By Owen Charters, President & CEO, BGC Canada
January 16, 2024
In BGC Clubs, we strive to listen to youth voices. We have strategic directions to amplify youth voices, assist them in finding their voice, and to help them to become youth advocates to get their messages out to policymakers and decision-makers.
For many people, the start of a new year is an opportunity to reflect, start fresh, and focus on new habits, goals, or projects. For BGC Canada, the new year is a good time to remind ourselves of the importance of our work—positively impacting young people’s lives and creating safe spaces for them to develop the skills they need to succeed.
In BGC Clubs, we strive to listen to youth voices. We have strategic directions to amplify youth voice, assist them find their voice, and get their messages out to policymakers and decision-makers. Under our vision for Strong Voice, we will “reflect and amplify youth voices and share youth perspectives” and “be a timely voice with both governments and media on emerging issues that affect children and youth.”
BGC Canada’s National Youth Council
BGC Canada’s National Youth Council (NYC) allows a voice of youth in our governance—a way to bridge the gap between Club youth and BGC Canada. We need to hear what’s important, their concerns, and their vision for us to guide our organization and our movement to meet the needs and dreams of our members.
Throughout their term as an NYC member, these young leaders will set professional development goals, offer insight to the BGC Canada national team through committees, connect with the Board of Directors to discuss issues facing youth, and plan and deliver our biennial National Youth Forum—where youth in Clubs come together for workshops, activities, and excursions.
Ultimately, our NYC members serve as role models for future members and youth in Clubs in their provinces and across Canada. Accomplishments from past NYC years include multiple statements (State of the Youth Report, anti-racism, anti-trans legislation, and mental health), visits to Parliament Hill, conferences and workshops nationwide, and more.
Our National Youth Council is one of many and is not the only youth voice on the stage. There is a history of powerful and vital youth voices; in fact, thousands of voices call powerfully for change around the globe, and so many here in Canada.
BGC Canada’s 2024 National Youth Council
In December 2023, 12 youth from across the country were elected to sit on our 2024-2025 National Youth Council. They met at our national office in Toronto to discuss their roles and responsibilities as council members. They set goals, and started planning advocacy projects for young people in Clubs.
How can we really listen to youth voices?
Youth voices are powerful and often are singularly focused. The response from older decision-makers is often one of nodding admission of the issue but then pivoting to get back to business—business, meaning finding compromises that erode and undermine the core principles of what these youth voices bring to the table. Because, as we all know, the older you get, the more you know you have to be pragmatic and balance the demands of ‘real life’ with the ideals of urgent action.
Is this okay? Is this the way it should be? Governing—whether at the UN, or the federal level, or at the national board table, or in the board meetings of member Clubs—is about compromise. But shouldn’t it also be driven by the unwavering focus of these youthful ideals?
If we really, truly want change, don’t we have to be as equally uncompromising?
We borrow this land from our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; we need to look at least seven generations ahead. If that pearl of Indigenous wisdom is true, then decisions need to be made that include the long view, the perspectives of the young people who see the world and the society they will inherit, and are frankly concerned that short-term interests are prioritized much too often.
We need to overcome the bias for decision-makers to make decisions for those who look, act, and are like themselves, including those of the same generation. We need to lift the voices of the youth we serve, bring them to the table, and have their calls ring out for accountability. There are many, many more. They exist in our Clubs. And where they are outside our Clubs, we need to engage with them.
We need to listen to them. And we need to give them the biggest megaphones we can find. We must broker the forums where their voices can be heard by those in power. We need to create a future for seven generations and beyond.