Our young Canadians:
Their sense of belonging and their agenda
As we prepare to celebrate Canada Day next Thursday and as we move out of an election campaign into a “new” majority provincial government, the time seems right to ask our youth a few questions that are important for all of us.
“What does it mean to you to be Canadian?”
Do our young people feel that they share in the Canadian identity? Does their Canadian identity give them the psychological comfort and self-confidence of “belonging”? Or do a lot of them still feel trapped at the level of Canadian identity described as “visible minorities”? This categorization was roundly condemned by the late Charlie Roach because it suggests a lesser degree of Canadianness.
Some analysts, supported by technical studies on the subject, believe that young people born here or who came here at a very young age harbour no doubts about their Canadian identity, even if they have dual cultural allegiance that includes their ancestral origins. They take for granted the rights and freedoms, the education, health and social services which are enjoyed here, in addition to the sport and cultural activities. They are fully immersed in Canadian life and only question the “advantages” of being Canadian if they are socio-economically marginalized.
“What are your aspirations and expectations as a young Canadian?
Again, there is some degree of consensus that young people aspire to a “reasonable” or high standard of living achieved through a combination of academic education and practical skills. The supposition here is that the educational and employment opportunities are both available, even if the competition for jobs may be fierce, particularly in Ontario and Quebec.
There is also a natural aspiration among our youth that they will lead “meaningful” lives, each individual defining the term according to their own values and inclinations. For some this may mean assuming a leadership role in their respective geographic or cultural communities. For others this may entail participating in the advancement of their preferred social, cultural, socio-economic, religious or political causes. And yet others will seek this sense of fulfillment from the professional and social status of a managerial position in an organization, especially in their own private business venture.
“What are your priorities and concerns as a young Canadian?”
Large numbers of our young people today are convinced that their chances of achieving their aspirations and expectations are extremely limited by the high rate of youth unemployment and under-employment. They are beset by the disconnect between their academic qualifications and the skills required by the job market. They abstain from the political process, even to the point of not voting.
The great disaster to be averted here is the social and political disruption that comes with youth disengagement. Our youth, our business sector, our not-for-profit community and our three levels of government have a responsibility to engage each other in an all-encompassing process of mutual empowerment.
That empowerment gives value and meaning to Canada Day!