Building off of the Urban Youth Impact COVID-19 Report that analyzes data from six of the largest Canadian cities and relevant census metropolitan areas including, Calgary, Edmonton, Montréal, Ottawa-Gatineau, Toronto and Vancouver, we’ll explore how current issues such as race and discrimination, health, employment, cost of living and civic engagement affect youth and hear about their priorities and hopes for the future as we begin the journey to recovery. What do we need to change? And how can we leverage the experience and expertise that youth bring to the table to build more inclusive cities?
What’s next on the urban agenda for Canadian youth?
A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation
Compassion and empathy cannot be overlooked.
This conversation took place in the wake of the discovery of the remains of more than a thousand Indigenous children, at the sites of residential schools in Canada. Love, compassion and empathy must be shown to not only those families who lost loved ones, but to those who made it home. This unthinkable trauma must not be overlooked as we move forward.
The new normal must engage youth and those with lived experiences.
The pandemic accentuated the visibility of barriers that were already in place. These barriers include but are not limited to access to public health and services. Individuals and communities with lived experience, including youth, should be consulted help initiate public policy changes. Governments and institutions must engage citizens before putting their reports together.
Better dissemination of information for youth
To increase youth engagement, information must be more widely accessible. We cannot continue to disseminate information that is designed for youth in the form of reports. We can think of new and innovative ways to share this information with a generation that digests data through a variety of different means.
We must figure out how to make our governments more accountable
Young people deserve to have a say in public policy and in the ways that their cities are being designed. Cities need to be designed with youth in mind. The increased costs of living and transportation have made independent living in Canadian cities more unattainable for youth. We need more municipal level funding and engagement to get to the heart of the issues that are facing young people today, and to rebuild youth’s trust in their elected officials.
Experiences should be prioritized over efficiency
The idea of the 15-minute city is entrenched in nineteenth century city building. It is based upon segregation and white privilege. To build better communities and places, we must look past this idea of efficiency and more towards the individual and community experience. To build a truly inclusive and collaborative environment we must understand the needs of all members of our communities. This begins with meaningful engagement.
PIVOT – https://www.pivot2020.ca/
PIVOT Urban Youth Impact Report- https://youthfulcities.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/EN-Urban-Youth-Impact-Report.pdf
CityShare Canada – https://citysharecanada.ca/
Protect our People Manitoba– https://protectourpeoplemb.ca/
Infiltration Manuel – https://www.youthclimatelab.org/infiltration-manual
Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago by Eric Klinenberg: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3850.Heat_Wave
Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org with “transcription” in the subject line.
Mary Rowe [00:00:02] For this piece that we’re doing today, so folks, if you want to participate in the chat, we encourage you to do so. It’s always great if you sign in and tell us where you’re signing in from. We appreciate it. It’s not only is it the Tuesday before a long weekend both in Canada and the United States, but it’s also unbelievably hot in many, many places in the North America that aren’t accustomed to heat. I don’t know whether anybody’s been looking at these cute little tweets that have been coming out, where Vegas has been tweeting up to Seattle and saying, you know, good luck with the heat. You know, we’re the ones that have heat, not you. What are you doing with heat? And I know we have participants here from Vancouver who are going to tell us that they don’t have air conditioning and they’re not accustomed to the really the sort of oppressive nature of the weather at the moment. So, on top of that, on top of all the kinds of eruptions that we’ve seen around racial injustice, around public health, injustice, around economic injustice in the country, now we have this visceral presence, which it’s really hard to deny isn’t linked to climate change. And is this actually the future that’s ahead of us? So, I know people want to argue that and say, well, wait, it’s not this, it’s not that. But it’s hard. Isn’t it hard to just not ask yourselves, OK, what is the natural world saying to us? So, in that context, I just want to acknowledge also that this session is an outgrowth of a partnership that we’ve had with Youthful Cities because cities are all about urban, as we say at CUI, urbanism is for everyone. And so, it’s important for us to have strategic partners and Youthful Cities has been that. And they had this fantastic project that they initiated last year called Pivot with the Centre for Dialogue at the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser and a number of other partners on in making these connections between young people an d their experience of the city and local government and municipal leadership, which we know from our own work here, has put enormous pressure on city governments who had to respond to Covid and improvise like crazy and suddenly do a bunch of stuff that they maybe hadn’t anticipated they’d have to do or didn’t have resources to do. So, I always say that through these disasters, you know, we all become the city becomes a big DIY project where everybody has to kind of mobilize and figure out what’s going on. And so how great for us to have you, gang. Joining us to give us your perspective on what do you see so that those three questions, you know, what’s working, what’s not and what’s next, particularly from your own perspective as a young person, but also in terms of your engagement with the youth sector or other young people working in urban environments. And I’m just going to ask everybody, just individually to give us a sense of what are you seeing? What have you been observing in the last 16 months as we’ve been getting through covid? And if you could start by just telling us where you are. So, I’m going to start with you Freshta, if I could, and introduce yourself, tell us where you work, what you do and what have you been seeing.
Freshta Ahmadzai [00:02:59] Thank you so much, Mary, for that kind introduction. My name is Freshta, and today I am calling from and have the privilege to speak from the unseeded and ancestral territories of the Katzie, Semiahmoo, Kwantlan, Musqueam, Qayqayt & Kwikwetlem peoples. And I would like to also just say thank you for inviting me to this talk before I let you know what I’m doing. I’m very grateful to be here with such amazing young people doing such amazing work, useful work about cities. And I’m excited to have our talk today. I am currently, unfortunately, unemployed and just a researcher on the side of pursuing some projects with our wonderful work from PIVOT, seeing if I could write a little bit more about it, I am the co-author of our Urban Youth Impact Report, and that inspired me to continue doing work with both our PIVOT data hub. I’m also a conference assistant for the CPSA, the Canadian Political Science Association, and we just finished some conferences around two weeks ago. So that was a very exciting opportunity. But as of that, not doing much else other than my research on urban cities and youth participation right now, so in their cities.
Mary Rowe [00:04:28] Freshta, can you tell us a little bit about the about the work of Pivot just because a lot of people on the call don’t even know it was or is? So, can you just tell us a little bit about what it was you were trying to do? And then I’ll go from you. I’m going to go I’ll go around the circle. But why don’t you just give us a little primer if you can. And I know how hot is it there?
