Publication Date: 2019/04/23

TORONTO, 23 April 2019 – A sense of belonging is a core human need yet the vast majority of Canadian children and youth feel isolated and unsupported by family, friends and teachers, according to data collected by UNICEF Canada’s One Youth.

Recognizing that young people have important perspectives about the issues affecting them and ideas for solutions, UNICEF Canada’s One Youth is working with Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, and YMCA Canada to launch a series of Change Summits in cities across the country.

“The data is overwhelming -- Canada’s young people are telling us they feel emotionally isolated, even in their closest relationships,” says Alli Truesdell, UNICEF Canada’s Youth Participation Lead. “Our Change Summits will empower children and youth by letting their voices be heard. They are the experts on understanding the problems they face and the possible solutions to improve their well-being.”

"We want, and need, to really listen to what young people are saying about their own experiences. We are thrilled to play a role in developing spaces where young people lead important conversations and, together, work to create a future where everyone feels they belong," says Jennifer Holmes Weier, Senior Vice President, YMCA Canada.

According to UNICEF Canada’s Canadian Index of Child and Youth Well-Being, only 31 per cent of 11- to 15-year-olds feel emotionally supported by their friends, 32 per cent by family and 35 per cent by teachers. Belonging is strongly related to these relationships, but is also affected by poverty, cultural identity and other factors. Widening income inequality has contributed to more difficult and disconnected relationships.

A weak sense of belonging can harm a young person’s development, for some contributing to mental health issues, teen suicide, poor grades, trouble with the law and homelessness.

To address this declining sense of belonging, UNICEF Canada's One Youth, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada and YMCA Canada are hosting a series of Change Summits across Canada. These events will bring young people and their supporters together to better understand the challenges and design solutions and policy recommendations from a young person’s perspective.

“At Boys and Girls Clubs, one of our core values is Belonging: providing safe, supportive places where young people can build positive relationships with peers and caring adults,” says Owen Charters, President & CEO, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada. “Supporting and elevating young people means giving them opportunities to speak up on issues that matter to them, which is why we are excited to partner with UNICEF Canada's One Youth and YMCA Canada to bring Change Summits to communities across the country.”

The 2019 Change Summits will be held in:

·         MONCTON – April 24 and 25, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, at the YMCA of Greater Moncton (30 War Veterans Avenue)

·         WHITEHORSE – May 6 and 7, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm at La Société des Immeubles Franco-yukonnais, Community Hall (302 Strickland Street)

·         MONTREAL – May 27 and 28, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm at the Dawson Boys & Girls Club (666 Rue Woodland)

·         OTTAWA – June 15 and 16, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm at the YMCA-YWCA of the National Capital Region (180 Argyle Ave)

·         CALGARY – Coming Fall 2019

UNICEF Canada’s One Youth, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada and YMCA Canada are proud to announce that their partnership extends beyond the Change Summits, with a shared commitment to collaborate more closely on issues affecting children and youth across the country.

-- 30 --

About UNICEF Canada’s One Youth
From 25th to 1st place, UNICEF Canada’s One Youth is working to make Canada the best place in the world to grow up in. As the global UN agency for kids, UNICEF has worked to improve conditions for every child around the world for more than 70 years, and has saved more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization. UNICEF Canada’s One Youth brings that work to Canada, by building the new gold standard for measuring child well-being, and developing and testing innovative solutions to the challenges they face. We are calling on Canadians to take action and do better for children and youth.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations. For more information about UNICEF Canada’s One Youth, please visit For updates, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

About YMCA Canada

The YMCA is a powerful association of people joined together by a shared passion to foster a sense of belonging for all. In an age of complex social challenges, the YMCA is steadfastly dedicated to building healthy communities by inviting and encouraging Canadians to join in, to give back, and to gain the connections, skills, and confidence they need to thrive.

YMCA Canada is a charity, and the national office of the Canadian YMCA Federation, providing support to 45 YMCA Member Associations. For more than a century we’ve been at the heart of communities across the country, serving evolving needs and providing vital community services. For more information please visit

About Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada
Community-based services. Positive relationships. Life-changing programs. As Canada’s largest child- and youth-serving organization, Boys and Girls Clubs provide vital programs and services to over 200,000 young people in 700 communities across Canada. During critical out-of-school hours, our Clubs help young people discover who they are, what they can do, and how they can get there. Our trained staff and volunteers give them the tools to realize positive outcomes in self-expression, academics, healthy living, physical activity, mental health, leadership, and more. Since 1900, Boys and Girls Clubs have opened their doors to children, youth, and families in small and large cities, and rural and Indigenous communities. If a young person needs it, our Clubs provide it. Learn more at and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @BGCCAN.

To arrange interviews or for more information please contact:

Emily O’Connor

Communications Manager, UNICEF Canada
Tel./Tél.: +1 416 482 4444 ext/poste 8866 | +1 647 500 4230

Remove this and add your HTML markup here.


UNICEF is the world’s leading humanitarian organization focused on children. We work in the most challenging areas to provide protection, healthcare and immunizations, education, safe water and sanitation and nutrition. As part of the United Nations, our unrivaled reach spans more than 190 countries and territories, ensuring we are on the ground to help the most disadvantaged children. While part of the UN system, UNICEF relies entirely on voluntary donations to finance our life-saving work. Please visit and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For further information please contact: