The voice of a young person: A blog by our 2021 summer student


October 20, 2021

Should the voting age be lowered to 16?

Dear Nunavummiut,

In January 2021, grade 11 students at Inukshuk High School, in Iqaluit, worked together on a project to share their opinions on why the voting age for Canadian federal elections should be lowered from 18 to 16 years of age. This project was in support of Bill S-209, an Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Regulation Adapting the Canada Elections Act for the Purposes of a Referendum (Bill S-209). One of the students who took part in the project, Penelope Armstrong, said, “We wholeheartedly believe that people our age deserve the opportunity to participate formally in the democratic process.”[1]

As an Advocacy Summer Student at the Representative for Children and Youth’s Office (RCYO), I was asked to review and consider this issue. What I learned is detailed below.

The voting age in Canada was originally set at 21 years of age because it was believed that that was the age a person was “considered mature enough to participate in the democratic process and vote in elections”.[2] During the first and second world wars, military personnel were offered the right to vote, regardless of their age, and then in 1970, the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 years of age.[3]

Today, the age of majority, the age a young person is considered an adult by law, varies between 18 and 19 years of age across Canada.[4] In Nunavut, the age of majority is 19, but a person 18 years of age can vote in both territorial and federal election.[5] At 16 years of age, a person enrolled under the Nunavut Agreement can vote in Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) elections.[6] Also at 16 years of age, a person is eligible to get their driver’s license,[7] a job,[8] and potentially pay taxes.[9]

As a Canadian citizen, it is our civic duty, meaning our responsibility, to vote in federal elections since we are directly impacted by decisions the government makes. One of the greatest responsibilities that comes with practicing the right to vote is to make an informed choice and cast an educated vote. To do so, prior to voting, a voter should research each candidate and decide whom they feel will best represent them and the issues that are important to them when decisions are made on their behalf by government.

To get a drivers license, a person must pass both written and practical examinations, as well as obey all traffic laws at all times. To maintain employment, a person must take on all responsibilities that come with having a job and potentially paying taxes. As such, a person 16 years of age is capable of researching candidates and forming their own opinion on who they feel is the best choice.

In my opinion, as a young person, I believe that the voting age should be lowered for the following reasons:

  • Supporting young people to become familiar with the political system may support them to become active citizens in their community, territory, and country. This would be beneficial for our collective future.
  • The number of voters may increase, supporting that those elected are representative of more Nunavummiut and Canadians.
  • The opinions and thoughts of young people matter. They have the right to have a say in their future and the decisions made on their behalf.

Given current technologies that increase exposure and awareness of global issues, being a young person today is different from being a young person more than half a century ago, when the voting age was determined. Maiya Twerdin, an Inukshuk High School student involved in the project said, “Granting the vote to young adults 16 years and older should be part of modernizing our political system.”[10] If a person 16 years of age can vote in some elections; drive a vehicle; maintain employment; pay taxes; and in some cases, make decisions on their own behalf, they should also have the right to vote in all elections.

Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says that young people have the right to give their opinion and adults should consider their opinions when making decisions on their behalf,[11] which is why the RCYO and I support Bill S-209 and lowering the voting age to 16 years of age.

Sincerely,

 

Sylvia Kablutsiak                                                                                                                   
Advocacy Summer Student 2021



[1]  Nunatsiaq News. (2021, April 21). Iqaluit high school make the case for lower voting age. Retrieved from https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/iqaluit-high-school-students-make-the-case-for-lower-voting-age/

[2]  Elections Canada. (2021). Youth and the Right to Vote Case Study. Retrieved from https://electionsanddemocracy.ca/voting-rights-through-time-0/case-study-3-youth-and-vote

[3]  Elections Canada. (2021). Youth and the Right to Vote Case Study. Retrieved from https://electionsanddemocracy.ca/voting-rights-through-time-0/case-study-3-youth-and-vote

[5]  Elections Canada. (2021). Canada’s Election Process. Retrieved https://electionsanddemocracy.ca/canadas-elections/canadas-election-process/election-voting

[6]  Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporation. (2021, January 5). NTI Election – Revised Notice of Election. Retrieved from https://www.tunngavik.com/news/nti-election-revised-notice-of-election/

[8]  Some restrictions apply as per the Nunavut Labour Standards Compliance Office. Government of Nunavut. (2021). Labour Standards Compliance Office. Employment of Young Persons/Education Work Experience. Retrieved from http://www.nu-lsco.ca/faq-s