Freshta Ahmadzai [00:04:44] How hot. Right. That’s the other thing. I am one of those people calling from Vancouver. So, it has been quite hot here. I also I’m a Chinchilla owner, so I had adopted a chinchilla in October, and they are very sensitive to temperature. They can only survive between 18 and 21 degrees. I’ve been running back and forth every 30 minutes into the room where I keep him in the basement and try to cool him down. But it’s a good example of just looking at and seeing that my poor pet is barely surviving this weather.
Mary Rowe [00:05:17] Freshta just fill me in because I’m old. What is a chinchilla?
Freshta Ahmadzai [00:05:21] Oh, it’s it looks like a rabbit, but it is it’s like a squirrel rodent looking kind of fluffy and big. And I think they’re actually overhunted for fur. Yeah.
Mary Rowe [00:05:35] And you’ve got a domestic one and you couldn’t bring him on to Zoom with ya.
Freshta Ahmadzai [00:05:40] No, I could not today. No. It’s too hot up here.
Mary Rowe [00:05:45] I mean this is a big issue. And so, you’re just sort of trying to keep cool air for that little pet. I mean, that little pet.
Freshta Ahmadzai [00:05:50] Yeah, I am kind of surviving by just a lot of showers and I don’t have AC at home. I have a smaller AC for his room only, but no one’s allowed to enter that.
Mary Rowe [00:06:01] So you’ve got your priorities right. You are air conditioning your pet. I understand. Believe me, I know how important pets are. OK. So just tell us a little bit more about what Pivot was trying to do.
Freshta Ahmadzai [00:06:11] Thank you. So, Pivot was a youth-based project led by youthful cities and in partnership with the SFU J Wosk center for dialogue. And essentially, it had employed, I believe, a thousand two hundred youths in the fall. So, there is like three semesters with PIVOT. And in the fall of 2020, that was more of a research collection data time. So, they employed a lot of youth to collect not only survey data, so sending out surveys to youth-based organizations, asking youth their perspectives from twenty-seven different cities on their time in the pandemic. And we also conducted at that time interviews. So, youth were asked to reach out to their own networks and interview other young people about their experiences. And we collected, I believe it was five hundred hours of interview data. So, we had survey data, interview data. And then at the end we also had twenty-three thousand data points, on index data. So, we have three different types of data that were basically collected all by young people, conducted by young people and derived from young people. So that was to create a report which I, Raj and Medjine, who are also our co-authors for the report, worked on in April and then also, I believe, released in in May.
Mary Rowe [00:07:50] My colleague has just put it into the chat. So, anybody that’s listening, if you want to have a look at that Urban Youth Impact covid-19 report, go to Youthful Cities dot com. You’ll see the link in your chat. Thanks, Freshta. Medjine, can you add into that you’re in Montreal where it’s also hot, I’m sure, but maybe not quite as hot as it is on the West Coast. Fill us in on where you’re what you’re seeing out your door and what you’re sort of observing. Could you?
Medjine Antoine-Bellamy [00:08:11] Of course. Yes, it is. I am in Montreal. I’m lucky enough to be near the canal, so it’s a twenty-minute walk. So, when it’s too hot, I walk by the canal and just like the wind created by the waves is a nice break from all the heat, but it’s unbelievably hot. But I’m okay with it being hot rather than too cold. My honest opinion. I mean a little bit of like I guess I’ve what I’ve been doing so far. I’m working as a project coordinator and my goal is to bring good ideas to life. And I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside Raj and Freshta at PIVOT trying to do that with the report and now moving on to other organizations that are also helping in, the not-for-profit sector, also collecting data points and trying to make a change. And yeah, that’s pretty much what I’ve been working on so far. A social enterprise based in Montreal, Canada, it works on data and technology solutions for the not-for-profit sector. I started there a month ago as a project coordinator, and basically, they want to show a little bit of light of the reality of the not-for-profit sector, because lot of the sector, have access to data, but you know how they use it and what they do with it and what are what other people, for example, older people are giving their money, expecting from there. It’s all this dynamic that really people need to understand a little bit better. So as a project coordinator, I’m currently working on a project that will help a lot of not for profit for a specific sector, join forces, unite forces together to try to exchange good idea diversities versus what they do. Because it’s something that I’ve realized since the pandemic is that for the not-for-profit sector, they’ve had to move from, like they have to change their approach. And a lot of people in the for-profit sector, especially when it comes to funders and donors, I think they had a lot of added value. And you’re going to see doners, meeting them, shaking hands, explaining them what you do with a pandemic that was impossible. The social distancing had to be observed at all costs. So literally overnight, they had to go from shaking hands, meeting people, hosting parties for like, you know, getting money to having Zoom meetings and everything. And not all of them were all equipped and ready to make the change like that. So, a bunch of people, they gathered together. They talk about the kind of the issue, the digital sector for the not-for-profit sector. And basically, the project I’m working on is work on to address a few gaps noted in that sector in terms of skills, access to connectivity, infrastructure and tools.
Mary Rowe [00:11:00] Yeah, it’s going to take us a while to make sense of all this. I don’t even know if we have any idea the impact this has had. I mean, as you say, we had to shift to digital ways of working and at CUI we had to do it like everybody else. Instantly and suddenly for us, we were working nationally, and it was much it’s much easier like, look, I can get all you guys on the call. I can get Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver and Winnipeg. And, you know, in the before time, I would have had to call you all and can we do a conference call and people to go, oh, I don’t really like doing conference calls. And then we’d say, well, we can have a meeting, but then we all got to figure out who’s got budget to fly. And gee, do we want to go to Winnipeg, and do I really have the three days because I got to get a day to get there. And I mean, I think it’s there have been so many positives about what we’ve gone through. And I’m wondering if we’re how do we how are we going to sustain that? That’s the first thing. But as you just pointed out, the other problem is there were a lot of people who had no access to this technology. Still don’t. Still don’t. And it’s as if we’ve suddenly been catapulted into this new way of being and we’re leaving a lot of people behind. And how are we going to step back in and kind of thread us back, get us all on the same page? I guess the same digital page. Sometimes it can get overwhelming when you think about it, right. That I but I’m interested that you’re focusing on this and that the not-for-profit sector is. And there’s this data piece, too, which is what Pivot was trying to make the case that it has to be data based. So, Raj, can I go to you next and then I’ll swing back through Veronica and Michael, what’s it like in Calgary? It’s very Canadian. You know, we either have to talk about hockey or weather or both. So, if you want to talk about the Canadians, knock yourself out. I gather they lost last night. But or you can talk about the weather to start. But, Raj, just tell us what’s going on for you and what your role’s been and what you’re what you’re focused on.
