Canada's youth are the biggest winners from Tuesday's federal budget, but not in the way you'd expect. Buried deep inside the budget, well below the commendable financial commitments to First Nations, families and young children, is a potential game-changer for young people -- plans to create the first ever Prime Minister's Youth Council.
We decided early on that, while we would of course ensure we had messaging towards youth across the country, and support young campaigners in constituencies nationwide, our focus had to be tailored to where we could be most effective. We decided to focus our efforts organizing constituencies with campuses.
It can take less than 10 seconds for a youth to become homeless. In York Region, homeless youth, more often than not, do not fit the stereotypical profile. Unlike urban centres, these young people are often homeless not just due to poverty. They stem from middle-class families and end up on the street for a variety of reasons.
Each year, 360⁰kids -- an organization that provides a range of services to York Region's homeless youth -- encourages local community members to experience homelessness, just for one night a year. Last March, our group made it through some bone-chilling temperatures. I will do it again this year. For more than 300 youth in a region that's home to large detached homes and flourishing businesses, they've lost count of how many nights they've been homeless. It's an issue that doesn't get enough attention.
I can't truly explain how exhausting, challenging and incredibly cold this night was. I had been given a real-life scenario of a homeless youth as a part of 360°kids' 360°Experience. Our experience had us stepping into the shoes of a 16-year-old male, who was unsafe at home and had to leave quickly to save himself.
The holiday season is truly a magical time of year. It is a time for giving, reflection, and appreciation. Many individuals and organizations come together and show thanks by donating what they can to those in need. Unfortunately, the holidays will not be magical for everyone, especially not for a high proportion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and 2-Spirit (LGBTQ2S) youth who have experienced familial, societal, and institutional rejection. The holidays can be an especially lonely time for many, particularly for those without a safe place to call home.
The misinformation about the new curriculum rivals the inaccuracies kids get about sex from their friends and our culture. Some parents are convinced that their kids will be asked to touch themselves at school. The actual curriculum stresses respecting yourself and respecting others. If you oppose it, fine. At least know what you are opposing. Parents are entitled to pass on their religious or moral beliefs to their kids, but they are not entitled to pass on their religious or moral beliefs to my child. By trying to force the Ontario government to yank the evidence-based, updated portions of the health curriculum for all Ontario kids, they are trying to prevent the majority who support this initiative from benefiting from it. And that's wrong.
On March 11, 2015, Toronto City Council finally approved funding for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and 2-spirit (LGBTQ2S) youth transitional housing. Although I am extremely disappointed that LGBTQ2S youth homelessness has been inadequately addressed for so many years, I am grateful that there is more understanding and awareness of this social justice crisis. I am also grateful that more organizations are now committed to developing campaigns and programs for LGBTQ2S youth experiencing homelessness.
Some kids have been targeted by bullies because the hatred towards gays, lesbians, trans and "others" runs so deep in North American society that even appearing different may merit ostracization. Who are we to complain about bigotry against our children if we perpetuate it against others? And so we must ask them, our fellow (otherwise peaceful) Muslim parents, how does the intolerance you teach at home, affect all our youth and our Muslim communities?
In 40 years, Pride has evolved from a secluded picnic on Hanlan's Point to a series of diverse celebrations that reverberate throughout this very gay city. I am a 20-something city boy who came out at a relatively early age and received unconditional support from family and friends. In many ways I fit the so-called "new gay" stereotype -- I likely won't be attending the parade on Sunday but I likely will attend a pride event at a west end bar that is as hip as it is gay.