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Toronto aims to dedicate a week to celebrate youth
Supporters hope the week’s events will create stronger and more meaningful civic engagement.
March 2, 2017
Gilbert Ngabo

For the first time, Toronto will dedicate a week to celebrate youth.

Efforts are underway to designate May 6 to 13 an annual Youth Week Toronto, pending council’s blessing at its Mar. 28 meeting.

Acknowledging more than 500,000 youth in the city, the staff report said young people are a vital part of Toronto’s cultural, social and economic fabric.

Through various community-building activities, supporters hope the week’s events will create stronger and more meaningful civic engagement.

Preliminary programming includes the Stomp Urban Dance Competition, district-wide sports events and tournaments, a Toronto Youth Cabinet summit and a career fair.

“This is a great opportunity to evaluate institutions to ensure that young people actually have an equal voice and a seat at the table,” said Kevin Vuong, co-chairperson of Toronto Youth Equity Strategy and former member of the Toronto Youth Cabinet.

Vuong worries that a lack of youth representation in politics makes it more difficult to address issues in a meaningful way.

He cites last summer’s Youth Day at the CNE, where three youth were arrested and the solution by organizers was to discontinue the special day.

While CNE organizers said they’d re-evaluate the future of the event, Vuong said that, in the meantime, it’s “unfortunate for a lot of vulnerable youth who otherwise wouldn’t afford a ticket to the exhibition.”

He sees the same lack of engagement from Toronto Police. A survey conducted by the Toronto Youth Cabinet in 2015 found nearly 40 per cent of all people charged were youth, yet young people have no representation on the police advisory board.

“Yes, you can be a 50-year-old excellent youth-worker, but your perspectives may change as you age,” said Vuong.

“It would make much more sense to have some representation from youth themselves.”