City supports youth cabinet

By Dawn Drew
Community leaders in Ottawa have voiced their support for the creation of a youth cabinet as part of the new city of Ottawa.
“All of them have come together to support this initiative,” said Rhonda Bradley, the project coordinator with the Ottawa transition board, which heard the proposals for stronger youth representation in the new city.

“All of the public feedback we received was positive.”

Youth transition committee members presented their final report to the board and community leaders at a meeting Dec. 4.
The committee’s recommendations include the creation of a youth cabinet that would work with two city councillors to represent the concerns of young people between the ages of 12 and 24.

The committee also proposed a youth initiatives program that would provide funding for youth projects like leadership programs and youth employment centers. Its final suggestions was for the publication of an annual report card on the status of youth.
Youth committee member Ken Joly said they have received strong community support and are hoping the Ottawa transition board will accept their proposals.

“There has been too much good stuff for there to be any bad,” he said. “All the organizations are already behind us.”

“What more important investment can we make than in the youth of our city?” asked Rod Bryden, owner of the Ottawa Senators hockey team and supporter of Success by Six, a group that advocates the importance of a child’s first years.

Fifteen different community groups, including the Ottawa Board of Trade, United Way, YouCan, CJOH, Success by Six, Child and Youth Friendly Ottawa, Young People’s Perspective, and the National Capital Alliance on Race Relations voiced their support for the proposals during the Dec. 4 meeting.

CJOH’s Max Keeping stressed the need for the new council to accept the youth proposals.

“They must have a say in the decisions that affect their lives. They have to have a voice. It can’t just be a come in, pat on the head and ‘nice little girl or boy’. It has to be a genuine voice,” said Keeping.

He also suggested the council vet each new decision for its impact on youth in Ottawa.

“We’ll not only be child-and-youth friendly, we’ll be pioneers,” he said.

Some groups reminded the committee that Ottawa youth are a diverse group, and the new cabinet, if created, should represent not only the youth who show leadership skills, but all youth.

Young People’s Perspective, a community group that addresses youth needs, encouraged youth committee members to work with the organizations that already exist to help youth in the region.

“Just don’t forget about the existing networks to complement the initiative,” said Tamara McLean, a member of Young People’s Perspective.

The board will present its decisions about the proposals to the new city council by the end of the month.