Raj Dhaliwal [00:12:56] Thank you very much and thank you for having me. I would just like to begin by acknowledging that we are on the traditional territories of the people of the Cree seven region in southern Alberta and the city of Calgary, where I’m located right now, is also home to Metis, nation of Alberta, region three. And I think Fresh and Medjine have introduced Youthful Cities wonderfully, and I guess I could add onto that a little bit. Trying to put into to one sentence, the purpose is to drive positive urban change through open data and data literacy. The pivot hub was an example of that, as Freshta mentioned, over twenty thousand data points were collected from twenty-seven cities across Canada. I want to I guess one thing that we really noticed from that report when we were conducting when we were writing that report and analyzing all these data points is a lot of things in cities that are barrier that we saw through the pandemic, where really just barriers prior to the pandemic and it’s just this intertwined moment in everyone’s lives that we’re seeing all these things come up. Especially when we’re talking about diversity and inclusion and racism. We’re talking about public health. There are barriers. There are barriers that exist in public health, in cities prior to the pandemic that impact youth and impact within that youth demographic. People of colour, more Indigenous, Black youth as well as gender-based doubt’s barriers. So, I think I think one of the things we need to quickly realize is that let’s take this opportunity as we’re talking about moving forward and building back better as a lot of political figures say, and let’s try let’s try to get away from that performative action and actually start engaging with the youth population. And let’s start engaging with individuals and communities that have lived experiences and bring those perspectives to the table for public policy change as we try to build our cities. Back from this pandemic, yeah,
Mary Rowe [00:15:24] I mean, your comment there about lived experience is true of every population. You know, I think of the I think of the tragedy, as you remember at the beginning of the pandemic, guys, the tragedy we watched that was unfolding primarily in Long-Term Care Facilities. Right. And there we were suddenly confronted with a system aspect of our system that seemed to be failing. We weren’t keeping elders safe. And it’s as if every wave of the pandemic has highlighted another vulnerable population that we didn’t have adequate data or systems to protect. And it’s just one after the other after the other. And as you suggest, lived experience is the key determination here. How do we make sure that we’re setting public policy with lived experience at the centre? Would we have for instance, would we have known better that long term care facilities were at risk? If we had lived experience input? Would we have would we design our systems differently if personal support workers were actually at the decision-making tables determining how health care resources were allocated so that we wouldn’t have had so many essential workers at risk? It’s very, very important what you’re suggesting, not just for young people, but for everyone. Thank you. And Veronika, let’s go to you next and then I’m going to clean up with you, Michael. You’ll be the last. We’ll come to the centre of the country when we move forward. So, Veronika, next to you, just tell us where you are, what you’re working on and what you’ve been observing. Thank you.
Veronika Bylicki [00:16:53] I can’t wait to jump on that theme that you’re just going into, that’s a good place to start. My name is Veronika Bylicki and I’m joining in from the unseeded and ancestral territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations where I’ve lived my whole life. And I was lucky to be born. And yes, we are in the middle of a heat wave. So, in terms of what we’re seeing now, I think that’s the first thing that comes to mind, is that not only am I sitting with the fan in my face, but I think it’s the concept of the heat wave that I’ve found to be additionally challenging, just knowing that this isn’t the last and this isn’t the worst of it. And I think a lot of youth have really been seeing and making that connection and trying to make that connection clearer to policy and decision makers. And I think it’s something it’s a huge part of the reality of being a young person, too, is knowing, starting to act, knowing that the rest of our lives this is what every summer is going to be looking like. So, I think that you can enter this conversation without underscoring that, too. But in terms of what I’m working on and here with my lens as a young person and also really lucky to get to an organization called City Hive in Vancouver, and we work on transforming the way that young people are engaged in shaping their city. So, we work with municipalities, cities, institutions to help engage youth in a meaningful way when working on issues like housing and affordability and climate change and all of the other issues we have to work on. And then we also run programs for youth to learn about civics and how to get engaged on a local level and to act as a bridge between young people and their institutions. And so, I think in terms of some of the things that I’m seeing, I think the big one that I think comes to mind and it’s really front and centre for me to a young person, is that just the fact that at this stage, I think young people are always plagued with uncertainty. It’s a big time of growth and transformation. And I think what the pandemic has done is it’s created an additional veil of uncertainty, which is really huge and massive when thinking about planning for different life stages, when thinking at a time when you’re exploring what you want to be doing with the rest of your life, learning how to be an adult. And so, I think having the additional veil of the pandemic of challenges. And I think the big thing to underscore there, too, and that we’ve already been talking about and which I’m really glad to see the report really underscore, is that if the disproportionate impact that has on different populations of youth and so although we can talk about youth as a monolith in some ways in terms of overall life is in no way that that uncertainty and the impact, the Covid actually impacts youth in a similar way. So, I think that’s a really huge part of being a young person, whether you’re in cities or elsewhere. And I think the other thing and I really like the question of what are you seeing outside your front door? Because I think that’s such a great way to be understanding what’s actually happening. And I think one thing that to me feels both feels really exciting and that I think we’ve seen from the beginning of the pandemic, is this return to the hyper local and I think that \ happened at the beginning with, you know, obviously not being able to go too far away from your home, but also, I think, seeing really huge mutual aid campaigns and initiatives being organized in Vancouver, largely being organized by youth or largest mutual aid network with completely youth organized youth led and with really, really impactful, had a really huge impact on the city, especially in the first few months of the pandemic. And I think that’s the trend that we continue to see, in part because we have to see local, but I think in part because people have had an opportunity to come to their communities.
