The Power of a Youthquake: Engaging youth could transform Canada

As youth gather in Ottawa this week at the first-ever Canada Youth Summit, a report released today highlights the top priorities for Canadian youth and opportunities to strengthen civic engagement.

‘Another Youthquake? Exploring the concerns, priorities, and political engagement of Canadian youth aged 15 to 30.’, released by Abacus Data, and commissioned by a coalition of National Youth Serving Agencies, indicates that young people care most about the rising cost of housing, climate change, mental health, and child and family poverty. Over 60% of youth surveyed said these are very serious or extremely serious issues.

In contrast, young people feel less concerned about issues such as balancing the budget and reducing debt, the impacts of immigration, and adjusting to automation in the workplace.

Young people also describe the need for a more responsive political system. Two-thirds (65%) give governments a score of 5 or less out of 10 for their responsiveness to the needs and views of young Canadians. Rising cost of living and housing is identified as the key area of improvement, with 62% of youth expressing dissatisfaction with current political action on this issue.

The Confidence to Speak Up

While young people shared their hopes and concerns in this survey, they report feeling apprehensive about discussing these issues with friends and families. Two-thirds say they don’t feel like they know enough and aren’t confident they will be able to change others’ minds. Addressing this lack of confidence is critical to boosting civic engagement.

Furthermore, not all youth are equally engaged. Household income, ethnicity, and gender are all factors that impact youth engagement rates. Addressing these barriers will be critical in ensuring that all youth have opportunities to speak up in Canadian society.

Every aspect of Canadian society has a role to play in encouraging youth civic engagement, by listening to young people and reaching them on platforms where they are most active.

Political leaders, businesses, and youth-serving organizations can encourage youth to act by increasing awareness of engagement opportunities, encouraging discussions, and showcasing the voices of youth. Mentoring becomes a critical element as the report outlines how significant relationships with peers and adult allies make a huge difference in engagement.

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ANOTHER YOUTHQUAKE? Exploring the concerns, priorities, and political engagement of Canadian youth aged 15 to 30.” was written by David Coletto, PhD & Oksana Kishchuk, and conducted for a coalition of Canadian national youth-serving agencies. The survey was conducted and analyzed by Abacus Data.  


The full report can be found at

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada

“Young people have the ideas, energy, and unique insights to shape Canadian society,” said W. Matthew Chater, President & CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada. “Unleashing youth potential for civic engagement is at the core of Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring programs. Youth with mentors are 50% more likely to volunteer, and they give 30% more of their time. When we engage young people in decision-making, we all benefit.”

Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada  

“With a concerning increase in youth disengagement, the ‘Another Youthquake?’ report confirms that the work being done by these national youth-serving agencies is critical: giving youth platforms to grow as leaders and decision-makers,” said Owen Charters, President & CEO, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada. “At Boys and Girls Clubs, amplifying youth voices is key to our strategic plan. Leading up to the 2019 federal election, we have made strong investments to boost civic literacy among young people, increase youth engagement with events across the country, and work with other organizations to extend our reach. The concerns of young Canadians should be concerns for all of us.”

Child Welfare League of Canada   

“We’re especially concerned that youth who are disengaged are more likely to be living in low-income situations”, says Rachel Gouin, Executive Director of the Child Welfare League of Canada. “This finding calls on all of us to do more for youth who may otherwise be left out of the discussion.”

Children First Canada

“We are excited to be a part of activating the next ‘youthquake’. Young people are not just leaders of the future, they are leaders today, and the issues that they care about need to be acknowledged, respected and acted upon.  Unlocking their potential is not just the right thing to do, our future and theirs depends on it.” – Sara L. Austin, Founder and CEO, Children First Canada

Experiences Canada

“Young people think deeply about social and political issues that are shaping their lives and their communities but they way they learn about and engage in those issues is through networks and systems that didn’t exist for previous generations.  The challenge for traditional political institutions is to meet youth where they are at, and ensure that they are being responsive to the changing priorities and expectations of this next generation.” – Deborah Morrison, President and CEO, Experiences Canada

Girl Guides of Canada

“Youth issues are often seen as niche, but the reality is that young people are facing major, but sometimes invisible, challenges. For example, Girl Guides of Canada recently uncovered a $3.00 per hour gender wage gap in teens’ summer jobs. Realities like this demonstrate why young people’s voices are greatly needed in national political conversations.” – Jill Zelmanovits, Chief Executive Officer, Girl Guides of Canada

The Students Commission of Canada

“This report serves as a timely reminder for Canadians of the importance of listening and valuing youth voice. The issues brought forward by youth should be top of mind as we move into the federal election. Youth-serving organizations can play a critical role in working with youth to address these issues.” – Sharif Mahdy, Executive Director, The Students Commission of Canada

United Nations Association in Canada (UNA-Canada)

“The ‘youthquake’ that moved young first-time voters to cast a ballot in the 2015 election has the potential strike again in the 2019 election.  It is clear from this data that youth understand that voting is a crucial moment to make their voice count”, says Kate White, President and CEO of UNA-Canada. “Igniting the potential of youth to act as agents of change requires their presence and empowerment in policy dialogue, and increased support for youth participation at all levels. The United Nations Association in Canada has worked to promote youth engagement, inclusion and equality for almost 75 years, providing youth-centred opportunities and programming.”

YMCA Canada   

“Feeling like you belong, that you have a supportive community and that your thoughts and opinions are valued, is essential to good health,” says Ida Thomas, Vice President, YMCA Canada. “Young people are saying loud and clear that they have views on big, complex social issues but don’t always have places to express themselves or be taken seriously. Although there are bright spots in this data, overall it shows adults and institutions can better value the voice of youth. They’re telling us all that there’s a lot of work to do to. We’re up to the challenge!”  – Ida Thomas, Vice-President, YMCA Canada

For English media inquiries, please contact:

David Coletto, Abacus Data


Julia Lo, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada

1-800-263-9133 x 47  

For French media inquiries, please contact:

Rachel Gouin, Child Welfare League of Canada  


Adil Skalli, United Nations Association in Canada

613-232-5751 x 235