World Youth Alliance active and growing in Canada

  • March 5, 2010
{mosimage}TORONTO - The Canadian committee of the World Youth Alliance marked its recent inception by hosting speakers Feb. 27 on the topic of refugees, immigrants and multiculturalism in Canada.

The World Youth Alliance, based in New York City, is an international body of youth promoting human dignity at the United Nations and in communities around the globe. The conference was the third of its kind — similar conferences were held in 2008 and 2009 in Ottawa and New York City — but the first planned and executed by an organized Canadian committee.

Casey Downing, WYA’s North American regional director, said the conference in Toronto was the first in a series of initiatives to be led by the newly established committee and hopes this will provide momentum for increased involvement among Canadian youth.

“Our founders are Canadian and we’ve had a lot of very important contact with Canada in the past 10 years,” Downing said. “We just want to make sure the WYA is sort of moving and blossoming (in Canada).”

Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, a Canadian committee member and one of the conference’s organizers, became a member of the World Youth Alliance as a high school student in Nigeria. Now that he is an international student at the University of Waterloo, Aboyeji was excited to host speakers on a topic he considers important.

“We went out and polled our members and tried to find out what was important in Canada for learning about the dignity of the human person, and we overwhelmingly found a response about multiculturalism and how that effects how Canada works, especially since Canada is increasingly becoming a nation of immigrants,” said Aboyeji, who hopes to gain more traction now that there is a Canadian committee and will work on setting up a WYA club on his campus.

Seanna Magee, a Toronto member of WYA who, like Aboyeji, has completed internships at its New York office and done work with WYA abroad, said its goal is really just to equip youth with the tools they need to think for themselves on issues of human dignity and think critically when engaging in projects or starting their own.

“Probably, you learn as much at WYA as you do at some of the academic institutions, just because it’s so broad,” Magee said. “It’s (done) from the academic standpoint, you have the readings, the discussions. You really understand what are human rights and how to talk about human rights and development and the human person.”

With that in mind, the WYA invited a range of speakers to its Toronto conference for whom either immigration, the refugee experience or multiculturalism was very close to heart.

The roster of speakers included Leo Johnson, a former refugee from Liberia and now executive director of Empowered Squared (formally Care for the Underprivileged and Refugee Empowerment). Following Johnson was Mary Jo Leddy, the founder of Romero House, a house for refugee claimants in Toronto, and Steve Jalsevac, managing director of LifeSite News, who gave a dissertation on the degradation of Judeo-Christian principles in Canadian society and the implications of multiculturalism.

Randy Boyagoda, author of Governor of the Northern Province and professor at Ryerson University, gave a talk titled “The Measure you Give Will Be The Measure You Get Back: the Cultural Politics of Personhood Versus Identity in Contemporary Canada.”

For more information on how to become involved with WYA and start a group on your campus, visit . Members  must be between the ages of 10 and 30.

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