You’ve marched in the climate strike, perhaps demanded for policy changes on social media, and maybe even engaged your local candidate. Science has made clear that the adverse effects of climate change will push an even greater number of already marginalized people into poverty. It’s inspiring that you’ve joined this global advocacy effort. But now what?
If you’re thinking “vote!” then you’re absolutely correct, but hang on for just one second. Let’s take a moment to digest what we have recently accomplished. Led by phenomenal youth leaders like Greta Thunberg and Autumn Peltier, we have created a massive civic movement, becoming some of the most vocal advocates on climate action. Our voices are resonating across Canada, but that’s not enough. At the recent Montreal half-million strong climate strike, Greta asserted, “If the people in power won’t take their responsibility, then we will.”
Indeed, we do have a responsibility. During this and all elections, we are the bosses and the candidates are the interviewees. Our responsibility is to ensure that we select the candidates who best represent our ideals, values, and ethics.
I did not fully realise the significance of this responsibility until I lived and travelled abroad. During my exchange year abroad in Asia, I often debated the merits of democracy with my local friends and then it struck me: the foundation of our Canadian democracy is accountability. When we feel that our elected officials choose to listen to money rather than facts, for instance, we have the right and the means to raise our voices and make our opinions heard. That is by no means a universal luxury, as I recently witnessed during the beginning of the anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile on the other side of the Pacific, we take both the right to protest and the right to free elections for granted. As an idealistic youth, I see many like-minded individuals excel at the former. We are keen organizers of marches, we are avid social media campaigners, and we are not afraid to express our views. As October 21st draws near, we must not slack on the latter. Whether we like it or not, voting policy-makers into office is the best way for us to influence our future.
As young Canadians, there sure is a whole lot of future for us to worry about. Many youth, like me, are scared. The Canadian arctic is warming at double the global rate. My home province of PEI recently saw 80% of trees in a northern national park destroyed by hurricane Dorian. The climate crisis is a constant threat to the progresses made so far in eradicating extreme poverty in the Global South. Let us transform our fears, hopes, and aspirations into action. We must continue to advocate for what we believe is right and stand for our values, but above all, we must go out and vote on October 21st.
Keen to engage candidates on tackling ending extreme poverty in the Global South? Consult Results Canada’s Election Toolkit.
Chris Zhou is a fourth-year Health Sciences student at McMaster University. He was selected for the first cohort of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council, where he provided policy recommendations to the Prime Minister and other government officials. Chris has also represented Canada at the World Youth Forum, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit, and the 2018 Y7 Summit.
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