From 1870 to 1996, more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were placed in residential schools and forbidden to speak their language and practice their culture. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) estimates there are 80,000 former students living today, and that the ongoing impact of residential schools are a major contributor to challenges facing modern Aboriginal populations.
Canada’s TRC is one of many commissions worldwide to undertake revealing and resolving past wrongdoings, mostly by governments. Other examples include:
In 1996, President Nelson Mandela authorized a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to study the effects of apartheid in South Africa. The commission allowed victims of human rights violations to give statements about their experiences, but also allowed perpetrators of violence to request amnesty from criminal prosecution.
The National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons, initiated in 1983, investigated human rights violations, including 30,000 forced disappearances, committed during the Dirty War.
The Historical Clarification Commission was created in 1994 in an effort to reconcile Guatemala after a 36-year civil war. The commission issued a report in 1999 which estimated that more 200,000 people were killed or disappeared as a result of the conflict.
In June, the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission released 94 “calls to action” to “redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.”
The scope of recommendations range from child welfare to education to Indigenous language rights, and has recommendations targeted for private and public spheres of Canadian life alike. The document calls upon law schools in Canada to require all students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law, for example. Notably, the document calls upon the federal government to appoint a public inquiry into the causes of, and remedies for, the disproportionate victimization of Aboriginal women and girls.
The 11-page document can be read here.
Canada’s employment statistics are much better now than they were 20 years ago. In 2012 for example, 61.8% of working-age Canadians were employed as opposed to 58.7% in 1995. The unemployment rate has gone down from 9.5% in 1995 to 6.8% in 2014. Youth unemployment has gone down too, from 16.1% to 13.5% in the same time period. The outlier in these trends is labour force participation, or the amount of working-age Canadians who are either employed, or unemployed and looking for work. Right now, participation is at the lowest rate since the year 2000, mainly because the “baby-boomer” generation is moving towards retirement. Read more about that here.
Housing preferences among Millennials, however, tend towards smaller, higher density housing close to activities, signs that changing economic realities and the generation shift will create more demand for housing in compact, walkable neighbourhoods.
Belfry-Munroe suspects that youth disinterest has to do with political parties. “There’s been a lack of engagement one-on-one with people since the 1970s, and a greater focus on mass media and now things like social media,” says Belfry-Munroe. “The other thing is that parties have become uncool,” she continues, “and I think that getting excited about the election without parties is like getting excited about the World Series without the teams. If you weren’t excited about the Blue Jays, you would not be concerned about the World Series.”
To extend this analogy, young Canadians currently aren’t even interested in baseball. What could work to change this would be getting other types of fans — soccer, golf, darts, you name it — engaged in baseball due to their passion for sports in general. Politically, this is the bridge that is missing for youth. The Blue Jays don’t matter if youth are removed from sports. Similarly, political parties and leaders would have little relevance if youth are removed from electoral politics.
“The generational effect is even larger [than the life cycle effect]. At the same age, turnout is 3 or 4 points lower among baby boomers than it was among pre-baby boomers, 10 points lower among generation X than it was among baby boomers, and another 10 points lower among the most recent generation than it was among generation X at the same age.”
— An excerpt from “Why Was Turnout So Low?” in Anatomy of a Liberal Victory by Andre Blais, Elisabeth Gidengil, Richard Nadeau and Neil Nevitte.
Rock The Vote also published a Youth Voter Strategy Report in 2007 that compiled many scholarly findings on this subject. You can find that here.
According to Elections Canada, “people are less likely to cast a ballot if they feel they have no influence over government actions, do not feel voting is an essential civic act, or do not feel the election is competitive enough to make their votes matter to the outcome, either at the national or the local constituency level.” Read more here.
The trend of youth voter disengagement persists across much of the developed world. According to the Economist, for example, in 2010 just 44 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 voted in Britain’s general election compared to 76% of those aged 65 and over. America saw its lowest voter turnout ever in its 2014 midterm elections, where just 19.9 per cent of young people voted, compared to an overall turnout rate of 36.4 per cent. This trend tends to change, however, when charismatic politicians reach out to youth. According to Politico, Barack Obama would have lost the 2012 American presidential election without youth voting — overwhelmingly for him. Read more here.