In the chaotic world in which we live, it is not facetious to ask what about the children? How are they navigating the line between free speech and hate speech? How are they dealing with what they see on the news and in social media?
Some Canadian children are lucky enough to have a network of caring adults in their lives: parents, guardians, family members, coaches, teachers, who can guide them.
What about the vulnerable youth in Canada? How do children of colour feel when they see white supremacists openly marching city streets? How are immigrant youth coping with seeing kids like them deported from the only home they know? How can youth living in poverty or surrounded by criminal activity every day of their lives break those cycles?
A Children First Canada report states one in five Canadian children lives in poverty and this jumps to one in four when we focus on Indigenous youth. One in five children has considered committing suicide, and over half of those children had a plan. According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, only 36% of girls in grade 6 say they are self-confident, and that number drops to 14% by age 10.
Canadian youth need support. They need positive role modelling. They need a stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult. They need mentors. They need their fellow Canadians, people like us, to step up.
With a renewed commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, Big Brothers Big Sisters is pledging to create safe and inclusive spaces for Canadian youth and we are asking all individuals, schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods – the entire Canadian community – to join us in this commitment.
Just as our volunteer mentors step up every day, so must we.
When we mentor young people and help them through difficult conversations and situations, their social, economic, and emotional health improves dramatically. Youth who have been mentored in Big Brothers Big Sisters programs are 17% more likely to be employed as adults. Eighty-seven percent report having strong social networks and 96% say they are happy.
When young people are matched with a caring adult it changes their life for the better, and when we have happy healthy young people in our communities, everyone benefits.
In recent weeks, we have seen hate and bigotry come to the surface under the guise of nationalism. There is nothing Canadian about this and Big Brothers Big Sisters in Canada is strongly opposed to discrimination and hatred.
We are committed to being on the right side of history. We are committed to being on the side of Canadian youth and creating safe and inclusive spaces for them, and their families. We stand in solidarity with all Canadian youth to ensure the values of equity, diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of who we are, who we work with, and what we do.
Imagine a world without bullying. Imagine a world with more self-esteem. We are all a part of creating that world.