Victoria Hall (left) and Kyla Lagos (right) are two of the 60 Carihi students who took a recent survey about youth engagement in politics, 93 per cent of which say they will vote as soon as they are able to and 80 per cent of whom don’t feel their views are represented by those currently in the system. Photo by Paige Pierce/Carihi Mirror

Do Campbell River youth actually care about politics?

Carihi student Paige Pierce explores how engaged high school kids are with the political system

Paige Pierce

Carihi Mirror

Amidst all of the recent allegations against the Canadian government for collusion and persuasion of employees to think or act certain ways, not many have stopped to ask what the next generation of voters has to say.

But do the youth of Campbell River actually care about what’s going on in Parliament?

I wanted to find out, so I conducted a survey of 60 Carihi students to see how they feel about Canadian politics – or if they even think about it at all.

Although only 34 per cent of surveyed teens believe that they are confident with their knowledge on current Canadian politics, many participants offered input on the advantages and pitfalls of the next generation of voters.

“It’s important to stay up to date with politics in all areas of the world, especially Canada, because it’s good to have an understanding of the current conflicts in the world,” Grade 12 Carihi student Laura Clark says.

Future Carihi grad Addison Maedel adds to this idea, saying that, “issues decided by government affect us in many ways and it’s important to understand how and why things happen.”

The problem is that 80 per cent of surveyed youth feel as though their views aren’t being properly represented in our government.

“I think if younger people could have a say or a voice [about] their opinions on topics like elections, pipelines, and immigration laws, even just [for our government] to see it from a different perspective, would be beneficial,” Carihi student Abigayle Underhill. “It’s unfortunate because sometimes when younger people are given a chance to speak their mind, some people take advantage of that and make a joke out of it.”

In addition, 93 per cent of survey participants claim that they plan on voting as soon as, or shortly after, they turn 18.

So have students in Campbell River been sufficiently educated on our electoral system, political history, and how to be an informed citizen in the 21st century?

Well, 74 per cent of those polled agreed that they have been taught enough to keep them afloat in regards to societal issues, government, and world politics.

But how can youth truly make a difference when they are the minority?

“I think we always need to do a better job on getting youth interested and educated and ready to become registered voters,” Carihi Mirror contributor Braden Majic says. “In our community we do pretty well with initiatives like the Youth Action Council, Rotary, and even recreation activities.”

Overall, the majority of surveyed teens agreed that, despite room for improvement, they are generally satisfied with the knowledge they’ve acquired through both school and media platforms about what’s happening in their country at any given time.

But what about the things we see in our newsfeeds and believe to be true without thinking to fact-check or look into further?

Carihi student Jessica Giebelhaus adds to this idea, saying that “sometimes kids have a false sense of knowing what’s happening in politics… because either it’s too complicated of an issue or because they feel like social media is the best way to be informed.”

Giebelhaus also points out that, despite efforts to decode the complicated levels of bias in the media, sometimes “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

So have Canada’s newest group of voters been equipped with enough political knowledge to be informed citizens?

Well, some feel that they’re ready to take the lead, spark change, and be heard, while others believe that they don’t have enough of a say or background information to be the active voters they will soon become.

The next generation has a lot to say, so why doesn’t anyone think to ask?

Maybe it’s time they did.

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