Canada Youth Summit summary report 2019

May 2-3, 2019
Carleton University

[ PDF version ]

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The Canada Youth Summit brought 272 diverse youth from across the country to Ottawa on May 2 and 3, 2019. The Summit was an unprecedented opportunity to engage youth on issues of importance to them, highlight the importance of youth service while inspiring youth to serve their communities, and showcase youth-centered approaches to digital engagement.

A range of partners nominated youth as Summit participants including youth-serving organizations, provincial and territorial governments, Government of Canada departments, and Canada Service Corps.

At the Summit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as Minister of Youth, launched Canada’s first Youth Policy. Driven by youth-led consultations held across the country, the Canada Youth Policy reflects the values and priorities of young Canadians and represents a whole-of-government approach to improve youth outcomes and better include young people in federal decision-making. The Prime Minister also announced the expansion of the Canada Service Corps – a signature Government of Canada program that gives young Canadians the opportunity to participate in meaningful volunteer service projects that have positive impacts in communities across Canada. Through the Canada Service Corps, young Canadians can also receive micro-grant funding to lead their own service project.

Discussion at the Summit focused on key topics identified as priorities by youth during Canada Youth Policy and Canada Service Corps consultations in 2018, including health and wellness; employment and innovation, skills and learning; gender equality; environment and climate change; and, leadership, social impact, and democratic participation. The theme of reconciliation was woven into all discussions throughout the Summit. As well, the theme of service and its positive impacts on youth and communities helped inform discussion and activities at the Summit.

“Youth have a lot of great recommendations and insight into what our country can strive for to move forward.”
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The Summit also featured a variety of speakers to inspire youth conversations during breakout sessions. Among the speakers were breakdancer Luca “LazyLegz” Patuelli, Indigenous entrepreneur Kendal Netmaker, ice dancer Tessa Virtue, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, award-winning journalist Liz Plank, Indigenous rights activist Shania Pruden, founder of the Somali Education Fund Asma Hassan, astronauts Jenni Sidey-Gibbons and David Saint-Jacques, research scientist Chris Derksen, Executive Director of Student Energy Meredith Adler, and Executive Director of Apathy is Boring Caro Loutfi.

Participants had the opportunity to participate in several interactive activities, including workshops to provide feedback on the Government of Canada’s Youth Digital Gateway, connecting with youth-serving organizations and government departments at the Service Marketplace, and participating in service experiences throughout the Ottawa area such as sandbagging at a local flooded area and learning about traditional Indigenous teachings at The Kumik.

The Canada Youth Summit offered a youth-centered, respectful, and accessible environment for a diverse group of youth participants. Simultaneous interpretation, Indigenous elder services, a grief councillor, chaperones, and other services were available to support full participation from all youth participants. The Summit was also unique for significant efforts taken to reduce its carbon footprint. Carbon offsets were purchased to offset air travel for participants, the Carleton University site has a Zero Waste Certification, an event app was created to make the event paperless, and promotional items were printed in Canada and made from recycled materials.

The Summit concluded with a Town Hall hosted by the Prime Minister, which was an opportunity for youth to discuss what matters most to them.

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Breakout discussions

Youth participated in small group discussions on a range of issues and challenges important to them. Each discussion was introduced by a plenary speaker.

Using a World Café format, facilitators supported breakout discussions and collected insights from youth. Organizers encouraged youth to share ideas from their discussions with the Prime Minister during his town hall at the end of the two-day Summit.

Health and wellness

Speaker Luca “LazyLegz” Patuelli initiated the Health and Wellness discussion by speaking about living with a disability and changing his perception to focus on his unique abilities and accomplishments.

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To generate discussion, a number of questions were posed to the youth participants at the outset of the breakout session, including how to define health and wellness and what tools and services are needed to contribute towards wellness and mental health.

Mental health emerged as a major theme in these discussions. Many participants expressed their belief that there is a need to change harmful ideologies. They also promoted the importance of de-stigmatizing and legitimizing mental health through support and education.

Youth participants also stressed the significance of access and financial support for programs and resources related to mental health.

Other important themes discussed include the importance of self-care (nature, sports, medication, etc.) to overall wellbeing and the need for enhanced education on this important link. Participants also discussed the development and benefit of support systems (peers, partners, adults, etc.).

“No excuses, no limits”
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Employment and innovation, skills and learning

The speaker for this breakout session, Kendal Netmaker, shared his story of becoming a successful Indigenous entrepreneur and gave an inspiring talk about overcoming obstacles to achieve predetermined goals and realize the future that you want. In this session, participants were asked what skills they have gained through service and what skills youth felt are valuable in getting a job?

Participants discussed a number of themes, including the notion that non-traditional education should be acknowledged as a way to build important skills that can transfer to the workforce (through service, life experiences, mentoring, etc.).

