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By Alyssa Lindsay, Executive Director, Canada Bridges 

Think about your days as a youth. Did you have dreams and ideas about what change was needed? Was there limitless potential on your horizon? Did you have support to grow your own voice and become who you are today? Did you experience challenges along the way that changed your course? What if all youth had the opportunity to bring energy, optimism and vision and live it out in our organizations and communities? 

In our society today, youth are usually represented only in very small ways in decision-making processes, organizations and social structures. Often, when they are recognized or included, it is as an add-on or side piece that does not have real power. Certain youth demographics are even less represented than others. For Indigenous youth, for example, the effects of intergenerational trauma, lower levels of resources in First Nations communities, and systemic racism all contribute to challenges with accessing the connections and power needed to create change for themselves and others. At the same time, these youth often have the wisest perspectives, deepest insights, and greatest awareness of the changes that are needed in our communities. 

Canada Bridges is a registered charity that recognizes youth not just as leaders of the future, but as leaders of today. Instead of being viewed as a problem that needs fixing, or individuals who need training, we see youth as part of the solution to the broad social, economic and environmental challenges that we all have responsibility for. Youth bring outside of the box thinking, creativity, and a willingness to take risks and step beyond the status quo. Youth with diverse backgrounds bring even greater perspectives and willingness to challenge what needs to change.  

When we work together, we’re connected with each other and coming together to an agreement to what we could do for a community or to create change. Older generations have tried different ways of doing things. Newer generation has modern ideas. 

Sandis Twoyoungman, Iyarhe Nakoda Nation

At Canada Bridges, we have seen how youth have changed our organization, and we know that youth will be the force to change our communities and our world. Over the last 10 years, we have worked with youth from across Alberta, and for the last 6 years have prioritized invitations to work with youth from the Siksika and Iyarhe Nakoda Nations, as well as in Mohkinstsis (Calgary). Through this work, youth have taken on change projects in a wide range of sectors and communities from energy transition to Indigenous language preservation. Youth lead the work, not just participate in it, and our organization has become much stronger using this approach: our board, our programming, and our community presence have all been strengthened by including youth as leaders. 

For the last two years, Canada Bridges has been invited to be part of the International Women’s Day celebration at Scovan. We are thankful for this partnership and shared value in supporting youth to show up, stand up and be heard.

Change is before us on so many fronts right now, and youth are needed more than ever. Let’s all commit to keep moving away from seeing youth as inexperienced and needing to learn, to having insights, passion, and ideas that drive the changes we all need and want to make. How are you creating space for youth leadership within your industry, organizations, and teams today? See for more info.

Originally published in Scovan’s IGNITE Vol. 2