Guest post by Zak Vescera. Zak was a participant in News Day in BC and, through that program, wrote the article “Overcoming Generational Apathy”, which was published in the Vancouver Sun on March 27, 2013.
Tomorrow, the polls will finally open for a provincial election that could impact British Columbia for decades to come. But one of the most affected groups, youth under 18, won’t be able to vote at the polls, despite having more at stake with the coming election than any other party.
So what really matters to them? What do the youth of our province care about in this election?
On Saturday, May 4th, a Check Your Head workshop was held at Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House as part of the Beyond the Ballot project, which aims to help youth isolate important political issues to get them involved in creating change.
Led by Kyla Brophy, the education program coordinator at Check Your Head, the workshop started at 10 AM- when most youth are sleeping in or putting off homework. But over a dozen kids instead chose to spend their Saturday morning talking politics.
Brophy explained politics like a tree; the roots symbolize values, the body of the true represented issues, the branches represented means of creating change, and the leaves represented an ideal world.
The student’s mission; to create a tree of their own.
The group was largely quiet at first, with answers and ideas only trickling out. But slowly and surely, they grew more confident. Soon their tree became just as diverse as a real political platform.
Values like equality, education, awareness, honesty, and respect held their tree in place. Students put a lot of emphasis on equality- they all believe that human beings deserve equal opportunities in life.
“Universal rights are very important to me.” said Johnson, a grade 11 student from Gladstone Secondary. “There is still inequality in the world, and that’s not right”
“There’s a lot of homelessness, but just as many rich people. It’s a huge divide, especially here in Vancouver.” argued Nyansaik “Everyone deserves an equal chance.”
The tree’s body is just as impassioned. Issues like public censorship were extremely important, especially revolving around the media and access to online information.
“I think the internet should be freer so people can get as much information as possible.” said Andy, a grade 10 student. “If I don’t have the internet, I have to trust the news!”
They illustrated the bias that can result from individual news networks- this is a generation that likes to have every bit of information possible, thanks to the advent of the internet. Individual stations are seen as potentially untrustworthy.
“A lot of news stations just put bias on everything.” argued Joshua, grade 11. “ I think they should let the viewer decide”
What especially irked them was the attempted introduction of internet protection bills like SOPA, which would potentially grant government huge power to monitor and control information online.
“It would restrain freedom of speech” argued Mike, a grade 10 student. “That kind of bill would give government way too much power.”
What came through strongest of all was concern for the environment. From a generation that has seen global warming firsthand, it’s no surprise that taking care of our planet would be their first priority, whether it’s the ozone layer or just preventing littering.
“We need more composting options” said Vanna, a grade 11 student. “I hate going out and seeing trash on green grass. And I see people chucking compost on the ground, just thinking it will biodegrade on its own- but it just doesn’t work like that.”
There were countless other issues raised. Students brought up everything from animal extinction to the justice system to healthcare, all in the space of an hour or so. Not to mention all the discussion on lobbying, the politics of violent protesting, petitions, and countless other mediums of affecting change.
Most of them had already participated by signing petitions, volunteering for local candidates, and attending rallies or demonstrations.
These youth might not have the right to vote yet, but they know the power of politics and what the next election could bring. And more importantly, they know what they’ll vote for once they get to the polls.