While the majority stayed out of the fray, clusters of young Canadians rose up in outbursts of support or outrage, hints of a simmering discontent that some say could emerge as full-blown movement.
"One thing we're beginning to see ... is a space for a lot of young people to start to ask more systematic questions of our society," says Jamie Biggar, co-founder of LeadNow, a youth-led group that advocates civic engagement.
A smattering of students swarmed university campuses in so-called vote mobs to spur participation in a federal election that propelled four of their peers to the House of Commons in May.
A 21-year-old Senate page staged a bold protest during June's throne speech that saw her booted from the job but crowned the rising star of left-wing political activism.
Droves of young people joined a collective outpouring of grief at the death of Jack Layton in August, just months after the late NDP leader steered his party to historic gains in Parliament.
They also padded the ranks of the Occupy movement's Canadian offshoots, which many observers credit with sparking a national conversation about economic disparity and other systemic problems, despite a crackdown by authorities and widespread criticism over the demonstrators' seeming lack of direction.
Occupy Canada may have gone underground following the dismantling of camps across the country, but some experts say it capped off a year-long string of events that could trigger a more united and influential youth movement.
It may take time for a broader effort to take shape, they say, and whatever emerges might not fit the familiar mould.
Studies show young Canadians have long shunned conventional forms of political participation: they're less likely to vote or join political parties, less interested and less informed about politics than other population groups.
Several young rookies rode the NDP surge into Parliament this May, but it's unclear if they'll inspire others to do the same.
Meanwhile, observers continue to sound the alarm over an aging leadership unable and seemingly unwilling to recruit much-needed new blood.
For now, at least, young adults favour petitions, boycotts and ethical spending, demonstrations and volunteering.
Yet today's fragmented and fickle Internet generation is ill-suited to the persistent campaigns of the 1960s and '70s, preferring a pop-up style of protest, says Henry Milner, a political scientist at McGill University in Montreal.
The way this generation communicates is "very short-term" and more likely to spur sporadic participation in specific events or causes, says Milner, the author of "The Internet Generation: Engaged Citizens or Political Dropouts."
Social media, live-streaming and other technological tools played a key role in mobilizing Occupy protesters and summoning backup in the face of eviction.
The key for the next wave of activists will be to harness their powerful but shifting networks and turn them into something sustainable, says Biggar.
"(Young people) are really good at information-sharing and co-ordination," allowing them to muster large crowds on short notice while keeping everyone on equal footing, he says.
"Now we're working on building organizational models that take the best of that but also allow us to take collective action together for the long term," he says.
It's impossible to predict when that will happen, but "the process of finding those answers is accelerating, partially as people try to figure out what to do with the Occupy movement," Biggar says.
"And I think that may be actually one of the most interesting and powerful things our generation does."
In a country like Canada, with its relatively stable economic and political systems, a big challenge in mobilizing youth has been the lack of a single, focused target.
It was one of the main attacks levelled against Occupy Canada protesters, whose vague arguments against the status quo failed to inspire the public at the levels seen in grassroots movements in the U.S., Europe and the Arab world.
"It doesn't feel as dire here ... it's moderately still good," says Bryan Batty, one of the most recognizable faces of the Occupy Toronto encampment.
As such, it's been hard for fledgling activist networks to figure out what to take on first, he says.
To some people, it's just financial change, the goal that sparked the original Occupy protests south of the border, he says.
"But if you're in Canada, so many of us identify financial reform with the tar sands, with all of our mining operations, with even electoral reform. We identify so much that we can't help but want to change those things at the same time."
The challenge is in articulating specific demands without losing sight of the bigger picture, says Batty.
"I think just one thing happening is only going to be a Band-Aid," Batty says.
Still, some issues — the environment, the erosion of democratic rights and a growing economic insecurity — are taking centre stage.
Climate change has been a rallying point for young Canadians in recent years and some predict more will rise up in the wake of this month's climate change talks in Durban, South Africa, which saw Canada pull out of the Kyoto treaty.
Six members of Canada's youth delegation were kicked out of the conference after they stood up and turned their backs to Environment Minister Peter Kent during his remarks.
The state of Canadian democracy has also become a cause for concern among some youth.
The spring's federal election whipped up some interest on university and college campuses, largely due to groups such as LeadNow, which launched early this year in an effort to mobilize youth ahead of the vote.
While some have suggested a grim job market could trigger massive youth protests, experts say Canada is unlikely to see a homegrown version of the Arab Spring.
There simply aren't enough young people entering the workforce to build that kind of momentum, says David Foot, a University of Toronto professor who studies the economic impacts of demographic change.
What's more, Canada's youth unemployment rate is lower than it was during the 1980s recession, and the situation is poised to improve as baby boomers retire, he says.
Rather than jobs, income inequality could become the source of unrest, Foot adds.
"If we keep seeing an increasing disparity in income distribution, that could be the foundation of a very big movement that would be started by the young," he says.
They may eschew traditional avenues, but many young Canadians are already taking steps to bring about the changes they're calling for.
Their collective mistrust of corporate business has given rise to a burgeoning social economy as young entrepreneurs embrace the co-op model, says Biggar.
And public demonstrations such as the Occupy camps and rallies will only become more common in the coming months and years, he says.
Meanwhile, Occupy itself is working to broaden and solidify its social networks across the country to form a more unified front, Batty says.
But there are still significant barriers keeping Canadian youth from traditional politics, a central mechanism for social and economic change.
An Elections Canada survey found that lack of political interest and the sense that issues important to youth aren't being addressed deter young people from voting as much as difficulties accessing the polls.
The agency has called for a long-term approach "supporting civic education to increase youth knowledge about politics and democracy in Canada" in the hopes it will boost turnout among young voters.
At the same time, the country's major political parties and institutions must make space for the younger generation if they want to foster the next wave of leaders, says Biggar.
Batty, the Toronto protester, isn't ruling out the possibility of wading into politics — but only under the Occupy banner.
"We could use the current system to reroute it," he says.Suggest a correction