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Youth Voice in Urban Development

By: Adesuwa Ero, International Institute for Sustainable Development

Given Canada’s growing urban population, sustainable development of our cities is critical to our country’s future.  Youth across the country are being engaged in conversations concerning their visions of the future of their cities. The importance of youth voice in shaping development is invaluable for promoting a holistic agenda in policy making and development for the future users of these urban environmentals. It is a transition from doing something for youth and their cities to working with youth.

Winnipeg youth shared their opinions on issues important to them at two separate youth round table discussions (May 20, 2015 & July 30, 2015).  The two events brought out strong views among Winnipeg youth about urban development and planning highlighting the opportunities and challenges in Winnipeg and what young people feel are the most important ways forward.   Common themes and ideas included:

  • More inclusive education that is flexible enough to accommodate non-conventional models of learning such as the Vancouver’s City Studio model, affordable learning and skill acquisition opportunities. 

  • Open and barrier free opportunities. By not providing more employment opportunities but also by enforcing policy supporting a fixed percentage of downtown neighbourhood hires in employment process

  • Creation of safe welcoming public spaces that assist in bridging the gap due to strong cultural/racial diversity within the city. This could be achieved through organizing events centered around the promotion of public arts and celebration of diverse cultures especially in the downtown area. 

  • Addressing the issue of poverty and homelessness through increased funding for local organizations with such program mandate. 

  • Improving and increasing transport options around the city, reducing bus fares and creating more bike/walk path to encourage other means of transportation.

As mentioned in the previous post on the first Winnipeg youth roundtable, “It is only logical that People whose lives are being affected by the decisions of management or government should be directly involved in the process.” Youth have the best understanding of the realities of their own lives in societies they live in. Whether it be education, experience of racism, safety of public spaces or employment opportunities, when it comes to policies concerning youth, there is a greater chance of success, ownership and legitimacy of those policies if they are identified by youth themselves. 

Feedback from the youth roundtables held in Winnipeg not only reflected young civic minded individuals but also a generation passionate about the wellbeing of their city. Indeed they are painting an inspiring picture of future Winnipeg where the city is more livable, inclusive and comfortable for people to live, work and enjoy.