Latest NewsLocalPolitics

Talk politics — especially with youth. Our democracy depends on it – Toronto.com

Young people between the ages of 18 and 35 will make up the largest group of eligible voters in the coming 2019 federal election this October.

While generations of Canadians have been advised not to discuss politics in polite company, young people are no longer following this rule.

Research shows that young Canadians are more likely to discuss politics and the issues that concern them compared to their older counterparts. Discussing the impact of the elections on their daily lives, education, work, and their future with their friends and family not only motivated youth to vote but encouraged their peers as well.

Our hesitation as Canadians to engage in political dialogue and action has fuelled a 20-year downward trend in voter turnout, except in 2015 when a significant number of young people cast their ballot.

While many Canadians participate in civic engagement activities, like volunteering and donating money to charity and nonprofit organizations, few are inclined to contact elected officials, attend political meetings or volunteer during an election.

Our involvement in civic engagement activities is commendable and necessary, but we are putting our democracy in a precarious position by being politically disengaged.

A healthy democracy is dependent on its participants engaging in political life. It is through politics that we decide on how public money is spent, what rules and ideas govern our society, and what kind of lives will be accessible to us and our children.

At North York Community House, civic engagement and non-partisan political education have always been an important part of our work. Across all ages, we engage participants in conversations and activities that increase their knowledge of political systems, develop critical thinking, and explore actions that will positively impact their lives and communities.

We not only talk about politics but also provide tools and ways in which residents can actively engage in action to bring about the change they want to see.

The Village Bloggurls — a youth-led, weekly leadership and media literacy program — have been involved in non-partisan get-out-the-vote campaigns in previous elections.

Through workshops, discussions, debates and creative media young people have raised awareness among their neighbours about community issues, how government works, how and where to vote, and how residents can take action.

They are keen to participate in the political and decision-making processes that will affect their lives, but often remark on the lack of opportunity for discussion and action, both at home and in school.

We have to change this. In our schools, at home, and in our communities, we need to understand and actively engage in the political life of our country and involve young people in the conversation.

You will be surprised at how much they can achieve with the right kind of engagement and opportunity, and how their actions can positively impact your own.

Shelley Zuckerman is the executive director of North York Community House, located in Lawrence Square Shopping Centre.