Mary Rowe [00:21:07] Yeah, it’s interesting listening to you, Veronika, because we can hear the wind behind you. And as I was listening, I thought, it’s OK, it’s fine. And I’m thinking the time that’s a fan. She’s got a fan close to her to allow her to participate. So, don’t worry. It’s not it’s only something that I registered and thought, what does that sound? You know, what I realized is that it’s your fan. But, you know, it’s interesting what you said about mutual aid society, mutual aid efforts. We feel very strongly, as you do, that this is critical to how you build resilience in communities. And some people are now calling it. They want it to be considered infrastructure. They want it to be funded the way we fund bridges and roads and stuff that this kind of community support thing. And we started at CUI. And not only this thing, city talk, but we also started City Share Canada. I’m hoping somebody can put that in the chat where we’re posting examples after examples, after examples of people improvising in response to what they saw out their front door. You know, and this idea that that we can all incubate smart solutions, all of us. Jane Jacobs had this phrase that the way you kept neighbourhoods safe is you put a lot of eyes on the street. You design your city. So, there’s always eyes on the street. And that means that people are watching. And so CityShare is kind of our version of eyes on the street. What are you doing? And as you say, people instinctively find ways to help each other and to provide mutual aid. And the question, I guess, is what’s the relationship between individual initiative communities and governments in terms of trying to make that right blend? So, Michael, I can go to you next to give us your perspective from the centre of the country. I don’t know what the temperature is like in in Winnipeg. How hot is it?
Michael Redhead Champagne [00:22:51] It’s normal here.
Mary Rowe [00:22:53] It’s normal. So, there you go, everybody, if you want normal, moved to Winnipeg. The other thing is that I actually know I don’t know about the others of whether other people had family members with Covid. I know, Michael, both of your parents had to get through Covid and I’m assuming they made it through because I haven’t seen anything to the contrary. But you’ve had your own set of struggles. I know. And in the Indigenous communities, of course, Covid continues to be a threat in communities. But anyway, why don’t you give us your perspective from your point in normal weather in Winnipeg, where the mosquitoes are getting big, I’m assuming.
Michael Redhead Champagne [00:23:23] That’s our provincial bird in Manitoba.
Mary Rowe [00:23:27] Yeah, of course it is.
Michael Redhead Champagne [00:23:34] My name is Michael Redhead Champagne. I am coming at you today from the north end of Winnipeg, which is treaty one territory homeland of the metis nation. And prior to that Annishnabec, Cree, Dakota peoples. We also get our water from Shoal Lake Forty First Nation, and so we acknowledge the difficulties of our relatives and many communities in Canada, especially during a heat wave that don’t have access to safe and clean drinking water. So that was supposed to be land acknowledgement, not me giving us a lecture, but here we go. It looks like we’re just getting started. My name is Michael, and this is what I do. I’m a public speaker and a community organizer, and I’m passionate about systems change. And so, I’m grateful to be here today. And I’ve been active in a number of different communities, systems ever since I was a young person myself. I am now at the ripe old age of thirty-four. I now call myself a youth mentor. I’m not a youth. And so, it’s important for me to make sure that I use my privileges to make space for young people and amplify those voices of lived experience, especially when it’s opportunity to change systems. So, I’m a public speaker, I’m a host, I’m a writer, I’m a community helper. And I’m originally from Shamattawa First Nation, which means I’m also the son of the Indian residential school survivor and I am a product of the child welfare system. And so I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the ripples that are happening in all of our communities now as a result of the unmarked graves that have been discovered, all across our country here, and I just want to say thank you in advance to all of you for being compassionate human beings and individuals who are confident, utilizing your privilege and utilizing your access to resources and getting those resources to Indigenous people today, Indigenous families today, because it’s easy to feel sad for the child that never made it home. But it’s harder to feel that same empathy and humanity for the child that did make it home because that child they made it home today is the same family that’s struggling with the child welfare system today, having their kids taken away today. The child that made it home is that person who’s drinking on Main Street right now, who’s struggling with homelessness and substance abuse. The child that made it home still needs us today. And so, my heart is broken because it’s possible that that’s my family in those graves. And so, it is hurtful for me to see everything that is happening right now and to see all of the outpouring of love for those children. Because where is the love for the children that made it home, so I just wanted to begin by saying that I’m grateful. I’m grateful that my mother, a residential school survivor, did make it home. Moral of the story is I’m grateful that I was adopted in the child welfare system by a beautiful family, called the Champagnes. And now I carried their name as well as my family name. So, I’m Michael Redhead Champagne. So that was supposed to be an introduction. But when it comes to young people and Covid-19 and how do we recover from all of this madness, it’s been important for me to be a good relative to my parents as they recover from Covid-19. And so, what that has meant is a lot of health-based advocacy. What that has meant is taking care of their pet. What that meant has been meal preparation, what that has meant has been driving them to appointments, taking care of their car. What that has meant has been calling the people who are in charge of their housing, the people that are in charge of their cable. It’s this thing that happens, I guess, when your parents get old and sick where you have to take care of them. And so, you know, let’s do what we can today to take care of parents that are out there struggling. Covid-19 has disproportionately affected, of course, Indigenous and Black people. We know in the province of Manitoba, 50 percent of the Covid cases at one point were Indigenous and Black people. And we know that we are not 50 percent of the actual population. And so, with that disproportionate amount of covid-19 hitting our community becomes important for us to get involved. So, I’m involved in a campaign called To Protect Our People Manitoba campaign, and it’s trying to convince and explain to specifically indigenous people. But it’s of benefit to everybody why it’s important for us to get involved in Covid-19 vaccination efforts. So, I myself am double vaccinated and I am encouraging all other Indigenous people to get involved. But Indigenous people have a mistrust of the health care system, which makes it very difficult in cities to do vaccine campaigns like this and they are rightful to be distrustful of systems because we have examples like in Quebec recently with Joyce Echaquan. But let’s not forget that she was racismd to death. And so, this is a horrifying reality and current contemporary reality in Canada. So, when I think about young people and I think about cities, I think we have to think about how we communicate. And I know everyone here has probably been involved in reports and campaigns like myself. But I just want to give us all a lecture here for a second. We got to stop putting good ideas that are intended for young people in boring reports that they’re not going to read. They’re not going to read that. So, we have to start thinking about knowledge, translation and accessibility of information. One thing that I love to see more of is drip release of reports, recommendations on different social media platforms. Canadian Urban Institute has opportunity to reclaim their Instagram page. I know it’s been years, but I’m calling you out here. You guys have an opportunity to reclaim your Instagram page and start doing things that that get this information into visual, graphic, exciting and understandable information so we can truly engage young people in city building. The only the last thing I’ll mention because I could go on forever is that I was honoured to be a part of Youthful City’s infiltration manual. All right. And the Youth Infiltration Manual talks about how it’s important for young people to get involved in addressing climate change at the city level. And so, there are templates in there for us to be able to look at and share with young people. It was built by young people and youth mentors like myself who have been able to infiltrate successfully municipal systems in the past. So, it’s based on models of success. And I even put some of my little secret tips and tricks in there, too. So please take a look at the infiltration manual. And I just also want to say the language we use is important. That’s called the infiltration manual. I’m not here to be nice. I’m not here to coddle people’s feelings. I’m here to infiltrate the system and make life better for my community. I’m not here to coddle systems, feelings. So, infiltration all the way. Let’s change the system.
