Civic Engagement & Youth Leadership

Outcomes 16, 17, 18

Ontario wants youth to:

Research shows that youth benefit from the opportunity to actively participate in their community. It helps them develop the skills they need to be effective leaders. Youth who are engaged in community efforts at a young age show better problem-solving and decision-making skills when compared with those who are not engaged.19

This year, the province continued to support strategies and initiatives that encourage civic engagement and youth leadership, including:

Strategies and Programs Supporting Outcomes

Modernizing Elections

Lead: Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs

New! To better engage young people in the electoral process, the Election Statute Law Amendment Act, 2016 includes amendments to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to add their names to a provisional voter register. When a person enrolled on the register turns 18, his or her information will be transferred to the Permanent Register of Electors for Ontario. The minimum age to vote remains 18. This change will help ensure that new voters are registered and receive voter information for the next provincial election after their 18th birthday.

Ontario’s Volunteer Action Plan

Lead: Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration

Volunteers of all ages are welcomed and valued in every Ontario community. Through Ontario’s Volunteer Action Plan, the province works with other levels of government, non-profit organizations and the corporate sector to strengthen volunteerism across the province.

New in this report:

Ontario Honours and Awards: Volunteer Recognition

Lead: Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration

Ontario’s medal and recognition programs celebrate the people who make our province a better place to live. Volunteer award programs recognize the contributions of volunteers of all ages, from youth to seniors.

New in this report:

Youth Engagement

Lead: Ministry of Children and Youth Services

A guiding principle of Stepping Up: A Strategic Framework to Help Ontario’s Youth Succeed is recognizing and supporting meaningful youth engagement and leadership. By giving youth a voice in the decisions that affect them, they have an opportunity to build their confidence and capacity to lead and influence the world around them.

New in this report:


#PoliHack attendees get ready for end-of-day project presentations.

A hackathon brings together computer programmers and others to collaborate intensively, usually on software projects. This year, the province supported several #PoliHack events that brought together participants with diverse skill sets and an interest in having a direct impact on real-world, youth-related issues. Participants were challenged to find answers to questions such as the following:

“Excited to witness first-hand the focus on young people and making government resources easier to access through #PoliHack!” —Brennan Wong, #PoliHack Facilitator

Hearing Youth Voice – Youth Leading the Way

The Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) used a range of innovative strategies to engage youth across a broad spectrum of policy and program issues during the last year.

MCYS engaged with youth, who were supported by the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (PACY), on the following:

We Have Something to Say Advisory Committee – Special Needs Strategy

The strategy’s focus is to improve services provided to special needs youth. MCYS met with youth amplifiers/committee members, who were youth with special needs. Topics discussed included:

Youth Advisors with Foster Care Experience – Stay Home for School Policy

The policy extends funding to caregivers (foster parents) so they can give residential stability to youth (aged 18 to 21) who need additional time to finish high school. Youth advisors with foster care experience were engaged to inform MCYS on the development of the policy. Topics discussed included:

LGBT2SQ* Child Welfare Advisory Committee – Resource Guide

The LGBT2SQ resource guide was developed so the needs of LGBT2SQ youth involved with the child welfare system could be met. It was designed to increase the knowledge and capacity of people working in:

The LGBT2SQ Child Welfare Advisory Committee was made up of youth with lived experiences of the child welfare system. Topics discussed included:

Youth Panel with Lived Experience of Residential Care – Blueprint for Licensed Residential Services Reform

The goal of the reform is to ensure youth have a voice in their care and to improve the quality and continuity of care in licensed residential settings. MCYS is meeting with a Youth Panel of youth with lived experience of residential care who are providing advice on:

MCYS also engaged with youth on additional initiatives, including several put forward by youth themselves. A few of those initiatives are outlined below.

Youth, Young Parents and Families – Middle Years Strategy

The strategy will support children aged 6 to 12 to successfully transition into their teen years. MCYS interviewed families, including young parents and youth, to support strategy development. Discussion topics included:

The Premier’s Council on Youth Opportunities gave input on:

Youth Labs – Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy (Lead: Ministry of Housing)

Housing for youth is a stated priority of the strategy, which has a goal to support every person to have an affordable, suitable and adequate home. Participants at Youth Labs included youth who have been marginally housed and/or are homeless. The labs were supported as part of the strategy development process. MCYS participates in the strategy development and has attended Youth Labs.

