Vancouver grade 12 students, Harriet Crossfield and Jay Mander, recently had the chance to represent Canadian youth at the inaugural G7 Youth Foreign Ministers' Meeting, from March 18 -21, in Hiroshima, Japan.
The meeting, which was established to precede the Foreign Ministers' Meeting, brought together youth representatives from G7 countries to focus on nuclear weapons disarmament and non-proliferation, world issues, and issue the historical Hiroshima Declaration.
Crossfield is a student at Tupper Secondary and leader within her community. She recently had the honour of having her proposal presented as an official bill in Parliament by MP Don Davies. Her idea was a "National Disability Employment Strategy" which would require the government to educate employers about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. She also serves as the President of her school's Best Buddies club, an active volunteer with various organizations, and avid athlete and baseball coach for youth with disabilities.
Jay Mander is a student at Gladstone Secondary and VPD Cadet. He also serves as the CEO of a student social enterprise with 13 employees and co-editor of his school yearbook, while volunteering with youth in his free time.
"We were very grateful to have been selected for this amazing opportunity and to have the honour of representing our peers across the country," said Mander. "I am very grateful for the support of the Vancouver Police Department and the Vancouver Police Foundation for all the leadership and communication experience I've gained over the past few months, leading to this selection."
Both students participated in activities allowing them to learn more about the realities of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. The two youth leaders visited the Peace Memorial Museum, dedicated flowers to the victims at the Cenotaph, and listened to testimonies by atomic bombing survivors.
"Getting to meet and listen to the story of 83-year-old survivor Mr. Masahiro Kunishige was a surreal and life-changing experience," said Crossfield. "You usually only read about it in textbooks, but to actually be there and experience it was extremely impactful."
They students also got to discuss such themes as what young people can do to help realize a peaceful world, with other delegates from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They also visited the island of Miyajima and engaged in cultural exchanges.
The first-ever Hiroshima Declaration, which was released to the public and presented to the Mayor and Governor of Hiroshima on March 24, 2016, focused on nuclear weapons and other global challenges, including poverty, education, the environment, and human rights. In it, the G7 youth ministers not only recognized and recommended changes for these two world issues, but also pledged to several future commitments themselves. In the Declaration, the G7 youth call for "accelerating the rate of disarmament seeking gradual reduction of nuclear weapons in equal percentages, towards total abandonment," and will be presented to G7 Foreign Ministers at the Foreign Ministers' Meeting taking place in Hiroshima in April.
"We both truly believe Canada has a chance of leading the way towards complete nuclear disarmament," said Mander. "Canada is the only G7 country, besides Japan, without a nuclear weapon arsenal or a nuclear weapon sharing program."
The two Youth Foreign Ministers hope to meet with Foreign Affairs Minister St�phane Dion later this year, after he has a chance to discuss the Declaration with his international counterparts in April.
"It is very rare that youth from across the world are brought together for a purpose as important as this. We urge the G7 leaders to consider our ideas seriously and take our recommendations into account," said Crossfield.
Crossfield will be attending the University of British Columbia in the fall, while Mander plans to take a gap year to experience other cultures, before enrolling into an Economics degree. Both hope to one day serve the country and continue their mission, as Canadian Diplomats.