[9]  “If the total is $40,000 or less, you probably do not have to pay minimum tax. If the total is more than $40,000, you may have to pay minimum tax.” Government of Canada. (2021). Minimum tax. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/topics/about-your-tax-return/tax-return/completing-a-tax-return/deductions-credits-expenses/minimum-tax.html

[10] Nunatsiaq News. (2021, April 21). Iqaluit high school make the case for lower voting age. Retrieved from https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/iqaluit-high-school-students-make-the-case-for-lower-voting-age/

[11] Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. (2017). Convention on the rights of the child. Geneva, CH: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/child-rights-convention/convention-text

 

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August 25, 2021

My summer with the RCYO

Individual Advocacy

I spent my first four weeks at the Representative for Children and Youth’s Office working with the Individual Advocacy (IA) team. I reviewed and assisted the IA team with case files which helped me get a better understanding of what an advocate is and the ways they work with and for children and youth in Nunavut.

Systemic Advocacy

I worked with the Systemic Advocacy team during the next four weeks of my time at the RCYO. With the help of the systemic team I was able to review the systemic database and get a better understanding of what a systemic issue is, what some of the systemic issues are in Nunavut, and how the RCYO works with government departments mainly; the Department of Health, the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, and the Department of Family Services, to make their services better. The Systemic Advocacy team also shared some research tips with me. This was helpful as I was asked to research and consider if the RCYO should support Bill S-209, an Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Regulation Adapting the Canada Elections Act for the Purposes of a Referendum (Bill S-209), in regards to lowering the voting age from 18 to 16 in federal elections.

During this time, the Representative appeared at the Standing Committee on Oversight of Government Operations and Public Accounts (Standing Committee) where she voiced the truth of what is happening to our vulnerable children and youth in Nunavut. Standing Committee is an event where the Representative discusses the work and findings of the RCYO with delegates from the four main child- and youth- services departments and the Management and Services Board. This discussion reviews evidence provided in the RCYO’s annual report of the work that needs to be done by departments to better support our children and youth in Nunavut.

Communications and Public Awareness

I started working with the Communications and Public Awareness (Communications) program since I became a summer student at the RCYO. With the help of the manager, I wrote all of the blog posts you see on this page, wrote a letter on behalf of the RCYO about Bill S-209, learned how to prepare text for translations, and sat in on an interview between the Representative and APTN.

Working with Communications, I gained new writing and researching skills which will be very useful in the next few years of my schooling and throughout my career.

Representative for Children and Youth

After working with all program areas of the RCYO, I spent the final weeks of my time as a summer student working with the Representative for Children and Youth, Jane Bates. During this time, I submitted my letter about Bill S-209 to the Representative for her review. She thought it as really well done and the RCYO will be releasing it as soon as it is translated. Jane also asked me to provide my thoughts into a letter of support that the RCYO was working on. To do this, I had to review several documents about the potential project, make a list of my questions and go through them with Jane.

Also, over the last few weeks of my time at RCYO, I was encouraged and given time during work hours to take the Indigenous Canada course offered through the University of Alberta. This course covers topics such as the Indigenous worldview, fur trade, land claims, Treaties, contemporary Indigenous life, and other Indigenous-related topics. If you haven’t taken this course, I suggest you do.

As a social work student at Laurentian University, learning about the program areas of the RCYO are very beneficial for my future, both personally and professionally. Working with the RCYO gave me an in-depth awareness of child rights and what it’s like to work with and for children and youth in Nunavut. The Representative, Jane Bates, was working in the child welfare system as a social worker for 29 years before she became the Representative. She is a great role model for me as my goal is to work in the child welfare system as a social worker and be a voice for vulnerable children and youth in Nunavut.

Why do child rights matter?

Although children and youth are their own person, they are vulnerable and dependant on adults. Children and youth are our future and we, as adults, have the responsibility to prepare them for the future. We have the responsibility to ensure they are set up for success and independence. It is also the responsibility of parents or guardians to ensure that each child lives their life to the best of their ability; mentally, physically, emotionally. The environment they live in plays a huge role in who or what they want to become when they are older.

The government also has a huge responsibility in making sure all children and youth have equal access to everything they need to live a good life, like health care, education, culture, safety, clean drinking water, food, a safe home, and more.