Ontario First Nations Young Peoples Council – Ontario Indigenous Children and Youth Strategy

MCYS is working with First Nations, Métis, Inuit and urban Indigenous partners, including youth, to co-implement the Ontario Indigenous Children and Youth Strategy. The Ontario First Nations Young Peoples Council (OFNYPC) receives ministry funding, through the Chiefs of Ontario, to support First Nations youth engagement from across the province.

OFNYPC youth informed direction on:

Youth with Lived Experience of Youth Justice Services – Youth Justice Outcomes Framework

The framework is a service outcome measurement model designed to support a better understanding of the impact that youth justice programs and services have on youth. Input is received from all youth justice sectors that include qualitative assessments from youth (such as experience surveys). This input was used to inform outcome analysis and reporting.

Listening Tours – Premier’s Council on Youth Opportunities

The council is an ongoing formal advisory body, made up of youth, young professionals and allies. Council members give advice to the Premier and Minister of Children and Youth Services and other ministries on issues affecting youth.

Last year, the council held Listening Tours, or youth engagement sessions, and spoke with over 400 youth in communities across the province to learn more about the issues that matter to Ontario’s youth.

The council also advised ministries on a range of initiatives, including:

Innovative Disruptors – #PoliHack

#PoliHack brings together participants with diverse skill sets to give input on youth-related issues. Discussions at the events focused on improving knowledge and understanding of:

Ontario Youth – YouthVoiceON

YouthVoiceON is a cross-government web and social media platform tool to engage youth and youth-sector stakeholders in two-way dialogue on policy and program questions. The tool was developed with input from youth attending the Listening Tours of the Premier’s Council on Youth Opportunities and participating in Ontario Open Government community workshops (in-person and online) during fall 2016.

Youth Impact Summit – The Next 150 Grants

A youth-designed, time-limited grant was created as part of the Ontario 150 celebrations. The grant supports grassroots and youth-led projects that are focused on the future of youth civic engagement in Ontario.

A Youth Impact Summit was held in September 2016 for input on the proposed grant. Youth participation, both in-person and online, centered on:

What the Data Says

  • Students must complete a minimum of 40 hours of community involvement activities as part of the secondary school diploma requirements. The goal is to encourage students to be aware of and understand civic responsibility, and the role they can play and the contributions they can make in their community.

Data from the Profile of Youth Wellbeing

  • 56.2% of youth voted in the last (2015) federal election.

Case Study


Anayah Phares receives the 2015 Queen’s Young Leaders Award from Her Majesty The Queen.

Creating Hope and Ensuring Excellent Roads to Success (CHEERS) supports young people in and from care. It connects them through its tri-mentorship model with peer and adult mentors who are trained to provide emotional support, guidance and access to resources and services.

The program’s main goals are to:

CHEERS is a BMO Financial Group community-based mentorship program. The program is also sponsored by Queen West Central Toronto Community Health Centre and funded by the Children’s Aid Foundation.

Receiving the Queen’s Young Leaders Award for my work with CHEERS was equal to receiving the royal assent the Queen gives to pass an act. It said that supporting youth in and from care is a pressing issue that society as a whole should be concerned with.” —Anayah Phares, Former Foster Child and Founder of CHEERS

Case Study

Grand Council Treaty #3 Youth Unity Path

Youth participants from Grand Council Treaty #3 gathered together to give input on youth services and programs and participate in leadership training.

In April 2016, Grand Council Treaty #3 gathered youth from 28 communities to give input on plans to create more supportive local environments for them. The youth agreed to map youth services in their home community and evaluate youth programming. This information is being used to support effective youth services and programs in Grand Council Treaty #3.

At the same time, the youth took part in leadership training and returned to their communities to act as mentors and participate in an informal youth support system.

The Grand Council Treaty #3 initiative promotes social inclusion and values diversity of youth and their experiences. It gives youth a voice in decisions that affect them. It also helps ensure that youth have access to safe spaces and quality opportunities for play and recreation.

Treaty #3 Youth Unity Path.

*Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirited, queer and youth who may be questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.