Participants also wanted employers to focus less on hard skills and value soft skills (critical thinking, entrepreneurship, empathy, creativity, etc.) that reflect a changing economy and employment landscape. Youth also raised the issue of financial barriers to gaining hard and soft skills. There were several mentions of accessibility and accommodation as barriers to employment (language proficiency, ethnicity and location).

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Gender equality

To start Day 2, the Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister of International Development and Minister for Women and Gender Equality, launched the National Conversations on Gender Equality with Young Canadians, which aim to expand and amplify youth dialogue and action on gender equality.

Complementing that initiative, speaker Liz Plank and panelists Shania Pruden and Asma Hassan discussed how far society has come and the work that still needs to be done in relation to gender equality. The panelists spoke about their personal experiences and initiatives to address inequality through an intersectional lens. Questions animating this breakout session explored the relationships among gender, social media, service, and unconscious bias.

Youth participants raised similar themes to the education session, such as increasing the representation of women authors and scholars in school curricula and ensuring equal access to information, especially in northern, rural, and remote communities. Youth also suggested that for gender equality to become a reality all Canadians should be collectively involved, and highlighted the important role of men and boys in the discussion. Another main theme was the importance of inclusivity, and normalizing diverse non-binary gender identities, which can be promoted through gender-neutral language and facilities (e.g., washrooms).

“I learned that there are very engaged youth across Canada that deserve more equal and equitable opportunities to better serve their communities”

Environment and climate change

In this session, Jenni Sidey-Gibbons spoke about her experience as an astronaut and the importance of encouraging young women to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

In a pre-recorded video from the International Space Station, fellow astronaut David Saint-Jacques spoke about his experience in space and answered questions that participants provided in advance. 

Dr. Chris Derksen, research scientist at Environment and
Climate Change Canada and co-author of Canada’s Changing Climate Report (CCCR), presented the study’s findings. Meredith Adler, Executive Director of Student Energy, talked about engaging youth on a sustainable energy future and the importance of youth stepping-up to address climate change.

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A main theme that emerged from this breakout session was the need for improved school curricula, which better address the environment and climate change without bias. Participants also demanded immediate government action on the environment. Examples of action highlighted by participants included investments in research on the environment, support for youth who want to lead change and incentives for Canadians to buy into action on climate change.

“Climate change is impacting Canada, and youth in Canada have the ability to make a difference in this country.”

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Leadership, social impact, and democratic participation

The final breakout session featured Caro Loutfi, who spoke about the role of youth in democratic processes and the importance of youth getting involved and speaking up for the future they want to achieve.

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During this session, youth participants were prompted by the following questions:

The main ideas youth participants expressed in this session included a proposal to pay young people for their work and contributions, which might incentivize greater social and democratic engagement among youth. Youth participants want better access to leadership opportunities and clear information that is easily accessible.

Youth participants also want equity not equality, to ensure that the voices of those in marginalized communities are heard, as well as supports for these marginalized youth to get involved in their communities.

Other Canada Youth Summit activities

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Service experiences

As part of the over-arching theme of the Summit, youth had the opportunity to participate in one of 11 youth service experiences in the Ottawa region. The service experiences reflected the Summit’s key topics.

The experiences enabled participants to gain hands-on experience and get a sense of what type of important work they might pursue when they return to their home communities. Youth noted that the service experience was one of the highlights of the Summit and that they will continue to think of ways to give back to their communities.

Participating organizations:

Ottawa Community Housing, Operation Come Home, The Ottawa Mission, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Oceanwise, Shepherds of Good Hope, Parkdale Food Centre, Gignul Non-Profit Housing Corporations, The Kumik, Tungasuvvingat Inuit, Dress for Success Ottawa and Carleton University.

Service marketplace

The Service Marketplace allowed youth to speak with 55 youth-centric organizations ranging from youth-serving organizations, to Canada Service Corps national partners and a range of federal departments. Youth participants were able to learn about service opportunities across Canada, which helped to give meaning to the call to action issued by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the Summit’s first day. All youth and participating organizations reported a positive and valuable experience. 

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”I learned a lot about service opportunities across the country!”

Canada Service Corps Memorial

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On the first day of the Canada Youth Summit, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, and Senator Mary Coyle led a memorial to celebrate the lives of four youth representing the Canada Service Corps who tragically died aboard Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302 while travelling to the United Nations Environment Assembly. The memorial was an opportunity to acknowledge the profound loss of Danielle Moore, Micah Messent, Angela Rehhorn and Stéphanie Lacroix, and to carry on their legacy of service to environmental and humanitarian causes.

Youth Digital Gateway

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The Canada Youth Summit provided an opportunity to test a prototype of the Youth Digital Gateway. Announced in Budget 2019, the Youth Digital Gateway will function as a single-window platform for information about Government of Canada services, presented in a youth-oriented and youth-friendly design. Employment and Social Development Canada ran testing and design sessions during the Summit, engaging over 120 youth in conversations about design and soliciting feedback. The Treasury Board also ran user testing specifically focused on the Canada Service Corps website and Youth Digital Gateway functionality. Youth testing generated very positive responses to the proposed platform and identified a number of desirable functions youth would like to see added such as a skills assessment tool and mentorship support.

