By: Maitland Shaheen*
Yesterday, August 12, was International Youth Day, a UN initiative to highlight the leading issues impacting young people. While the youngest generations are facing global crises from climate change to mass migration, they are standing up with the confidence and leadership to make substantial change.
This Youth Day, we at Level are celebrating some of Canada’s most impressive young people, who challenge social norms, break glass ceilings, and represent their communities as true leaders. We hope you’ll be just as inspired as we are!
1. Autumn Peltier
Autumn Peltier is a 13-year Ojibwe girl from the Wikwemikong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island who has been advocating for clean water and environmental rights since she was only eight. Since then, her work has been recognized by leaders in Canada across the world.
Autumn has spoken about the importance of clean drinking water at the Children’s Climate Conference, the Assembly of First Nations, and the United Nations General Assembly. At an annual meeting of Canadian Premiers, Autumn directly called on the Prime Minister to invest in the health and wellbeing of First Nations.
Her fearless activism and devotion to Indigenous communities has won her international regards, including the Junior Citizen of the Year and International Children’s Peace Prize.
2. Larissa Crawford
Larissa Crawford is a 23-year old Metis and Jamaican woman from Calgary, Alberta. A recent graduate and mother of a two-year old daughter, Larissa uses her diverse background to advocate for Indigenous and black visibility in Canada and beyond.
Crawford graduated from a double honours B.A. (with summa cum laude!) from York University this year. Since then, she’s been working with the Ontario Government and non-profits to research and develop Indigenous and anti-racism policies in Canada. She also served as the Head Delegate for Canada in the Y7, advocating for Indigenous inclusion at the G7 Summit and global policy decisions.
As an internationally recognized public speaker, Larissa hopes to empower youth to engage as active citizens and fight for change in justice and policy systems.
Larissa by Monica Shafik (@beautyandthetreatz)
3. Fae Johnstone
As a transfeminine and non-binary youth, Fae is passionate about providing quality sexual and mental health resources for young people.
A graduate with a Bachelor of Social Work, Fae works as a Sex Educator for Venus Envy and a Program Assistant for the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights. They have worked with a number of Ottawa-based non-profits and boards that provide educational, sexual, and mental health resources for children, youth, and LGBTQ+ people. As a community organizer, Fae has led growing efforts to support women, queer and trans people across Ontario.
You can read more about Fae’s work at https://www.faejohnstone.com/.
Fae Johnstone by Kelsey Angelina
4. Arezoo Najibzadeh
Areezo Najibzadeh is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Young Women’s Leadership Network based in Toronto. As a university student pursuing public administration, she works with individuals and organizations to address barriers to young women’s engagement in civic life.
The Young Women’s Leadership Network provides resources to political institutions, unions and groups to address sexual and gender-based violence and promote women running for office; this includes anti-harassment support, equity and inclusion training, and policy consultation. Their Advisory Council and public events provide support and community for young women working towards positions in leadership. The network aims to provide a trans-inclusive and anti-oppressive atmosphere for young women to thrive.
Areezo has been featured across Canadian media for her work against sexual harassment in politics and ending the culture of silence facing women. You can find out more about YWLN’s work and events at https://www.ywln.ca/.
Areezo by Stefany of @stefany.io
5. Tina Oh
Tina Yeonju Oh is a 20-year old environmental activist from Edmonton, whose work focuses on climate action in Canada and its intersectional social movements.
She currently works with Mount Allison University on their “DivestMTA” program, and organizes a network of fossil fuel divestment campaigns across Canada. She was arrested, alongside 98 other youth, at an Ottawa Climate 101 event she organized to protest pipeline expansions.
As a delegate to the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, Tina has advocated for environmental action across the world. She was recently featured in Starfish Canada’s Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25.
Maitland Shaheen is a Level volunteer and incoming senior at the University of Ottawa, studying a joint honours BA in Communication and Political Science. An aspiring lawyer, she is passionate about human rights, feminism and justice.