City engagement should begin at a younger age in order for youth to remain in Halifax, an urban planning panel says.
“If you want a kid to stay until they’re 25, you’ve got to build them a skate park when they’re 14. They’ve got to believe their communities cared about them their entire life,” said Waye Mason, Halifax city councillor.
Mason was one of the panel members at Saturday’s discussion on youth engagement in the city and the problem of out-migration at the Halifax Central Library.
According to Nova Scotia’s Children and Youth Vital Signs report, the province’s population between ages 15 and 24 dropped 5.3 per cent between 2004 and 2013, even though Canada’s population for that same age group grew by 6.2 per cent.
“The idea of bringing them back because they have a sense of place is where Nova Scotia has a really unique opportunity,” said panellist Laura Swaine, the executive director of HeartWood Centre for Community Youth Development.
The Vital Signs report states that 78 per cent of youth aged 12 to 19 have a higher than average sense of community belonging, but only about 60 per cent of people aged 20 to 34 feel a sense of community belonging in Nova Scotia.
“What goes on in that shift and what do we do about that?” asked Swaine.
“The research shows that engaging youth who are 10 to 12 in a really positive experience in their community, whatever that is, actually impacts the way they engage when they’re 18, 19, 20, 21,” Swaine explained.
“You have to start with children and youth and plant that seed, as Laura was alluding to earlier, in order to really get that engagement when you come into young adulthood.”
The panel was part of a daylong event at the library called Halifax: the Politics of Space put on by Saint Mary’s University.