Town Hall

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To conclude the Canada Youth Summit, the Prime Minister hosted a Town Hall-style, question and answer session with youth participants. The Town Hall provided an opportunity for youth to openly discuss what service means to them, ask targeted questions and raise issues related to such key topics as, climate change, Indigenous wellbeing, mental health, and gender equality. It was also an opportunity for the Prime Minister to continue the conversation with young Canadians on what matters most to them, building on Canada’s Youth Policy.

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Canada Youth Summit exit survey

Following the Summit, youth participants were invited to complete an exit survey, which helped to communicate participants’ experiences and takeaways.

Of the 272 youth participants, 45 percent (122 of 272) responded to the exit survey. Eighty-five per cent of Canada Youth Summit participants felt that their experience was positive.

Asked to identify the most important thing they took away from the Summit, a majority of participants stated that they felt inspired about their power to affect change in Canada.

A majority of participants identified the town hall discussion as their favourite activity, followed by the service experiences. Youth also most enjoyed the sessions on environment and climate change and gender equality, as well as having the chance to learn more about service opportunities through the Youth Marketplace.

Participants expressed positive views about Youth Digital Gateway testing while also identifying a number of additional functions they would like to see on the Gateway. A skills assessment tool, mentorship support, and better social media integration topped this list.

With regard to the Summit’s over-arching theme of service, 68 percent of respondents reported they are currently participating in a service experience, while 93 percent have engaged in service within the past year. Their motivation for service was largely altruistic, with 48 percent of youth participating to serve their community, and 25 percent participating to influence change. A majority of youth respondents believe that the most effective incentives to encourage youth to serve are recognition of service and skills obtained while completing the
service experience.

Outside of the exit survey, a number of participants indicated to Summit organizers that they would have liked more time to discuss the topics and more time to get to know other participants.

Participation & experience

45% Response rate

Response rate

85% Positive experience

Positive experience

68% Currently participating in a service activity

Currently participating in a service activity

93% Participated in a service activity in the past year

Participated in a service activity in the past year

Favourite sessions

71% Town Hall Discussion

Town Hall Discussion

61% Service Activities

Service Activities

61% BBQ & Concert

BBQ & Concert

54% Gender Equality

Gender Equality

53% Youth Marketplace

Youth Marketplace

52% Environment & Climate Change

Environment & Climate Change

44% Leadership, Social Impact, Democracy

Leadership, Social Impact, Democracy

39% Health & Wellness

Health & Wellness

33% Employment & Innovation

Employment & Innovation

32% Youth Policy & Service

Youth Policy & Service

27% Youth Digital Gateway

Youth Digital Gateway

Next steps

Continued engagement

The Government of Canada is committed to continuing the conversation with youth and wants to hear what is important to them. To ensure a line of communication is always open, youth are encouraged to reach out to the Youth Secretariat or contact Leaders Today through their social media platforms.

An online Engagement Kit was launched May 3, 2019. The guide outlines how youth can host their own discussions and continue conversations on key topics highlighted at the Summit. These discussions will inform the development of the State of Youth report and the evolution of federal youth programming.

Youth Digital Gateway

Following the Summit, Employment and Social Development Canada will incorporate youth feedback testing into the Youth Digital Gateway. Co-development work with youth will continue to enhance functionality for the website. Additional youth programs across the Government of Canada will continue to be uploaded to the Gateway following its release. The release of the Youth Digital Gateway will be communicated at a later date.

”There’s endless opportunity for change and growth and that starts with youth.”
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State of Youth Report

Starting in 2020, and every four years thereafter, the Government of Canada will release a report highlighting the state of youth in Canada. Where possible, the State of Youth Report will include specific data on First Nations, Métis and Inuit youth in recognition of the distinct challenges they face and the need to address the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth outcomes. The report will create better awareness of how youth are doing among all Canadians.

Youth on boards

Canadian youth feel it is particularly important that Canada’s institutions reflect our country’s rich diversity. In an effort to ensure that youth are represented across the range of federal organizations, the Government of Canada will continue to increase youth representation in Governor in Council (GIC) appointments. In order to achieve this, the Government will work with organizational heads, Chairpersons of Boards and decision makers to promote the importance of having youth GIC appointees in appropriate and available positions. Over the next five years, the Government of Canada will commit to having 75% of crown corporations include a young person on their board.

Thank you to our participating organizations

© Privy Council Office, 2019
All rights reserved
All requests for permission to reproduce this document or any part thereof shall be addressed to the Privy Council Office (Youth Secretariat).

Cette publication est également disponible en français :
Rapport sommaire du Sommet Jeunesse du Canada

ISBN 978-0-660-31395-5

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