What young Canadians are saying about COVID-19

Jun 03, 2020
2020 has been a roller coaster for all of us. Wildfires in Australia, political tensions between military powers, severe drought and flooding, plagues of locusts, and protests against anti-black racism around the world, all amid a swelling refugee crisis, an ongoing climate crisis, and the spectre of a global pandemic

In March, the pandemic found many of us sheltering in place, perfecting our sour dough starters and banana bread recipes, or adopting COVID pets. But the longer these global crises wear on, the more real things get.

A new poll conducted by Abacus Research Group in partnership with World Vision Canada, found young Canadians are feeling it big-time. They’re worried about their jobs, their mental health, about social cohesion and social justice here in Canada and around the world.

And yet they still have hope for the future. 

We spoke to several youths from universities across Canada to hear their perspectives and find out what their experiences have been.

Watch this video or keep reading to find out what they had to say: 

Video: World Vision Canada

Kate San – Western University 
“An emotion I’ve been feeling the last few months is disillusioned. The reason is that I've gained a new understanding of how vulnerable the human population really is to a health pandemic and the economic swings that followed. I don’t think anyone really expected that a virus could start in a small town, in a country far away and kind of take over the entire world. It now controls where we're able to go, people we are able to interact with, and tragically resulted in thousands and thousands of deaths.”

Richen Basig – University of Alberta
“My emotion has been fluctuating. I’ve felt optimistic, lonely, and vulnerable. But I think the emotion that I've felt the most is overwhelmed. You feel like you're really worthless sometimes because you want to do more for others and for yourself. I recently found out that I finally have a summer job, but that there was a long period of time where that was not a guarantee. I want to help my parents because they are retired. I'm just overwhelmed because I've never felt anything like this before in my 20 years of living.”

A young Asian-Canadian woman shops for oranges at the grocery store. She is wearing a mask.
Deanne Malapitan, a student at the University of Waterloo says because of COVID-19, she's feeling everything from super relaxed to scared. Photo courtesy of Deanne Malapitan

Deanne Malapitan – University of Waterloo
“One of my emotions is relaxed because I have a lot of free time. But I’ve also felt scared because there is so much uncertainty. So, it's weird because there are two opposing emotions that I’ve been feeling off and on over the last few months.”

Yasemin Erdogan – McGill University
“I've been overwhelmed by the spectrum of emotions I've been feeling. I’ve felt grateful that I have a secure place to stay and food to eat. But I’ve also felt disappointed that I've had many plans change, be it summer plans, seeing family, or graduation. I try not to worry about what’s going to happen but that feeling is always there.” 

Junaid Habibi – McMaster University
“I’m actually feeling pretty amazed. I thought that we'd be further apart because of this whole COVID situation. But I've found that over the past few months we've become closer together. We're checking in on each other and making sure we’re doing OK. Even though social distancing is so important, we’re actually socially closer because we still have many means of communication.”

Ann Lee – University of Ottawa
“I feel disappointed a lot. My hopes and plans for the summer changed really quickly. I was supposed to go overseas for a job for the summer. But I can't go anymore because of the pandemic. I know that the situation is bigger than my summer plans, but I still feel disappointed that the job didn't happen.”

Pasindu Wichramarachchi – University of Calgary
“In the past months there has definitely been a lot of uncertainty on my end. And I’ve seen that uncertainty and confusion among family and friends.”

Sonia Kishinchandani – Western University
“I would say in the last couple of months I felt a little bit vulnerable to be honest because it's such a new situation. No one has really lived through something like this, so I think we're all a little bit vulnerable in terms of course, like the physical health side of it, and also the mental health side of it. You just start to feel a little bit isolated or overwhelmed. But I’m also definitely a little bit hopeful that we’re able to grow from this and come out stronger.” 

Young women embrace in a crowd
Taking care of each other and holding onto hope are key to getting through the uncertainty of a world in major flux. Photo: Erika Fletcher

Finding Hope

Life is feeling heavy, uncertain, and overwhelming right now. The novel coronavirus seems to have intensified so many challenges in our world.

Our history of welcoming refugees makes that experience top of mind for many of us. As the virus continues to spread, young Canadians are very aware of the COVID-19 risk to the most vulnerable, including those living in crowded conditions like refugee camps. 

Growing up in a globalized world connected through the power of the internet, these youth are exposed to more of the world than ever before. And with that knowledge comes a great sense of responsibility to act, to make the world better now and for the future. It's a heavy weight to carry.

It would be easy to succumb to hopelessness, but they haven’t.

Ordinary young people are stepping forward in these extraordinary times and taking action. They’re organizing in their communities for racial and climate justice. They’re petitioning local and federal government seeking to eliminate child labour from our supply chains. They’re creating art that promotes positive social change. They’re becoming heroes in their own communities.

At the heart of all this is the opportunity to re-imagine and create the kind of community, the kind of world that works for all of us. A just world that welcomes the stranger, feeds the hungry, and cares for the sick. 

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