New Ontario youth policy document commended by Baha’is

New Ontario youth policy document commended by Baha’is

Efforts to address a myriad of social issues, ranging from bullying and gun violence to poverty, must be based on the premise that “children and youth are a trust of society; they are the promise and guarantee of our future.”

This is according to a submission by the Baha’i community in response to a new report developed by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, Stepping Stones: A Resource on Youth Development. The document was prepared in consultation with researchers, youth, community leaders and service providers from across Ontario and aims to “serve as a tool to guide the development and delivery of high quality services and supports for youth province-wide.”

To read the comments by the Baha’i Community of Canada, please see the attached document.

The research on which the report was based included extensive dialogues with youth from across the province through face-to-face sessions and an online survey. The document strives to integrate concepts related to character development and moral reasoning, and it takes into account the spiritual and moral dimensions of young people.

This report comes at a time when increased attention is being paid to the role of youth and youth services in Ontario, particularly in the wake of a wave of gun violence in Toronto. Municipal, provincial and federal leaders are currently grappling with measures to effectively curb the influence of gangs in Canadian cities and create new opportunities for positive youth development.

The Baha’i community shared a number of reflections based on its experience engaging with young people across Ontario. The submission of the Baha’i community commends the Ministry’s decision to prepare the report and offers a number of comments as a further contribution to the ongoing conversation about youth development and empowerment.

Perception of youthThe commentary begins with reflections on the influence of the expectations placed upon youth by their families, friends, teachers and communities. Society at large often portrays youth as a time of rebelliousness, frivolity and inability to shoulder meaningful responsibility.

The experience of the Baha’i community has shown that in reality “young people have tremendous capacity to champion the cause of justice, promote unity among disparate groups, provide stewardship of the environment, and direct their energies in service to others.”

To empower youth to participate in the betterment of society requires an educational process that helps them to realize their true potential, and dedicate their time, energy and talents to the service to others. The support of mentors and a close group of peers has proven to be instrumental in this process.

Sense of selfThe Ministry’s report draws on scientific literature to identify key developmental stages of youth within four domains: cognitive, emotional, social and physical. These aspects of development are affected by the individual’s environment as well as his or her sense of self or spirit.

Feedback from the Baha’i community applauds the emphasis placed on this core sense of self and emphasizes the importance of moving away from discussions that seek to fragment reality into categories such as emotional versus intellectual. Efforts to promote the development of youth must be concerned with nurturing the entire person, while taking care not to distort the individual’s sense of self through extreme individualism.

Moral structureThe document makes reference to the importance of the development of the capacity for moral reasoning at each of the three stages of development (early adolescence, adolescence and early adulthood).

The Baha’i community’s submission refers to the creation of a ‘moral structure’ that allows young people to make decisions about their lives and relationships independently. More than a collection of rules, this moral structure is built through the application of moral principles such as fairness, honesty and integrity. A sound moral structure allows one to make moral decisions even when it is not convenient to do so.

Stepping Stones: A Resource on Youth Development is now available online at the website of the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services.