In The City of Lost Children, a vaporous punk film released in 1995, Krank, an antihero born of genetic experiments, is incapable of dreaming. In order not to age prematurely, the latter develops a clever (and terrible) device to monopolize the dreams of the children of the city…
What if we, too, were unable to dream and had to rely on those who still can: our children and young people?
The analogy (a little dark, but still poetic – let’s not forget that this is a tale) with the film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro reminds us, however, how essential it is to s inspire visions, hopes, fears and solutions of a generation that will have to live with the choices we make today.
A 7-year-old child was struck to death by a vehicle near her school in December 2022 in Montreal. Parents are mobilizing in the process to secure school areas. In October 2022, a 15-year-old was rebuffed during a borough council in Anjou for asking a question about the ban on practicing free soccer in the neighborhood. A few months earlier, to respond to the violence committed and suffered by young people, a forum was organized by the City of Montreal.
A little less than two years after the publication of the report of the Special Commission on the Rights of Children and the Protection of Youth1, to which the Institut du Nouveau Monde (INM) contributed by leading 42 consultation forums in the territory of province, the context has never been so urgent to rely on the experiences and experiences of our young people to better adapt our policies, our services and our cities to their reality.
In Quebec, 18.5% of the population is under the age of 18.
If this important part of the population does not yet vote, it can bring democracy to life on its own scale and by other means. It is up to us to listen to him, to offer him spaces to express himself and to associate him with our consultative, deliberative and decision-making mechanisms to enable young people to become true citizens of the City.
Their participation is also protected by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognizes their “right to freely express [their] opinion on any matter affecting [them]”, as well as the rights to freedom expression, freedom of thought and conscience, freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly.
However, there are inspiring examples: municipal youth councils are emerging in Drummondville, Trois-Rivières, Montreal, Quebec, Sainte-Julie, Laval and Blainville. Unifying events such as the INM’s citizenship schools, the “Tell me about your city”2 consultations organized in the summer of 2022 with children aged 4 to 12 as part of the development of the Urban Plan and mobility of the City of Montreal and the “Dreaming to create”3 initiative, piloted by the INM in 2020 and supported by the Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation, deserve our full attention in terms of methods and learning.
The benefits of these devices are immense. Because in addition to allowing the development of services adapted to their needs, they are vectors of confidence, appropriation and accountability towards society as a whole. In addition, they contribute to educating our children and young people in citizenship and make it possible to reach and mobilize their parents, their teachers and their communities.
It goes without saying that these approaches also come with a number of challenges. We don’t consult children and young people like we consult the rest of the population.
Consulting with children requires distinct approaches across ages, genders and contexts. For example, we do not reach the most privileged young people in the same way as those who experience various forms of exclusion. Adequate mobilization and communication, as always in public participation, are key, but they can come up against organizational cultures that do not have the required flexibility.
At the INM, since 2004 we have mobilized tens of thousands of citizens of all ages, including young people from across the province, to reflect, debate and propose ways to dream of Quebec and the world in which we wish to live.
It has been proven that young people want to commit to building an inclusive society and protecting the environment in order to evolve in a just, sustainable world in their image.
Let us realize that the dreams of our children and our young people are not lost and that we have everything in hand to build a real Cité des enfants consulted.