UNICEF Canada asked Ontario youth what was important to them in this year’s provincial election. This is what Lena, 17, had to say:

We – the next generation – want to be heard. I am writing to inform you of just one youth’s vision for this province.

As a student who is currently completing her last year of high school, I understand the importance of education in preparing students for a successful future. I believe that quality and accessible education should be available for all students, and that schools should provide students with the quality materials they need to learn. Whether this means equipping schools with greater resources or employing more teachers to reduce class size, a better school experience may be defined by small yet meaningful changes.

Several organizations, such as Breakfast for Learning, are helping students attend school and promoting extra-curricular activities to engage students in a community of friendship and positivity. As we look to the future, it’s critical to continue funding summer programs like SHAD, which helps students gain perspective into and confidence for their post-secondary educational aspirations. Greater OSAP assistance for post-secondary students can open many doors for a diverse group of students, ensuring that university is a genuine possibility.


I believe there also needs to be a greater emphasis on mental wellness. Despite rising rates of suicide and concerning statistics around the mental health of students in Ontario, mental health services remain scarce for too many. Having personally struggled through a severe fight with mental illness, words are not enough to describe the crucial need for shorter waitlists, more treatment programs throughout the province and more provincially funded services, such as counselling. The introduction of greater mental health services will allow youth to feel supported and heard, while more accessible services will help create a more upstream approach to mental health treatment.

In order to improve the mental wellness of youth, we must equip them with the tools and resources they need to succeed before it is too late. This means that the current mental health model – where treatment and inpatient admission is based on the severity of illness – will no longer suffice. In order to adequately address mental health, quality services must not only be available in the community, but in schools as well.  

Finally, the environment. If the future generation is encouraged to strive for success, then a healthy planet must be the foundation. As the future Premier of Ontario, I would encourage you to invest in green energy and consider the effects of pollution. With Canada having one of the largest energy footprints per capita in the world, there should be no excuse for delaying a shift towards more environmentally friendly policies. Programs such as cap-and-trade, carbon taxing and eco-labelling may not be easy to undertake, but they may be necessary to create change.


As a single voice, I would also encourage you to reach out to youth who might have differing opinions, to consider the voices of youth who might otherwise go unheard and to meaningfully connect with the next generation of voters. We may not have world-class jobs or famous names, but we are people who need to be heard. As I encourage you to consider investing in education, mental wellness and the environment, I also challenge you to stay open-minded and remain willing to consider the needs of the ‘other’. There is still time to listen to youth. There is still time to create meaningful change.

Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, young people have the right to give their opinion, to be taken seriously by adults and to express themselves in different ways, unless it harms themselves or others. UNICEF Canada respects the views of young people to express their views as they see or experience the world around them, and provides regular and diverse opportunities through our youth guest blogs, Kids of Canada and other platforms.