The rural revitalization movement is an effort to redistribute funding from centralized areas of a population to rural, less-populated demographics. Residents and townships in rural areas face numerous economic and humanitarian struggles, with many towns experiencing significant issues with growth and development. Some trends continually facing rural Ontario include issues surrounding energy infrastructure, access to health services, natural resource and water resource management, Indigenous relationship building, workforce development, demographic change and aging populations, infrastructure, business succession, volunteer positions and the philanthropic sector, and the economy relying on tourism (Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation, 2021). The effects of COVID-19 have only personified these issues, bringing to the surface the many struggles these communities face.
The growing remote demographics account for approximately 20% of the population, or 2,492,230 Ontario residents; this usually consists of the populations that benefit the most from community-based programs and involvement, aging seniors and young families from a range of backgrounds (Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation, 2021). The lack of opportunities and structured programming for young people, coupled with lesser access to learning supports causes an alarming disinterest in owning property in these townships. Especially for young families with the potential of children that need additional support with education (tutoring, specialized education plans or staffing for those with developmental or learning disabilities, mental health specialists, etc.), a lack of access to health services can be a significant deterrent from relocating to remote areas. Another area for concern with regards to the younger demographic is the increased risk for youth suicide and substance abuse issues, due to a lack of diverse cultural community ivolvement and social oppotunities. Marginalized youth can face isolation and an influx of mental health struggles without the programs in place to support cultural identity and practices (Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation, 2018). This is also a significant issue for the aging population, as the increased need for support is critical to their mental and physical well-being.
Another concerning aspect of the rural revitalization efforts is the environmental impacts it embodies; remote communities often do not have the funding or programming in place to have sufficient recycling and compost facilities. The strides to educate children and youth in schools about the importance of environmental consciousness can not be put into practice with a lack of implementation in their homes. This in turn does not foster environmentally sustainable practices, and ultimately creates a generation unable to practice the skills they learn about in their classrooms. The lack of water and natural resource management, coupled with the deficit in energy infrastructure reflects an extremely problematic system for encouraging residents in the area to consider their environmental impact. The systems in place keep the townships affected stuck in their outdated mindset, affecting not only the environmental impacts, but also the outreach support available to the community it is supposed to serve.