Unfortunately, in Nunavut not all children and youth have equal access to the things listed above, which is why child rights matter. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child helps recognize that children and youth are human beings and they deserve to be healthy and safe at all costs.

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August 11, 2021

What I've learned about Communications and Public Awareness

I have been working with the Communications and Public Awareness program (Communications) since I began working as a summer student at the Representative for Children and Youth’s Office (RCYO).

The Communications program works to make sure child rights are known in Nunavut. They learn about issues that are directly affecting young people and their families by creating opportunities to listen to them. These opportunities help young people speak up if and when they have problems with Government of Nunavut services.

The Communications program also provides information to Nunavummiut about how the RCYO can work with youth to protect their rights. One of the ways I’ve been working to do this is by creating blog posts to put on the RCYO website. The topics I wrote about were child rights, working as a summer student at the RCYO, what it’s like to be a young person in Nunavut during COVID-19, and why I encourage people to wear orange on Canada Day.

Since I started working as a summer student at RCYO, I have been researching the voting age for Canadian federal elections, an issue brought to the RCYO’s attention by grade 11 students at Inukshuk High School in Iqaluit. The students worked on a project that support Bill S-209, an Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Regulation Adapting the Canada Elections Act for the Purposes of a Referendum. While in Communications, I wrote a letter about my research to present to the Representative for Children and Youth about this issue.

Working with Communications is broad; we can be pulled aside to do other work in different areas within the office. For example, although I am with Communications, I was pulled aside to work with the Individual Advocacy team to do intakes, which is what I am doing this week.

Working with the Communications team has been a learning adventure and I appreciate all the support that I received from the manager, Kim Foster.

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July 20, 2021

What I've learned about Systemic Advocacy

I worked with the Systemic Advocacy team during the next four weeks of my time at the Representative for Children and Youth’s Office, (RCYO).

This is what I learned:

What is a systemic issue?

An issue will be considered systemic if:

  • The issue directly affects many children and/or youth
  • The issue involves Government of Nunavut departments/services
  • Any legislation, policy, regulation, or program within the Government of Nunavut requires adjustments to fix the problem

What is Systemic Advocacy?

Systemic advocacy will take place if and when one or more young people face the same problem with Government of Nunavut services. The systemic team will work with the government departments to solve issues people by reviewing the problem and helping the Representative to make recommendations to relevant departments.

Example: When multiple children and youth experienced difficulties receiving mental health supports, the systemic team conducted a review, informed by young people that resulted in the Representative making 15 recommendations to a number of departments to improve mental health services for all young people. You can see a copy of the report here: https://rcynu.ca/sites/rcynu.ca/files/RCYO_MHReview_EN.pdf  

What I did with the Systemic team

There were many areas I learned about during my time with the systemic team.

  1. Policy and Procedure Manual training

Where I was introduced to the work the systemic team does

  1. Systemic database

In the systemic database, there are three tabs; Referrals, Systemic Issues, and Recommendations.

Referrals: all the referrals the systemic team receives are entered in this tab. The team receives referrals the following; the RCYOs Individual Advocacy team, children and/or youth, the public, concerns raised at the Legislative Assembly, government departments, and the media.

Systemic Issues: each systemic issue is in this tab. The systemic team uses this tab to keep track of all the systemic issues. They also link each referral to the related systemic issue.

Recommendations: all the recommendations the Representative has made are in this tab. In this tab, it is tracked whether the departments agree or disagree to recommendations, if the departments are working to meet the recommendations are or not, and if the departments replied to information requests by the deadline. All the emails and letters that went back and forth between the RCYO and the departments are also in this tab.

  1. Protocols with Departments

Protocols with some government departments have been created to help government understand the role of the Representative for Children and Youth’s Office, and to ensure they are aware of their obligations under the Representative for Children and Youth Act.

There are four parts to the protocol; 

  1. Proactive Meetings, Building and Maintaining the Working Relationship: outlines the agreement to work together on issues that are affecting young people.
  2. Advocacy: explains how the Representative and her staff will advocate for young people to government staff, and the different responsibilities of each
  3. Right to Information and Duty to Provide Information: outlines the RCYO’s rights to access any necessary information that the office may need and a process for making different types of information requests
  4. Legislative Authority: outlines the RCYO’s powers and duties
     
  5. Proactive meetings with four government departments

The systemic team supports the Representative’s meetings with four government departments every six months: Department of Health, Department of Justice, Department of Family Services, and Department of Education. Proactive meetings allow both the RCYO and the departments to work together to discuss issues, their progress on implementing the Representative’s recommendations, and new work.

