By Crystal Oag
Ottawa Capital Pride is introducing a new youth advisory committee to help bring the voices of young people to the table.
“Young LGBTQ2+ people still continue to face barriers in our community and at school, for example, when coming out to friends and family,” said Davy Sabourin, the community relations officer for Ottawa Capital Pride. “For us, we really want to ensure that we can create a space for them to be able to be who they are, to be heard and to be comfortable speaking out about the challenges they are facing.”
The committee will be made up of engaged youth between the ages of 15 and 25. According to the Ottawa Capital Pride website, the chosen committee members will provide, “insight, advice and guidance,” for board policies and decisions specifically impacting LGBTQ2+ youth.
“Queer and Trans youth are disproportionately victims of violence and oppression, so it is incredibly important to get their opinions and ideas on projects,” said Jeremy Dias, the executive director and founder of the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity.
Sabourin said Ottawa Capital Pride has always had successful youth programming, but the new committee will allow young people to be more involved than ever.
“For me, it was so hard to not be able to speak out, not to be able to be involved, not be able to have the opportunities to be engaged,” said Sabourin. “So, I wanted to make sure that the youth and young people in our community have that platform and can be engaged meaningfully with Capital Pride.”
Ottawa Capital Pride’s website said its mission is to create an environment for education and advocacy to allow for a “vibrant Rainbow Community within the Nation’s Capital region.” Located in the heart of Centretown, the organization is also responsible for planning the annual Ottawa Capital Pride Festival.
The committee, said Sabourin, will have input on the Festival in August, as well as planning other events and conferences throughout the year.
“It makes sense for Pride to have a youth advisory committee,” said Dias. He said that some LGBTQ2+ youth may need that space to be themselves and have their opinions heard.
As a youth, Dias took action against inequality within his community. He said that during this time he faced obstacles, like some people refusing to work with him because of his age.
“Being taken seriously is a challenge for sure, but I think it goes much deeper than that. There’s a level of ageism and cultural disrespect that is allowed to continue to be a barrier for youth,” said Dias.
Dias said he would like to see more focus go towards LGBTQ2+ youth initiatives in Ottawa.
Sabourin said that because of the large number of applications, Ottawa Capital Pride may appoint up to 10 members to the youth advisory committee.
“We want to hear from them, but we also want to give them a platform to develop their own ideas, and speak out and go into the community,” Sabourin said. “I have this big vision of it just becoming like a movement in Ottawa of engaged LGBTQ2+ youth.”