year as a coach.

He said the election panel gave him the chance to ask the politicians direct questions about their parties' plans for Indigenous communities.

"I've been preparing myself the whole year — I've been preparing myself the whole week — for this. So ... I was not going to let my opportunity slip," he said of his posing his question to the candidates.

"We're having our stories heard now."

More than anything, Adams said, he doesn't "want to see any more broken promises" from whichever party forms the next government.

Jordon Fisher 

Jordon Fisher asked the panelists about affordability of student life and is interested in Indigenous affairs. (Spencer Van Dyk/CBC)

About: 21, political science student at Concordia University, Montreal

Fisher said he wants to hear more from federal politicians about how they will make student life affordable.

He also said participating in the Forum alongside the students from Nunavik helped raise his awareness of the importance of Indigenous issues.

"I would really like for that to be addressed. But, honestly, I think [federal politicians] will breeze across it like they usually do," he said.

"These last four days have been enlightening to me."

He was glad to see the Forum participants ask pointed questions to the politicians.

"I don't think they saw it coming," Fisher said.

"They realize that the new generation is really stepping up their game. [The new generation is] really acquiring knowledge about politics and what's going on in today's society."

Joanna Kanga 

Joanna Kanga wanted to hear more about what politicians will do to increase the diversity of representation. (Spencer Van Dyk/CBC)

About: 20, studying political science, economy and communications at McGill University, Montreal

Kanga asked the candidates about how to make federal politics more representative of Canada's diversity. But she was disappointed with their answers.

"Some of the candidates focused more on their feelings toward the question rather than the solution," she said.

"I think some of them were surprised by how aware we were of the issues. I think they were not ready to answer those questions."

For Kanga, immigration, diversity and representation are "essential" issues that the federal parties need to discuss during the campaign.

"It's important for me to be represented, because representation is what gives us hope as youth," she said.

"We are extremely diverse. Everybody around me comes from different parts of this world. I think every person needs to know they have the chance to be represented in public services, in politics and in any field."

Anna-Celeste Wildgen 

Anna-Celeste Wildgen wants to know what the federal political parties plan to do for mental health. (Spencer Van Dyk/CBC)

About: 19, originally from Gatineau, applied psychology student at Bishop's University, Sherbrooke

Wildgen says she will be paying attention to what the federal parties have to say about mental health.

"I think especially in Quebec, mental health is a huge, huge issue," she said, adding she knows many people living with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

"Quebec is extremely lacking [resources]. It's so ridiculous," she said. "So that's what I'm looking out for — people who put more pressure on that."


Spencer Van Dyk


Spencer Van Dyk is the Eastern Townships correspondent for CBC Quebec. Follow her on Twitter @spencerlynne.


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