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Letter from the Provincial Advocate to the Young People of Ontario

To the young people of Ontario, I thank you.

As Ontario’s Child Advocate, it has been my job for the past 10 years to build an Office that works with you to ensure your voices are heard so you have a say in the decisions that affect your lives. Even though I reported to the Ontario Legislature officially, if truth be told, l always thought of you as my real bosses. When faced with a question or an issue, I often thought: “What would young people want me to say or do?” You were my touchstone. And you never let me down.

When you call our Office seeking support, you demonstrate such enormous strength. Just picking up the phone to make that call takes real courage. Any time I talked to you on the phone or met you in person, I never forgot that when we said goodbye, I was leaving you on your own to travel on what was often a difficult journey. You have inspired me, not only with your elegance in managing the “silencing” you often face, but even with your fury at the injustices you too often encounter.

I have also often marvelled at your willingness to think of others and try to make a difference for them—no matter what circumstances you found yourselves in. I have listened to you comb through your lived experiences—often extremely difficult lived experiences—even though it might trigger deep pain. You did this to make some sense of your world. But you also did it to make a difference.

I want to acknowledge the debt of gratitude I owe you and the debt I feel Ontario owes you. There is no question that you have made a difference. By your example, you have given hope to so many other children—children who will, in turn, find the courage to name their worlds and find their voices.

I often think about a young person who once told me she was “walking in the bright light of her full potential.” At the time, I thought how fortunate I was to be walking alongside her because that “bright light” she was referring to was spilling onto me. When our Office shines, it does so in your bright light.

Ten years ago, I wrote to let you know that I intended to lead an Office that demonstrated its belief in you, each and every day. I hope you feel we have done that. We still believe in you, perhaps even more strongly than we did a decade ago.

As I prepare to step down as Ontario’s Child Advocate, I want to thank you and let you know you will be forever in my heart.

 

Take good care,

Irwin Elman
Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth