Every month, the National Capital Commission/Commission de la capitale nationale (NCC/CCN) hosts the Capital Urbanism Lab Lecture series that aims to provide “an innovative space where Canadians and leaders in urbanism, design, heritage and conservation, sustainability, and peacemaking get together to inspire the future of Canada’s Capital Region”.

The most recent lecture series took place on Thursday, April 6th at the NCC/CCN’s headquarters located at 40 Elgin Street from 6-8pm. It was called Youth Engagement in City Building (also known as the Youth Urbanism Lab). What was particularly interesting about this lecture series was the involvement and astute engagement of youth led initiatives in Canada’s Capital like Wingd, the Somali Education Fund, Young Leaders Advisory Council, Youth Ottawa, Sudan Allied Youth, Eephorea, and so many more. “This was definitely the youngest crowd I’ve seen at these monthly lab series and I’ve been to all of them”, remarked Patrick, one of the attendees of the event.

This heightened involvement of young people in conversations about issues that directly involve them is evidence that depicts the slow shift towards the new face of people that surround the decision making table; young people that are often othered as not having a vast amount of experience to bring to the decision making table have begun to stimulate activism towards dispelling these forms of opinion. It was even evident in the panel line up of speakers chosen for the event, because those days now appear to be long gone where youth issues are not often addressed by young people.

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The lecture night progressed with an opening remark by the NCC/CCN team behind the planning of the event, and this was immediately followed by a speech from Deborah McKoy, Executive Director for Center for Cities and Schools, who talked about YPLAN (Youth, Plan, Learn, Act, Now). What was particularly memorable about her speech was her comment, “bring young people to the room and adults start thinking differently”. This sentiment was echoed in several initiatives she’s commissioned throughout the United States, specifically at the academic institutional level. Deborah’s speech was then followed by 18 year old Genna DiPinto’s speech, who is the current Chair for the City of Edmonton Youth Council. She talked at length about many youth initiatives that her organization has been able to offer the city of Edmonton even at the political level like the Vote 16 Bill – the bill that intends to extend voting rights to 16-year olds in Municipal elections. The final speech was presented by a duo from the Gatineau Youth Commission, Pierre-Olivier Bouchard and Josiane Cossette, who talked at length about actively offering teenagers a seat at the decision making table for youth related issues in the city of Gatineau.

After the speeches, a stimulating Q&A session was launched that left almost every young ambassador representing their various initiatives at the Lecture series curious to determine how Canada’s Capital can stimulate more youth centric conversations and engagements like the one they had just attended. Some questions that were asked include, “How do city organizations create a safe space for young people?”, “How can the collaborative culture amongst youth led initiatives be promoted so that there is no knowledge gap about what young people need in their own city”, “How do you engage youth actively without monetary compensation?”…and so many more.

No doubt this lecture sparked an impactful conversation and perhaps may have even convinced the NCC/CCN just how loud the voices of young people are specifically on issues affecting them directly. But the question becomes, should young people continue to request for a seat at the adult table or should these seats be simply offered to them?

Watch the full live stream on Youtube below: