Youth IMPACT All-Candidates Session June 2

Jun 5 2014

Youth Impact Session We have had a great youth team take us through the issues that matter on June 2 all-candidates session: child welfare, community infrastructure, neighbourhoods and personal safety, environment, mental health, financial stability and employment. The ages of participants ranged from 16 to 76! Huge thank you to the Family Centre and the Family and Child Services Youth Advisory Board for adding more table topics, for their precious note taking and facilitation, and for stating again that we need to look after the well-being of many generations into the future and that the time to act is now. We had seven candidates with us from three Kitchener ridings and they enjoyed listening and talking about youth and their experience.

We have prepared two fact sheets on youth issues: Education, Employment and Poverty & Independence and Belonging. Please read below the summary of notes taken at round tables and listen carefully to the responses the candidates made after the discussions. table conversations

Summary of Table Discussions

Child Welfare
There are gaps within the child welfare system that need to be fixed to enable youth to transition to independence rather than having to fend for themselves abruptly when they reach 16. We need to support youth who are in the child welfare system as they transition into independent living. Both caretakers and government programs should provide youth with supports and crucial life skills, such as financial literacy, as preparation for independence. Financial supports would decrease the pressure put on youth to move out of care before they are ready. This could be done by extending the age of release to range between 18 and 21 with a gradual process of transition based on individual needs and readiness.

Family and Children’s Services cannot intervene with youth older than 16 years of age. How does a 16 or 17 year old support themselves independently while still in high school? At that age they are outside of the child welfare system so who is available to help them if their family situation has been disrupted? We need to develop strategies to help all youth transition into adulthood.

Another issue raised in the discussion is the proliferation of flavoured tobacco products being marketed and sold to children and youth. These products do not require warning labels. We need to raise a greater awareness in the community about the health risks these tobacco products pose to youth. It is important that we to protect the health of our children.

Community Infrastructure
There aren’t enough spaces for youth to go, nor are existing spaces completely accessible or secure. Activities and programs targeted at young people should be less costly to allow equal access to opportunities. Transportation needs to become more accessible and affordable for youth. Subsidize the cost of transit for youth and direct funding into programs that will have a meaningful impact on immediate needs and opportunities for recreation.

Prevention and youth programs need more funding, and more focus should be given to long term help, not just for immediate needs. Transitional housing for youth needs to be safe and also have longer term supports. We need to plan for a future beyond the next four-year political term, both for the lives of current youth and for youth in the future.

Neighbourhood and Personal Safety
As was raised in the Community Infrastructure discussion , those who discussed neighbourhood and personal safety emphasized the importance of youth having access to indoor and outdoor recreational spaces and activities that are safe and financially accessible. Community buildings, like schools or churches, can host activities for youth to participate. Outlets for expression, like a graffiti park for the arts, or informal education, conflict resolution, positive communication and anti-bullying, would greatly benefit the development of youth.

We need to have the whole community involved and to also support families to be stronger and all of us working together as partners in creating safety through crime prevention and capacity development.

Support and Mental Health
This group started their discussion with concern about the increase in mood disorder diagnoses for youth at the same time as affordability of medication and access to treatment has decreased. It was suggested that the Ontario Disability Program should offer higher benefits to those recipients who are parents caring for children with health problems and for youth with disabilities.

The group identified groups that seem to be at a greater risk: for example immigrants and LGBTQ. The discussion included comments that there is greater awareness about bullying, but that new ways to bully are increasing too, such as cyber bullying. Some of these issues could be addressed by legislation. Schools were recognized to have a huge role to play in prevention and dealing with youth mental health. Guidance counselling should be available to help with personal issues in non-threatening and safe ways.

Decision-makers should spend more time with students in schools and learn about things that are difficult to express; bullying, lack of belonging or acceptance, depression, LGBTQ issues, peer pressure and addiction. The pressure on today’s youth is compounded by the constant fear being spread about the future without jobs and increased academic expectations. More clubs, community centres, sports clubs, more volunteer opportunities are required that could steer youth away from crime and other risks.

Financial Stability
One participant noted that tuition has been raised in Ontario post-secondary schools which means young adults may need to live with their parents longer to pay off their student loan debt. Highly skilled young people are struggling to find jobs; some are forced to move away for work, others to apply for jobs below their qualifications, accepting unpaid internships or low-paying positions to gain “relevant” experience. There is a huge burden on low income families who cannot support their children’s basic need or education. How can youth pay off their student loans while working minimum wage jobs, especially those youth with disabilities (or any other challenge to their employability)?

The government needs to reduce tuition fees, raise the minimum wage, and ensure employment opportunities for youth. Programs to help those with disabilities need to be better funded. Universities and the business sector have to be the partners in providing guidance and support for education, scholarships and jobs.

Schools are integrating technology too quickly without providing access to devices, which deepens the inequality in the system and in the society. Direct funding is needed for improving the infrastructure and updating of teaching materials. Life-skills courses, such as food and nutrition or accounting, should become mandatory parts of the curriculum. Cultural diversity should also be better integrated, and more support should be given to students as they transition between high school and post-secondary.

Improve the learning environment, make learning resources and materials available, and work on the curriculum that makes practical skills available so that all students will be better prepared for life after schooling.

There is an awareness of the general deterioration of the labour conditions that do not allow for decent jobs requiring skills that youth bring from their education. The education system seems disconnected from the workplace. Earning realities do not cover the rising cost of living and higher levels of debt that graduating students must deal with. One participant wondered if putting a priority on corporate profits results in avoiding workers issues.

Companies should be willing to hire youth fresh out of school and government should find ways to help cover the cost of post-secondary education. Flexible apprenticeships and trades education should be more available and accessible.

We need stronger party commitment to the environment and dedication to research and development to address our dependency on motor vehicles, increase options for eco-friendly jobs, and for sustainable and renewable energy. We all suffer from the lack of green spaces in our communities. Investment in upkeep and enjoyable aspects of provincial, regional and local parks is equally needed.

Urban planning has a great role to play and as does trade agreements to make sure local economy and local environment are nurtured and sustainable.

Candidates' Responses

David Weber, Green Party of Ontario








Margaret Johsnton, Ontario NDP








Daiene Vernile, Ontario Liberal Party







Wayne Wettlaufer, Ontario PC






Tracey Weiler, Ontario PC






James Villeneuve, Ontario NDP









Stacey Danckert, Green Party of Ontario