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July 1, 2021

Why wear orange on Canada Day

Canada’s history of colonialism has had lasting impacts on Indigenous peoples. Residential schools and the Sixties Scoop were two of the main events that took Indigenous children away from their families to assimilate them into “white society”[1].

The goal of residential schools was to “continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic, and there is no Indian question, and no Indian department”[2].

Approximately 150,000 Indigenous children, between the ages of seven and 16, were forced to attend residential schools from 1870s to 1990s[3]. These children were not allowed to practice their culture or language, with the goal being to completely erase Indigenous cultures across the country.

Residential schools have had lasting impacts on the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous peoples leading to higher rates of arthritis, chronic bronchitis, epilepsy, cancer, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name just a few[4].

The Sixties Scoop was another tool used in an attempt to convert Indigenous children into the “white way of living”[5]. During this time, the Canadian government labeled Indigenous parents as “unfit” to care for their children and removed them from their homes, without informing birth parents and families, and placed them with non-Indigenous families[6].

Being taken away from their families and culture caused separation anxiety and culture shock for Indigenous children and their families, as well as emotional, mental, and spiritual harm to Indigenous peoples[7]. No efforts were made to bring children back to their homes[8].

During the Sixties Scoop, the Canadian government also underfunded Indigenous populations[9] which led many Indigenous people to poverty.

Residential schools and the Sixties Scoop caused intergenerational trauma for Indigenous peoples across Canada. In most families, it is typical that parents and/or grandparents pass their experiences and knowledge onto the next generation, their children. In this case, parents and/or grandparents who went to residential schools passed their traumatic experiences onto their children. This is known as intergenerational trauma. The effects of intergenerational trauma have lead to high suicide rates, physical and mental health issues, and other illnesses[10].

Although these events happened in the past, the trauma still exists today. These wrongdoings can not be undone. But, the Canadian government must keep moving forward towards reconciliation, by building healthy relationships with Indigenous peoples, and recognizing the injustices and inequalities that Indigenous people faced and continue to face today. Ensuring clean drinking water, adequate housing, accessible mental health services, rehabilitation centres, adequate education, and affordable foods are all ways to improve the lives of Indigenous peoples. Indigenous children, youth, elders, families, and communities deserve a happy, healthy life. The rights of every human being, including Indigenous peoples, must be protected and respected at all costs.

Until Canada takes accountability for their actions, I encourage all to wear orange on Canada Day, July 1st of every year, to respect the loss of Indigenous peoples in Canada.



[1] Wilk, P., Maltby, A., & Cooke, M. (2017). Residential schools and the effects on Indigenous health and well-being in Canada-a scoping review. Public Health Reviews, 38(1), 8–8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40985-017-0055-6

[2] Sinclair, R. (2019). Aboriginal Social Work Education in Canada: Decolonizing Pedagogy for the Seventh Generation. First Peoples Child & Family Review14(1), 9-21. Retrieved from https://fpcfr.com/index.php/FPCFR/article/view/369

[3] Wilk, P., Maltby, A., & Cooke, M. (2017). Residential schools and the effects on Indigenous health and well-being in Canada-a scoping review. Public Health Reviews, 38(1), 8–8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40985-017-0055-6

[4] Wilk, P., Maltby, A., & Cooke, M. (2017). Residential schools and the effects on Indigenous health and well-being in Canada-a scoping review. Public Health Reviews, 38(1), 8–8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40985-017-0055-6

[5] Alston-O’Connor, E. (2019). The Sixties Scoop. Critical Social Work, 11(1). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.22329/csw.v11i1.5816

[6] Alston-O’Connor, E. (2019). The Sixties Scoop. Critical Social Work, 11(1). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.22329/csw.v11i1.5816

[7] Alston-O’Connor, E. (2019). The Sixties Scoop. Critical Social Work, 11(1). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.22329/csw.v11i1.5816

[8] Sinclair, R. (2019). Aboriginal Social Work Education in Canada: Decolonizing Pedagogy for the Seventh Generation. First Peoples Child & Family Review14(1), 9-21. Retrieved from https://fpcfr.com/index.php/FPCFR/article/view/369

[9] Alston-O’Connor, E. (2019). The Sixties Scoop. Critical Social Work, 11(1). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.22329/csw.v11i1.5816

[10] Sinclair, R. (2019). Aboriginal Social Work Education in Canada: Decolonizing Pedagogy for the Seventh Generation. First Peoples Child & Family Review14(1), 9-21. Retrieved from https://fpcfr.com/index.php/FPCFR/article/view/369

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June 11, 2021

What I've learned about Individual Advocacy

I spent my first four weeks at the Representative for Children and Youth’s Office working with the Individual Advocacy (IA) team. 

