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Education Matters

Twenty Minutes with Justin Trudeau

April 29th, 2014

By Sam Wells

When Justin Trudeau was growing up, he didn’t plan to be a politician. In fact, he says his famous father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, didn’t often discuss politics.

“I was fascinated by my father’s job,” says Trudeau, “which from my perspective meant meeting a lot of people, hearing their stories, and trying to figure out solutions for them. But the actual politics of elections, I was puzzled what the whole process was about. My father never talked politics to me. He talked values and ideals, what a society should be, world history, and the big things that don’t make it into the everyday political to-and-fro. What I got when I was young was an understanding of how important it is to have an impact in the world, how important it is to figure what you can do to make the world a better place.”

Trudeau, elected as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada on April 14th, 2013, was recently in Fort McMurray to support the Liberal candidate in the upcoming local by-election. While here, he spoke about youth engagement in politics.

“One of the things we see with young people these days is you’re part of a generation that has more information at your fingertips than any previous generation. You’re more aware of what’s going on in the world around you, and also more interested in what’s going on in the world around you. Young people tend to be taking strong positions on the environment, poverty, or what’s happening far away. There’s a sense in the globalized world that young people are already thinking big about how they can change the world, they can be the change you want to see in the world. It’s just that young people have, rightly or wrongly, and sometimes I suspect rightly, come to the conclusion that all too often politics isn’t a worthy way of them making their voices heard or being involved,” says Trudeau.

“Young people, even 18 to 25-year-old first-time voters, tend to vote way less than any other age segment, and therefore politicians don’t reach out to that segment, much less younger people who don’t vote at all, and therefore politics doesn’t reach out to young people. Young people remain indifferent to politics, and we have a vicious cycle that I think is perpetuating itself. For me, getting young people interested and involved in politics isn’t just about getting a few more votes. It’s about changing the kinds of conversations we have in politics,” he adds.

When asked how to engage youth in politics, Trudeau responds: “What matters to you? Is it animal rights, is it the environment, is it your future or being able to be healthy - what are the issues? Is it an overseas issue, a language issue, a cultural issue? Everyone has things they’re passionate about, and they have a level of expertise, and I like to encourage people to develop their own passions as a lens through which they can evaluate the various political parties and processes.”

As for the future of this nation, and what he would like to see, Trudeau says: “A level of citizenship that is informed and engaged and able to think critically about the world and our role within it.”

Trudeau is proving to be a strong role model for the youth of the country, with his passion for politics and Canada.

Sam Wells is a Grade Nine student at Ecole McTavish Junior High School. When not playing on her modded-out gaming computer she can be found talking politics, reading about science or hanging with her pets. She is looking forward to starting Grade Ten at Westwood High School in the fall of 2014, where she hopes to continue to excel academically before moving on to university to pursue a degree in Engineering.

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