Kingston council approves youth committee positions

Trillium District Councillor Jimmy Hassan, centre, speaks to a staff report which recommended the City establish positions for youth on select advisory committees. Screen captured image.

During its meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, Kingston City Council approved recommendations from staff which will see youth positions added to select advisory committees in the City. As outlined in a staff report, the City will add positions for youth aged 15 to 24 on the following 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.

According to staff, the positions are an attempt to increase youth engagement in municipal affairs. “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,” read the report. The new positions will be filled during the City’s annual committee recruitment process, which takes place this October.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, the recommendations received support from the majority of councillors, including Trillium District Councillor Jimmy Hassan, who moved the initial motion back in May calling on staff to explore opportunities for increased youth engagement. “[I’ve heard from youth] about their opinions and how their voices are not being heard by the adults and leaders in the community… My whole campaign was run by youth. Their interest and [enthusiasm] encouraged me to bring this motion [forward],” remarked Hassan.

Kingcourt-Rideau District Councillor Brandon Tozzo said, “If somebody elects to join a municipal committee, and they’re 15 or 16 years old, appoint them, train them… I don’t see anything really wrong with this. We should be encouraging this.”

Tozzo added, “This is a diversity issue. It’s about getting more voices in our local government.”

While the item received support from a wide range of councillors, not all members were in support of the recommendations. Meadowbrook-Strathcona District Councillor Jeff McLaren questioned whether the fact that advisory committee meetings are often scheduled on weekday afternoons would be encouraging local high school students to commit truancy.

“I understand there are eight reasons [students] are allowed not to be in school… It seems to me that attending a City committee meeting is not on there. Are we going against an act of the province at any point by encouraging students to be out of school?” McLaren asked.

City Solicitor Jenna Morley confirmed that the City would not be liable under the Education Act, and continued, “As is stated in the report, applicants will be notified at the time they apply what the day and time of the meeting is. It is assumed that if it is during their school hours, they cannot attend, and they will not apply for the position.”

Meanwhile, Countryside District Councillor Gary Oosterhof questioned whether specific positions on advisory committees are the best way to encourage youth participation. “I don’t understand how this will… benefit the youth, because there’s not going to be a lot of opportunity. Are there parallel programs where the youth can come alongside, which is more important to me than being on a committee?” Oosterhof asked.

Acting City Clerk Janet Jaynes noted the various ways youth are able to take part in municipal matters: “Youth in our community have always been encouraged to participate through other channels, such as our Get Involved Kingston platform. They’re able to write to Council, they’re encouraged to discuss matters with City staff and their councillors… This just gives an elevated platform for them to be able to sit as a member of a committee, as opposed to simply being a member of the public.”

Despite some opposition from a few councillors, the staff recommendations passed by a vote of 12-1, with McLaren the lone vote against.

In order to reach a wide range of prospective committee applicants, City staff will conduct outreach at local secondary and post-secondary schools, as well as youth groups and other organizations which cater to young people. 

One thought on “Kingston council approves youth committee positions

  • I didn’t realize we had a Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion committee. This begs the question – why?

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