Youthful and full of promise: exploring how Youth in Politics is promoting grade 10 students’ civic engagement

Young people play a vital role in the political and civil life of Canadian society through traditional and non-traditional forms of activism and community engagement.  However, there remains a strong need to promote more civic engagement among young people at an earlier age. There is a necessity for more systematic mapping of youth community and civic engagement.  Facilitating civic engagement at a young age in Canadians as well as systematically charting a picture of youth civic and community engagement will challenge the socio-normative notion of young people as being apathetic to community development and civil life.

#YiP fulfils this need to engage students in civil and political life from an early age and allows them to showcase their civic engagement. Dr. Nombuso Dlamini and Dr. Uzo Anucho co-designed the YiP project to engage grade 10 students in the October school board trustee elections. #YiP also builds students’ capacity to involve their families and communities in local governance issues. Moreover, #YiP facilitates youth action projects that are connected to youth learning about the governance of schools and their communities. #YiP sees youth as having the power to examine their schools and communities, to decide what is good in them and what they want to change.

#YiP does three main activities – 1) designing and leading student civic engagement workshops; 2) designing and learning teacher professional development workshop and 3) funding student mini-projects.

  1. Student Civic Engagement Workshops

We have facilitated a series of youth-led, student-focused 3-day workshops in Ontario to stimulate student interest in community and civic engagement. Our youth presenters engaged students in a conversations and workshops about how they can be change agents in their communities and how to be civically engaged citizens.

  1. Teacher Professional Development Workshop

We also hosted a workshop for teachers and leaders of experiential learning with student representatives. We engaged our participants in conversations about reframing the Civics curriculum to make it more connected to the students’ lived experiences and community knowledge.

  1. Promoting Student-led Community and Civic Engagement

What differentiates #YiP from other civic engagement projects is we propose to provide financial support for students to design mini-projects, which would have facilitated the participation of our student participants’ families and communities in the school board trustee elections. Unfortunately, due to logistical reasons, our funding for the project was reduced, and we could not fulfil this aim. To compensate for this, we have provided a series of online resources such as our “Hosting a School Board Trustees All Candidates Meeting: A Student’s Guide.” These online resources provide students with practical ways in which they can host the trustee meetings and encourage their parents to become more politically aware and active.

We learned some vital lessons from #YiP;

  1. Students are engaged in their communities. The majority of our student participants actively participate or led community/school projects. They were members of their student councils, organisers of community activities such as barbecues and summer camps, and volunteers at their public library. They also advocate for issues in their communities.
  2. Students are concerned about social justice issues. They showed great interest in Canadian and global social justice issues and how it affects their local communities. Our participants are passionate about finding solutions to social justice issues such as human trafficking, gender-based violence, environmental racialization and precarious unemployment. They also commented that due to ageism many young people’s contributions and voices are not taken seriously.

#YiP has taught us numerous lessons from which we can posit the following suggestions. This list is not exhaustive but rather acts to stimulate a more in-depth and thoughtful conversation about youth civic engagement.

Our first recommendation is for more systematic research to ascertain the impact of the work that young people are already doing. Second, we need to find exciting ways to increase students’ political engagement. Politicians and their political machinery need to find intriguing ways of connecting with young people about issues that matter to them. Third, we must listen to youth voices and engaging students should go beyond using them as tokens on committees and boards. Our student participant shared with us that on the one hand, this resulted in their opinions being ignored or meaningfully used to impact policy changes while on the other hand, it made them more reluctant to voice their views.

In sum, any real efforts to increase young people in civic engagement needs to be research-led and multifaceted. These efforts also need to be informed by and for youth to impact policy changes and practices rather than attempts to solely increase the youth vote.

A new City Council faces new hurdles

The City election is over, and it was a wild, unprecedented ride. Changing the number of Councillors and changing the boundaries for each of the Wards had a significant toll on voter turnout. Changing the rules for the election while the election was already started was unfair and confusing to the public. Many people who voted in the previous election did not vote in this election as a result.

Voter turnout was lower City wide. Here, the Downsview area had one of the sharpest declines in turnout – over 28,000 people voted in 2014 however, in 2018, only 22,500 voted. This is a 20% drop.

Doug Ford forced the changes to the election because he reasoned it would save money, but that seems to be mostly words to rationalize his dislike for the City of Toronto Council as a body. He did not make the same
demands of other Ontarian cities and was in a rush to push this through, even creating a constitutional crisis in the process. Reasons as to why Ford did this never add up- many speculate that it is because he has a personal vendetta against Toronto.  

It was unfair to Torontonians who were given such little time to assess and adjust to the new changes. One fifth of voters in Downsview reacted by staying away from the polls and this is bad for our community. We may not like one politician or another, we may not like a party or we may not like the whole of them in power, but our democratic system is based on a number of principles that we need to protect. Fairness and predictability are pillars of a democratic society.

I think most would agree that we ought not to mess around with the rules during an election again. At the basis of any democratic election is a sense that people need to be given equal and fair opportunities. Elections are races and imagine training for months for a 100 metres dash race only to be told once the race starts that you have to run a kilometre instead? This was unprecedented. Let’s not do it again.

Politics! Blood Pressure! & More!

With recent and ongoing political squabbles, here and abroad, you might feel like you have had enough!  People say “It makes my blood boil”. If you are really upset, politics might make you feel like your blood pressure is going up.  And maybe it does but it is hard to measure. However, you are more likely to feel it if you are already dealing with elevated blood pressure.

Anger and excitement release adrenaline.  Too much adrenaline puts a lot of stress on your arteries. Normally, vessels repair the arterial damage with plaque.  Plaque reinforces weak areas of the vessels. Chemicals in your blood clean up a lot of that plaque where it becomes excessive, but as we age plaque accumulates and can lead to arteriosclerosis.  In arteriosclerosis, the veins are stiffer and clogged making it hard for the heart to pump blood and causing our pressure goes up.

Some researchers believe that all plaque starts out with tiny blood clots.  Therefore, basic to the internal cleanup is a normal enzyme, plasmin, that scrubs out the clots.  The process is called “thrombolysis” (from “thrombos”—lump and “lysis”—loosen). For instance, if you get a nosebleed or an injury, plasmin does not interfere with the necessary clotting that you need to start the fixing, but after you heal, it helps get rid of unneeded clots.

Plasmin is unique.  No other body chemical is known to do the same job; however, there are some nutritional substances that can bolster its work.  Important among these are papain, the enzyme from papaya, bromelain from pineapple and nattokinase. This last (not actually an enzyme but a real artery cleaner) comes from fermented soy beans, well known in traditional diets of Japan.  Nattokinase may be the most powerful of our clot-busting friends. I’m excited about it because after a long absence, it has again become available in Canada. It is not an over-the-counter supplement, at least for now, but it is available for licensed health practitioners who can supervise its use.  I’m looking forward to adding this tool when my clients consult me about blood pressure. I have found no reports whatsoever about undesirable secondary effects; still, some caution and supervision is sensible because long term use has not been studied a lot. Possibly some official nervousness results from confusion with aspirin (which works in a completely different way) or with prescription “blood thinners”.   The regulation of health products is often mysterious to me, but I won’t go into that. You already told me you had enough of politics!

Comments or questions? Write to Nicole@IndividualCare.com.   Nicole Constant is a registered Doctor of Naturopathy. Her website is:  www.IndividualCare.CA.