The IA team works with children, youth, and their families by making sure the children’s and youth’s rights are being followed within ­Government of Nunavut services. If their rights are not being followed, the IA team will work with the Government of Nunavut service provider to fix the problem. If children, youth, or their families have any concerns about government services, the IA team will give them information and resources, help them speak up for themselves, attend a meeting with them, or help them anyway that they can.

During my time with the IA team, I reviewed closed cases to learn how the advocates work to fix problems.

To review the cases, I first had to learn how to navigate Penelope. Penelope is a system where all confidential information about a case is stored electronically. With great support and patience from the IA team, I was able to learn to navigate this program quickly. 

As the office received new referrals, I had the opportunity to assign cases to advocates using Penelope. I also reviewed case notes to understand what information is important to include. Once cases were completed, I was taught how to close the file.

Working with the IA team was very beneficial as this is the work I hope to do once I finish my undergraduate studies. Although four weeks was such a short time with the IA team, I learned a lot.

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June 1, 2021

Trying to do it all and still have enough time for ME

Maintaining both work and personal priorities is always challenging, but lately it seems to be even more difficult. Although work requires a lot of our time and energy, it is important to find the time to take care of yourself as well. Since, organizing your time wisely can reduce stress, here’s what I do:

  1. On one piece of paper, I list all of the weekly tasks required of me as the Advocacy Summer Student with the Representative for Children and Youth’s Office. Say this is my “work list”.
  2. On a separate piece of paper, I list all of my personal tasks and things I would like to do for myself for the week. This is my “ME list”.
  3. Looking at my “work list” I block time in my week to complete the bigger stuff, the most time-consuming tasks first. 
  4. Then I look at my “ME list” and see what I can fit into the time I have left in my day. But, if something is really important to me, I’ve made a commitment to someone, or I really need to dedicate sometime to me, I schedule it just as I would a task from my “work list”. 
  5. Then, I start each day following my combined list for that day.

If I have many tasks to be completed one day and it feels like a lot to do, I plan to wake up earlier than usual to give myself a bit more time.

Also, I usually do the task a few days (or even weeks, depending on how big or small the task is) before it is due but I don't hand it in until the day it is due because that gives me enough time to proof-read before submitting it.

Having a plan for the week, allows me to finish my daily tasks on time and still have enough time to care for myself.

There are many ways to plan your tasks; you are the one who decides what works best for you!

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May 24, 2021

What it is like being a young person, in Nunavut, during COVID-19

Many of our communities in Nunavut are isolated and it often leaves us feeling overwhelmed with the COVID-19 pandemic!

Being a young person in Nunavut during the pandemic has its own challenges such as feeling bored, anxious, and not being able to visit friends and family.

Despite these challenges, there are things that you can do to manage your physical and mental wellbeing. Given our big beautiful land in Nunavut, I keep myself occupied by hiking, walking, camping, 'rodding', and going on adventures! There are more things that you can do to stay busy such as learning how to cook, sew, hunt, and more!

Always remember to take care of yourself and reach out to your family/friends if you need somebody to talk to.

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May 17, 2021

Do you know what your rights are as a young Nunavummiut? You should.

It is very important for young Nunavummiut to know their rights as children and youth. There are two types of rights, Universal Human Rights and Children’s Rights. Universal human rights apply to everyone, everywhere from newborn babies to elders regardless of their race, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, and nationality! Human rights give you a chance to be treated with equality and respect all around the world.

Children’s rights are similar to human rights but they apply to children and youth under the age of 19 years.

Children’s rights are special because children and youth are vulnerable and they depend on adults for their safety and protection in their daily lives! A few rights included in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child are protection from human trafficking, protection from sexual abuse, access to education, freedom of speech, and access to water and food. All children and youth in Nunavut have rights.

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