Recently, 70 youth from 4-H clubs across Canada, including Kayleen Dillabough from Quesnel, came to Parliament Hill to explore issues related to civic engagement and governance while cultivating their knowledge and pride for their country. These youth, ages 16-21, were in Ottawa for the annual 4-H Citizenship Congress which has been taking place since 1972.
They met with cabinet ministers, Members of Parliament and the Speaker of the House as they explored the conference theme Canada: Where Do We Stand?
That’s a timely question, given that many of these youth will vote for the first time in this year’s upcoming federal election.
With Canada’s voter turnout reaching historic lows over the past decade, seeing these young Canadians so actively engaged in learning about the democratic process and contemplating their place within it, was heartening to say the least.
4-H is a youth organization that empowers young people to consider all perspectives when establishing their belief systems – a freedom we are privileged to enjoy as Canadians.
This group of young women and men spent four days meeting with parliamentarians, members of the aboriginal community, new Canadians and NGOs to gain a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing our country.
So how will they make their mark? Will any of them someday be elected to public office? We know this is a very real possibility—some of Canada’s current parliamentarians are 4-H alumni, including Bev Shipley (MP), Mark Eyking (MP) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Minister Gerry Ritz, to name only a few.
Given the level of commitment we observed among our 4-H members, we are confident they will go back to their communities with a stronger sense of citizenship which they will share with those around them.
At the conclusion of the Congress, 4-H delegates brought an uncharacteristically youthful feel to the Senate as they participated in a mock debate in the Red Chamber.
We all need to work as a community to find ways to inspire and engage Canada’s youth. Providing them with opportunities to learn to do by doing is far more effective than simply telling them to vote or how to vote.
And in the process, we will safeguard democratic principles for future generations.
– Submitted by Shannon Benner, CEO, 4-H Canada