Mary Rowe [00:31:01] I’m really, I’m really hoping that I don’t think systems have feelings. I hope you’re right. I think I think we shouldn’t anthropomorphize systems. You know, we should dismantle the damn things that we create the systems that we need. So, I hear the point here. Just a couple of comments to each of you saying one thing. This is we do have this is a moment. I’m sure everybody says, oh, this is their moment. But this is a moment for young people to assume leadership because there’s a gazillion not so young people that really haven’t a fucking clue what to do next. There’s lots and lots of folks that really are looking for answers. It’s a moment where I feel like we’re at a moment where everything is up for grabs because nobody really has the full answers. So, it’s as and as Michael’s appropriately calling us out, we at institutions like the CUI have to become much more contemporary in terms of how we communicate. I’m not a young person, but I’m with you around liking it in drips. I like that terminology drip because I’m not a report reader anymore either. I just can’t bother to read. And I think we have to think about how our attention spans back to our conversation about technology, how our attention spans have changed. And the other thing I want to just cite is when Veronika was talking about the heat and whatever that particular challenge is one of the things that I’ve watched the city talk is first we were dealing with long term care, then we were dealing with anti-racism, then we were dealing with food security, then we were dealing with transit access than we were dealing with jurisdictional problems about was the Federal government the boss or the provinces the boss? Where were the municipal governments? And now we’re dealing with discoveries of unmarked graves and there’ll be more and more and more. So, all of these things are going to accumulate. And we have to find, I think, our way to understand what the ways are we can make interventions that will make things better. So, I just want to suggest a book called Heat Wave that was published in the 90s, which was the first book that I think started to identify why how we build our cities matter. And it was about it’s by Eric Klinenberg. My colleagues will put it into the chat. And it was it was a PhD thesis, young guy, not in a system doing his research. The system determined that the heat wave in Chicago was completely neutral in terms of its impact. Eric Klinenberg was like twenty-four years old, writing his PhD thesis and looked and said, wait a sec. It’s actually neighbourhoods of colour and neighbourhoods that were poorly planned where people didn’t have where they were stuck in apartments and they didn’t get out into public spaces. That’s where people in Chicago died during the heat wave because they were poorly planned communities, and they happen to be racialized. And he called it out and he said that heat wave became a particle accelerator. And I’ve been copying him since through Covid to say that these dramatic events just basically accelerate all the things that that were wrong in the beginning and that weren’t functioning. And we’ve seen it again and again and again. So just if you want to read a book, go to go read that book, because it was a prophetic book and he’s gone on to be a documentary that. Michael, do you want to respond on that?
Michael Redhead Champagne [00:34:11] I just want to say very quickly and then I want I’m curious to hear from our other panelists, but I just want to say I have a quick model that I want to share with everyone that I think would help us address the lived experience, especially young people factor as we move forward. So, in my model here, it’s three circles layered over top of each other. In the centre. We have people with lived experience, all right? They have the most power, the most influence. That’s what this is called, the circle of power and influence. And so, people with lived experience are in the middle. They have the most power, the most control. The next layer are people that are former, formerly lived experience. So, in conversation with youth, well, young people have the most power and control or they should when it comes to young people, the people who are the closest to being former youth would be the ones. And then the people that are not youth at all anymore would be the least power. And what I love about this is that the non-experiential people end up being that protective layer to the outside world and other external harmful systems to protect people with lived experience. And the people with the former lived experience are there kind of building that bridge in between those two groups and then the lived experience. Their job is to be themselves. They say what works, what doesn’t work real time.
Mary Rowe [00:35:28] Michael, keep that up. Because what I would say is, I’d like to use the same concentric circles in terms of place-based approaches. So, the people, from my view people living in the local community they are in the centre. And then the people the next people would be the people that have familiarity with that local community and become advocates on behalf of what the local community wants. And then the outside buffer would be the decision makers that have never set foot in Winnipeg but are listening to the people in the region who are telling them that this is the reality. So, I would use those same circles in terms of how we build cities from the ground up. Right. OK, so can I open it up to everybody, please, and just have a general if you can just throw in a couple of ideas. If when you look at what wasn’t working or what you think is not working, for youth in cities, what would you say would be the couple of key things that your experience would inform? And I can call on a few of you, if you like, Freshta, why don’t you start? What do you think it be? Let’s try to see if we can pick some priorities, because it’s hard. There’s lots that’s not working.
