Kingston City Council to vote on youth positions on advisory committees

A staff report before Council on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, calls on the City to add youth positions to seven municipal advisory committees. Kingstonist file photo.

On Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, Kingston City Council will vote on a recommendation from staff which would see the City earmark some positions on advisory committees for local youth. According to a report circulating in advance of Tuesday’s meeting, staff are recommending the City add positions for youth aged 15 to 24 on seven advisory committees. 

The report reads, “The addition of youth positions on advisory committees will benefit youth in providing additional life experience and an opportunity to learn and engage with municipal government. Similarly, the City will benefit from direct input from youth on the wide range of topics covered by the advisory committees.” The recommendations come after Council approved a motion on May 16, 2023, which directed staff to create the new roles for youth.

Staff are recommending youth positions be established for seven advisory committees: 

  • Arts Advisory Committee;
  • Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Advisory Committee;
  • Housing and Homelessness Advisory Committee;
  • Kingston Environmental Advisory Committee;
  • Kingston Heritage Programs Committee;
  • Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee; and
  • Rural Advisory Committee.

To be eligible for one of the positions, interested youth must be between the ages of 15 and 24 at the time of their application — age criteria which, the report notes, are in line with the United Nations’ definition of youth.

While the seven committees will provide opportunities for local youth to influence municipal decision-making on matters such as housing and homelessness as well as equity, diversity, and inclusion, staff are not recommending the Heritage Properties Committee or the Planning Advisory Committee include specific positions for youth. As the report notes, “Both of those committees require significant technical knowledge of [their] membership. If a youth wishes to apply to serve on either of these committees, they may still do so as part of the general public recruitment process but would need to be at least 18 years of age.”

According to the report, several concerns were raised during the May 16 meeting regarding the meeting time of the committees, as well as the overall commitment, which may clash with members’ schedules. “Many advisory committees meet during regular business hours when youth may be in class,” the report reads. “During the recruitment process, staff will be communicating meeting frequency and times to ensure that applicants are aware of the time commitment.”

In addition to creating specific positions for youth on the seven advisory committees, the staff report also recommends a by-law amendment which would lower the minimum age to serve on a committee from 18 to 15, for youth applying to one of the eligible advisory committee positions.

The report indicates several benefits to creating more opportunities for youth to serve on municipal advisory committees; these include creating “positive relationships between young residents and the City at an early stage of citizenship.” Staff add, “The Committees, Council and City staff benefit from the perspective of youth and their lived experience. Engaging youth in government processes is often difficult, and committee membership provides a direct resource.” — the exact impetus cited by Councillor Jimmy Hassan when he brought forward the motion to explore having youth opportunities on advisory committees at the May 16 meeting of Council.

While the move to add youth-specific positions to select advisory committees would certainly be a milestone for the City, Kingston would not be the only municipality to take action to increase youth participation. According to the report, for example, Kitchener and Whitby both have youth positions on select advisory committees, while Windsor and Richmond Hill have separate committees focused specifically on youth issues.

The staff report will be presented to Council for approval during its meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023. If the report passes, the positions would be filled during the City’s annual committee recruitment process, which is set to take place this October. In order to reach a wide range of prospective applicants, staff will conduct outreach at local secondary and post-secondary schools, as well as youth groups and other organizations which cater to young people. 

The August 8, 2023 meeting of City Council begins at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Kingston City Hall. Meetings are open to the public, and can be streamed live (or viewed after) on the Kingston City Council YouTube page.

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