Canadian young people are helping to transform the way the global community relates to nature. Hundreds of young people participated, along with more than 6000 individuals from over 170 countries, in the November 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney Australia. Among them were 16 Young Canadians who played an active and leading role in the Congress as Global Youth Ambassadors.
Thanks to Parks Canada, which led Inspiring a New Generation, one of eight streams of the Congress, these young people shared their experiences, perspectives, knowledge, skills, technologies, and ideas in innovative and creative ways. They have come home with new ideas and new energy. Now, they are helping to usher in a new era in which young people around the world have the early experiences in nature that instill in them the passion for the natural world that will ensure our future leaders are nature supporters.
“What we really hope is that all sectors of our society will make it a priority to get young people outside into nature so that they can connect with it on their own terms,” said Chloe Dragon-Smith, the Canadian Parks Council’s Youth Ambassador. This is what will generate the love of the nature that will carry on into adulthood”. Canadian young people are not only going to be the leaders of the future; they are leaders now and they need to be empowered to continue to play leadership roles.
- Since Congress, Alex MacDonald continues his work with Nature Canada's NatureHood program, a national program to connect urban Canadians – especially youths and New Canadians – to nearby nature, with initiatives taking place in 5 cities across Canada, and 3 additional cities coming online by summer's end. He also volunteers in the national capital region.
- In addition to her studies at Wilfred Laurier University, Shailyn Drukis volunteers with a local naturalists program for children and is a board member for the Canadian Committee for the IUCN. She also founded the Global Youth Biodiversity Network, which has members in 76 countries.
- Ashley Mitton participates in the No Walls initiative, on on-line platform for young people to encourage their peers to connect with nature by sharing their personal experiences and connections with the natural world. Ashley sees No Walls being “taken on by individuals and organizations around the world and growing into a large global youth initiative”.
- George Woodhouse, Parks Canada’s Youth Ambassador even wrote a song 'Unleash the heart (Unlock the Mind)' during the World Parks Congress. It calls on the world’s young people to act together on behalf of nature. Several Global Youth Ambassadors performed it together, along with Canadian rapper Baba Brinkman, at the World Parks Congress and on a Sydney radio station.
These young Canadians are now home. Whether it is back to studying or to work, they are bringing diverse perspectives on protected areas and relationships with nature to Canada, and they are continuing their inspiring work.