Freshta Ahmadzai [00:36:37] Well, I think for me personally, something that PIVOT highlighted was the role of young people in creating public policies. We just talked about accessible language and infiltration and something that I realized is that. And also, on the on the Book of Heat Wave, something I did after it was walk around my neighbourhood a lot because I started running. Because when you do research, sometimes you’re very stuck on your computer. You’re very much stuck on the paper, the data that is in front of you. And so, I took a walk around. And I noticed something right away. And that is that a lot of the newly developed areas are supposed to be safer and more expensive, don’t have trees. And something that trees do is create better air quality, provide us insulation from heat and also in the winter give heat. Right. So, they have such an essential big role. You know, when I looked at who was living in these neighbourhoods, even though they’re newly developed, it was a lot of immigrant coloured folks like myself who were living and who are living in these newly developed homes. And they’re newly like this because they’re not yet, to be honest with you, it’s more like a five, ten years of age for a home. And then when I would run around and I would enter more white centred neighbourhoods within my city, we had big, thick trees. And I had never noticed this before because I read studies about this happening in the States just like this book. And I had never, never noticed it before my city. And it made me think immediately how if I notice this and my city doesn’t notice that they’re doing this, they’re developing. And we have parks now that are surrounded by residential homes to keep to keep these parks safe enough for their families. But really, it’s actually pushing out youth that can’t afford these neighbourhoods. They can’t access these public parks anymore because they’re within the residential homes. That would take you a long time to get to that unless you live there. So, there’s a lot happening in my city that I’m not happy with. And my goal with Pivot is something a PIVOT did, was employ me, a young person, a young kind of passionate researcher who had just graduated and who wants to do more work for her city, wants to do more work for coloured people like herself. And I want cities to realize this is my ask of cities now. So, a couple of times in my talks that I want cities to include smaller scale versions of PIVOT in their systems. Why? Because I think that young people deserve to have an opinion and a say in the policies and in the way their cities are being designed. It’s not enough to say that we’re trying to make 15-minute cities for who, right. Only five percent of youth rent on their own. That is something that we discovered in our report, something we heard from people in the interviews. We had one person say, I guess its cost of transport as well. It’s rising. Transport keeps rising. It’s expensive. We had someone say that they had to transport for two hours to get to their school and how much they’re paying. And these are all youth from Toronto, but even youth in Vancouver, you know, I think in Vancouver. Seventy two percent of young people live with their families. It’s not it’s not about that you shouldn’t live with your family. It’s about the lack of independence, the lack of privacy, the lack of accessibility in your cities. You if they happen to live in their cities and understand their cities, who are these things built for, if not their young people? And that is something that concerns me. That is why I agree. I think these infiltration manuals are amazing. At the same time, I think that my ask right now for cities, that report was written directly the way I see the words I chose were for people in the cities working there, deciding whether they should have programs like PIVOT, funding programs like so.
Mary Rowe [00:40:59] So what’s interesting about what you’re saying is you’re saying take the PIVOT model which had people across the country and disaggregate that and empower local communities to create their own data hub, involve youth in collecting data and then creating policy options and what it’s a great idea. And challenge municipal governments to do that to or maybe it’s not municipal government or some other entity to create a local data hub. Right.
Freshta Ahmadzai [00:41:25] I ask young people to represent and show your cities reports like this and say these are this was written by three young people. And if they can do this, I can do this to right your skill, difference or experience the sense that I’m lacking. I can write this; I can create research like this and request to them that you can derive good data. It’s pure data, and you can derive good policy from that comes from experience. It comes from experience.
Mary Rowe [00:41:53] Medjine when you look at when you’re looking at what you see, what would the priority be for you in terms of correcting something that’s not working?
Medjine Antoine-Bellamy [00:42:00] I think to answer that question is what I see depends on where I am because I live in Leshin, like I said before, and I could say, you know, it’s a great neighbourhood, lots of parks, you know, access to parks and canals. And like we all have all the infrastructure that we need. However, I spend half of my time in a another neighbourhood in Montreal. It’s one of the most racially diverse, and one of the poorest, also a neighbourhood in Montreal. I was born in Haiti and Haitians, Hispanic people living in like a semi shell. And I’m talking about this because I think when people ask, you know, when you look at what you see, it’s not the same depending on where you are. So, for example, I think one of the things we start with, Covid, is that census data show that how race, housing and income correlate to the spread of COVID-19 and Saint-Michel what people say is that a lot of people from Haiti and Latin America that weren’t working in the health sector as nurses are like actually helping people with the, you know, in the different centres. And that’s where the spread of the Covid in Montreal was one of the fastest where people died from that. What I see is that, you know, Saint-Michel is like a 20-minute trip. But like this 20 minutes is like this. This is two different worlds. And that’s a young people. As a young person, I’ve been trying to, you know, after people this not only to focus on the city where I live in, but also, you know, where my uncles and cousins, where they’re actually living and opportunities for young people. I think just to report that, for example, and I worked on is, you know, a good start. However, I’ve had the chance to work for a city hall for past seven years, like before I joined my current position. And I’ve worked in many departments, legal, finance, taxes, HR lots of departments over seven years. And I feel like maybe one of the reasons why people don’t necessarily go to the municipal, you know, municipal authorities to try to make change is because people used to go to the time to talk about their taxes, talk about the streets, talk about the buildings and everything. But there’s a lot of other issues that affect youth except for the cost of living. I don’t I wouldn’t say that young people between 15 and 20, they’re not particularly interested of like the repair, the holes on the streets. I mean, I just think that, you know, because I saw that and even though I was working there, I didn’t see a lot of young people get involved. And, you know, they would have at the city council once a month or the whole public was invited to come and talk about the issues. But it was always be these people. And there are thirties or forties established having a family. And I think young people like, you know, in my age, they don’t necessarily think, and this is something observed in the report that Freshta, Raj and I worked on. I don’t think a lot of people think that the municipalities have power. However, we’re always asking them, what can you do for your city? And with the municipal elections coming up, I feel like maybe. People think that, you know, with some issues, for example, the cost-of-living health issues, I think most people think that the municipalities are not really the stuff to make, but it’s more about the provincial and the federal issues. So, a lot of people go vote on the municipal elections. However, we keep telling them to get involved with their city, suggesting that there’s a discrepancy there. Right. So, either we give the city more powers to bring young people to the table to actually make changes that are going to get in place to the provincial federal government or we change things around. We tell people, no, kids just go to the like the federal the provincial governments. I just like there’s also something that should take into consideration. The different infrastructure of power is there.
