Council of Turkish Canadians Does it Again: Ninth Youth Congress a Big Success

For the past nine years, the Canadian Turkish Council (CTC) has organized the Turkish-Canadian Youth Congress, bringing together Canadian youth of Turkish origin and other ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

These are active young people who are game to take a constructive role in a multicultural Canada on issues related to Turkish-Canadians and who – in particular – wish to contribute to a positive image of Turkish-Canadians.

The 2017 Congress was held in Ottawa in mid-February and featured an impressive list of speakers, including his Excellency Selçuk Ünal, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Canada; Dr. Rafet Akgünay, the former Turkish Ambassador to Canada; Dr. Edward Erickson, a professor of military history from the Command & Staff College Marine Corps University in Quantico, Va.; Mr. Ergün Olgun, a former chief negotiator in UN Cyprus Talks; and Ms. Karen McCrimmon, MP  (Kanata-Carleton) who was  keynote speaker.

The conference was highly successful.

Forty-two delegates from 19 cities and towns in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia participated. In addition, there were six youth delegates from the United States.

A welcoming reception of the was held on Feb. 10, hosted by the newly established Center of Modern Turkish Studies at Carleton University’s prestigious Norman Paterson School of International Affairs.

The youth conference was opened by Ms. Zahide Sezerman, president of the CTC, who spoke of the need for young Canadians of Turkish descent to be involved in Canada’s democracy and to make a contribution.

Ambassador Ünal provided facts about the Turkey-Canada bilateral relationship and more importantly, friendship.

The youth conference is CTC’s annual flagship event.

It is designed to give Canadian youth of Turkish origin the opportunity to establish friendship and solidarity, gain a greater understanding of their heritage and give them the knowledge they need to bring a Turkish perspective to Canada’s cultural mosaic.

One of the highlights of the conference was a visit to Parliament organized in cooperation with Senator Anne Cools.

It is easy to point out the beauty of a multicultural society, but it is incredibly challenging to live in one as diaspora – living in a community where no one else shares your specific heritage – or your worldview.

With this small population spread out over the third-largest country in the world, it is easy to feel separate from the rest of the population. Living as diaspora presents the constant challenge of being heard, both by other cultures and by diaspora of the same homeland.

Throughout the conference, there was the feeling of a torch being passed to the younger generation.

During a question period with retired Ambassador Akgünay, a communications student asked how social media could best be used to connect with other Turkish diaspora across the country. With a smile, he told her that with her communications background, she could very well be the one to find new ways of connecting Turks across Canada and around the world.

With attendees from both Canada and Turkey, the Turkish-Canadian Youth Congress gave the young cultural ambassadors the ability to interact with their peers and political leaders. Through interaction and instruction, the conference gave the delegates the chance to find a greater understanding of what it means to exist between their two cultures.

Living away from your homeland can be intimidating, but events such as the youth conference foster solidarity, and allow for the Turkish leaders of tomorrow to find the courage to share their culture with Canada and the world.