Youth delegate in Charlottetown hated Canada, until now

Nigel Armstrong
Published on September 3, 2014

Brett Weighless, of Lethbridge, Alberta, and Danie Martin of Quebec, speak on behalf of the environment working group at the conclusion of the New Canada Conference Wednesday in Charlottetown. All the ideas and policies generated by 100 young people from across Canada who attend the conference will be compiled into an electronic book to be published soon.


Tiffany Harrington of Quebec said she didn't have any respect for, or personal investment in Canada up to now, bearing the bitter legacy of First Nations in North America.

"To be honest, I was never proud to call myself Canadian because to me it brought pain and it brought broken relationships," said Harrington.

"This has definitely been transformative," she said of a youth conference that concluded Wednesday in Charlottetown. "I am proud today to say that I am Canadian."

She received a standing ovation.

A feature event of the PEI 2014 schedule brought 100 youth from across Canada to meet in Charlottetown for the past three days at the New Canada Conference.

Participants between the age of 19 to 24 were selected based on their video or written essay titled "My Story of Canada." The federal and provincial government paid their way here.

They were also carefully selected by sex, orientation, cultural representation and region.

They looked to the future in discussion groups, but they also met to share their personal stories of life in Canada.

"I have never been part of something so inspiring," said Jason Brown of Ontario. "This has really given me hope."

He went on to say his group really came around him to help him cope with social anxiety at the conference.

Brown called on delegates to stay in touch and work on political transformation.

Be careful, warned other delegates. Great ideas and inspiration often meets with anger and resentment. Delegates were urged to be careful in their work for change.

Delegates broke into groups to tackle issues such as health care, technology and media, learning and social development, or environment and economy.

Their discussions are now being assembled into a document to be called the Ideabook available on line in a month or two.

Lindsay Dupré spoke on behalf of the justice and equity working group.

"Like a lot of our topics, it was very, very broad," she said. "It took a lot of time to work through some of the emotional struggles in addressing these issues.

"We realized very quickly that it's one thing to come up with policies and recommendations for how we can move forward and sometimes it's a lot more difficult deal with some of the feelings associated with these issues.

"We had an entire wall of issues," said Dupré.

Some ideas did stand out for dignitaries invited to hear a summery of the conference.

"The ones in respect to civic engagement, particularly lowering the voting age and allowing Internet voting," said Charlottetown MP Sean Casey of presentation points that stuck with him.

"I was interested and pleased with what I heard with regard to universal child care, something that has long been a centrepiece of social policy for our party.

"The take away for me is the dynamism, the enthusiasm and the idealism that we experienced in there," said Casey.

"If this is representative of the youth in the country we have every reason to be optimistic."

There is another, unrelated youth conference this year, associated with the 2014 theme. The University of Prince Edward Island is hosting The Guardians of Confederation, a gathering of two students from each province/territory, plus 24 Island students, between the ages of 14 – 17, in Charlottetown, November 19 – 23.

The question for this conference of younger people will be: knowing what we know now, would we do it all over again and become a country called Canada?