Mary Rowe [00:46:00] I mean, this is something that we hear a lot that, as you say, people and what one of the dilemmas we’ve got, there’s this concept, subsidiarity, which is a big fancy concept. Somebody will put it in the chat, which is basically a European thing, but where the order of government closest to the recipient of the service should be responsible for funding it, designing it and held accountable for it. And like housing, for instance. And one of the dilemmas that we’ve got is that housing, for instance, every government can blame every other government for what’s happening in housing because no single level is responsible. So, you’re on to something really critical Medjine, and I’m hoping that your generation will be the one to change it. Could you just get on that? We’re basically municipal governments need more money, and they need more direct authority, and they need the resources so that you and I and all, all of us can hold an order of government accountable so they can’t just blame each other all the time. But it is interesting that when you talk the way you guys talk about making change happen, you may, in fact, without even realizing it yet, you may be creating the model of the future. And maybe that’s more local, more local engagement, Covid may have forced us to do this. Raj, what do you think? You’ve been doing Youthful Cities for a while. What do you see as the kind of critical thing? Medjine just opened the constitutional question, which is a brave thing to do, but what do you see as the priority in terms of addressing something that’s not working?
Raj Dhaliwal [00:47:29] Yeah, for sure. So, I think quickly began by saying when we looked at our data top five issues across Canada in these cities, cost of living, good jobs, diversity and inclusion, public safety, climate change and public health. So, five to six of those issues were the top five in all major cities across Canada. Now we’re talking about the municipal election. There’s one coming up in Calgary, one in Montreal, likely a federal election coming up.
Mary Rowe [00:47:57] And one in Edmonton!
Raj Dhaliwal [00:47:58] And Edmonton, and then very likely federal election coming up in September, October. From the rumours I am hearing. We’re talking about this concept of youth not being involved in youth voices, not being heard from our data. We notice less than twenty five percent of you said that they feel like their opinions are being heard and listened to by their elected officials, less than twenty five percent.
Mary Rowe [00:48:30] Wow. So, seventy five percent feel they’re not being heard at all.
Raj Dhaliwal [00:48:34] Exactly. Less than 15 percent, said the city is actually making enough and enough of an effort to provide opportunities for engagement. Now the question becomes, as are our cities actually interested in listening to youth and actually creating those opportunities or is this performative action. I’m watching the city candidates in Calgary here going on about a lot of things. And I feel like they’re very disconnected from youth really need, what you really want. This the city that we’re creating in the next 10 years for this generation, that’s 15 to 30. They’re going to be the ones leading these cities, whether that’s economically, socially or environmentally. And if they’re not if we’re just performing on this concept, then using it as a political capture moment. I think there’s a lot of issues with that. So, in Calgary, there’s a lot of talk about arts and entertainment in downtown Calgary, converting residential converting buildings to residential great concepts probably also needed. But let’s not forget that if cost of living isn’t there, good luck with attracting youth to that downtown core. The other aspect here is that I was reading this article and it really connected with me. The individual said in that article that cities are often having secondhand futures to their citizens and getting them to aspire to them. And that’s basically what’s happening. We get these professionals to sit at a table, engage the business communities, and let’s create let’s create a future. Let’s create a future. Envision a future for our city, 10, 20, 30-year vision and then provide that report to cities to get their feedback. No, that’s not that’s not how it works. Let us get that feedback first. Let’s engage the citizens first before we actually put those reports together. And now and I know a lot of talk here, a lot of individuals also talking about the 15-minute city’s is huge topic that I saw during the pandemic. And it’s very interesting because the reality of that 15-minute city is, first of all, if you look at least in Calgary, I’m living in a 15-minute city. But what I what I what I really want to walk from my home to a transit station. We’re measuring distance and time, but we’re not measuring and creating cities based on human senses. Let’s create cities that’s story telling moments. Right. Why would we want to what attracts us to walk from our homes to the transit station? It’s not distance or time because clearly that’s not working in these 15-minute cities. The background really is that it comes from this approach of the neighbourhood unit from the nineteen hundreds. And that neighbourhood unit was about segregation. It was about segregating the populations, white privilege, getting into the suburbs where the school is in the centre and you have like this open field in the centre and everything else is pushed to the outskirts. So, when we’re talking about creating this hyper local cities and communities and 15-minute communities, let’s stop measuring distance and time, let’s actually engage the individuals that have lived experiences and see what they really need in a community for them, for it to function.
Mary Rowe [00:52:12] That’s fantastic. I mean, you’re let’s come on, guys. Take on this. Like, you should just challenge the 15-minute city. It needs to be critiqued. Right. And it’s a throwback to time is money and time is important. That’s a question you’re raising, Raj. I mean, maybe it’s a 40-minute city in the 40 minutes is a fantastic 40 minutes. And you’re exposed to all sorts of stuff and you get all sorts of experience. And why does it all have to be fast and minutes? Great, great questions. We’re going to run out of time, and I want to be on with all I want to be on with you guys for all afternoon. Veronika let’s go to you quickly, then to you Michael, to clean up. And we really do need to end in four minutes. So, judge yourself accordingly. Veronika, challenge that you see that you think needs fixing and how.
[00:52:55] Yeah, I want to jump I want to jump on the theme of what we’ve been talking about. And I think what I feel the most opportunity to think about is how we’re looking at solving both the challenges that are coming out of Covid and beyond that, the structural and systemic issues we’re talking about. And I think just building off of what you’re talking about Raj, how cities were built based on discriminatory and racist planning practices. And so, what needs to happen is that needs to be completely flipped to the extreme. And when you’re talking about any sort of solution coming out of the pandemic, when we’re talking about building back better, you can’t be having this conversation that isn’t a young person at the table. There absolutely has to be a young person, somebody who has the lived experience and who is closest to the ground in terms of the impact that they’re feeling. And I think that’s the challenge with building solutions at a time when we’re when really extreme shocks are being felt is that those who are most vulnerable to the shocks are still trying to survive and are trying to make it through and don’t necessarily always have the time and capacity to be coming to consultations and engagement tables. And so, we really have to be thinking about how we’re having those conversations and also how are compensating people with time when they are part of this decision-making conversation. And I think a huge gap in particular for young people. I think often you can talk about how young people don’t trust in government. Young people don’t show up to city council. But a lot of those spaces aren’t made for you. And sometimes extending an invitation isn’t actually enough. But what needs to happen is you need to design how you’re going to have those conversations with youth at the table up front so that when you are inviting you to the table, they do show up and they do want to be there and they want to leave the last minute for Michael, for the final mic drop.
