YOUTH COUNT strongly believes that Canada's federal government must adopt a national youth policy.
"A national youth policy specifically represents a gender-inclusive statement that encapsulates the elements of vision, framework and realistic guidelines from which strategies and initiatives can be developed to facilitate meaningful youth participation and development within a country."
(Commonwealth Youth Programme, 1996: 11)
Over 30 governments from countries around the world have adopted comprehensive youth policies. It is unimaginable that a nation such as Canada, which prides itself on being a progressive and inclusive world leader, does not have a coherent national strategy for engaging its youth.
Towards a National Youth Service Policy
Central to any federally backed youth policy would be and accompanying national youth SERVICE policy. Such a policy would provide the framework and long-term funding to create, implement and support programs that provide Canadian youth with meaningful youth service and civic involvement opportunities.
A strong national youth service policy would produce visible evidence of the federal government's commitment to ensure that this vital segment of our population is integrated into the socio-economic life of our society. By engaging Canadian youth in national service, we would promote active citizenship while at the same time helping to strengthen the capacity of volunteer-based community organizations.
National youth service provides a strong return on investment
National youth service is also a good investment. In 2006, a national study (Malatest & Associates) concluded that each dollar invested in national youth service programs generates an average return of $2.20 to Canadian society. This data is based on the value of volunteer work and other secondary economic benefits.
National youth service has widespread national support
An overwhelming majority of Canadians firmly believe that national youth service provides young Canadians with a myriad of benefits. The survey results of a recently released Ekos poll clearly indicate that most Canadians feel it is important for the government of Canada to adopt a national youth service policy which would stabilize funding for youth service programs.
National youth service is a vehicle for efficiency and progress
The establishment of such a policy would demonstrate to Canadians and to the world the federal government's commitment to youth and the role they can play in social and economic development. It would also allow for more coordinated (and therefore efficient) efforts on the part of Canadian agencies, NGOs and other government institutions currently involved in youth programming.
National youth service builds the strong foundation for long term civic engagement
Ultimately, such a policy would help promote youth participation in community and civic affairs, helping youth understand their important role, and their responsibilities in achieving Canada's social and economic development objectives. A youth policy would also aim at ensuring that youth issues are reflected in all sectors of national development, both on micro and macro levels within the public and private sectors. It would emphasize affirmative action for youth as a strategy of participation and empowerment.