‘Why are young people leaving?’: Calgary youth summit seeks to answer just that

Youth from across Calgary will come together to voice their vision for the city’s future this weekend — and all of the ideas will be presented to this year’s mayoral candidates.

A two-day virtual youth summit hosted by political action committee Calgary’s Future will see those aged 16 to 25 collaborating on solutions to issues facing the city. It will be the first of its kind in Calgary.

Deborah Wong, a 24-year-old community organizer with Calgary’s Future, talked to The Homestretch on Thursday.

She said the inspiration for the event came from so many young people leaving Calgary.

“The idea really came about when CBC [Calgary] published an article a while back about youth leaving,” Wong said.

“Shortly later, one of my best friends actually decided to leave Calgary.”

According to municipal census data, nearly a quarter-million more people called Calgary home in 2019 than in 2009. But during that period, the number of 20- to 24-year-olds shrank by 4,400 — a decline of 5.5 per cent.

Wong said this became a wake-up call for her to do something. 

“I started chatting with more youth and … what I’m hearing is that [they] don’t feel like they are being heard or valued by decision makers,” she said.

This led her to decide to host the summit so people could hear what issues concern youth the most.

She said participants will be talking about a wide variety of issues, including transportation, climate change, sustainable economy, mental health, education and a COVID-19 recovery.

“I see a lot of potential for Calgary to be a world-class city. And I think that we can make the city better if we just include youth voices and making policies [that] really include putting youth at that decision table,” she said.

On day two of the summit is when the youth will present their ideas to candidates for the October municipal election, which she said she hopes will help candidates engage with youth more going forward.

“This is the first of many more actions that can be taken in the future. But if we don’t talk about it, we won’t get there.”

A number of youth organizations will also be in attendance, including Global Shapers Calgary, Calgary Climate Hub, Fair Trade Calgary, Miskanawah, Fridays for Future Calgary and more.

The summit takes place on June 25 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. and June 26 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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