Mary Rowe [00:54:45] Yeah, well, before I hand that mic drop over to Michael, just a couple of things. One is to say that, you know, I want to talk to you guys again and again because, you know, I was your age in the 80s. There were no jobs and people were really disaffected. And you’ve got an interesting moment here to seize this leadership. All the instincts that you guys are surfacing or bang on. You’re the ones that need to you’re the ones that need to craft the future for yourselves. And the rest of us will enjoy whatever it is you come up with. So, and with our support will be in those outer circles, Michael, that you’ve suggested. And we need to be helping create those enabling conditions for you guys. So, CUI will take this on. We need a kind of ongoing goosing from youth around. How do we actually have this that you have you own your own agenda? So, Michael, last words to you really quick. OK, only got a minute.
Raj Dhaliwal [00:55:33] The only thing I want to add here is that throughout this pandemic and the specific example of CERB, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the federal government especially has demonstrated how flexible and financially capable governments can be in a short period of time if they perceive something to be a crisis. When are we going to start talking about the realities that young people are facing as a crisis and governments reacting at all levels accordingly? It’s all I am going to say.
Mary Rowe [00:56:02] I mean, the important thing here is that we don’t want to lose this moment of learning. Right. And to use the faith, the word of Covid, which is pivot, which was the word of the project that you guys worked on. And everybody’s pivoting, let’s collectively agree that we’re going to pivot together to work together to create cities for the future and cities for now that actually embrace what young people are saying is the future that they want to create because the future is yours and these cities are ready for you guys to shape them the way you need that what you need these cities to be. So, thank you so much for joining us. This is our last city talk for this season. We’re going to take a bit of a break over the summer and then we’re coming back in the fall and launching City Talk Global into the U.S. And so, we’re looking forward to having a broader conversation. With Canadians and we have lots of Americans who tune in and we have Americans who participate, but we want to make this as much as we can, a continental conversation, because there’s so much that we share. And cities are I always say cities are potentially humanity’s greatest invention. We elect to live in close proximity to each other. We choose to do that, many of us. And so, we have to get it right and we need to have informed voices and lived experience. And so, thank you for bringing your experience. Thanks for the work you did at PIVOT. Thanks for the things you tried, the lessons you learnt. And let’s figure out how we leverage that to next step. So Freshta, thanks, Raj, nice to see you. Veronika, great to have you. Enjoy that fan. Medjine I hope the canal keeps you cool. And Michael, always great to have you on with us in City Talk. And I want to thank all my colleagues that have produced CityTalk over for the last several months. We’re going to take a bit of a break. But they’ve worked so hard and we’ve produced great stuff. This will get posted. Watch it again and again. And as we say, just this is never the end of the conversation. It’s only the beginning. I’ve got your phone numbers gang, so I’m coming back to you for us to continue to work on this together and stay cool as best you can. Let’s get through this one. Thanks, everybody.
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From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://canurb.org/citytalk
12:06:09 From Canadian Urban Institute : https://pivothub.youthfulcities.com
12:07:38 From Canadian Urban Institute : Connect with our panel: Medjine Antoine-Bellamy, Project Coordinator, Ajah https://www.linkedin.com/in/medjineantoinebellamy/ Freshta Ahmadzai, co-author, the Urban Impact Report https://www.linkedin.com/in/freshta-ahmadzai-774603140/ Veronika Bylicki, Executive Director & Co-Founder, CityHive https://cityhive.ca @veronikabyl @cityhivevan Michael Redhead Champagne, Public Speaker & Youth Mentor @northendmc https://www.michaelredheadchampagne.com Raj Dhaliwal, Youthful Cities, Project Coordinator https://www.linkedin.com/in/rajsdhali/
12:08:06 From Canadian Urban Institute : Urban Youth Impact COVID-19 Report: https://youthfulcities.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/EN-Urban-Youth-Impact-Report.pdf
12:26:06 From Canadian Urban Institute : https://citysharecanada.ca/
12:30:19 From Ailson Barbosa de Oliveira to All panelists : boa tarde
12:32:27 From Michael Redhead Champagne : https://protectourpeoplemb.ca/
12:34:13 From Diane Dyson : We are trying to reclaim the CUI Instagram page! Really trying!!
12:34:22 From Michael Redhead Champagne : https://www.michaelredheadchampagne.com/blog/infiltration-manual-released
12:34:32 From Veronika Bylicki (she/her) : Here’s a link to the infiltration manual: https://www.youthclimatelab.org/infiltration-manual
12:37:35 From Canadian Urban Institute : https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/H/bo20809880.html
12:39:18 From Andrene Vitelli to All panelists : We need all 3!!
12:40:10 From Andrene Vitelli to All panelists : Yes!!!!
12:43:57 From ANNE WATTERS to All panelists : Michael, I don’t know if you have seen the poem written by Casey Caines It is very powerful. It speaks directly to what you were saying about the adult survivors.
12:45:32 From Michael Redhead Champagne to ANNE WATTERS and all panelists : thank you anne I haven’t seen it but I will look for it!
12:45:55 From Michael Redhead Champagne : YES FRESHTA!!
12:55:21 From Michael Redhead Champagne : 70% of the homeless population in /Winnipeg are formery involved in the child welfare system. Youth are aging right out of child welfare and into homelessness here. they systems are so connected which makes jurisdiction so important
12:56:21 From Michael Redhead Champagne : I invite you all to come to the North End of Winnipeg, here is some cute resources for kids made by the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation! https://www.winnipegarchitecture.ca/explore-selkirk-avenue/
12:58:04 From Canadian Urban Institute : Keep the conversation going #CityTalk @canurb You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our sessions at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk
12:58:06 From Freshta Ahmadzai to All panelists : These are benchmarks and standards we need to challenge when building cities
12:58:39 From Andrene Vitelli : Young people need to be invited. A lot of young people!
12:59:16 From Martine Shareck : Thank you for this very inspiring talk! Love the idea and image of building cities “based on the senses” brought up by Raj.
13:01:02 From Andrene Vitelli : Thank you all for this very necessary and inspiring talk.
13:01:51 From Michael Redhead Champagne : awesome stuff everyone!!
13:01:58 From Freshta Ahmadzai to All panelists : Thank you to all our speakers and staff!
13:02:00 From Adam Dhalla : Great work everyone!
13:02:02 From Veronika Bylicki (she/her) : Such a pleasure! Let’s keep the convo going