Calgary youth speak up

By Ashley Spinella

Some of us spent last weekend feebly attempting to reduce last year’s debts through various menial jobs. Others engaged with representatives from the University of Calgary and the community to discuss where exactly this city, and this country, are going. The Calgary’s Youth, Canada’s Future Conference was held May 6-7 in MacEwan Student Centre, and provided an opportunity for both high-school and post-secondary students to have their voices heard.

Debates concentrated on the meaning of Canadian and Western identity, democracy and citizenship, and localized issues concerning Calgary’s growth.

Professor David Taras, representative of the Faculty of Com-munication and Culture and event organizer, said the U of C Students’ Union, the Canada West Foundation, the Sheldon Chumir Foundation, U of C External Affairs and the Faculty of Communication and Culture joined to organize the conference.

“[This event] involves a lot of different organizations,” Taras said. “We also have the City of Calgary and the Stampede as sponsors, so this really represents a great community effort.”

Organizers of the event will produce a report based on the various discussions and debates to give to politicians and business leaders.

“Our purpose is to bring young people together from the high-schools and all the post-secondary institutions in the city to discuss the issues that concern them,” said Taras. “This is the vision of young people growing up in Calgary and the kind of world they would like to see.”

Taras was excited about the diversity of participants.

“Everybody brings different things to the table,” he said. “These people are leaders, because they have chosen among all of the other possibilities to take a weekend off and to talk passionately about the things that concern them. Some are going to be great business people and others are going to be important in their cultural communities. We have a variety of people–we’ve tried to have a mosaic of faces and ideas.”

Justine Dijkman, a nursing student from the U of C, attended the conference to learn about others’ opinions about Calgary and the issues facing Canada. Originally from South Africa, she brings intercultural experience gained from living in Europe, Africa and North America.

“We should avoid taking Calgary for granted and realize how great we have it here,” she argued, noting youth are surprisingly conservative.

Robert Allan, a journalism student from Mount Royal College, attended in order to hear various debates and the many speakers.

“I’ve gone to other conferences that the Chumir Foundation has put on and their line-up of guests is always interesting,” said Allan. “You always leave with more questions than answers and it’s a fantastic experience.

“Events like this breed a community within the city, and a dialogue is achieved which is important to Calgary,” he said.

Taras noted the conference may look at creating change, but students often prefer things to stay the same.

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