Three students and an assistant professor from the University of Saskatchewan have been chosen to take part in the New Canada Conference in Charlottetown, P.E.I — a think tank that will bring together young Canadians to celebrate their country’s history and plan for its future. 

Taking place Aug. 31 to Sept. 3, the conference will see 100 youths from across Canada gathering to share their visions for the nation’s future. Those involved will be banded into eight teams to discuss different topics such as health and wellness, civil engagement and technology. The groups will then rejoin to create the New Canada Ideabook. 

Created over the conference’s last three days, the New Canada Ideabook will be a collective vision for the country’s future as seen by its own citizens. The book will be published in both english and french at a later date.

Representing the U of S student body are Gabe Senecal, Helen Tang and Sakeena Akhtar. Accompanying them will be Ryan Meili, a family physician and an assistant professor in the College of Medicine’s department of community health and epidemiology. Meili also acts as director of Upstream, a Saskatoon-based non-profit dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of social determinants of health. 

Selected as a speaker because of his role with Upstream, Meili is looking forward to using his talk on health and well-being to increase the public’s knowledge of the social determinants of health, including income, education, housing, nutrition and employment. 

“What I’m going to be talking about is how we can foresee a Canada in which we are much healthier. And to do that we’re going to need to move beyond where we tend to get stuck  — which is health care, responding to illness — and act more upstream to prevent illness,” Meili said. “We really need to understand what makes a difference in preventing illness.”

Going into her second year studying anatomy and cell biology, Tang is a firm proponent for the benefits of the social determinants of health and likewise plans to use her time at the conference to advocate for the cause. 

“I really want to push for the idea not everything can be solved through medicine and that we should really focus on things like education, income, getting people better jobs, better access to education and more opportunities to advance in their life to make a healthier society,” Tang said. 

Senecal, a fourth year undergraduate in regional and urban planning, intends to use his differing area study to discuss topics such as sustainability, pragmatism and urban planning. 

“Urban design has an effect on the economy, culture and arguably almost every other issue. We need to ensure that urban planning is contributing a positive rather than negative effect on quality of life,” Senecal wrote in an email to the Sheaf. “Canada has plenty of room to improve on its planning.”

Those picked to be delegates in the New Canada Conference were chosen to best represent the country’s diverse population. Candidates were specifically instructed not to include a resume in their application, instead relying on short 150 second videos or 450 word essays to argue why they should be chosen.

“We’re not going to get a bunch of people who are involved in student politics; we’re going to get people who are more artistic or more into sports or more into technology,” Tang said of the application process. “It’ll be interesting to see how someone in Ontario’s values differ from say someone in B.C. or how their values are the same.”

The event will mark the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, which saw 23 delegates from the British colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and the Province of Canada — present-day Ontario and Quebec — meeting in 1864 to discuss the possibility of uniting under a single confederation. The talks proved successful, and by 1867 Canada was formed.

“During this conference, we will look back to 150 years ago, to how Canada came to be,” Tang said of the conference’s historical value. “But we will also look into the future to how we want Canada to be.”